Claude Villee, Ph.D.

Claude Villee


Dr. Claude Villee, the Andelot professor of biological chemistry at the Harvard University School of Medicine and a distinguished investigator and author, died on August 7, 2004 at age 86. He was best known for his pioneering work in placental steroid synthesis and the textbooks he authored on biology and zoology which were read by students throughout the world. Claude's laboratory was located at the Boston Lying-In Hospital which later became the Boston Hospital for Women. He welcomed undergraduate students, medical students, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows from throughout the world to work with him. Using a variety of techniques including placental explants, Claude established the pathways for the synthesis and metabolism of pregnenolone and progesterone. Working with his wife, Dr. Dorothy B. Villee, a pediatric endocrinologist, Claude unraveled the synthesis of estriol, demonstrating that the placenta utilized fetal adrenal and hepatic precursors to produce this hormone and stimulating the use of estriol as a measure of fetal and placental well-being. He played a key role in establishing the Laboratory for Human Reproduction and Reproductive Biology at Harvard, was a consultant for the Ford Foundation, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institutes of Health, and was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Claude was a superb scientific writer. His comments on the drafts prepared by his students not only made each and every one of the papers better but taught his students how to best present their research findings. Nothing seemed to upset Claude. He was an outstanding mentor and provided superb support and guidance for those working with him.

Claude was a creative thinker, a true scholar, and an individual who, despite his significant professional responsibilities, always put his family first. He will be missed by many but his significant contributions to science and those he taught and inspired provide a lasting legacy that will live on. Dr. Villee is survived by his wife Dorothy; his daughter Suzanne; three sons, Claude, Stephen, and Charles; and three grandchildren.

Submitted by Steven G. Gabbe, M.D.

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