Wolf V. Vishniac bigraphy, stories - American biologist

Wolf V. Vishniac : biography

April 22, 1922 - December 10, 1973

Wolf V. Vishniac (April 22, 1922 – December 10, 1973) was an American microbiologist, son of Roman Vishniac. Educated at Brooklyn College and Stanford University, he was a professor of Biology at the University of Rochester. He died while on a research trip to the Antarctic while attempting to retrieve equipment down a crevice. The crater Vishniac on Mars is named in his honor. Wolf had three sons, David Obadiah ("Obie"), Ethan and Ephraim, the first of whom died at the age of ten, Ethan and Ephraim being an astrophysicist and software engineer respectively, with his wife Helen Vishniac, daughter of George Gaylord Simpson, who was later a professor of microbiology at Oklahoma State University.

Wolf Vishniac contributed greatly to the search for life on Mars by developing a special miniature laboratory that could be flown to that planet. This research was supported by a NASA grant, which started in 1959 and was the very first ever for the "biological sciences." The Viking 1 Mars probe contained such a device but did not find any conclusive signs of life.

He was also a friend to Carl Sagan. In 5th episode of his show Cosmos entitled "Blues for a Red Planet," Sagan talks about Vishniac's death and his microbiological sensor (nicknamed the "Wolf Trap") which was supposed to go on Viking 1, but did not make it due to budget cuts.

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