My watch list  

Warwick Estevam Kerr

Warwick Estevam Kerr (b. September 9, 1922, Santana do Parnaíba, São Paulo, Brazil) is a Brazilian agricultural engineer, geneticist, entomologist, professor and scientific leader, notable for his discoveries in the genetics and sex determination of bees. He is also responsible for the accidental release of experimental, genetically mutated africanized bee queens in 1957, also called killer bees. Africanized bees are hybrids of European and African honey bees. These queens were eventually responsible for the spread of the africanized bee to continental areas that were previously dominated by the more docile european bee.



Kerr was born in 1922, in Santana do Parnaíba, São Paulo, son of Mr. Américo Caldas Kerr and Mrs. Bárbara Chaves Kerr. His family is originally from Scotland. The family moved to Pirapora, SP in 1925. He attended secondary school and the preparatory course at the Mackenzie in São Paulo and subsequently was admitted to the Escola Superior de Agricultura Luiz de Queiroz of the University of São Paulo, at Piracicaba, São Paulo, where he graduated as agricultural engineer.

From March of 1975 to April of 1979 Kerr moved to Manaus, Amazonas, in order to establish and to direct the National Institute of Amazonia Research (INPA), a research institute recently created by the National Council of Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq). He officially retired from the University of São Paulo in January 1981, but not of scientific life. Exactly eleven days later he already was accepting a position of Full Professor at the Universidade Federal do Maranhão in São Luís, state of Maranhão, where he became responsible for creating the Department of Biology; and, for a short period (1987-1988) served also as the Dean of the University. He moved to the Universidade Federal de Uberlândia, in Uberlândia, state of Minas Gerais, in February 1988, as a Professor of Genetics and stays there until today.

Dr. Kerr is married to Professor Lygia Sansigolo Kerr and has seven children (Florence,Lucy, Americo, Jacira, Ligia Regina, Tânia and Hélio Augusto) as well as 17 grandchildren (Caetano, Bárbara,Priscila,Beatriz, Gustavo,Daniel, Sabrina, Frederico, Carla, Marta, Alexandre, Lucas, Jonatas, Matheus, Flávia, Warwick Neto, Tiago). His hobbies include cultivating native flowers, orchids and fruits, as well as sports and gardening.

Scientific contributions

His scientific life was initiated in Piracicaba, where he received his Ph.D. degree and later was hired as an assistant professor. In 1951 he did his postdoctoral studies as a Visiting Professor at the University of California at Davis, and in 1952 at Columbia University, he studied with the famous geneticist Dr. Theodosius Dobzhansky.

In 1958, he was invited by Prof. Dias da Silveira to assist him in organizing the Department of Biology at the Faculdade de Ciências de Rio Claro, of the recently created State University of São Paulo UNESP, in the city of Rio Claro, where he stayed there until 1964, directing a research group on the genetics of bees, his main field of specialization. From 1962 to 1964 he served as the Scientific Director to organize the recently created São Paulo State Research Foundation (FAPESP).

In December 1964 he accepted the position of Full Professor of Genetics at the Faculty of Medicine of Ribeirão Preto of the University of São Paulo, in order to create a new Department of Genetics. In this capacity, Dr. Kerr was able to establish a research center of high excellence, particularly in the areas of entomological genetics and human genetics, and trained a great number of masters and doctoral students. The department included also a new research and teaching area, that of mathematical biology and biostatistics, the first of its kind in a medical school in Brazil; and was a pioneer in the use of computers in biology and medicine, particularly for genetics applied to animal husbandry.

In all these positions he never stopped his research on Meliponini, specially the genus Melipona, which is a genus of Latin American bees that are frequently subject to the predatory action of wild honey gatherers (meleiros in Portuguese). Dr. Kerr became world famous with his research on the hybridization of the African bee and the Italian bee (Apis mellifera ligustica), which initially created a national and international stir when several African bee queens escaped inadvertently from Kerr's research apiary in Rio Claro, and colonies of African bees, which are much more aggressive than its European cousin, spread throughout the whole continent, in the process causing many attack and stinging accidents (and a few deaths), until it was thoroughly intermixed with the local bee populations; the descendants are now known as Africanized bees.

Kerr has 620 publications on various subjects. Apart from being a member of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences he is also a Foreign Associate of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, and of the Third World Academy of Sciences. He was admitted by President Itamar Franco to the National Order of Scientific Merit at the Grã-Cruz class in 1994.

Selected papers

  • W. E. Kerr (1975). Evolution of the population structure in bees. Genetics 79: 73–84.
  • W. E. Kerr (1976). Population genetic studies in bees. 2 sex-limited genes. Evolution 30: 94–99.
  • W. E. Kerr (1987). Sex determination in bees. XXI. Number of XO-heteroalleles in a natural population of Melipona compressipes fasciculata (Apidae). Insectes Sociaux 34: 274–27.
  • W. E. Kerr & R. A. da Cunha (1990). Sex determination in bees. XXVI Masculinism of workers in the Apidae. Brazilian Journal of Genetics 13: 479–489.
  • W. E. Kerr (1992). The bee or not the bee?. The Times Literary Supplement.

See also

  • Apiology


  • Warwick Estevam Kerr Biography. Brazilian Academy of Sciences.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Warwick_Estevam_Kerr". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
Your browser is not current. Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 does not support some functions on Chemie.DE