Founding Member Dr. F. Clarke Fraser's Passing

Dear Society Members,

I am saddened to report that Teratology Society founding member Dr. F. Clarke Fraser has died at the age of 94. Dr. Fraser was a true pioneer in the field of medical genetics and his achievements are celebrated far and wide. He was a wonderful teacher and mentor to many Society members and he will be greatly missed by us all. In 2012 Dr. Fraser was inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame. I would like to share with you the professional biography and touching video tribute that was produced as part of this recognition. We will keep you informed of how the Teratology Society will honor Dr. Fraser’s memory.


Please join me in extending our condolences to his family and friends and in remembering the positive impacts Dr. Fraser had on us personally and professionally by using the Comment function at the bottom of this message. Please log into BDR Connection in order to post a Comment. We will compile these messages to send to his family.


Warm Regards, 

Mary Alice Smith




My Memories of Clark

December 22, 2014 04:40 PM by Richard H. Finnell, PhD

Although I trained as a teratologist in Canada, I cannot say that I had the priviledge of being one of Clarke's students.  I was across the country at UBC, and first met Clarke in 1977 at the International Birth Defects Meeting in Montreal.  I was a 23 year old graduate student and petrified as I was about to give my first scientific conference presentation in a session chaired by Clarke.  Prior to my talk, Clarke had just vigorously questioned the questionable presentation of a senior teratologist.  I was petrified. I wasn't sure I would be able to get the words out.  I somehow managed.  During the questioning period, Clarke moved close to me and whispered...."good stuff".. You can imagine how great that made me feel.  For the next 35 plus years Clarke took an interest in me and my work, and never failed to ask me the tough questions either at meetings or via email.  He was a terrific mentor and his contributions to our field are seminal.  Today is a very sad day for me and for many of us.  


December 22, 2014 08:22 PM by Richard Kermit Miller, PhD

Clark was more than a Scholar, Mentor and Friend.  He was a visionary sharing his insights openly and freely with us all.  His impact on the fields of Genetics and Teratology are immense; however, his ability to just sit and spontaneously discuss a point with all who were interested including myself, set Clark apart.  He lead by compassion and acumen.   A role model for us all.   Thanks Clark.


Clarke Frasier

December 23, 2014 10:17 AM by Tacey E.K. White, PhD

I was, unfortunately, not of the generation to benefit directly from the mentoring and scientific discussions with Clarke.  My memories of Clarke are that he faithfully continued to attend the Teratology Society, that he co-founded, up until just a couple of years ago, sitting in the front row of every session, and continuing to be involved with the science.  That was trully remarkable to me, and an example of how to stay current and contribute in your field no matter what your age.  Now as Vice President of TS, I am thankful for the ground-breaking work of Clarke as a true pioneer and leader in the field.


December 24, 2014 08:37 AM by Carole A. Kimmel

I am saddened to hear of Clarke's passing and to know that he will not be at the meetings again.  His groundbreaking work in cleft palate formation taught me so much about the intricacies of development and the many interactions that must occur to result in a healthy individual.  He had a wry sense of humor and didn't shrink from saying what he thought.  He is the third and last of our Society founders - three great visionaries.  My sincere condolences to his family.


January 2, 2015 08:37 AM by Michel Vekemans, MD, PhD

I met Clarke in August 1976. He had accepted me as a graduate student in the Biology Department at McGill University. At the time, he was getting ready to leave to Bar Harbor to give lectures at the annual Mammalian Genetics Course taking place at the Jackson Laboratory. Before leaving he gave me a sample of his most recent publications. These included some work in Clinical Genetics and some papers on cortisone-induced cleft palate in the mouse and a draft of his well-known paper: The multifactorial/threshold concept - uses and misuses. He asked me to read and comment them for discussion when he returned from Bar Harbor. So I did! As a MD coming from Belgium, I wanted to get a PhD in Genetics. He thought I would pick up a clinical subject. Thus he was surprised and amused when I told him “I want to know what a backcross is!” So, he took me to the mouse room and introduced me to the CatFraser, the CL/Fr and the SW/Fr mice. Also he showed me his method of keeping records and punching holes and notches to ear mark the mice. That was the beginning of a wonderful and friendly scientific venture. Every Tuesday was “Clarke’s writing day”. Then the door of his office was closed. But we could hear JS Bach music notes flying out through the door. Around noon, he used to take a break. Now the door was half-open! Clarke was having a snack while reading the last issue of The Lancet or the Science magazine. Once every 3 months, I used to take an appointment to evaluate research progress. Then we sat on the large seat facing his desk in front of his impressive bookshelf. There we spent some time going in details over research data or editing an abstract or a paper. Clarke had an incredible curiosity and was an insightful Socratic teacher and mentor. He was gracious and humble and had a very good sense of humour. But most of all, he had the ability to make others around him feel good about themselves. I was very fortunate to be part of both his graduate students and friends.


Clarke Fraser

January 5, 2015 01:54 PM by Gary M. Shaw, PhD

Clarke has been an amazing inspiration and a great mentor to so many of us. Very early in my career, ~30 years ago, I received a 2-page hand-written letter from Clarke in regard to a paper I had recently published. I was absolutely amazed that a pillar of the field had taken the time to write to me. Clarke’s words were congratulating, but importantly he suggested ideas I might pursue on the published topic. Therein lies his superb mentorship. I consider myself one of the many fortunate individuals to have interacted with Clarke and benefitted from his brilliance, his enthusiasm for finding answers to hard scientific questions, and his depth of care in others. I still read that cherished letter from time to time.  – Gary M. Shaw 


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