Genetics researcher dies, 92

Branden Peterson

Sheldon Reed, a University professor of human genetics and an influential researcher widely respected as the founder of “genetic counseling,” died Saturday at age 92.

After earning bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College and later a doctorate from Harvard University, Reed came to the University to lead the Dight Institute for Human Genetics in 1948.

The University was one of few research institutions to have a genetics program at the time.

“He was very interested in helping people,” longtime friend and University colleague Elving Anderson said.

“He came in at a time when no one was familiar with human genetics, and he very easily saw the importance of disease,” Anderson said.

Reed’s early work focused on the genetics of small mammals, microevolution and gene counseling seen through patterns in family and Mendelian genetic theories.

Reed conducted much of his research alongside his wife, Elizabeth Wagner Beasley. The couple co-authored several scientific books and documents about human genetics.

“He was aware that genetics was related to behavior,” Anderson said. “And at his gestation, the University has become a recognizable name in human genetics.”

Following his retirement after several decades of University work, Reed continued to help people.

At age 70, he learned how to speak Hmong and worked to help Hmong refugees settle into new homes in the United States.

A memorial service is planned for 10 a.m. today at St. Anthony Park United Church of Christ in St. Paul.

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