Newton Morton, founding father of the field of Genetic Epidemiology, sadly passed away earlier this week. Under the guidance of James Crow, he cemented his interest in the field of human genetics through his early work analysing linkage data with James Neel on the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission in Japan during 1952–1953. In 1955 while based at the University of Wisconsin, his PhD thesis produced the seminal paper describing the ‘lod’ score for linkage. This novel approach was subsequently used with extraordinary success for 50 years in identifying disease genes for Mendelian disorders.
His early accomplishments, combined with his key interests in populations and epidemiology were the bedrock upon which he built a prodigious scientific career in genetics. His substantial, sustained and far-reaching scientific contributions to human genetics were recognised in 1962 when he received the first ever William Allen Award.
Following positions at the University of Hawaii and Memorial Sloan Kettering, in 1988 Newton took a Professorial position at the University of Southampton as Director of the Cancer Research Campaign (CRC) Research Group in Genetic Epidemiology. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1990 and honoured by the American Society of Human Genetics in 2009 through a symposium organised in his honour.
Newton maintained a prolific scientific output throughout his time at the University of Southampton until his retirement in 2011. His esteemed achievements command global respect. Locally, his scientific contributions are regarded with enormous pride. Those that were fortunate enough to work closely with Newton will remember him with great fondness and admiration and as a stalwart of scientific rigour and excellence.