John A. Long, Anatomy: San Francisco


1934-1986
Associate Professor

During John Long's last year, as he bravely fought the cancer that was to take his life, he worked enthusiastically on the revision for the 5th Edition of Basic Histology, the textbook edited by Junqueira and Carneiro, which now bears his name as well. That effort kept him going as much as did the chemotherapy. Ironically, two scientific loves, which reflect John Long's superb scholarship and are perhaps his most lasting contributions, are being published posthumously. The textbook on histology was his last love. His first love was a study of the embryology of Brachipoda, the subject of his dissertation research. Although he never published original papers from his thesis, it has had a profound influence on the field. For example, John Long is the invited author for the chapter entitled Brachipoda, which will appear in volume six of the series Reproduction of Marine Invertebrates edited by A.C. Giese and J.S. Pearse. This chapter will contain much of John's dissertation, to be published for the first time almost a quarter of a century after the work was completed. However, this reflects John's individualism. He set his own standards high above the norm, and did as he chose in establishing his career without trying to fit the mold of publish or perish.

John Long was born in Kingman, Kansas, July 30, 1934. He died October 13, 1986 and is survived by his sister, Mildred L. Foster. He attended the University of Kansas where he played the French horn in the marching band. His life was permeated by his love for good music as witnessed by his state of the art MacIntosh stereo sound system and gigantic Kilpsch horn speaker and by his absolute devotion to the San Francisco Opera and Symphony. We always knew it was opening night at the opera when John discarded his informal habit of dress and blossomed forth with tie, fancy slacks, and jacket. He often expressed a wistful desire for a green velvet cape to compliment the other finery.

Following receipt of his B.A. degree from the University of Kansas in 1956, John did a stint in the army for three years, spent largely in Germany.


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He served as company clerk and subsequently thanked the army for teaching him to type. As a scientist, John's career began at the University of Washington, Seattle, where he did his graduate work at Friday Harbor under Dr. Fernald. He completed his dissertation entitled The embryology of three species representing three super families of articulate Brachipoda in 1964. This was published solely in Dissertation Abstracts, 25:7429, 1965. John's thesis provided the basis for teaching subsequent graduate students at Friday Harbor. Quoting from Chris Reed of Dartmouth who wrote to John on learning of his illness, “Many of us are thinking about you and the influence your work has had on us, especially as graduate students. I remember Dr. Fernald lecturing so clearly on modes of coelom formation and on oocyte organization and cleavage from your thesis work--and I remember how intrigued we all were and in awe of his former graduate student.” Along with this note Reed sent a draft of a chapter that he had written for a forthcoming techniques book honoring Fernald, a seven-page description on Phylum Brachiopoda that cites John Long's thesis twelve times.

John's elegant light microscopic studies led him to questions that he believed could be answered by the then blossoming new field of electron microscopy. For this reason, he went to Harvard Medical School for his postdoctoral training to study electron microscopy with Don Fawcett from 1964-1966. At Harvard, Fawcett and Roy O. Greep sparked John's interest in the adrenal gland and other steroid secreting cells. There John also met Al Jones and began a long collaboration on studies of the ultrastructure of the adrenal cortex. The collaboration continued after both had moved to the UCSF School of Medicine. John's original research on the adrenal cortex led Greep to invite John to write the chapter entitled “The Adrenal Gland” in the 3rd edition of Histology edited by Greep and L. Weiss in 1973. Subsequently, he was invited to rewrite the chapter for the 5th edition published in 1983 and edited by Weiss.

From Harvard, John was recruited by the Department of Anatomy of the University of California School of Medicine, San Francisco, in 1967. He served the Department of Anatomy for almost 20 years as a major influence in the teaching of histology to medical and graduate students. He served as course director for a number of years and successfully maintained histology as a favorite course of first-year medical students. He was involved in bringing a scanning electron microscope to the department, serving as co-director of this facility for more than a decade, and teaching a graduate course in scanning electron microscopy. John's fascination with computers led him to oversee development of the departmental computer facility and to take charge of its operation.

To the Department of Anatomy at UCSF, John was a resource man. He read broadly in biology, and, whenever a colleague or student wanted to know something, it paid off to “ask John” before undertaking a library


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search. Both his home and office libraries were abundant. He collected books on evolution, cell biology, marine biology, invertebrate biology, birds, and on Nepal. John loved Nepal. He made his first trek there in 1970 before it became popular. His fascination with Nepal may have evolved in part from his great love of the grandeur of the High Sierras where he spent a week to ten days backpacking the John Muir Trail many summers. He brought back stunning photographs of the mountains. From Nepal he brought back not only exquisite photos of the Himalayas, but also love of the people. He developed a great respect for the Sherpas, who hauled his belongings up and down the mountainside and for the Nepalese people living in that isolated corner of the earth, in full view of so much of nature's magnitude. He made many trips to Nepal including a sabbatical year at Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu, bringing the gospel of cell biology to its graduate students.

For many of his colleagues and friends, a constant reminder of John is present in their homes in the form of a Tibetan rug from Nepal. So often did John return to Nepal and order rugs to be shipped to the U.S. for his friends that the U.S. Customs called a halt to it. During his battle with cancer, John taught us all a lesson. At no time did he complain or express despair. He died as he lived, proud and unbending, still faithful to his own personal high standards. Those of us who have had the privilege of knowing and working with John A. Long miss him very much.

Robert L. Hamilton Mary C. Williams Steven L. Wissig