Bye, bye, Jean David

Jean R. David (1931-2021)

Jean David, research director at CNRS, passed away on June 19, 2021 at the age of 90.

Jean was one of the last active members of this generation of French researchers who made Drosophila melanogaster a model of evolutionary genetics in the 1970s / 1980s. He has thus contributed to providing a unique opportunity to extend the knowledge accumulated on the genetics and development of this species to the study of the mechanisms of adaptation and speciation.

Jean was recruited as an assistant teacher of zoology at the University of Lyon in the early 1950s. He did his PhD under the supervision of Victor Nigon on the effects of the nutrition on phenotypic variability in D. melanogaster. After a short postdoc in Scotland, Jean became professor of biology in Lyon, where he founded the “Experimental Entomology and Genetics” group (which then joined UMR5558). In the early 1970s, he collaborated with several researchers from Gif-sur-Yvette and the National Museum of Natural History of Paris on the study of the Afrotropical fauna of the Drosophilidae.

Following the death of Charles Bocquet in 1977, then director of the “Biology and Evolutionary Genetics” laboratory at Gif-sur-Yvette (now UMR9191), Jean resigned from the University of Lyon and became the directorship of this lab from 1978 to 1992. It was during this period that the laboratory became an internationally renowned “center of excellence” in Drosophila evolutionary genetics. Jean retired in 1996 but continued working in Gif-sur-Yvette as an emeritus researcher until in October 2020, when illness prevented him from pursuing his often-pioneering experiments on his large Drosophila collection.

Throughout his scientific career which lasted almost 70 years, Jean has published more than 400 articles mostly on Drosophila, dealing with subjects as diverse as systematics, biogeography, ecophysiology, morphometry, phenotypic plasticity, genetics, behavior, reproductive isolation and more recently evo-devo and genomics.

Jean has traveled the world to study Drosophila. He celebrated his 80th birthday aboard the Marion Dufresnes during an exploration of the Eparses Islands and he carried out his last field mission, at the age of 87, on the island of Grande Comore.

Unparalleled naturalist and entomologist, exceptional experimenter, rigorous and uncompromising scientist, Jean was able to transmit his enthusiasm to his students and supervised numerous theses. Several of his students have pursued successful scientific careers in France and abroad. He was also internationally recognized, whether in the United States or Europe, but also in Africa, India and Brazil, where he still visited regularly. His former students and colleagues, proud to have worked with him, will not forget what they owe him and deeply regret this great scientist who was their friend. They join together to express their deep sadness and to show their sympathy to his family and loved ones.

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