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Walter J. Gehring

Walter J. Gehring Swiss scientist

Swiss scientist
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro Swiss scientist
A.K.A. Walter Jakob Gehring, Walter Gehring
Countries Switzerland
Occupations Scientist Geneticist Zoologist Professor Educator
Type Academia Biology Science
Gender male
Birth 20 March 1939 (Zürich)
Death 29 May 2014 (Basel)
Star sign PiscesPisces
Residence Therwil
Education University of Zurich
Walter J. Gehring
The details

Walter Jakob Gehring (20 March 1939 – 29 May 2014) was a Swiss developmental biologist who was a professor at the Biozentrum Basel of the University of Basel, Switzerland. He obtained his PhD at the University of Zurich in 1965 and after two years as a research assistant of Professor Ernst Hadorn he joined Professor Alan Garen's group at Yale University in New Haven as a postdoctoral fellow.

In 1969 he was appointed as an associate professor at the Yale Medical School and 1972 he returned to Switzerland to become a professor of developmental biology and genetics at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel. He was Secretary General of the European Molecular Biology Organization, President of the International Society of Developmental Biologists, a Foreign Member of the National Academy of the USA, Great Britain, France, Germany and Sweden.

Walter Gehring has mainly been involved in studies of Drosophila genetics and development, particularly in the analysis of cell determination in the embryo and transdetermination of imaginal discs. He has made significant contributions to the study of the heat shock genes, various transposons and the homeotic genes which are involved in the genetic control of development.

In 1983 Gehring and his collaborators (William McGinnis, Michael S. Levine, Ernst Hafen, Richard Garber, Atsushi Kuroiwa, Johannes Wirz), discovered the homeobox, a DNA segment characteristic for homeotic genes which is not only present in arthropods and their ancestors, but also in vertebrates including man.

Gehring has also been involved in the development and application of enhancer trapping methods. He and his collaborators have identified PAX6 as a master control gene for eye development, which led to a new theory about the monophyletic origin of the eyes in evolution.


  • 1987 Gairdner Foundation International Award
  • 1987 Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine
  • 1996 Awarded the Otto Warburg Medal
  • 1997 Awarded the March of Dimes Prize in Developmental Biology.
  • 2000 Received the Kyoto Prize for Basic Science.
  • 2001 Alfred Vogt-Preis
  • 2002 Received the Balzan Prize for Developmental Biology.
  • 2003 A.O. Kovalevsky Medal
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