Arthur Chovnick, Emeritus Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology, Dies

Emeritus professor of molecular and cell biology Arthur Chovnick, a pioneer of modern genetic analysis in higher organisms, died on Sept. 5, 2011 after a long illness.

Chovnick created materials and strategies that shaped the framework of his field for several decades. His breakthrough methods for approaching the analysis of recombination and gene organization using Drosophila melanogaster (fruit flies) rather than micro-organisms (bacteria and phages) allowed a vast expansion of genetic studies.

A former professor of genetics and cell biology at the University of Connecticut, his intellectual impact continues through the many students and postdoctoral fellows he trained, as well as through his editorial positions at the journals GeneticsGenetical Research, and Fundamental Genetics.

His influence extended through his work as director of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (1960-1962), as fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (since 1963), and through his active memberships in the Genetics Society of America and the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering, where he was a founding member.

Chovnick contributed 90 articles to respected scientific journals on the topics of organization and control of eukaryotic gene expression, developmental genetics, recombination mechanisms, transposable elements, and transformation.

First awarded a National Institutes of Health (NIH) postdoctoral research fellowship in 1953, upon earning his Ph.D. in genetics from Ohio State University,  Chovnick proudly maintained the longest continuous grant in the history of the NIH, beginning in 1953 and continuing past his retirement in 1994.

He received an honorary Doctor of Science degree from the University of Guelph, Canada, as well as the University of Connecticut Alumni Association Research Excellence Award.

Earlier in life, he interrupted his undergraduate studies at Indiana University to serve in the Navy during WWII.

Arthur Chovnick was born Aug. 2, 1927, in Brooklyn, N.Y., the son of Fannie and Herman Chovnick. He is survived by his wife of 62 years, Elinor; his daughter Lisa of Princeton, N.J. and her husband Herbert Bibbero; his son Benjamin of Willimantic, Conn. and his wife Florence Caillard; his brothers Stanley Chovnick and Arnold Channing and his wife Julie ; his sister Lenora Weseley and her husband Martin; his grandchilden Anna, Adam, and Philip; and many nieces, nephews, friends, and colleagues.

Memorial donations may be made to the Arthur Chovnick Graduate Fellowship in Genetics at the University of Connecticut. Please make checks payable to The UConn Foundation, noting “Chovnick Fellowship” on the memo line, and send to: The UConn Foundation, 2390 Alumni Drive, Unit 3206, Storrs, CT 06269. For an online memorial guestbook, please visit