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Outspoken Biochemist Died Nov.1

By Robert Sanders, Public Affairs
Posted November 17, 1999

Noted molecular biologist and nutritionist Thomas Hughes Jukes, a scientist who was not afraid to wade into controversial issues, including creationism and the banning of DDT, has died at the age of 93. He passed away at Alta Bates Medical Center, in Berkeley, Nov. 1, after a bout with pneumonia.

Jukes, an emeritus research biochemist and former professor-in-residence, made significant contributions in two distinct fields: nutritional science and molecular evolution.

While at Lederle Laboratories in New York, a division of American Cyanimid Co., he evolved the idea of giving antibiotics to animals so they could be raised in greater concentrations, and subsequently developed methotrexate as an important cancer therapy.

In 1963, as the DNA revolution dawned, he came to Berkeley as a research biochemist and dove into the field of molecular evolution and the origin of life.

"He and Jack King almost singlehandedly originated the concept of non-Darwinian evolution, or the neutral theory of evolution," said Kevin Padian, professor of integrative biology.

Never one to suffer fools, Jukes began to get involved in controversial issues at Berkeley, such as the fight to ban the use of the pesticide DDT in the early 1970s. He argued against banning the pesticide, noting that it had saved countless lives in poor countries as a cheap but effective way to kill malarial mosquitoes. Although a long-time member of the Sierra Club, he took on that organization and the American Audubon Society, which led the campaign against DDT.

Jukes was born Aug. 25, 1906, in Hastings, England, and emigrated to Canada in 1924. After receiving his Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Toronto in 1933, he moved to California, where he had been drawn by the writings of Mark Twain and Bret Harte.

As a postdoctoral fellow, instructor and assistant professor at the University of California -- at Berkeley from 1933 to 1934, and at Davis from 1934 to 1942 -- he worked with Samuel Lepkovsky on the B vitamins then being discovered through research on poultry. Among his contributions were the important roles of riboflavin and vitamin B-12 in promoting the growth of chickens, and the first report that the B-vitamin niacin cured pellagra in humans. He also shared a stake in the isolation of pantothenic acid and proving its essential nutrient role in chicks.

In 1942, Jukes joined Lederle Laboratories, where he directed the section on nutrition and physiology research until 1959.

Jukes is survived by his wife, Marguerite Jukes, of Berkeley; their daughter, Dorothy Mavis Jukes, and her husband, Robert Hudson, of Cotati, Calif; their daughter, Caroline Knueppel, and her husband, Nick, of Walnut Creek, Calif; and by his daughter-in-law, Sheila Sylvia, of Cape Cod, Mass. A son, Kenneth Hughes, died several years ago. Jukes also is survived by seven grandchildren.



November 17 - 23, 1999 (Volume 28, Number 15)
Copyright 1999, The Regents of the University of California.
Produced and maintained by the
Office of Public Affairs at UC Berkeley.
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