William Kaplan, 88; Neurogeneticist at City of Hope Studied Mutations

From a Times Staff Writer

William D. Kaplan, the first neurogeneticist at City of Hope Medical Center and an expert on the consequences of mutations on behavior and aging, has died. He was 88.

Kaplan died Wednesday in Arcadia of heart failure.

He joined the Duarte center for research and treatment of cancer and other potentially fatal diseases in 1953 and became chairman of its genetics department in 1958. Active to the end of his life, Kaplan continued his research in the molecular cloning laboratory at the City of Hope’s Beckman Research Institute until 1996.

Kaplan specialized in the isolation and study of the Shaker class of mutants of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. He studied the nature of the mutations, their interactions and their effects on behavior and aging. His work aided the understanding of how genes contribute to neurological diseases.


After earning his doctorate in zoology at UC Berkeley, Kaplan was a fellow of the Institute of Animal Genetics in Edinburgh, Scotland. In 1954, shortly after he began his work at City of Hope, he was awarded a U.S. Public Health Service research fellowship there to study origins of cancer.

He served in the Army in Europe during World War II, rising to the rank of major in the chemical warfare unit.

A widower, Kaplan is survived by his son, David, of Carlsbad, Calif.; a daughter, Sara, of Castro Valley, Calif.; a brother, Frederick, of East Lansing, Mich.; and a grandchild.

The family has requested that, instead of flowers, memorial contributions be made to the Beckman Research Institute at City of Hope in Duarte.