Don Craig Wiley

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Person.png Don Craig Wiley  Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Don Craig Wiley.jpg
BornOctober 21, 1944
DiedNovember 15, 2001 (Age 57)
Memphis, Tennessee
Cause of death
"accidentally fell off a bridge"
Alma materTufts University, Harvard University
SpouseKatrin Valgeirsdottir
Interests • AIDS
• Ebola
• Influenza
• 2001 Anthrax attacks?
National expert on infections diseases who "accidentally fell off bridge" in November 2001.

Dr. Don Craig Wiley was an American structural biologist.[1][2][3][4] Wiley was considered an expert on how the human immune system fights off infections and had worked on AIDS, Ebola, herpes and influenza.[5][6] He died on November 15, 2001 after falling off a bridge near Memphis, Tennessee.


Wiley received his doctoral degree in biophysics in 1971 from Harvard University, where he worked under the direction of the subsequent 1976 chemistry Nobel Prize winner William N. Lipscomb Jr.[7] There, Wiley did early work on the structure of aspartate carbamoyltransferase, the largest molecular structure determined at that time.[8] Noteworthy in this effort was that Wiley managed to grow crystals of aspartate carbamoyltransferase suitable for obtaining its X-ray structure, a particularly difficult task in the case of this molecular complex.

Career and research

Wiley was world-renowned for finding new ways to help the human immune system battle such viral scourges as smallpox, influenza, HIV/AIDS and herpes simplex.

Famous quote: "I'm sorry, but I just don't understand anything in biology unless I know what it looks like."[9]

Awards and honors

In 1990, he was awarded the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize from Columbia University. His research was honored with the 1993 Cancer Research Institute William B. Coley Award. Harvard called Wiley "one of the most influential biologists of his generation." In 1999, Wiley and another Harvard professor, Jack L. Strominger, won the Japan Prize for their discoveries of how the immune system protects humans from infections.[10]

Personal life

Don Wiley disappeared on November 15, 2001 after falling off a bridge near Memphis, Tennessee; his body was found in the Mississippi River 300 miles downstream in Vidalia, Louisiana a month later and his death was ruled to be an accident.[11][12][13]

Bill Poovey, a journalist with Associated Press wrote: "His rental car was found with a full tank of petrol and the keys in the ignition. His disappearance looked like a suicide, but according to colleagues and Dr. Wiley's family, the Harvard Scientist associated with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute would NEVER commit suicide. Associates who attended the St. Jude's Children Research Advisory Dinner with Dr. Wiley, just hours before he disappeared, said that he was in good spirits and NOT depressed. He was last seen at the banquet at the Peabody Hotel in downtown Memphis the night he vanished. Those who saw him last say he showed no signs of a man contemplating his own death."

Wiley left the hotel around midnight. The bridge where his car was found is only a five-minute drive away and in the wrong direction from where he was staying, leaving authorities with a four-hour, unexplained gap until his vehicle was found.

Now Memphis police are exploring several theories involving suicide, robbery and murder.

"We began this investigation as a missing person investigation," said Walter Crews of the Memphis Police Department. "From there it went to a more criminal bent."


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