ISSN 1022-7954, Russian Journal of Genetics, 2007, Vol. 43, No. 2, pp. 216–220. © Pleiades Publishing, Inc., 2007.
Original Russian Text © L.I. Lebedeva, I.K. Zakharov, 2007, published in Genetika, 2007, Vol. 43, No. 2, pp. 284–288.
This year marks the hundredth anniversary of Doc-
tor of Biology, Professor Yulii Yakovlevich Kerkis, a
prominent biologist and outstanding geneticist. Yulii
Kerkis is known for his works in the ﬁelds of general
genetics, zootechnology, spontaneous and induced
mutagenesis, and medical genetics. He was among the
organizers of the journal
and a member of its
ﬁrst editorial board.
Yulii Yakovlevich Kerkis was born on February 17,
1907 in Kiev in the family of a well-known lawyer
Yakov Rodionovich Kerkis. In Kiev, he spent his child-
hood and youth.
An accidental meeting with a young biologist, an
assistant with the Kiev Polytechnic Institute, the future
founder of the synthetic theory of evolution, and a
member of the Academy of Sciences of the USA Theo-
dosius Grigor’evich Dobrzhansky in 1923 appeared
fateful for Kerkis. It was Dobrzhansky who advised
Kerkis to enter in 1926 the only in the USSR of that
time Department of Genetics at the Physical and Math-
ematical Faculty of the Leningrad (today St. Peters-
burg) State University. Since 1924, Dobrzhansky
worked at the Department of Genetics under the guid-
ance of Yu.A. Filipchenko. Dobrzhansky had an eye on
the studies of Kerkis, looked after him, directed his sci-
entiﬁc interests, and took Kerkis with him to the expe-
dition to Central Asia aimed at making an inventory of
agricultural animals. In this expedition, student Kerkis
had to work for free; however, he worked as all the oth-
ers, and Dobrzhansky started to pay his salary out of the
own pocket. This act of Theodosius Grigor’evich for-
ever remained a mystery for Kerkis. When already in
the United States, Dobrzhansky continued to pay atten-
tion to the studies and scientiﬁc work of Kerkis,
assisted him in publishing in international journals, and
in his letters to Filipchenko was anxious about the
future career of Kerkis.
Upon graduating from the University in 1930,
Kerkis worked as a researcher at the Laboratory of
Genetics, USSR Academy of Sciences, in Leningrad
and continued his research into the mechanisms of sex
development and the reasons causing sterility in
interspecies hybrids, commenced during his stu-
dent years. Using the growth dynamic and histological
transformations in gonads as criteria, Kerkis demon-
strated that the sex development in
critical period analogous to the critical moment
described by R. Goldschmidt for gipsy moth.
The Laboratory of Genetics in 1932 was rearranged
into the Institute of Genetics with the USSR Academy
of Sciences, whose ﬁrst director became N.I. Vavilov.
Yulii Yakovlevich was among the direct organizers of
the group for
genetics at the Institute. In
1933, H.J. Muller came to the USSR according to the
invitation of Vavilov. At the Institute of Genetics,
Muller headed the Laboratory of Gene and Mutagene-
sis; Yulii Yakovlevich became a member of this Labora-
tory and commenced studying the mutation process
induced by ionizing radiations.
Later Yulii Yakovlevich called Dobrzhansky, Fil-
ipchenko, Vavilov, and Muller his mentors.
In 1934, the candidate of biology degree was con-
ferred to Kerkis
summa cum laude
. In the same year,
the Institute of Genetics was moved to Moscow, and
Kerkis moved there too.
During 1937–1941, Yulii Yakovlevich participated
in the discussion on genetic issues, and Vavilov
assigned him to perform a number of experimental
Yulii Yakovlevich Kerkis:
To the Hundredth Anniversary of His Birth