Donald Wayne Bailey

SALISBURY COVE — Donald Wayne Bailey, professor emeritus and a former interim director of The Jackson Laboratory, died Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2010, at Mount Desert Island Hospital following a courageous battle with cancer. Born Feb. 28, 1926, in Hutchinson, Kan., Don was 2 months of age when his parents moved their family to San Diego, Calif., where he grew up.


Dr. Bailey attended high school in California and New Jersey. At the age of 17, prior to enrolling in college, he joined the U.S. Army and was assigned to the 627th Field Artillery Battalion. He saw combat in France as part of the Infantry and Field Artillery. Toward the end of the war, the battalion was sent to Frankfurt, where they were in charge of POWs. After completing a tour of duty, Dr. Bailey in 1946 entered the University of California at Berkeley and graduated in 1949 with a BS in zoology. He subsequently obtained his doctorate in genetics from Berkeley in 1953, the same year that he joined The Jackson Laboratory as a postdoctoral fellow. Dr. Bailey’s initial research focused on the genetics of bone shape, and he published his first paper on the shape of the atlas vertebra and mutations that affect normal bone shape. In notes written by Dr. Bailey before his death, he points out that it took 32 years before he deciphered how genes were organized to determine the shape of bones, research he published in a definitive paper in 1985. After four and a half years at The Jackson Laboratory, where he also managed the colony of inbred strains of mice, Dr. Bailey accepted a position as assistant professor at the University of Kansas. In 1959, he became chief of the branch of the National Institute of Health (NIH) overseeing the genetic integrity of NIH’s inbred colony of mice. To check the genetic integrity of the mice that his group was breeding, Dr. Bailey developed a novel technique called orthotopic tailskin grafts, a method involving simultaneous exchange of grafts between several individuals to reveal immunological incompatibilities. While at NIH, he also began breeding some new kinds of mouse strains, strains that were later called Recombinant Inbred (RI) strains. In 1961, Dr. Bailey accepted a research position at the University of California Medical Center in San Francisco, where he used tailskin grafts to study the induction of mutations in mice resulting from irradiation. In 1967, Earl Green, the director of The Jackson Laboratory, recruited Dr. Bailey to do research on transplantation genetics and thus ensure the continuation of research the Laboratory was famous for, research that carried on the work of Nobel Laureate George Snell. Dr. Bailey’s other research was devoted to studies involving the set of RI strains he created. He originated the concept of using RI strains for genetic analysis and created the first set of these strains. Scientists around the world, following his lead, subsequently created many other sets. Each set, being derived from a cross between two, well defined inbred strains, has been used to yield valuable information as to associations and genetic locations of genes in mice, which, in turn, has led to analysis of complexly inherited traits, contributing to elucidation of genetics in humans. His work resulted in a number of collaborations not only with scientists at The Jackson Laboratory, but also with scientists around the world. During his career he traveled extensively and conducted research with colleagues in Prague and Japan. From 1988-1990, Dr. Bailey served as interim director of The Jackson Laboratory, and elected in 1990 to take early retirement, an early retirement that allowed him to pursue other interests including sailing and traveling. He loved to tinker, recalled his wife, Patricia Ward-Bailey, and he holds both U.S. and Canadian patents for novel ice boats designs.

In addition to his wife, Dr. Bailey is survived by two sons, Michael and his wife, Christa, of Berkeley, Calif., and Steven and his wife, Alison, of Brooksville. He leaves six grandchildren, Kit Lewis Bailey of Berkeley and Duncan, Kai, Kamilla, Kalle and Erik Bailey of Brooksville. He is also survived by one brother, Darrell of Las Vegas, Nev.; nieces, Charlotte Melluzo of Port Orchard, Wash., Kathy Aldrich of Las Vegas, Nev., and Cherie Bustemante of San Diego, Calif. Dr. Bailey was predeceased by his first wife, Betty.

A celebration of Dr. Bailey’s life is planned for summer 2011. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations in Dr. Bailey’s name be made to The Jackson Laboratory or the Mount Desert Island Hospital. Arrangements by Jordan-Fernald, 48 Eden St., Bar Harbor. Condolences may be expressed at

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