Dorothy Wertz (1938 – 2003)



Pioneer in genetic ethics

2002 Main Road, Westport Point

Dorothy was described as “a voice for justice in health care, education and women’s rights across the globe.” She received a Ph.D. in Religion from Harvard in 1960 and taught at Bryn Mawr College.  Facing barriers in a male-dominated field, she renewed her interest in the social sciences and became a noted international authority on the ethical issues in the uses of genetic information.

She was a prolific author and co-wrote/co-edited seven books and many groundbreaking articles. A colleague noted that she wrote by hand on a yellow pad with few revisions.

Her husband Richard (Dick) Wertz, formerly an associate professor of American history at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was known locally as a builder and for his interest in Westport’s history. Dorothy and Richard collaborated to write a widely praised book: Lying-In: A History of Childbirth in America, including a chapter on delivering perfect babies, with its emphasis on technology, prenatal testing, and Caesarean sections.

Dorothy was a tireless world traveler and visitor to genetics centers. But she had other interests too such as Chinese and Indian artworks, and an eclectic fashion style. A colleague remarked: “It was hard not to focus on her colorful garb, hats, or remarkable jewelry, from all corners of the earth. That is, until she began to speak; then Dorothy had our full attention.”


Knoppers, B. Dorothy C. Wertz 1938–2003. Nat Genet 35, 295 (2003).