1022-7954/02/3804- $27.00 © 2002
Russian Journal of Genetics, Vol. 38, No. 4, 2002, pp. 473–474. Translated from Genetika, Vol. 38, No. 4, 2002, pp. 575–576.
Original Russian Text Copyright © 2002 by Barskii, Gostimskii.
Viktor Mironovich Gindilis died November 11,
2001 after a prolonged severe illness in Pittsburgh. It is
hard to believe that this talented and brilliant person is
no more with us. Although he lived and worked in
America (Institute of Reproductive Genetics, Univer-
sity of Pittsburgh, Chicago) for the last ten years of his
life, his name and scientiﬁc history remained associated
with Russia. The name of Viktor Gindilis is well known
among geneticists, and his works are fundamental for
cytogenetics, medical genetics, and, in particular,
genetics of major mental disorders in Russia. Gindilis’
life was full of work, ideas, friendship, and suffering.
He was and still remains bonded with people and with
the country where he was born and spent the best part
of his life.
Qualiﬁed as a physician (Viktor worked as a roent-
genologist in Ul’yanovsk and Ul’yanovsk oblast for
two years), Gindilis became interested in and acquired
an intimate knowledge of genetics well before he
started his experimental research in the laboratory
headed by Aleksandra Alekseevna Prokof’eva-
Bel’govskaya in the renowned Institute of Radiation
and Physicochemical Biology (now the Engelhardt)
Institute of Molecular Biology). In the early 1960s,
momentous, though hidden, events took place in Soviet
biology. Genetics, which had been destroyed in the
1930s and 1940s, summoned its remaining strength,
sought and found talented young people who desired to
carry on traditions of the Russian biological and genetic
schools. With the blessing of the head of the institute,
V.A. Engelhardt, Prokof’eva-Bel’govskaya gathered
several young researchers in her team. This was a core
that provided for the rebirth of Soviet medical genetics.
Viktor Gindilis was a talented member of this group.
His early work was focused on identiﬁcation of
human chromosomes, which was essential for studying
hereditary disorders. This work laid the basis for more
than one generation of Soviet cytogeneticists.
Genetics of major mental disorders became his next
passion and retained his interest for the rest of his life.
Together with the physician Irina Shakhmatova, Gindi-
lis analyzed the unique archives of the Kashchenko
Mental Hospital containing medical records of schizo-
phrenia patients of many decades. Gindilis proposed
the oligogenic model of inheritance for schizophrenia.
He was the ﬁrst to experimentally demonstrate that
anticipation in schizophrenia families is a real biologi-
cal phenomenon rather than an artifact. Along with sev-
eral other researchers, he ﬁrst assumed that trinucle-
otide repeat expansion, or dynamic mutations, under-
In the early 1980s, Gindilis started the project
Human Genome Encyclopedia (HUGEN). As early as
the ﬁrst personal computers became available, Gindilis
conceived the idea of creating an electron encyclopedia
of human chromosomes with detailed descriptions of
all known genes. Although the term bioinformatics did
not exist yet, Gindilis already foresaw that a great body
of information stored in a computer provides almost
limitless possibilities of further discoveries in biology.
Neither the vast amount of labor ahead nor the obvious
impossibility to complete his task prevented him from
working on HUGEN. It is not surprising now that, by
pressing several keys on a computer keyboard, a given
gene of a given chromosome can be found in databases
created by large laboratories and consortiums. Gindilis
began creation of such a database almost 20 years ago
with the help of two people.
Viktor was a true scientist who conscientiously and
unselﬁshly worked to gain new accurate data on human
genetics and never tried to make a proﬁt for himself
alone. He always generously shared his ideas with his
students and colleagues and, sparing no effort and no
Viktor Mironovich Gindilis