Posted on Dec 17, 2010

Prof. Raymond Rappaport

Raymond Rappaport, professor of developmental biology emeritus, died on Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2010 at his home in Bar Harbor, Maine. He was 88.

Rappaport, who mentored generations of Union students in his speciality, animal cell division, taught from 1952 until his retirement in 1987.

Throughout most of his time at Union and during retirement, he was an active researcher and administrator at the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory, which is devoted to the study of marine and non-marine organisms. Besides his scientific role, he served the laboratory as president, vice president, trustee and director. He designed a number of buildings on the research campus. A research laboratory there is named for him.

He wrote “Cytokenisis in Animal Cells,” published by Cambridge University Press in 1996, along with over 50 journal articles and several book chapters. His research work took his family to California, Hawaii, Japan and France. He mentored a number of Japanese scientists who wished to publish in English.

In January 2004, his work was recognized in the Journal of Experimental Zoology in the article “Ray Rappaport Chronology: Twenty five years of Seminal Papers on Cytokenisis,” describing his work as so important that his strategies and ideas strongly influence current research on cell division. (Read the article here:

He had a number of grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Health.

He was noted for his creative experimental techniques, designed to reveal the basic mechanisms of mammalian cell division. He devised many hand-crafted surgical tools so that he could operate on single cells. One of his most effective was an extremely accurate cutting device fashioned from the hair saved from his son Peter’s first hair cut.

Rappaport arranged a number of student and class visits at the laboratory on Frenchman’s Bay near Bar Harbor, an area well known for its diversity of marine life including the sea urchin, which Rappaport studied.

“He did remarkable work in the manipulation of cells, particularly in the process of mitosis or cell division,” recalled colleague Carl George, professor emeritus of biology.

Rappaport was diversified in his interests, George recalled. With this wife, Barbara, he collected art from Japan, a favorite destination.

He hosted a number of students and colleagues, said George, who taught courses in marine biology that Rappaport had arranged for MDIBL. Rappaport also frequently lectured during the course, George said.

He was well respected as a teacher and lecturer, George recalls, and commanded large classes in embryology.

Born in North Bergen, N.J., he earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Bethany College, a master’s in zoology from the University of Michigan, and a Ph.D. in zoology from Yale University.

He served in the Army medical corps during World War II.

Survivors include his wife of 63 years, Barbara; and three children, Peter, Jean and Ann.

Donations in his memory may be made to the Mount Desert Island YMCA, the Jesup Memorial Library or the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory. A memorial concert is being planned for early summer.