Founding editor of JVI, Lloyd Kozloff, dies

The Journal of Virology was founded in 1967 by three scientists, including Lloyd Kozloff, who passed away this week.

Sarah Kozloff, Lloyd’s daughter, is a professor in the Film Department at Vassar College.  She told me of her scientist father about a year ago and I did a little digging to find out more about him and his career.   Kozloff began his career as a scientist in a very exciting time.  He was a part of a group of bacteriophage biologists at Cold Spring Harbor in the late 1940s and early 1950s.  Members of this group revolutionized biology by ushering in a new discipline called molecular biology.  Very little was known about viruses or the molecular mechanisms that make cells work.  Other members of this group would go on to demonstrate that DNA was the genetic material (A.D. hershey) and discover the structure of DNA (James Watson).  Sarah mentioned to me that she remembered the party that the Kozloff’s threw to celebrate Watson’s Nobel prize.  The names of scientists that are legendary to most of us were, to the Kozloffs,  part of everyday dinner table conversation about friends and colleages.

Lloyd Kozloff made some important contributions to phage biology and basic understanding of viruses.  He was one of few people using a new technique in biology: radioisotope labeling.  In a 1948 paper he used phosporus isotopes to determine that phages obtain their phosphorus primarily from the media, though he presumed it must be vis a cellular metabolic pathway.  That paper in Science, has a single table, the result of what appears to be a single experiment.  The phosphorus was all in the DNA component of the phage, something that would be important later when Hershey and Chase showed in 1952 that DNA was the genetic material.   In fact, the authors are careful to define the acronymn DNA, the macromolecule perhaps being something not too familiar to many at the time.    In a later 1956 paper, Kozloff demonstrated that the bacteriophage does something to the bacterial cell wall to allow the genetic amterial to enter, and that activity was conferred by some kind of protein.  We now know that what he was seeing was the action of lysozyme, an enzyme at the base of the bacteiophage tail that degrades the bacterial peptidoglycan wall to allow the DNA to enter the cell.

I rarely go so far back in the literature, although it is always interesting to see the foundational papers upon which our current knowledge is based, and to see the style of experiments, the difference in the style of scientific writing and presentation, and to imagine what it was like to explore virology without really understanding yet what viruses really are or how they work.

The journal of virology will be publishing an obituary and I will add a link once it is available.

The university of San francisco, where Kozloff spent the last part of his career, has a brief biography.

A scholarship fund to support graduate students has been created, to which donations can be made in his name.  (The family has specifically requested donations to this fund in lieu of flowers.  A card will be sent to the family.)