Carnegie Science | Spring 2019 8 Carnegie’s Winslow Briggs, a giant in the field of plant biology, died on February 11 at Stanford University Medical Center. He was 90. Briggs joined Carnegie as the director of the Department of Plant Biology in 1973 after teaching both at Harvard University, where he completed his bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, and Ph.D., and at Stanford University. He held the position for two decades, establishing himself as a global leader in plant genetics and physiology, particularly the molecular mechanisms that plants and other organisms use to sense and respond to light. Briggs and his lab discovered and characterized a pair of photosensitive receptors that mediate this growth response so that plants can convert solar energy, carbon dioxide, and water into sugar—the process of photosynthesis. Work by Briggs and others revealed that these two receptors contribute to a plant in other ways, including leaf growth and orientation and the opening of the pores on a leaf’s surface through which it takes in carbon dioxide to manufacture sugars. “Winslow is a proud part of Carnegie’s long-standing tradition of creative approaches to solving fundamental questions in basic research that are critical for understanding the world around us,” remarked Carnegie President Eric D. Isaacs. “His work has had a monumental impact on plant science, ecology, and agriculture that will continue to be foundational for future generations of investigators.” In his youth, Briggs was recognized as an intrepid mountaineer with first assents of Canadian and Alaskan peaks. “These experiences were perhaps a harbinger of his bold and incisive approach to science,” remarked Joe Berry, acting director of Carnegie’s Department of Global Ecology. “He was one of the leaders who brought the revolutionary approaches of molecular biology—ignited by the discovery of the structure of DNA in the 1950s—to the study of plant biology. As director, he helped and inspired generations of scientists to reach for and attain their own lofty goals.” After retirement in 1993, Briggs remained influential in science until his death. He also volunteered at Henry W. Coe State Park for 40 years. In 2007, he organized volunteers to study recovery after a massive wildfire and discovered that chemicals in smoke stimulate the sprouting of seeds of rare plants that may lie dormant for many years. Briggs was a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, the Botanical Society of America, the American Society of Plant Physiologists, the American Society of Photobiology, the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences, and the California Academy of Sciences. In 2007, the American Society of Plant Biologists, of which he was president in 1975 and 1976, gave him the Adolph E. Gude, Jr. Award for his “service to the plant science community.” In 2009, the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science awarded him the prestigious International Prize for Biology for his “outstanding contributions to the advancement of basic research.” Winslow Briggs, Who Discovered How Plant Seedlings Grow Toward Light, Dies Briggs is survived by his wife of 63 years, Ann, whom he met while they were students at Harvard, daughters Marion, Lucia, and Caroline, four grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.  Winslow Briggs is in his lab (top) and at the state park with wife Ann (bottom). Top image courtesy Robin Kempster, Carnegie Institution for Science; bottom image courtesy Winslow Briggs. Donations can be made in memoriam at