February 13, 2017


SUBJECT:    Passing of Distinguished Professor Emeritus S. Jonathan Singer, Renowned Biologist

In Memoriam, S. Jonathan Singer, 1924-2017

Jonathan Singer, one of the first members of the biology faculty at UC San Diego who helped build the campus into a world leader in molecular and cell biology, died on February 2 in La Jolla, CA. He was 92.

In 1961, Jon was one of the founders of the newly born UCSD Department of Biology, coming from a professorship at Yale University. Jon was trained as a chemist with a B.A. from Columbia University (1943) and a Ph.D. from the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn (1947). His mentor during his postdoc fellowship year at Caltech was the legendary chemist/biochemist, peace activist and twice Nobel Laureate Linus Pauling.

With Jon and Prof. David Bonner and others, the Department of Biology became one of the first in the new School of Science and Engineering and was central in creating the collaborative traditions that UC San Diego still preserves, and that continue to make it one of the best places to do science on earth.

Jon's most famous and influential research was on cell membranes and their constituent proteins. In 1972, he and his collaborator Garth Nicolson published a groundbreaking paper proposing the Fluid Mosaic Model that helped to explain a wide range of cellular processes, including cell-cell signaling, cell division, membrane budding, and cell fusion. This towering publication in Science is a classic paper in cell biology. Jon also made many other important discoveries that helped revolutionize the biological sciences. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1969 and was a recipient of a number of academic honors and awards.

Jon retired in 1995. In 2001, he published The Splendid Feast of Reason - a book that celebrates rationalism as the guiding light towards understanding of the external world and coping with its problems. Jon's book emphasizes the importance of scientific knowledge and a scientist's duty to seek and report the truth - often against conventional wisdom and irrational ideology. A battle that continues.

He is survived by his daughter Julianne, son Matthew, niece Laura and nephew Bill, as well as granddaughter Grace and grandson Michael.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Alzheimer's Association.

William McGinnis
Division of Biological Sciences