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Liane Brauch "Lee" Russell (August 27, 1923 – July 20, 2019) was an American geneticist and conservationist. Her studies in mammalian genetics provided the basis for understanding the chromosomic basis for sex determination in mammals and the effects occasioned by radiation, drugs, fuels and waste on mice.[1] Her research allowed better understanding of genetic processes in mammals, mutagenesis and teratogenesis effects on mammals, and knowledge of how these processes can be prevented and avoided.

Liane Russell
Liane Russell.jpg
Lee Russell, hiking in 2011.
Liane Brauch

(1923-08-27)August 27, 1923
DiedJuly 20, 2019(2019-07-20) (aged 95)
Alma materUniversity of Chicago
Spouse(s)William L. Russell
AwardsEnrico Fermi Award (1993), Marjory Stoneman Douglas Award (1992)
Scientific career
FieldsGenetics, Conservation Movement

Her conservation activities resulted in the protection of many wild and scenic places, especially those near her adopted home of East Tennessee.


Early lifeEdit

Russell was born as Liane Brauch in 1923 in Vienna, Austria, to a Jewish household, the daughter of Clara (Starer) and Arthur Brauch.[2] Her father was a chemist[3] and her mother was a singing teacher. From the age of 3 to 15, the family lived on the Wiedner Hauptstrasse, not far from the Vienna Opera. There were frequent musical gatherings in the apartment, and the family enjoyed skiing and other outings in the Alps. One of her childhood playmates was first cousin, Robert Starer, Austrian-born American composer and pianist. Her somewhat idyllic childhood abruptly came to an end on the evening of March 12, 1938, but her family stayed in Vienna even after the Anschluss. Through a secret scheme, which involved the surrender of her father's business to the Nazis, the immediate family (father, mother, younger sister and younger brother) were able to escape to London.[4] She moved to the United States in 1941 and became a naturalized American citizen in 1946.[5]

She met zoologist William L. Russell during a college summer school program, where he was her mentor. They married and worked together as geneticists at Jackson Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Together they had two children, a son, David "Ace" (b. 1950) and a daughter, Evelyn (b. 1952).


Russell completed her secondary schooling in England. After the family moved to the United States, she earned an A.B. from Hunter College in New York City and her Ph.D. in Zoology in 1949 at the University of Chicago.[6]

Her first job was baby sitting while she studied in college; after that she worked as a receptionist in a doctor's office after class.[5]


Russell began her career as a research assistant at Jackson Memorial Laboratory from 1943 to 1947, and worked as a fellow at the University of Chicago. In 1947, she moved to Oak Ridge National Laboratory, where she eventually became a Senior Corporate Fellow and Section Head. Russell conducted genetics research focused on radiation-induced mutations.[7] She served as scientific advisor for the U.S. delegation at the first Atoms for Peace Conference held in Geneva in 1955. In 1973 she was the first woman to receive the internationally awarded Roentgen Medal. Russell served as head of the Mammalian Genetics & Development Section between 1975 and 1995. Under her guidance, this Section expanded its research, studying the genetic effects of chemicals from drugs, fuels and waste on mice. Her studies allowed her to move from classic genetics to molecular analysis. Russell was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1986. In 1993 she received the Enrico Fermi Award, the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) highest research honor. Russell has more than 150 publications. She retired in 2002.


Liane Russell (right) and Fred Thompson, 1996.

Russell was also a conservationist working for protection of wilderness and national lands and rivers. In 1966 she helped to organize the Tennessee Citizens for Wilderness Planning (TCWP). In 1976 TCWP helped to obtain protection of the 125,000-acre Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area and obtain National Wild and Scenic River designation for the Obed River.[8][9] In 1992 Russell received the National Parks Conservation Association's (NPCA's) Marjory Stoneman Douglas award.



  1. ^ a b "Liane B. Russell, 1993". Biography. U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science. Retrieved 17 October 2013.
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ "Russell, Liane: Center for Oak Ridge Oral History". Oak Ridge Public Library Digital Collections. 2003-04-23. Retrieved 2013-10-17.
  4. ^ "Russell, Liane - Interview January 18th - 19th, 2007". Oral History of Human Genetics Project. 2007. Retrieved 2013-10-17.
  5. ^ a b Alexander, Susan (June 7, 2009). "25 things you don't know about Liane Russell". Knoxville News Sentinel. Retrieved 2013-10-17.
  6. ^ Johnson, Leland R. "Liane Brauch (1923- ) and William Lawson Russell (1910- )". Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture. Retrieved 2013-10-17.
  7. ^ "Dr. Liane B. Russell, ORNL". Oak Ridge National Laboratory. 2001-02-16. Retrieved 2013-10-17.
  8. ^ "Dr. Liane Russell". River Network. Retrieved 2013-10-17.
  9. ^ Russell, Liane B. "Introducing TCWP - past, present, and future". Tennessee Citizens for Wilderness Planning.

External linksEdit