Together with Joseph Gall and Hewson Swift, David Prescott was among the first to recognize the vast potential of protozoan ciliates for studies of chromosome biology. He went on to discover the phenomenon of macronuclear genome reduction and this nucleus’ selective gene amplification and led the way in early studies of telomeres, this latter work setting the stage for the later exciting era of telomere research.
David Prescott’s scientific promise was recognized early in his career. He was elected as President of the American Society for Cell Biology in 1966,when he was only 40 y old. In 1974 he was elected to the US. National Academy of Sciences. From the earliest stage of his career he was greatly admired by all his protozoaon cell biology colleagues. But his career trajectory, so ascending early on, encountered political factions that kept him at arm’s length.
I recall a meeting in Palo Alto, California in 1984 at which the Annual Review of Cell Biology was being designed and launched. Each of us on the committee presented our thoughts about where each discipline within cell biology stood and was heading. Prescott offered a most thoughtful and prescient perspective on the cell cycle field but another committee member had a very different take. He was a newcomer to the cell cycle field and some at the table bristled at this disrespect, while others were enthused by this new blood. At the coffee break David said to me “Thoru, I’m heading for the airport.” I encouraged him to stay, and he did. I have always remembered this as a testament to his character. Needless to say, each and every comment he had made about the cell cycle field turned about to be correct.