Photo courtesy of the particular Littlefield family


John Littlefield, a scientist and physician whose study helped bring about profound advancements in medical genetics, passed away from complications from dementia at his home upon April 20. He was 91.

Amongst Littlefield’ s most impactful contributions was the development of amniocentesis, a method used to diagnose genetic disorders in fetuses which involves sampling amniotic fluid for fetal DNA. This success allowed pregnant women to test for genetic diseases for the first time.

Throughout his prolific career, Littlefield contributed to numerous other notable scientific advances, including uncovering the function ribosomes play in protein synthesis and isolating human being stem cells capable of assuming all of the body’ s cellular types.

“ John’ s research within somatic cell genetics was the foundation for the discovery plus production of monoclonal antibodies, a class of biologic drugs that has revolutionized the treatment of a variety of autoimmune and inflamed diseases, ” Jerry Winkelstein, a professor emeritus on John Hopkins University School of Medicine, said within an obituary.

Littlefield studied at Harvard University and, later, Harvard Medical School, graduating from both educational institutions in just five years. In 1952, he served within the Korean war as a navy doctor, then in the US Navy blue Reserve until 1954 when he returned to Harvard as a faculty member and began working at Ma General Hospital.

In the late 1950s, he or she temporarily moved to England to work for James Watson plus Frances Crick, the geneticists credited with discovering the particular structure of DNA. When he returned to Birkenstock boston in 1958, he focused his career on genes.

Littlefield went on to cofound Harvard Healthcare School’ s Genetics Training Program, where he was a full teacher until he joined Johns Hopkins University School associated with Medicine as director of pediatrics and the Children’ ersus Hospital as pediatrician-in-chief.

“ By the end associated with his tenure, the department was academically much stronger, ” said George Dover, another former director of pediatrics and pediatrician-in-chief at Johns Hopkins, in the obituary.

Littlefield later served as chairman of the division of physiology at Johns Hopkins, and continued performing research after he retired in 1992.

He is survived by three children, seven grandchildren, and lots of nieces and nephews.