William Firshein, 1930 – 2015

WESLEYAN UNIVERSITY SPECIAL 
COLLECTIONS & ARCHIVES

William Firshein, professor emeritus of biology at Wesleyan University, passed away in December at the age of 85. Firshein researched bacterial DNA and was an active scholar whose most recent book, “The Infectious Microbe,” was published in 2014.

Firshein was born in 1930 in Brooklyn, New York. He became interested in science during his senior year of high school and was inspired to earn his bachelor’s degree from Brooklyn College. Soon after completing a master’s degree at Rutgers University, Firshein was drafted into the army and did a stint as a microbiology assistant studying anthrax at Fort Detrick in Maryland. After two years in the military, Firshein returned to Rutgers to earn his Ph.D. in the lab of Werner Braun. At the age of 28, he was hired by Wesleyan University, where he taught for 47 years before retiring in 2005.

Firshein was instrumental in establishing the molecular biology and biochemistry department at Wesleyan. An award given in his name each year recognizes student contributions to the department. He also helped to found Ph.D. programs in biochemistry and molecular biology. Firshein received more than $2 million in research grants during his tenure at the university. He is survived by his wife and four sons.

Alexandra Taylor Alexandra Taylor is a science writing intern at ASBMB Today and a master’s candidate in science and medical writing at Johns Hopkins University.