August 31, 1916–December 22, 2002
BY ALAN C. ROSENQUIST AND S. MURRAY SHERMAN
JAMES MATHER (“JIM”) SPRAGUE, THE Joseph Leidy Emeritus Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology at the University of Pennsylvania died from leukemia on December 22, 2002, at the age of 86. Jim is survived by his wife of 43 years, Dolores, and a son, also Jim, who is a pediatric ophthalmologist. Jim Sprague was one of the pioneers in the study of the anatomy, physiology, and functions of the brain, and he was a member of the Founding Council of the Society for Neuroscience in 1970. He was elected to membership in the National Academy of Sciences in 1984.
Jim began his scientific career very early in life, largely because of his privileged upbringing. He was born into an old and wealthy New England family translocated to Kansas. His family owned a summer cottage on Mackinac Island, and this afforded Jim a wonderful base for exploring nature. He fell in love with the prospect of becoming a naturalist, and this interest helped him to develop the sort of wide-ranging, questioning mind that matured into the successful neuroscientist that Jim became. The Great Depression hit Jim’s family hard, ending the bucolic, idyllic summer stays on Mackinac Island, but Jim continued his study of nature through the Boy Scouts and other public opportunities. He “tramped” the Missouri River bottoms,