Mourning a Loved and Respected Professor and Ribosome Researcher
On September 5, 2019, the Einstein community was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Dr. Jonathan R. Warner, professor emeritus of cell biology and former Judith and Burton P. Resnick Professor of Cell Biology. He was 82.
Dr. Warner’s research interest and life work centered on ribosomes, complex molecules made of RNA and proteins that are central to the process of protein synthesis in cells. For more than 50 years, he was an important figure in the research community’s exciting explorations of RNA’s role in numerous cellular processes. This work was of seminal importance to our understanding of how cells function and more recently has led to better understanding of how aberrations in ribosomal genes can lead to diseases such as cancer.
Dr. Warner’s interest in ribosomes traces to his studies as a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1962, he was first author of an article in Science showing that the oxygen-carrying protein, hemoglobin, is synthesized in cells on clusters of ribosomes, which he and his mentor later called polyribosomes or “polysomes” and subsequent studies by many investigators showed that polysomes were the site of synthesis of virtually all proteins in animal cells.
In 1965, just a year after he arrived at Einstein as a postdoctoral fellow, Dr. Warner was appointed assistant professor of biochemistry and went on to become an associate professor and professor of biochemistry and of cell biology. He devoted most of scientific career to studying how the production of the many ribosomal proteins and ribosomal RNA are coordinated, regulated, and assembled into functional ribosome in animal cells as well as in the yeast S. cerevisiae, where he dissected this process using the many mutants that he and others created.
A beloved professor and supporter of the next generation of Ph.D. researchers, Dr. Warner led the Sue Golding Graduate Division from 1972 until 1983, when he became chair of cell biology. He remained as chair until 1998, after which he continued to teach and do RNA research. From 1986 to 1998, he also served as director of Einstein’s division of biological sciences.
Dr. Warner was the author of more than 150 peer-reviewed papers. He was a natural collaborator who viewed science as a social endeavor. Among his many other accomplishments, he was president of the Harvey Society and a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology. He served on and chaired many advisory boards for the NIH and the American Cancer Society, and was on visiting committees for MIT, Cold Spring Harbor, and Yale. He was on the editorial boards of leading journals and was editor of Molecular and Cellular Biology from 1993 till 2003.
Dr. Warner retired as an Einstein professor in 2014 but continued his research and teaching, and his service on faculty committees, until January of 2019—a joy and pleasure for a man who considered himself lucky to have found work he loved.
Jon Warner was born on February 19, 1937, in New York City. He earned his bachelor’s degree at Yale University, where he majored in physics. Upon completing his doctoral studies at MIT in 1963, he served as a research associate there before coming to the Bronx for a research fellowship at Einstein. He is survived by his wife Nancy of 61 years, two daughters, Anne and Deborah Warner; their husbands Michael Makuch and Michael Unger; four grandchildren, Nancy and Elizabeth Makuch, and Katherine and Sarah Unger; and a sister, Anne Bishop and a brother, William Warner.
Editor's Note: If you would like to leave a remembrance of Dr. Warner, please visit our In Memoriam page.
Posted on: Friday, September 13, 2019