The Mary Lyon Award


The International Mammalian Genome Society (IMGS) is pleased to announce the establishment of a new award in honor of Dr. Mary Frances Lyon. Dr. Lyon was a founding member of the IMGS and remained active in the society through 2008. She began her scientific career at Girton College of the University of Cambridge in 1943, with Zoology as her main area of study. At that time, less than 10% of students were women, and women were awarded only “titular” degrees. Dr. Lyon subsequently secured a post-graduate degree position with Dr. R.A. Fisher at Cambridge, which was completed at the University of Edinburgh under the direction of Dr. Douglas Falconer. Dr. Lyon then took a position with Dr. T.C. Carter, working on a project funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) to use the mouse to study radiation mutagenesis. She moved to Harwell with Carter in 1955, remaining there until she retired. While Dr. Lyon is perhaps best remembered for her ground-breaking 1961 paper in the journal Nature which first described the random inactivation of the X-chromosome in female eutherian mammals, her involvement in mutagenesis projects and her interest in embryogenesis led to additional important advances in genetics. Dr. Lyon also made significant contributions to the mouse genetics community as editor of Mouse News Letter, chair of the Committee on Standardized Genetic Nomenclature for Mice, and was a great supporter and mentor of mouse geneticists early in their careers.

In recognition of Dr. Mary Lyon’s role as a mentor and her remarkable career, begun at a time when very few women became scientists, the IMGS has established the Mary Lyon Award for early-stage independent female researchers (tenure-track Assistant Professor or equivalent). The IMGS will cover expenses for awardees to participate in an International Mammalian Genome Conference and give an oral presentation of their work. Nominations, including the name of the nominee, their email address, CV or Orcid ID, and the name of one individual who can provide a recommendation letter, should be sent to imgsgeneral@gmail.com. Note that nominees need to be IMGS members, but can join at the time of the nomination. Self-nominations are welcome.


Dr. Mary F. Lyon FRS (1925-2014) 

Photo of Mary F Lyon

It is with sadness that we share the news of Mary Lyon’s passing on Dec. 25, 2014, having partaken in the day’s festivities and retiring to a comfy chair to stir no more. Mary was a founding member of the IMGS, remaining an active society member through 2008. She served on the first elected IMGS secretariat (1995-1997) and organized the 3rd IMGC in Oxford, in 1989. Mary was as approachable as she was sharp, and likely “made the day” of more than one young IMGC attendee who had the fortune of enjoying a conversation with her.

Mary Lyon was a true titan whose contribution to mammalian genetics and championship of the mouse as a model organism is beyond doubt. In a scientific career spanning more than 60 years (her scientific output continued despite having officially retired from her position as staff scientist and section leader at the MRC Radiobiology Unit Harwell in the mid-80s; she published her last scientific article in 2006) her contributions included: genotoxic, clastogenic and teratogenic effects of radiation and chemical agents; linkage analysis and assignment of linkage groups to chromosomes; the characterization of specific gene mutations; and, the genetic consequences of chromosomal aberration in the study epigenetic phenomena.  Mary’s most profound contribution (for which she will always be remembered) was the realization that, in eutherian female mammals, one of the two X-chromosomes is randomly inactivated during development thus explaining why sex-linked gene mutations have a greater effect on males than females.  Her other major contribution was the use of classical genetic techniques to define a region on mouse chromosome 17 known as the t-complex which, when inherited from wild-derived mice, lead to a distortion in gene transmission to their offspring.

There is no doubt that the resources Mary helped to develop and the ideas she generated fueled the activities of many laboratories around the world and will continue to do so for years to come.  As the years pass, we may eventually forget the extent of her true impact on our endeavors but we will continue to labor “on the shoulders of giants,” of which she was certainly one.

The IMGS invites you to share your memories of Dr. Mary Lyon by sending them to Darla Miller (imgsgeneral@gmail.com). Comments will be compiled and posted on the IMGS website.

In memory of Dr. Mary Lyon

"One day when I was finally brave enough to talk with Mary, I asked her what it was like when she figured out that one X chromosome must become inactive. She thought for a moment, then gently responded "It was like dropping a penny into a bank".

~Dr. Linda Siracusa



In Memory of Verne M. Chapman


This year marks the 20th anniversary of Verne Chapman’s death. Verne played a unique role in the field of mouse genetics, fostering interactions between investigators in the international arena, and nurturing and developing the careers of young scientists. Verne was one of the founding members of The International Mammalian Genome Society and helped write the original by-laws.  He recruited most of the chromosome committee chairs and wrote the first NIH grant funding the IMGS from 1991 and held it until his death. The IMGS honors his memory each year through the Verne Chapman Memorial Lecture and the Verne Chapman Young Investigator Award during the International Mammalian Genome Conference. For those not fortunate enough to have known Verne, here are some excerpts from his obituary to help you learn more about him.

Photo of Verne Chapman

Verne M. Chapman, PhD, died suddenly on August 30, 1995, while attending a scientific meeting in Tsukuba Science City, Japan. Born in Sacramento, California, Dr. Chapman was a graduate of California State Polytechnic College.  He was awarded a doctorate in genetics from Oregon State University in 1965, and later completed three consecutive postdoctoral fellowships at the Jackson Laboratory, Bar Harbor, Maine; Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut; and the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. Verne joined the staff of Roswell Park in 1972 as a senior cancer research scientist in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, and was appointed Department Chair in 1982.

Internationally recognized as one of the world's leading mammalian geneticists, Dr. Chapman's investigations led to the development of genetic and physical maps of the chromosomes of the laboratory mouse.  These tools were critical to identifying and analyzing the molecular defects often associated with cancer.  Another important contribution was the generation of alleles that were critical for evaluation of dystrophin constructs for gene therapy of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. In 1994 the Roswell Park Alliance awarded Dr. Chapman the Dr. Thomas B. Tomasi Hope Award, which honors a Roswell Park cancer researcher whose work has made a significant contribution to advances in cancer care and has brought hope to cancer patients. Dr. Chapman was also designated an eminent scientist of the Institute of Physical and Chemical Research in Tsukuba Science City, Japan.  Over the last four years of his life, Verne collaborated with investigators at this research institute on a project to identify and characterize genes.

According to colleagues, Verne was an unusually interactive individual. His personal connections were extensive, with collaborators in Europe and Japan as well as the United States.  He was a major force in initiating the International Mammalian Genome Society.  He was a superb leader, promoting excellence in research and teaching.  He was a tireless, energetic, and resilient mammalian genetic researcher whose work was always significant, timely, and at the cutting edge.  Importantly, Dr. Chapman was a warm and caring individual who could always be counted on and who stood behind his beliefs. In addition to his scientific career, Verne Chapman made many contributions to his community, and he supported environmental and human rights causes during his 23 years in the Western New York area.






Darla Miller Distinguished Service Award

IMGS has established an annual endowed Darla Miller Distinguished Service Award given to a Society member exemplifying outstanding service. Funds provided will help offset travel expenses to attend IMGC and present a lecture that bridges science and service. To make a donation, please go to http://www.gofundme.com/darlamilleraward. US donations may be tax deductible.