Harlyn O. Halvorson

The MBL announces with great sadness the passing of Harlyn O. Halvorson, a pioneer in the field of microbiology and director emeritus of the Marine Biological Laboratory. Harlyn died peacefully at his home on June 17, 2008, at the age of 83. He is survived by his wife Jean, their two children, and many grandchildren and extended family members. Service arrangements have not yet been finalized.

Born in Minneapolis in 1925, Harlyn received his BS and MS degrees from the University of Minnesota and his PhD from the University of Illinois. His early professional years were spent at the University of Michigan and at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, where he demonstrated that induced enzyme synthesis in yeast involves protein synthesis. He also initiated the first biochemical studies of the mechanism of germination of bacterial spores.

Harlyn taught and conducted research at the University of Wisconsin from 1956 to 1971 and was Director of the Rosenstiel Basic Medical Sciences Research Center at Brandeis University from 1971 to 1987. He was appointed the 10th director of the Marine Biological Laboratory in 1987, a position he held until 1992.

Harlyn’s long association with the MBL began in 1962 when he was an instructor in the Physiology course. He established a summer laboratory at the MBL in 1968 and a resident research laboratory here in 1987. He directed the laboratory’s Microbial Ecology course from 1979 to 1984. During his directorship, Dr. Halvorson oversaw the planning and celebration of the MBL’s centennial in 1988. One of his major achievements as director was turning a 60-year dream into reality with the construction of the laboratory’s state-of-the-art Marine Resources Center in 1992. Harlyn was also instrumental in bringing Mitchell Sogin and his molecular evolution program to the MBL, a program that has since grown to become a major focus of research at the laboratory.

Harlyn was a long-time member of the Woods Hole Golf Club and the Woods Hole Yacht Club, and served as its commodore in the 1970s. An avid racer of sailboats, he and MBL director Gary Borisy recently spent an afternoon scraping the bottom of the Halvorsons’ Cape Cod Knockabout in preparation for this summer’s racing season.

The recipient of many honors during his prestigious career, Harlyn was a member of the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He held leadership positions in many professional organizations including president of the American Society for Microbiology, chairman of the Council for the Scientific Society of Presidents, and president of the National Association of Marine Laboratories. He also served on the Board of Directors of the Biotechnology Center of Excellence of the Massachusetts Centers of Excellence Corporation.