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Martynas Ycas

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Martynas F Ycas passed away peacefully on April 22, 2014 at ManorCare of Boulder at the age of 96. As a professor of Microbiology at Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse, NY, Dr Ycas was a member of the pioneering group of scientists exploring RNA and DNA in the 1950s and 1960s. Martynas was born in a Lithuanian refugee camp in Voronezh, in Czarist Russia, in the midst of the Russian Revolution, to Martynas Ycas and Hypatia Sliupas Ycas. His aunt, Dr. Aldona Sliupas traveled half way around the world to be the doctor for his birth. His father was an activist who lobbied ceaselessly for Lithuanian freedom from Russian rule, participated as a Lithuanian delegate at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, and served as the Minister of Finance of the newly independent Lithuania during the 1920s. Martynas and his 3 younger sisters grew up bilingual (English & Lithuanian) in Kaunas, Lithuania, on their family estate Tirkeliskiai. He also learned French, German, Spanish and Latin. In his teens Martynas attended an academy in Switzerland, and later studied law in Lithuania. He served in the officer cadet corps in the Lithuanian Army. When Russia invaded Lithuania in 1940 he and the family escaped through Poland, Germany, Spain, Portugal, and Brazil and came to the US in 1941. Martynas enlisted in the U.S. Army (artillery), but was switched to the Army Russian Language School at the U. of Wis. in Madison. Here he met Mary Katherine Warren (D 2008) of Wauwatosa, WI, a bacteriologist whom he married in April, 1944. His education continued: B.A. (biology) U of Wis. 1948 and PhD microbiology California Institute of Technology 1950. In 1957 he joined the Upstate Medical Center as a professor of microbiology where he taught for 33 years, retiring professor emeritus. He had 39 papers & books published in English, Lithuanian, and Russian, including the basic microbiology textbook, The Biological Code, and lectured around the world on the structure & synthesis of proteins. The late George Gamov, professor of physics at the U of Colo., and he co-authored Mr. Tompkins Inside Himself: Adventures in the New Biology, which inspired the film The Fantastic Voyage. In 1975 he was invited to lecture at the University of Vilnius in Soviet Lithuania, where he later endowed a scientific lecture series. In addition to his scientific works, Martynas researched & wrote 2 biographical volumes, published in Lithuania, describing his father's varied political career in early 20th century Lithuania & Europe. Martynas was fascinated by language all his life; he studied Latin, ancient Greek, hieroglyphics, Sumerian, Assyrian, and Sanskrit, about which he published a monograph. He traveled variously to Alaska, Australia, Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, England, Scotland, France, Switzerland, Germany, Poland, Russia, Italy, Morocco, Nigeria, French Polynesia, Fiji, Japan, and India. In 1963 he and Mary flew on the first Pan American trans-Pacific jet flight to Tahiti. He read prodigiously, enjoyed relating humorous, obscure anecdotes relating to academia and ancient history, and quoted freely in numerous languages. He loved classical music, lobsters, oysters and an audience. He moved to Boulder, CO, in 2009, where several family members reside. He is survived by his sister, Evelyna Ycas Taggart of Albuquerque, NM; his 3 sons, Martynas Ycas of Arlington, VA, John Ycas of Boulder, & Joseph Ycas of Hockessin, DE; his 6 grandchildren, Eliza Callahan of Chicago, IL, Gabriel Ycas of Boulder, Trevor Ycas of Boulder, Nathaniel Ycas of MD, Skye Picon of Medellin, Colombia, and Peter Ycas of Boulder; and numerous Ycas cousins in Toronto, Canada. Carefree youth, war refugee, soldier, husband, PhD, father, teacher, scientist, author, linguist, world traveler - Quite a life An informal memorial celebration of his remarkable life will be held locally for friends & family in mid-May. BYE BYE BLACKBIRD

Published in The Daily Camera on May 6, 2014
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