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Janet Rowley, geneticist and lifelong member of the University of Chicago, died on 17 December 2013, aged 88. She was regarded with huge admiration, respect, and affection by her peers and by two generations of younger scientists, many of whom benefited from her mentorship. Her impact on cancer genetics has been extraordinary and is all the more impressive because of her light touch, brilliance, and modesty. She often described her research achievements as “just observational” or due to serendipity of being in the right place at the right time. There is an element of truth in this, but it belies her outstanding creative intellect.