Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Morris Goodman (1925-2010)

Morris Goodman, distinguished evolutionary biologist and professor at Wayne State University, passed away last night. Goodman was a pioneer in molecular systematics, known for his early research on primate phylogenetics and the use of phylogenies and ancestral character reconstruction to infer Darwinian evolution of haemoglobin (e.g., 1). Goodman also had important interactions with the founders of the modern synthesis (Mayr, G. G. Simpson, and Dobzhansky) regarding integration of evolution with molecular biology; he even sparred with G. G. Simpson in the 1960s over a revised classification of primates based on molecular data, prompting Simpson to refer to him later as “an old friendly antagonist” (2).

To most practicing systematists, Goodman was best known as the long-time editor and chief of the journal he founded nearly 20 years ago: Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. In a prescient editorial published in the first issue of MPE in 1992, Goodman discussed the rapidly expanding body of molecular phylogenetic data and the need to provide an outlet to "help disseminate the results of these molecular studies." Even though DNA sequence data existed for only a few loci sampled from a small number of taxa in 1992, Goodman recognized that "the genie is out of the bottle." Goodman ended his founding editorial noting "We are at the threshold of a new age of exploration that promises to greatly increase our knowledge of the history and ongoing evolution of the ramifying lines of life. It would be gratifying if Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution became the journal of this age."

Rest in peace, Morris Goodman, no other journal has published more molecular phylogenetic trees over the past 18 years than MPE.


Joe Felsenstein said...

I was saddened to hear of Morris's death. He was a pioneer among pioneers in molecular evolution, and he remained very active -- many of you may have noticed him standing his group's poster at the Evolution2010 meetings in Portland. It is remarkable to think that he showed in 1962, by immunological methods that humans, chimps, and gorillas were a clade -- and that he had active large-scale genomic projects in 2010!

As a person he was also a real sweetie. I did an interview with him this year, asking mostly about his work in the early days.

Here is an MP3 audio file of that interview. (Ignore the 1-minute silence in the middle where I go to get him a drink of water).

vacalactica-robles said...

Es una gran pena la muerte de Morris, tengo la suerte de haber trabajado con el por 3 aƱos en Detroit y haberlo visto en el meeting de evolucion en la cuidad de portland. Sin duda su legado quedara en muchisima gente, grupo donde me incluyo.

Juan C. Opazo

D said...

This comment is from Derek Wildman. Man oh man, we are reeling here in Detroit. Morris was certainly a pioneer, his scientific contributions are ridiculously outstanding. We will innumerate these contributions in the future, but I would also like to say that Morris was the nicest guy I know. Joe, I tried to call you earlier today, and we greatly appreciate your thoughts. Louise, Morris's daughter, always mentioned how happy Morris was to see you when he was in WA. And Juan, I know how much this saddens you. We will work hard to insure that the projects Morris was working on will get completed, and we also will remember that a kind attitude promotes science in the best way....