Dr. Barton Childs, a founder of pediatric genetics and an important contributor to the understanding of inherited diseases, died on Feb. 18. He was 93, lived in Baltimore, and taught at Johns Hopkins University for nearly 70 years until shortly before his death at its hospital.
The cause was complications of lung disease, said his wife, Dr. Ann E. Pulver.
When Dr. Childs began his scientific career just after World War II, human genetics courses were not taught because so little was known about the subject. Doctors could only “note the fact that the disorder was familial,” he said in an oral history interview conducted by the University of California, Los Angeles, in 2001.
But Dr. Childs helped shape the understanding of inherited diseases as scientists learned more about so-called inborn errors of metabolism, biochemistry and molecular biology.
For commonly asked questions like “Why me? Why this disease? Why now?,” he said, the answers were in the genes, though they were only one piece of the puzzle of individual uniqueness. Social and environmental experiences interacting with genes also helped determine why a person had a specific disease.