Rudolf "Rudy" Albert Raff

November 10, 1941January 5, 2019
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Rudolf (Rudy) Albert Raff, 77, of Bloomington, died Saturday, January 5, 2019 in Bloomington Hospital. He was born November 10, 1941 in Shawinigan, Québec, Canada to Rudolf A. V. Raff and Therese Dufresne Raff. He was a Distinguished Professor of Biology, Emeritus, at Indiana University.

Survivors include his wife of 53 years, Elizabeth Raff of Bloomington; a daughter Amanda Raff and her husband Philip Cohen of New Rochelle, New York; a son Aaron Raff and his wife Laura of Liberty, Missouri; four grandchildren, Daniel and Alexzander Raff Cohen and Andrew and Adam Raff; a sister Emma Jakoi and her husband Laszlo of Durham, North Carolina; a brother Robert Raff and his wife Mary DeLois of Portland, Maine; a sister-in-law Alice Craft of Indianapolis; a brother-in-law John Craft of Poolesville, Maryland; four nephews; and many cousins. He was preceded in death by his parents.

Growing up in Pittsburgh, Rudy was drawn to the complexity of nature from a young age. He traced the foundation of his scientific career to early mentorship he received as a teenaged volunteer assistant in the Section of Insects and Spiders at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh. Rudy went on to receive his undergraduate degree from Penn State University and his Ph.D. from Duke University. He served as a Navy officer, posted to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, rising to the rank of lieutenant. He completed a post-doctoral position at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before joining the faculty of Indiana University in 1971. He spent his long and productive career at Indiana University, retiring in 2018.

Rudy’s scientific work focused on the relationship between how organisms develop during their lifetimes to how similar organisms evolve over eons. He focused his studies on the sea urchin, a salt-water invertebrate that lives in oceans around the world. As part of his research, he worked for a month every year for 30 years at the University of Sydney in Australia. In the course of his work Rudy became a leading force in re-integrating the fields of developmental and evolutionary biology, founding a new discipline of evolutionary development (Evo Devo) and inspiring a new generation of scientists along the way.

Rudy published three influential books – Embryos, Genes and Evolution (with his I.U. colleague and friend Thomas Kaufman and illustrated by Elizabeth Raff), The Shape of Life and Once We All Had Gills. In addition, he founded the flagship journal Evolution & Development, serving as the Editor-in-Chief until his retirement.

Rudy received numerous awards and honors including the first Pioneer Award of the PanAmerican Society of Evolutionary Developmental Biology, a Guggenheim Fellowship and election to the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He enjoyed appearing in a National Geographic Documentary entitled The Shape of Life. He was named the James H. Rudy Professor of Biology in 2000 and promoted to Distinguished Professor in 2002.

Rudy established the intellectual foundation for Evo Devo, mentoring and inspiring a generation of undergraduates, graduate students, postdocs and faculty members. His insight, creativity and general joy in life will be missed by all who knew him. His family and friends take great comfort in the fact that despite his death, his work lives on.

Graveside Services are scheduled for Saturday, January 12, 2019 at 1:00 PM in Clear Creek Cemetery with Military Honors provided by the Monroe County Honor Guard. A Memorial Service will be held on Saturday, March 23, 2019 at 1:00 PM in Day & Deremiah-Frye Funeral Home, 4150 E Third St.

If friends so desire, in lieu of flowers, donations in his memory may be made to WonderLab, 308 W 4th St, Bloomington, IN 47404 or the Sycamore Land Trust, PO Box 7801, Bloomington, IN 47407.


  • WonderLab
  • Sycamore Land Trust


23 March

Memorial Service

1:00 pm

Day & Deremiah-Frye Funeral Home

4150 E 3rd St
Bloomington, Indiana 47401


  • Graveside Service Saturday, January 12, 2019

Rudolf "Rudy" Albert Raff

have a memory or condolence to add?

Danna Jackson

March 14, 2019

We didn't meet Rudy Raff in a classroom or in a lab, but got to know him as a customer and a friend in our secondhand bookshop. He was one of the few professors who frequented secondhand bookshops, seeking out unusual, out-of-print titles in their fields. Although our book collection was strong in the humanities, it was weak in the sciences -- but our gaps didn't bother Rudy, whose wide-ranging interests drew him into the history aisles.

Although we never had the opportunity to attend any of his lectures, his enthusiasm was infectious, and we sensed -- from our discussions with him on a range of subjects -- his ability to convey concepts and flesh them out with examples. Conversations with Rudy were always mind-expanding and energizing, leaving us with new ideas.

Indiana University has had the good fortune to be the academic home of a number of distinguished educators and Rudy was among the best of the best. He leaves behind a legacy of teaching that spans nearly a half-century and his impact in the research sciences will continue to inspire those who will follow him.

Rudy was a bright star in our years in the bookshop; we were so very fortunate to have known him!

Arthur and Danna Jackson

Larry Green

March 14, 2019

Memories. There are hundreds of them. Rudy was both my mentor and role model. We first met when I joined the lab as a graduate student in 1972. It was the start of a deep friendship that grew to include Beth, my wife Sue and both of our families; a friendship that has stretched over both decades and generations of our families.

I guess I do need one story though. When I was a graduate student in the lab we all thought of Rudy as the old professor. After all we were kids in our early 20s, and he was clearly much, much older, We looked up to him as the “father figure “. In 2012, many of us came to Bloomington for RudyFest, a celebration of Rudy’s seventieth birthday and the publication of his most recent book. At the registration table a young lady handed me a card that I promptly filled out. I then handed it back to her. She studiously examined it and then looked up at me. With a cheery smiling face she said “ I guess Dr. Raff will be happy to have someone to talk to that is the same age that he is.”

Our condolences to Beth, Amanda, Phil, Aaron, Laura, “the four grandsons” and all the rest of us that were privileged to have had Rudy in our lives.

Rhea Freeman

March 14, 2019

It was a great pleasure working for Rudy over many years in the Molecular Biology Institute. Rudy was the ideal administrator, treating all people with kindness and respect. These qualities coupled with Rudy’s intellect and sense of humor shaped the genuine working relationships he had with every staff member. Rudy was an educator at heart, routinely sharing his scientific insights with his non-scientific staff and he was a natural at explaining things in layman’s terms. Rudy was generous in the time he spent with staff, engaging in many conversations that made the workplace uniquely interesting and entertaining. I look fondly on those happy years spent with Rudy, Beth and “the Raff labs” and with appreciation for such wonderful people.

My heartfelt sympathy goes out to Beth and the family. Rudy will be deeply missed, but forever remembered with sincere warmth and admiration.

Briana Dennehey

March 14, 2019

I remember stumbling into his office one day, I don't recall exactly why. We had a lengthy discussion on the evolution of tetrapods, the number of digits on limbs, and other things that I have long since forgotten. I remember him as being engaging, kind, and a pioneer of evo-devo. My thoughts are with his spouse, Dr. Elizabeth Raff, who was also influential to my scientific development, and their family.

Michael [ Michelle ] Poler

March 14, 2019

One does not have to look closely at the 2011 Raff Family Lobster Fest to realize that the guy sitting at the end of the table looks nothing like a Raff ! That's me , Mike Poler and I felt and was honored to be a Raff for the weekend.
For some reason I remember coming late to the beach that first day and I really think I had made some lame excuse 'cause I thought they should all be together for awhile before the non-family
Stranger entered the scene. There weren't many people in the house and I think I came in bearing wine so I was readily welcomed. I think I'd forgotten something at my car so as I was headed out
Rudy says ' " Mike are you going for a walk ? " I mumbled something and Rudy joined me at the door. I explained about my missing car stuff and Rudy answered with , " OK then , I think it's time for my specialty ! " I don't think Rudy had a clue how famous [ at least to me ] his Toblerone diet was ! I replied , " Don't start without me ! " and he gave me a most quizzical look.
When I reentered the scene , Rudy was at the table with at least one other and a couple cooks were in the kitchen and as I took my end seat I asked, " I haven't missed the Toblerone Ritual have I ?" Rudy never even looked up. He carefully took the sacred bar out of his pocket , carefully reached across the table to acquire a plate , napkin , fork and knife , unwrapped his delight and began to cut and eat each piece ! At the halfway point he sort of flourished his sword [ knife ] placed the piece deftly in his mouth and when finished said
to me without looking up , " Mike , perhaps you weren't informed of the main rule , which is , Stop staring 'cuz I ain't sharing !" I literally fell off my chair ! Rudy held his demeanor until my, I'm sure red face , appeared over the table ! His grin was immense but charitable.
A few minutes later we headed down the curvy little lane toward the beach where everyone had gone ! He was a great guy ! And funny ..

Clay Fuqua

March 14, 2019

Rudy was an inspiration. So curious, so engaged and so passionate about life, science and the people around him. He was a supportive and generous colleague, who made life in IU Biology that much better for so many years. Rudy will be missed by everyone here, but our memory of him and his legacy are still very much with us.

Kendra Wilk

March 14, 2019

I'm so sorry to hear of your loss, and I hope you are all bearing up ok.

It has been a long time since I've had contact with your family, but I have very fond memories of Rudy's amazing depth of knowledge on any biological topic.

I recall that when I was taking Bioanthropology and learned that Neanderthals had slightly larger brains than us, I wondered how we knew that Cromagnons were smarter, given that human cultures have had very different tech levels without a difference in intelligence. Rudy immediately listed three or four suggestive pieces of evidence, but the one that has stuck with me is this:

"Wear and tear on the bones. These were people who were killing mammoths the hard way."

Jeane Novotny

March 14, 2019

It has been many years since we worked together in Frank Putnam's laboratory and remember well when you (and Rudy) came to Jordan Hall in 1971. I was saddened to hear of Rudy's death. I wish you and the children/grandchildren will be comforted by the memories you had of Rudy and your family together.


1942-Four generations, Quebec


1942-Four generations, Quebec


1944 Little Rudy


1944 Rudy and Gr. Dufresne, Quebec


1951 Rudy & Grpa. Dufresne on the lake


1961 Collecting dragonflies, Quebec


1963 Rudy graduation from Penn State


1963 Rudy Penn State graduation


1967 Rudy - research in the navy


1969 Rudy in Mexico