John H. Law, ESA Fellow (1995)

Dr. John H. Law, Regents Professor, Emeritus, of the University of Arizona and Professor of Entomology at the University of Georgia, was elected as Fellow in 1995. He and his collaborators isolated and characterized all of the major hemolymph proteins of Manduca sexta, including lipoproteins, chromoprotein, hexamerins, and iron-binding proteins.

Law was born in Cleveland in 1931. When he was 15, his family relocated to south Florida, intensifying his early interest in biology, which now included a fascination with marine animals. It seemed unlikely at that time that marine biology would provide a viable career, so Law enrolled in Case Institute of Technology, intending to follow a course of chemical engineering. One year convinced him that this was a mistake, and he changed his program to industrial chemistry. Law’s teachers suggested that he would have a better future in industry were he to obtain an advanced degree, which he pursued at the University of Illinois, earning his Ph.D. in 1957. His major professor, Herbert E. Carter, an eminent biochemist, restored Law’s interest in biology, and convinced him to pursue an academic career, rather than one in industry. Law spent 18 months as a postdoctoral fellow with Konrad Bloch at Harvard, studying the biosynthesis of cholesterol. In this way, he made a small contribution to work that earned Bloch a Nobel Prize in 1964. Law was then invited to accept one of the temporary non-tenure assistant professorships in the chemistry department at Harvard. The chairman of the department said, “You will be here 5 or 6 years. We will not demand much of you. Make the most of it.” And that Law certainly did.

Law started his independent career as a microbiologist, but fruitful collaborations with Edward O. Wilson, Carroll M. Williams and Fotis Kafatos set him on his life’s course of the study of insects. He credits great students, postdocs and collaborators and plentiful funding for science as contributing greatly to the success of his career. Law was appointed full professor of biochemistry at the University of Chicago in 1965. At Chicago, he concentrated on biosynthesis, transport and degradation of insect juvenile hormone. In 1981, he moved to the University of Arizona to chair the department of biochemistry. There, he was instrumental in the recruitment of William S. Bowers and John G. Hildebrand, and with them co-founded the Center for Insect Science.

Law served on many national and international committees, including the Board of Trustees for the Gordon Research Conferences and the Governing Board of the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology in Kenya. He became a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 1992. In 1999, he received the Recognition Award in Insect Physiology, Biochemistry and Toxicology from the Entomological Society of America. He holds honorary doctorates from the University of South Bohemia in the Czech Republic and Sofia University in Bulgaria.

Law is enjoying retirement in Georgia with his wife Jeannette, pursuing a lifetime interest in opera.

(updated April, 2015)