Douglas L. Coleman, 82, died April 16, 2014, at his home surrounded by family and friends following a long struggle with cancer. Doug was born Oct. 6, 1931, in Stratford, Ontario, Canada, the son of Leonard J. and Kathleen A. (Martin) Coleman.
After attending elementary and secondary school in Stratford, he received a BS in chemistry in 1954 from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. At McMaster, he met the love of his life and future wife, Beverly J. Benallick. He attended graduate school at the University of Wisconsin and received a MS and PhD in 1956 and 1958, respectively. Doug joined the Jackson Laboratory in 1958 as an Associate Staff Scientist with the intention of staying just long enough to learn some genetics and immunology, but soon became devoted to Mount Desert Island and remained at the Jackson Laboratory for his entire career. In both his vocation and avocation, Doug endeavored to leave things better than he found them. Doug’s scientific career explored the biochemical pathways through which genes control phenotypic traits. These studies were characterized by the use of simple techniques to answer complex biological problems. Doug identified genes that control enzyme synthesis and degradation and demonstrated that gene dosage can control enzyme quantity and structure. Doug is best known for his studies in obesity and diabetes, which utilized genetic mouse strains developed at the Jackson Laboratory. Through careful cross-circulation studies, he established that a blood-born factor (now known as the hormone leptin) was a critical player the identical phenotypes observed in obese and diabetic mouse mutants. He further hypothesized that the leptin originated in fat cells. These surprising findings – that genes (not behavior) can control obesity and adipose tissue secretes hormones and is an endocrine organ (not a mere storage depot) – were heretical at the time, but are now well-established facts. In recognition of his pioneering research, Doug was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1998 and received a number of prestigious scientific awards.
In 1991, Doug entered retirement with the same enthusiasm that he had for his scientific work. With his wife, Bev, who shared his love of the outdoors and concern for the environment, he become active in conservation issues such as open space preservation, forest management and water quality protection. Doug and Bev placed a conservation easement on their 96-acre property in Lamoine, planted trees, constructed nature trails and welcomed the public to share their land. Doug volunteered for many years on both the Board of the Frenchman Bay Conservancy (as member, treasurer and president) and the Lamoine planning board (as a member and chairman). In recognition of their conservation efforts, Doug and Bev received a number of stewardship awards from the State of Maine and the Town of Lamoine.
Doug Coleman is survived by a son, David of Kingston, Ontario, a son, Thomas, his wife, Sarah Fashena and their son, Benjamin, all of Mount Kisco, New York. Doug’s wife, Bev and a third son, John, predeceased him.
Donations in his memory may be made to the Beverly Coleman Memorial Scholarship at the Northeast Harbor Library or the Beverly Coleman Bursary Fund, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Arrangements by Jordan-Fernald, 1139 Main St., Mt. Desert. Condolences may be expressed at www.jordanfernald.com