In Memoriam: Daniel Adino Goodenough (1944 – 2024)

Dan Goodenough

Daniel Adino Goodenough, Takeda Professor of Cell Biology Emeritus at the Harvard Medical School (HMS), died of stomach cancer under peaceful hospice care in Concord NH at age 79.

Dan rode his bike every day to the HMS where he taught and conducted research for 40 years (1971-2011). He was deeply committed to the teaching and counseling of medical students, for which he received numerous awards. He taught first-year Anatomy and Histology throughout his career, and in 1985, with others, combined these subjects into a course called The Human Body. This became a keystone offering in the HMS New Pathways program, which he helped to launch, wherein problem-solving and small-group tutorials promoted self-directed learning. He also served (1985-1989, 1992-2001) as Master of the Holmes (now Hinton) Society, one of five academic societies to which entering medical students are assigned, and engaged in extensive mentoring, group facilitation, and connection.

In the lab, Dan and his collaborators focused on two key features of animal tissues. They studied tight junctions, which serve to seal the spaces between epithelial cells, and discovered ZO-1, the first tight junction protein. They also studied gap junctions, collections of channels connecting the cytoplasm of adjacent cells which facilitate their coordination. This trajectory began when Goodenough developed procedures for gap-junction purification, providing the first descriptions of their biochemical properties and their major structural protein, which he named Connexin. This led to pioneering data on gap junction structure using X-ray diffraction and to identifying and cloning the first Connexin-encoding gene, which proved to be a family of >20 genes. Subsequent experiments revealed the critical roles of junctional communication in female reproductivity biology, transmission of visual signals, and proper functioning of the ocular lens, and identified mutations in human connexin genes that cause common forms of heritable deafness, lenticular cataracts and demyelinating diseases of the nervous system.

A lover of the planet and believer in the rights of all people, Goodenough devoted increasing attention to Racial and Environmental Justice in the 1990s.  He co-designed interactive seminars at HMS called Human Health and the Global Environment and partnered with a devoted group of scientists and activists to pioneer the course Emerging as a Culturally Competent Physician. He was a long-time supporter and Board Member of Alternatives for Community and Environment (ACE), whose mission is to eradicate environmental racism and classism. He was known as an activist who operated with humility and also as the person to call when a student organizer needed to be bailed out of jail.

Many who knew and loved him appreciated his family-first philosophy and were motivated and inspired by his devotion to his wife Carol and the power of their commitment.  At home he showed his love for those around him by making music with family and friends, by the creative ways in which he taught his children and grandchildren, and by the enthusiastic consumption of delicious food. In retirement, Dan and Carol shared a sustainable life at their New Hampshire farm and stayed active locally in the climate justice movement while tending to their large and flourishing gardens.

Dan was born (July 6, 1944) to Erwin Ramsdell Goodenough and Evelyn Wiltshire Goodenough and raised in New Haven CT. He attended Groton School before joining the Harvard Class of 1966 and earning a BA in Biology. After completing a PhD in Anatomy from the Harvard Medical School in 1970 and a postdoctoral fellowship at UC San Francisco, he joined the Harvard Anatomy Department in 1972. He became a Professor of Anatomy in 1981, and Takeda Professor in 1988, a position he held until 2011 when he retired to Henniker NH. Dan was a long-time member of the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB)—serving on ASCB’s Council as well as serving on several ASCB Committees. He is survived by his wife of 55 years, Carol Goodenough, his daughters Sophie Goodenough and Abigail Ortiz, Abigail’s husband John Ortiz, his grandchildren Anthony and Maya Ortiz, his sister Ursula Goodenough, and many other beloved family members, young and old on both sides who knew Dan as a central and guiding force for love and the power of relationships.  

For all who want to remember Dan, please donate to your local chapter and vote with your feet at the next climate justice rally.

About the Author:

This post was collaboratively written by several ASCB staff members.