Professor Still Missing After Lengthy Search

Biochemist's car abandoned on highway outside of Memphis

A Harvard biochemistry professor has been declared missing after his abandoned rental car was discovered seven days ago on a highway outside of Memphis, Tenn.

Memphis police are still searching for Don C. Wiley, Loeb professor of biochemistry and biophysics, and have ruled out neither foul play nor suicide.

Wiley was declared missing on Nov. 16 when police found his rented white Mitsubishi Galant at 4 a.m.

The car, discovered on Interstate 40—which runs between Memphis and Arkansas—had the keys in the ignition, the hazard lights off and a full tank of gas, according to the Mid-South & Metro newspaper.

“The discovery of the car was the first indication that there was something wrong,” said Police Inspector Matt McCann, Memphis’s chief detective for the case, in an interview with The Crimson.

McCann said the vehicle had some scratches but was not wrecked.

Wiley was last seen on Nov. 15 at 11:30 p.m. at a dinner held at the downtown Peabody Hotel, where he was one of 15 physicians and scientists attending the annual meeting of the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital scientific advisory board, said Jerry Chapman, St. Jude’s spokesperson.

Police are still looking for leads that may lead them to Wiley. So far, no witnesses have come forward and clues are scarce.

“We don’t have any leads as to where he is at this moment,” McCann said.

Although there is no evidence of foul play or suicide, McCann said police have not ruled out any possibilities.

“We investigate all missing persons as if foul play was involved...so that we’ve covered all the bases,” he said. “[Suicide] is always a possibility but we have nothing...to indicate one way or another at this point.”

Both Harvard and Wiley’s family were notified of Wiley’s disappearance on the morning of Nov. 16, as soon as police were able to link the car to Wiley.

“I am distressed, and deeply concerned for Professor Wiley and his family as we await news,” Jeremy R. Knowles, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, wrote in an e-mail.

Wiley was appointed to the University’s faculty in 1971, after completing his Ph.D at Harvard. He received tenure in 1979.

Beyond the classroom, Wiley’s research in structural biology has won him international acclaim. He and Higgins Professsor of Biochemistry Jack L. Strominger ’46 won the prestigious Japan Prize in 1999 and the Albert Lasker Medical Research Awards in 1995 for progress in understanding the human immune system.

“He is very intense, very perceptive, very precise, highly organized and a great pleasure to work with, and I hope nothing’s happened to him,” Strominger said yesterday.

Wiley resides in Cambridge with his wife and two children, ages six and 10.