SEYMOUR ABRAHAMSON, Professor Emeritus of Zoology at the University of Wisconsin -Madison died in Madison on Saturday, July 23, 2016.
He was born in New York City on November 28, 1927. His parents were Benjamin Abrahamson and Molly Finklestein Abrahamson.
Dr. Abrahamson graduated from Weequahic High School (Newark, New Jersey), Rutgers University-Newark (Phi Beta Kappa), and received his PhD in genetics from Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, where he studied under the Nobel Laureate geneticist Herman J. Muller.
Seymour was a WWII veteran, a thankful beneficiary of the GI Bill. Dr. Abrahamson joined the U.W.-Madison faculty in 1961, teaching courses in zoology and genetics and was recognized by his students as an outstanding teacher. He also supervised a genetics research laboratory studying drosophila and radiation effects. He lectured across the United States, Europe and Asia, traveling widely, both professionally and with his family. He had spent time on each of the seven continents.
Dr. Abrahamson twice served as Chair of the Zoology Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Dr. Abrahamson was long affiliated with the Hiroshima-based Radiation Effects Research Foundation (RERF) (formerly known as the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission), a joint project of the Japanese and U.S. Governments, where he helped oversee and publish studies on the effects of the atomic bombs on human survivors. He lived and worked in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, for seven years and served as Director and Chief of Research for RERF from 1986 to 1988 (and again in leadership capacity from 1995-1996). In recognition of his contributions to science and the Japanese people, Dr. Abrahamson received a distinguished service award from the Emperor of Japan.
In addition to this award, Dr. Abrahamson was the recipient of many honors, was elected to five professional societies, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and served on numerous professional boards and committees on the state, national and international stage, among them the National Academy of Sciences, National Council on Radiation Protection, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency, Brookhaven National Laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory, and Institute of Regulatory Sciences. Dr. Abrahamson was particularly proud of his wide-ranging committee work in service to the people of the State of Wisconsin and its University.
Dr. Abrahamson published over 100 articles and book chapters in peer-reviewed scientific journals dealing with health, physics and radiation, participated on the editorial boards of several professional publications, and served as Editor-in-Chief of Environmental Mutagenesis (1979-1984). He counted the distinguished population geneticist Dr. James F. Crow among his closest friends and greatest mentors.
After retirement, Seymour Abrahamson was committed to keeping abreast of new developments in biological research and the environment. One of his more recent interests was in his book club with members of diverse interests; they rekindled his interest in history and political science.
Dr. Abrahamson had a passion for people and knowledge. He enjoyed friends and strangers alike; he was able to converse with all. He had a vast array of information at his disposal on many, diverse subjects.
Dr. Abrahamson was deeply grateful to his remarkable physician, University of Wisconsin Dr. Dennis Maki, who provided him and his family with the finest care imaginable for nearly four decades.
Dr. Abrahamson is survived by his wife, Shirley, son, Daniel, daughter-in-law, Tsan, and grandson, Moses Jonah, and nephews and great-nieces and nephews, all of whom he cherished.
Private services will be held at a later date.
Please share your memories of Dr. Abrahamson.
6021 University Ave. Madison
Prof. Abrahamson taught me zoology as an undergraduate in the early 1980s. He was fantastic! It was apparent to me at that time, even though I was just a kid, that his work was not simply a "job". His had a passion fro teaching and was truly inspiring. Very sorry to learn of his passing.
Dear Justice Abrahamson,
It is sad to say this: I never took the time to meet Seymour. But a story you told me once over 25 years ago when I worked for Wisconsin Public Radio, has peppered my conversations ever since. At my age, reading obituaries has become a more regular activity. Even so, finding local news of any kind leading with "Graduate of Weequahic High School, Newark , NJ" is an exceptionally rare occasion. This point, and the similarity of our surnames, the only things we definitely shared, continues to bring a smile to my face and others. From all reports I definitely missed out on the company of a real mensch. My deepest sympathies for your loss.
My deepest sympathy to you and to your family
It was my good luck to have Professor Abrahamson for genetics when he filled in for Professor Stone who was in CA consulting on a film. I was not a fan of early morning lectures, but never wanted to miss one of his. When I did my student teaching in Biology they were on a genetics unit. I emulated Dr. Abrahamson by starting each class with a quote, or fun fact, or even something silly (Having children is hereditary. If your parents didn't have any, you can't!) on the chalkboard. Whether pertinent to the day's lesson, or just amusing, it got their attention. Many came in after school to mate drosophila and predict the results, or figure out why if the predictions were wrong. Their teacher asked if he could sit in on my class and take notes because his schooling had not included .genetics.(!!). This man later told me it was a class of the very lowest achievers, mostly boys. He said it was a dilemma because their grades had been Ds at best and now they were getting As, often scoring in the high 90s on tests. My tests contained problems that I had taken from my college genetics lab book. Their teacher knew the tests were not easy. Then they also got extra credit for their work with drosophilas. I had taken Education courses, but learned more about teaching from Dr. Abrahamson. His influence went far beyond his lecture hall. What an inspiring teacher!
The family will not know me, a retired geology professor, but I was a UW colleague of Seymour's. We first met on some committee(s) long ago and were reunited after retirement in the Interdisciplinary Evolution Seminar. We also met at least twice in the Dane County airport. I greatly enjoyed Seyimour's enthusiastic outgoing personality and his keen intellect. I am deeply saddened by news of his death and I send my sincere condolences to Shirley and her family.
Robert H. Dott, Jr.
I met Seymour Abrahamson fifty-six years ago when we became lab-mates in the old Medical Sciences building. He was always a friend, and always curious, always learning; he represented the very spirit of the University. He will be greatly missed.
Just seeing Seymour would bring a smile to my face. He was always great company. In addition to his many professional accomplishments, his personal interactions were a true delight. I am so sorry he is gone. Moria Krueger
I am so saddened to learn of Professor Abrahamson's death. He was the professor of my beginning level zoology class in 1983. That turned out to be one of my all-time favorite classes and he was one of my very best teachers. When there was no funding for discussion sessions that semester, he came in to campus every Saturday morning to answer questions for any students who wanted to attend. I have been forever grateful for the generosity. Please accept my deepest sympathy. He was a very special person.
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