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FDR's Coast Guard Denied Entry to Future Medical Visionary



(p. B12) Dr. Arno G. Motulsky, a former refugee from Nazi Germany who became a founder of medical genetics, recognizing the connection between genes and health long before mainstream medicine did, died on Jan. 17 [2018] at his home in Seattle.


. . .


"It was his vision to study how heredity could be involved in practically everything," Dr. Francis Collins, a geneticist and the director of the National Institutes of Health, said in an interview. "The relationship between heredity and the response to drug therapy -- nobody was thinking about that until he started, 60 years ago. He anticipated it decades before science made it possible to get the answers that he dreamed of."

As technologies emerged to decode DNA, the fields that Dr. Motulsky helped originate came to the forefront of medicine, leading to improved diagnosis and treatments for a host of diseases.


. . .


Dr. Motulsky's path to prominence began in harrowing fashion. He had been one of more than 900 Jewish refugees aboard the German liner St. Louis, which reached the Miami coast in 1939 but was turned away by the United States and sent back to Europe.


. . .


His parents tried to leave Germany with him and his younger siblings, Leah and Lothar, in 1939, before war broke out in Europe. In an account he gave to the Annual Review of Genomics and Human Genetics in 2016, Dr. Motulsky said his family had hoped to join his father's brother in Chicago but headed for Cuba instead after hearing that a United States quota system was causing long delays in granting visas.

His father left first. His mother followed soon afterward, taking young Arno and his brother and sister with her aboard the St. Louis in Hamburg on May 13, 1939, bound for Havana. But Cuba refused to accept the refugees, as did other Caribbean countries.

"We asked to land in America, but were denied," Dr. Motulsky said. "When we sailed close to Miami, U.S. Coast Guard cutters and planes shooed us off."

Its passengers filled with dread, the ship headed back to Europe on June 6.

"Miraculously, a few days before we would have arrived back in Germany, four other countries -- England, France, Holland and Belgium -- each agreed to take one-fourth of the passengers," Dr. Motulsky said.



For the full obituary, see:

DENISE GRADY. "Arno Motulsky, a Founder of Medical Genetics 60 Years Ago, Dies at 94." The New York Times (Tuesday, January 30, 2018): B12.

(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date JAN. 29, 2018, and has the title "Arno Motulsky, a Founder of Medical Genetics, Dies at 94.")






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