Theophilus Shickel Painter
– October 5
) was an
known for his work in
in fruit flies (Drosophila
). He did so by applying the incredible
detail that had just been discovered to be visible in the giant
chromosomes in the salivary glands
of Drosophila and other Dipteran larvae
joined the faculty at the University of Texas in 1916 and, except for military duty during World
War I, stayed there his whole career.
He was, in succession,
associate professor, professor and distinguished professor of
zoology. He served as acting president (1944-1946) and president
(1946-1952) of the University of Texas and retired from active
teaching in 1966.
Painter was president of the University of Texas when Texas
resident Hermon Marion Sweatt applied and was denied admission due
to his race. Subsequently, Painter was the named defendant in the
famous civil rights case, Sweatt v. Painter
U.S.629 (1950),which proved an integral stepping stone in the
landmark case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka
that held that "separate is inherently unequal" and lead
to the integration of America's public schools.
Painter is also known for his early study of human chromosomes. In
1921 he first gave the number 24 for the count of human meiotic chromosomes
had tried to count the tangled mass of chromosomes he could see
under a microscope in spermatocytes
slices of testicle
and arrived at the
figure of 24. "I feel confident that this is correct," he said.
Others later repeated his experiment in other ways and agreed the
number was 24. If there were 24 chromosomes in spermatocytes, there
must be an equal number contributed by the female and the human
chromosome number must be 48. For over 30 years nobody disputed
Then in 1955 Joe Hin Tjio
, using better
techniques, looked at the chromosomes in human somatic
cells and plainly saw 46 chromosomes.
Together with Albert Levan
published this revolutionary finding in early 1956, and the human
chromosome number was finally revised. The wonder of Painter's work
is not that it was in error but that, given the almost
indecipherable mass of chromosomes he examined, he came so very
close to the correct human chromosome number.