The Passing of William Grant

To the Williams community,

I write today with sad news of a retired faculty member who has passed away. William “Bill” Chase Grant Jr., professor of biology, who taught at the college for 35 years, died on November 28. He was 95.

Born in Baltimore, Md., Bill served three years in the military before studying zoology at Dartmouth College and Yale University, where he received his Ph.D. He taught at Gettysburg College, the College of William and Mary, and Dartmouth prior to joining the Williams faculty in 1956. In addition to his teaching duties at Williams, he served as chair of the biology department and chair of the Science Executive Committee, and he spent a year at Oxford University as a visiting research scientist. In January 1971 he was appointed the Samuel Fessenden Clarke Professor of Biology.

Colleagues remember him as deeply curious and knowledgeable about all the subdisciplines within biology. “He could talk with anyone about their work, understand its importance, and, with his questions or comments, promote new ideas and interpretations,” said Heather Williams, William Dwight Whitney Professor of Biology. In honor of Bill, each year the biology department awards the William Grant prize to the student who has explored the greatest diversity of subdisciplines within the field.

Beyond Williams, he served in leadership roles with the National Science Foundation’s Summer Institute program, and he was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science as well as a member of the American Society of Zoologists and the Ecological Society of America. He also served on the board of directors for Chase Forest and Sanctuaries and was secretary with the Mt. Desert Island Biology Laboratory. The recipient of numerous NIH research grants, his work was published in various scientific journals, and he contributed a section on metamorphosis to the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Bill is predeceased by his wife, Joan, who passed away in 1986 and with whom he had a daughter, Cynthia, and a son, Ian. Details about a memorial service are not available at this time. However, we wanted to share this news today as we mourn the loss of a member of our community.

Our thoughts are with Bill’s family, colleagues, and many friends.


Maud S. Mandel
Professor of History; Program in Jewish Studies