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Virginia Tech News / Articles / 2015 / 01 

In memoriam: Bruce Wallace, University Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Biological Sciences

January 23, 2015

Bruce Wallace
Bruce Wallace, University Distinguished Professor Emeritus, and George Simmons, Alumni University Distinguished Professor Emeritus, both in Biological Sciences, in the 1980s.

Bruce Wallace, University Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Biological Sciences at Virginia Tech and Professor Emeritus of Genetics at Cornell University, died Jan. 12 in Blacksburg at the age of 94. 

Born and raised in McKean, Pennsylvania, he received his bachelor’s degree in zoology in 1941 from Columbia University. He served in the Army during World War II as a statistical control officer under Robert McNamara. After the war he received his doctoral degree from Columbia in 1949.

He took a position at, and later was assistant director of the prestigious Biological Laboratory at Cold Spring Harbor, New York. In 1958, he joined Cornell University, where he was a professor of genetics until retiring in 1981 to take a position in the Department of Biology at Virginia Tech. 

He became a University Distinguished Professor of Biology in 1983 and remained an active member of the faculty until he retired in 1994. 

Wallace was a world-renowned pioneer in the study of the genetics of natural populations. 

In 1970 he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences. He was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and served as president of the Genetics Society of America, the American Society of Naturalists, the Society of the Study of Evolution, and the American Genetics Association, and was also an editor of Evolutionary Biology. 

He wrote more than 100 research articles, mostly in the field of population genetics using Drosophila as a genetic model. He also wrote more than 15 books, many translated into other languages. 

During his later years, he increasingly focused his attention on complex environmental and associated societal issues. He was a passionate advocate for environmental literacy, including reform of the undergraduate core curriculum. 

He organized the Worldwatch seminars at Virginia Tech, a forum for the discussion of interdisciplinary perspectives on environmental issues, subsequently adopted by numerous other universities. He was known to colleagues as a highly engaged member of the faculty who enriched the intellectual climate of the academic community and the professional lives of students and fellow faculty alike.

Wallace loved to travel and did so extensively as a visiting scientist and scholar, teaching and working at various universities and academic institutions worldwide. Devoted to his family, he frequently traveled with his wife and two children. 

Later, although macular degeneration diminished his eyesight, he continued to enjoy listening to music, playing harmonica, and as a nature lover, watching the antics of the wildlife that populated his backyard. He recently published two small books of fictional tales set in Blacksburg. 

He was predeceased by his wife, Miriam, and is survived by his children, David B. Wallace, of Blacksburg, and Roberta Wallace, of Wauwatosa, Wisconsin.

Contributed by Roberta Wallace and Brenda Winkel

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