David Kirk has died

David Kirk

Dr. David Kirk, Professor Emeritus at Washington University in St. Louis.

David Kirk passed away Wednesday night.

It is hard to overstate his importance to the field of Volvox research. In addition to his key role in turning Volvox into a model system, Dr. Kirk trained many of the scientists who are studying Volvox today. As I said previously,

Dr. Kirk and members of his lab were largely responsible for establishing Volvox as a model system for the evolution of multicellularity. He carried out much of the developmental genetics that forms the foundation of our field, including foundational work on Volvox cell type determinationinversionextracellular matrixcytoplasmic bridgessex induction, and phylogenetic relationships. He literally wrote the book on Volvox evo-devo, and many (perhaps most) of the PIs currently studying Volvox spent time in his lab as students and postdocs.

Volvox book cover

I didn’t know him well, having only met him a couple of times. I do know that he sent me a kind and thoughtful email when I, as an upstart grad student, published some criticism of his now classic “12-step” paper. I’m sure someone who knew him better will write an obituary, and I’ll post about it when I see it.


  1. Seth Crosby says

    I volunteer for the Hospice organization that took care of Dave for the past few months. My wife, Tally, was his nurse. I visited with Dave a couple of days before he died. During that visit, I alluded to ‘biochemical evolution’ (what happened before the first cell) as a black-box in the evolutionary theory. He gave me a dark look…”There is no such thing as biochemical evolution.” He was right, of course, and I realized I’d been mislabeling the problem my whole life. Dave was lucid, brilliant and funny to the very end.


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