Saturday, March 12, 2011

Walter Fitch (1929-2011)

I'm sad to report on this blog the news that Walter Fitch, pioneer in the field of molecular phylogenetics, long time professor and former chair of biology at UC Irvine, and member of the National Academy of Sciences, passed away yesterday morning. I learned of his passing today via the Evoldir email listserve. The original email message sent from the current chair of biology at UC Irvine can be read here. To learn more about the contributions of Fitch to molecular phylogenetics refer to one of many references online (e.g., 1, 2) or, especially, read Joe Felsenstein's book "Inferring Phylogenies." Among Walter Fitch's many lasting contributions to phylogenetic systematics is a fast algorithm for computing the parsimony score of a site pattern on a tree (Fitch 1971) - now known as the "Fitch parsimony algorithm."

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