Biologist Ursula Bellugi, who helped establish authenticity of American Sign Language, dies at 91

Apr 22, 2022 354

BY: Gary Robbins

Ursula Bellugi, the Salk Institute neurobiologist who helped erase the stigma attached to American Sign Language by proving that it is a rich, authentic and nuanced way to communicate, died Sunday in La Jolla. She was 91. The institute said Bellugi died peacefully, leaving a legacy that also includes the important discoveries she made about Williams syndrome, a rare genetic disorder in which people tend to be highly social but have learning deficits.

She is further known for pushing past the hostility that many male scientists once openly expressed toward female researchers. Bellugi helped the Salk emerge as an elite center for the biological sciences after its opening above Blacks Beach in the 1960s. “The humanity and compassion she brought to her work was truly special and our community will miss her dearly,” Salk President Rusty Gage said in a statement.

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