Arno G. Motulsky, M.D., a founder of medical genetics; born July 5, 1923, died Jan. 17, 2018.

With the death of Arno G. Motulsky, we lost one of our most distinguished and best-loved faculty members. Born in Germany in 1923, Arno was caught up in the horror of the Holocaust and sent to an internment camp in France in 1940, a journey well-chronicled by an obituary in The New York Times. In 1941, he reached the U.S., was drafted by the Army and went to medical school; in 1945, he married Gretel Stern. He came to the UW School of Medicine in 1953 and founded the Division of Medical Genetics four years later.

I asked some of Arno’s admirers to share their thoughts about his accomplishments in the field of medical genetics — and to share a sense of why he will be so sorely missed by our community.

Paul G. Ramsey, CEO, UW Medicine

If you would like to read more about Dr. Motulsky’s amazing life and career, please visit The New York Times, and The Division of Medical Genetics.

Arno’s particular talent was his ability to value everyone equally. Amidst the paper chaos of his office, he always made space. Arno was relentlessly curious and kind, thrilled when we succeeded and supportive when we didn’t. He always expected the best of you, despite having grown up in a time where many showed themselves capable of the worst.

Virginia P. Sybert, M.D.
UW Clinical Professor of Medicine, Medical Genetics

In the mid-1990s, Arno invited me to Seattle under false pretenses: simply to give a seminar and stay for a couple of days to meet his friends (including all the people on this page). As he anticipated, I was hooked by the intellectual power of the medical and genetics communities here, the sheer fun people took in doing science, and the pleasure basic scientists and physicians took in working together. He made the best decision of my scientific life for me, and (at least for a while) let me think that I had made it myself.

Mary-Claire King, Ph.D.
UW Professor, Medicine (Medical Genetics) and Genome Sciences
American Cancer Society Professor

Arno Motulsky founded our medical genetics division in 1957. He made enormous contributions to the field, and he’s known as the father of pharmacogenetics, having been the first to suggest that genetic variation had a role in drug response. Arno was also an exceptional, generous and challenging mentor — a role model for collaborative work.

Gail P. Jarvik, M.D., Ph.D.
Head, Division of Medical Genetics
Arno G. Motulsky, M.D. Endowed Chair

As students, we learned about hemoglobin and the molecular biology of sickle cell disease from Arno. When I was a resident, he was my attending, with fellows including future Michigan dean/CEO Gil Omenn and Nobel Prize-winner Joe Goldstein. Arno’s background and climb to scientific success were amazing and inspirational. He was kind, generous and humble, with an excellent sense of humor.

William J. Bremner, M.D., Ph.D.
Chair, Department of Medicine
Robert G. Petersdorf Endowed Chair in Medicine

Dr. Motulsky was an intellectual giant who created a cadre of medical geneticists in this country and around the world. Everything we have in human genetics at the UW today — programs related to medical genetics, clinical genetics, cytogenetics, prenatal diagnosis and molecular diagnosis, to give some examples — have their origins in the vision and the efforts of Arno Motulsky.

George Stamatoyannopoulos, M.D., Dr.Sci.
UW Professor of Medicine, Medical Genetics

Arno expected trainees to defend their position, or accept the flaws in the argument and work with him toward understanding. And, unlike most of his generation, it made no difference if you were male or female. He was an equal-opportunity critic — and once he was convinced you were on the right track, he was extraordinarily generous in his support.

Wylie Burke, M.D., Ph.D.
UW Professor, Department of Bioethics & Humanities

Compassionate, brilliant, futuristic, thoughtful and humble are just a few words that describe Dr. Arno Motulsky. He hired me to become the first official genetic counselor at UW Medicine. I’m grateful to have benefited from his mentorship for 34 years, and we’re all indebted to him for helping make UW Medicine a leader in medical genetics science and services.

Robin L. Bennett, M.S., CGC
UW Clinical Professor of Medicine, Medical Genetics
Co-director, Genetic Medicine Clinic

When I interviewed for my fellowship in 1973, Arno told me, “I want everyone to learn how to think genetically.” I was clueless, but little by little, I learned, applied and taught his vision. And so Arno is always with me (and others) in the approaches he created, the generosity with which he taught, and the way we think.

Peter H. Byers, M.D.
UW Professor of Medicine, Medical Genetics

If you would like to read more about Dr. Motulsky’s amazing life and career, please visit The New York Times, and the Division of Medical Genetics.