“We have lost a giant in science and the humanities” – VCU News


A memorial service this Sunday will honor a giant in the field of behavioral genetics and genetic epidemiology, the Reverend Lindon J. Eaves, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus and Distinguished Professor in the Department of Human and Molecular Genetics at the Virginia Commonwealth University. Medicine School.

Eaves died suddenly at home on Tuesday at the age of 77, according to his wife, the Reverend Susan Nuthall Eaves. An online memorial service will be streamed during an in-person service March 13 at 2 p.m. at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Richmond.

His research has focused on structural modeling of the effects of genes and environment on behavior and development. Eaves’ contributions include major advances in statistical genetic methods as well as important contributions to child and adult psychiatry. His long and influential career spanned the globe and spent nearly half a century studying the influence of genes and environment on human behavior. He has published on topics as diverse as the heritability of religion, sleep patterns, smoking, the human microbiome, alcohol consumption in Virginia and Australia, and psychopathology.

VCU behavioral geneticist Michael Neale, Ph.D., shared Eaves’ intense interest in bringing statistical methodology to the field of classical twin studies, going beyond twins to study broader family relationships. “This is where Lindon’s contributions had a huge impact, both on the development of the methodology and on its application to major public health issues. His creativity in developing and applying patterns was a pleasure to behold.

“Eaves’ major advances in statistical genetics methods have significantly contributed to our understanding of the causes of individual differences,” said VCU Vice President for Research and Innovation, P. Srirama Rao, Ph.D. “His work has helped establish a strong foundation for VCU’s pre-eminence in behavioral genetics and we are grateful for his mentorship among the next generation of VCU researchers.”

Eaves earned his Ph.D. in 1970, then Doctor of Science at the University of Birmingham (England), where he began his academic career. In 1978 he was a visiting professor at the Medical College of Virginia. On his return to England, he earned a master’s degree in psychology from Oxford University the following year.

In 1981, he joined the VCU faculty, moving to Virginia to continue his research on twins and genetics. He was a distinguished professor of human genetics and held a joint position in the Department of Psychiatry. In 1988 he became Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry. He was instrumental in the development of the Virginia Twin Registry at VCU, now the Mid-Atlantic Twin Registry, the largest such registry in the nation.

In 1996, Eaves co-founded the Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics at VCU with colleague Kenneth S. Kendler, MD, a distinguished professor of psychiatry and current director of the institute. Eaves served as co-director until his retirement in 2016.

“Lindon was…in many ways the father of our field of research,” Neale wrote to his colleagues. “His importance to the field in general, and to our institute in particular, cannot be overstated. We have lost a giant in both the sciences and the humanities today, as well as a wonderful and generous human being. “

Eaves has published more than 500 articles in such prestigious journals as Nature, American Journal of Human Genetics, Archives of General Psychiatry, Journal of the American Medical Association and Behavior Genetics. According to Web of Science citation databases, Eaves’ publications have been cited over 28,000 times. In 1999, he was ranked 15th in the world in citations of high-impact papers in psychiatry.

Eaves has served as principal investigator or co-investigator on numerous projects, including the VCU component of a multisite National Institute on Substance Abuse project called Genes, Environment and Development Initiative. He developed some of the first programs for fitting models to twin and family data and led some of the first computer-aided design explorations of the power and design of genetic behavioral studies.

His research has garnered international respect. He was academic director of the annual International Workshops on the Methodology of Genetic Studies of Twins and Families, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and NATO. In 2000 he received an honorary doctorate from the Free University of Amsterdam. A scholarly party was held in his honor in Scotland, with papers and presentations by former students and colleagues later published in Behavioral Genetics, including “The Contributions of Lindon Eaves to Psychiatric Genetics”, written by Kendler and Neale.

Eaves has served as president of the Behavior Genetics Association and the International Society for Twin Studies. His many professional accolades included a Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Behavior Genetics Association. He has received several honors from VCU: the School of Medicine’s Research Excellence Award, the VCU Distinguished Scholarship Award, and the Outstanding Teacher Award from the Department of Medicine. Medicine School.

Judy Silberg, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Human and Molecular Genetics and the VCU Genetics Institute, said a chance encounter with Eaves while she was working on her doctorate in clinical psychology at VCU caused the led her lifelong involvement in the field of behavior genetics, including more than a decade as Scientific Director of the Mid-Atlantic Twin Registry. “His intelligence was amazing and he was a brilliant teacher. He was a great friend and colleague. »

Several former students noted that he frequently encouraged them as they faced challenges in their own research. Hermine Maes, Ph.D., a behavioral geneticist and associate professor in the Department of Human and Molecular Genetics and the Institute of Genetics, noted that Eaves often ended her slide presentations with the motto “BE CREATIVE…IMAGINE…”

In addition to his scientific pursuits, Eaves was ordained in 1968 in Birmingham, near his home town of Walsall. He encouraged dialogue between science and religion. His long service to the church included posts as celebrant, preacher, teacher and a pastoral presence in England and several Episcopal parishes in Richmond. He was a guest lecturer at Harvard Divinity School.

In addition to his wife of nearly 54 years, Eaves is survived by their three children, Hugh (Tatiana), Helen and Thomas (Katherine), and four grandchildren.


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