Stanford Immunology Remembers Professor Hugh McDevitt
Tuesday, May 3, 2022
I am sad to inform you of the passing late last week of Professor Hugh McDevitt, a major figure in the history of immunology and a pillar of our community here. After graduating from Stanford as an undergraduate, and then medical school at Harvard and residency at the Brigham, he became enchanted with immunology during postdoctoral work at Mill Hill Research labs in London. He returned to Stanford in 1966 as an assistant professor and later chief of the division of Immunology in the department of Medicine. In 1978 he was recruited together with Stanley Falkow to reconstitute what was then the department of Medical Microbiology, where he served as chairman for a term. While at Stanford he made the pivotal discovery that a portion of the MHC region of the mouse-controlled antibody responses, despite those genes being on a different chromosome. Later work showed that these genes encoded the class II MHC molecules, which are necessary for T cell "help" of B cells to produce antibodies. He went on to map these genes precisely and also made important contributions to our understanding of type 1, or juvenile diabetes. For these and other accomplishments, he was elected to membership in the US National Academy of Sciences, The Academy of Medicine, and The Royal Society of London, and received many awards. But especially important was his devotion to the Stanford community, not only serving as a division chief or chairman, but mentoring many of us here and elsewhere with his calm and thoughtful advice. I owe a particular debt to Hugh as he hired me as part of the revamping of what is now the department of Microbiology and Immunology. And all during that early period, when Chien and I were working to get the lab up and running, whenever we had a problem large or small, he would always be there to solve it. Thus, he was not only a fantastic scientist, but someone who cared about the community as well.
Hugh was a beloved mentor for a long line of immunologists from around the world who often came back to visit him and update him on their latest breakthrough. Many of us here, including myself, will be forever in his debt, and inspired by his example.
Mark Davis, PhD is the Director of Stanford Institute for Immunity, Transplantation and Infection at Stanford University School of Medicine and the Burt and Marion Avery Family Professor of Immunology at Stanford University School of Medicine.