Lou Siminovitch

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Lou Siminovitch was born in Montreal in 1920 to a family of immigrants from Bessarabia. He earned a bachelor’s degree from McGill University in 1941 and a PhD in physical chemistry in 1944. In 1947, Siminovitch traveled to Paris to work in Louis Rapkin’s laboratory at the Pasteur Institute on a Royal Society fellowship.  During his 6 years in Paris, Siminovitch worked with first-rate scientists from various backgrounds and learned about how scientific discovery works and about the power of genetics as a discipline. 

Siminovitch moved to Toronto in 1953, which marked the beginning of his scientific independence.  He turned his focus onto somatic cells and, in 1955, discovered a new technique of growing cells in suspension.  Siminovitch also discovered a new method for analyzing the chromosome composition (karyotyping) of mammalian cells with cytogeneticist at U of T, Klaus Rothfels.

In 1956, Siminovitch began working at the Ontario Cancer Institute where he began his contributions to molecular biology—the study of molecular structures, including genes, that underlie biological processes—and in 1966 was appointed chair of the Cell Biology Group to tackle the initiative of founding the Department of Medical Cell Biology at the University of Toronto. This initiative was completed in 1969 and in 1970, Siminovitch was named Geneticist-in-Chief at the Hospital for Sick Children. He, in addition to his responsibilities at HSC, continued his research at the University of Toronto, focusing his research on somatic cell genetics. In 1985, Siminovitch retired from the HSC and was appointed a research director of the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute at Mount Sinai Hospital where he worked for 9 years.

Lou Siminovitch is well recognized and celebrated in his responsibility for the establishment of the study of molecular biology at the University of Toronto and in much of Canada.  He was inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame in 1997.

Personal Story

Siminovitch married Elinore, a playwright who died in 1995. They had three daughters. The annual Elinore & Lou Siminovitch Prize in Theatre is named in his and his wife's honour.