In Memoriam

On October 2, 2006, George A. Bartholomew, distinguished emeritus professor in UCLA's Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, passed away at age 87 of complications from cancer. Known as "Bart" to his students, colleagues, and friends, Bartholomew was an outstanding scientist of international renown, was a distinguished mentor of graduate students, and played important roles in shaping the history of his department and of the life sciences at UCLA. He earned his Ph.D. at Harvard in 1947 and joined the UCLA faculty shortly thereafter, devoting his entire academic career of more than four decades to UCLA until his retirement in 1989.

George Bartholomew

Bart was born June 1, 1919, in Independence, Missouri. His father, George A. Bartholomew, was a commercial artist and his mother, Esther Carstensen Bartholomew, worked first as a sales person and later as a children's wear buyer for the Joseph Magnin Department stores in the San Francisco area. Bart earned his Bachelor's and Masters of Arts degrees from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1940 and 1941 and married Elizabeth (Betty) Burnham in 1942. As with many in his generation, his academic career was interrupted by World War II when he served as a physicist in the U.S. Naval Bureau of Ordnance.

Bart was a highly creative and productive researcher. With Per Scholander and Knut Schmidt-Nielsen, he was one of the founders of the modern fields of comparative animal physiological ecology and behavioral physiology. His research career extended over 63 years and led to the publication of over 150 research papers. W.R. Dawson, his first doctoral student, gives a detailed description and analysis of his research output in the journal Integrative and Comparative Biology, Volume 45, pp 219-230 (2005). Bart had a broad, synthetic view of the functional adaptations of organisms to their natural environments, bringing together the fields of physiology, behavior, and ecology, and did important work on plants in addition to his many studies of animals. He was a strong advocate of studying organisms in the field as well as in the controlled conditions of the laboratory and was flexible in his research methods, bringing new technologies to field investigations. He was a pioneer in the study of desert organisms and extended his comparative approach to organisms in both Australia and South Africa. His last published words in 2005 concern his personal philosophy and approach to research and may be found in the journal Integrative and Comparative Biology, Volume 45, pages 330-332.

The stature of Bart's contributions to science was recognized by his elections to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1981 and the National Academy of Science in 1985. He received many other honors, including the first Grinnell Medal awarded by the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at the University of California Berkeley in 1983 and an honorary D.Sc. by the University of Chicago in 1987. He served as President of the American Society of Zoologists - now the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB) - in 1980, and he personally considered his most satisfying honor to be the establishment within SICB of the George A. Bartholomew Award in 1992. That award is given annually to a "Distinguished young investigator in comparative physiology, comparative biochemistry, or related fields of functional biology."

Bart was a distinguished teacher at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, but especially of graduate students, and he was presented with a UCLA campus Distinguished Teaching Award in 1966 in recognition of his mentoring of graduate students. His reputation as a mentor has become near legendary: a high proportion of his 42 doctoral students and 14 postdoctoral scholars have gone on to become significant figures in their own fields of study. His academic genealogy is described by A.F. Bennett and C. Lowe in the journal Integrative and Comparative Biology, Volume 45, pages 231-233 (2005) and is given in detail on a website: http://bartgen.bio.uci.edu/tree. Through the Department of Ecology and Evolution's Bartholomew Research Fellowship Awards, established by Bart and Betty after his retirement and significantly augmented by Bart and Ruth before their deaths, he continues to support graduate students working in areas related to his broad interests.

Beyond the classroom, Bart worked extensively for many years with the eminent photographer Robert Dickson of UCLA's University Extension to develop a series of 30 teaching documentary films that are still widely used. With colleagues Malcolm Gordon, Fred White, Alan Grinnell, and C. Barker Jorgensen he was a major contributor to a textbook of comparative ecological physiology that had four editions between 1968 and 1982 and that was both widely adopted internationally and influential in the development of its field. He also co-authored an introductory zoology textbook.

Bart was one of the most influential figures in the post-World War II history of his department, initially the Department of Zoology, then Department of Biology, then Department of Organismic Biology, Ecology and Evolution, and most recently Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. He facilitated the transition in the later 1950s from a departmental style that was somewhat authoritarian and centralized to its present egalitarian and participatory mode. Bart was low-key, soft spoken, thoughtful, creative, and a balanced observer and participant in departmental and campus affairs throughout his 40-plus years at UCLA. He served terms as chair of both the separate Zoology and Botany Departments and then helped facilitate their merger into a unified Biology Department. Bart was an important influence in the founding of UCLA's Molecular Biology Institute and in the recruitment to the department of the first group of molecularly-oriented faculty before the separate Department of Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology was formed.

Bart's wife Betty and mother of their two children, Bruce Bartholomew and Karen B. Searcy, often she accompanied Bart on many of his travels until her death in 1993. In 1994 Bart married Ruth L. Myers and the two of them traveled extensively and enjoyed painting. Ruth died in August 2006, a short period before Bart. Bart leaves his two children, Bruce Bartholomew and Karen B. Searcy, four grandchildren, Mulan B. Tarnas, Yuan Bartholomew, Brian Searcy, and Steven Searcy, and 3 great grandchildren Camden, Tristan, and Caiden. But in addition to his family, Bart leaves an academic legacy of many students, an administratively reorganized life sciences at UCLA, and a field of research in the biological sciences significantly transformed by his own research. He will be missed deeply and by many.


Malcolm S. Gordon
Henry Hespenheide
Kenneth A. Nagy
February 2007