Professor Emeritus Sigmund Suskind, a microbiologist
who served as dean of the Krieger School of Arts and
Sciences from 1978 to 1983, died Dec. 5 at the age of
80 from cancer complications.
A native of New York City who served as a medic in the
Navy during World War II, Suskind graduated from New York
University in 1948 and worked for two years for the Biology
Division of Oak Ridge National Laboratory before entering
Yale University, where he received his doctorate in biology
in 1954. In 1956, he joined the faculty in the Department of Biology
at what was then the McCollum-Pratt Institute of The Johns
Hopkins University. He was named professor of biology in
1965 and from 1971 to 1978 served as dean of undergraduate
and graduate studies. He also was the university's first
ombudsman, appointed to that post in 1988 by then President
Suskind taught undergraduate and graduate students in
genetics and biochemistry, and published widely in the
fields of molecular biology and molecular genetics.
Saul Roseman, the Ralph S. O'Connor Professor of
Biology, remembers his former colleague as the consummate
"When I arrived at JHU, I had little knowledge of
genetics," Roseman said. "Fortunately, both [Dr. Suskind]
and Dr. Philip E. Hartman were down the hall, and convinced
me about how important this area would be to our research.
So I sat in on the undergraduate genetics course in which
they both lectured. Sig was a really dedicated teacher. His
method of teaching principles was to present, from the
original literature, experiments that attempted to answer
specific questions, and from which basic principles were
derived. This type of teaching was in the best tradition of
JHU, the research university."
Allen Shearn, professor and vice chair of the
Department of Biology, credits a book co-authored by
Suskind and Hartman, Gene Action, with directing his
interest toward the study of the roles of genes in
"I am sure that I was only one of many students of the
time who were influenced directly by Gene Action," Shearn
Gene Action was one of a series of Foundations of
Modern Genetics books edited by Suskind and Hartman
that Shearn credits with being on the "cutting edge" of the
fundamental change that occurred in the field of biology in
the 1950s and 1960s.
"These books were extremely influential," Shearn said.
"Suskind was at the heart of the biochemical revolution
that occurred in biology at that time. It was because of
his central position that he was able to attract authors
for that series of books."
Suskind also was a mentor to Ludwig Brand, a professor
who arrived at Homewood in the early 1960s.
"Sig combined genetics microbiology and biochemistry
in unique ways, bringing new insights into life science
research," Brand remembered. "He continued to offer
important counsel both as dean and even into retirement. He
was highly appreciated as a fellow faculty member, dean and
as an ombudsman. Sig also was an active sailor and got me
and several other members of the faculty interested in
sailing the Bay. He will be greatly missed."
Suskind retired in 1991 and moved from Mount
Washington to Kent County. He is survived by his wife, Ann,
and their three sons and two grandchildren. A memorial
service was held Dec. 8 at Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens