Developmental biologist Eric H. Davidson, 1937–2015
Eric H. Davidson, a world leader in developmental biology, demonstrated that most of development is, indeed, regulated by the genome. He was a pioneer researcher and theorist of the gene regulatory networks that execute the most complex biological processes, such as the cascade of molecular mechanisms that transform a single-celled egg into a complex creature. He insisted that the seemingly infinite details of classical developmental biology had to be explained in terms of the function of DNA sequences inherited in the genome, and showed how genomic information is used to initiate and drive forward development. His work emphasized a quantitative understanding of the biological mechanisms and the logic functions encoded in genetic networks, and focused on the question of how the genomic DNA could encode not only protein sequences but also the complex "software" needed for differentiating a myriad of cell types in the right places and proportions to make complex animals. He authored six books, ranging from his classic 1968 monograph, Gene Activity in Early Development, to his final book, Genomic Control Process: Development and Evolution (coauthored with Isabelle Peter), published this year.
© 2015 National Academy of Sciences. Published ahead of print October 23, 2015. Author contributions: L.H. and E.V.R. wrote the paper. The authors declare no conflict of interest.
Published - PNAS-2015-Hood-13423-5.pdf