Department News

2006-10-16

GEORGE BARTHOLOMEW, UCLA DISTINGUISHED EMERITUS PROFESSOR OF BIOLOGY PASSES

I am very sad to write that George Bartholomew, a distinguished emeritus professor of our department, passed away on Monday, October 2. We have expressed our deepest condolences to his son Bruce Bartholomew and daughter Karen Searcy. Bart was an amazing scientist who played an important role in shaping the history of our department and never lost his interest in our department. Through the Bartholomew Research Fellowship Awards, he continued to support our graduate students and he enjoyed the reports on the activities of the recipients. I met with Dr. Bartholomew and his wife last year and was moved by his passion for science, field biology, and general wisdom. I have asked Malcolm Gordon, who knew Bart well, to help draft this announcement.

Bart was one of the most significant figures in the post World War II history of our Department (then called Zoology, later Biology). He was a central player in the transition (in the later 1950s) from a department that was run in a somewhat authoritarian and centralized fashion to our present egalitarian, participatory, and shared governance mode. He was a low-key, soft spoken, thoughtful, creative, and balanced observer and participant in departmental and campus affairs for about 40 years. He served terms as chair of both Zoology and Botany (at the time a separate department) and helped facilitate the merger of the two that produced Biology. He was an important influence on the founding of the Molecular Biology Institute and on the recruitment to the department of the first group of molecularly oriented faculty before the Department of Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology was formed.

George Bartholomew was one of our best teachers, at both undergraduate and graduate levels. He was presented with a campus Distinguished Teaching Award in recognition of his mentoring of graduate students. A high proportion of his students and postdocs went on to become significant figures in their own fields of study. He worked extensively for many years with the then Film Unit of University Extension (a precursor of part of OID), developing with them a series of teaching documentary films that are still widely used. With Malcolm Gordon and Alan Grinnell (then a member of the department) and two other co-authors he was a major contributor to the development and production of a textbook of comparative ecological physiology that had four editions over 20 years and was both influential in the development of its field and widely adopted internationally.

He was a highly creative and productive researcher, recognized worldwide as one of the three principal founders of the fields of comparative physiological ecology and ecological physiology (the other two being Per Scholander and Knut Schmidt-Nielsen). He had a broad gauge synthetic view of the functional adaptations of organisms (he did some important work on plants in addition to many studies of animals) to natural environments, bringing together the fields of physiology, behavior, and ecology. He was a major pioneer in the study of desert organisms and was a central player in the establishment of his fields of research in both Australia and South Africa. He was a strong advocate for studying organisms in the field as well as in the laboratory. He was flexible in the research methods he used, bringing new technologies to field investigations.

The stature of Dr. Bartholomew's contribution to science was recognized by his elections to the National Academy of Science in 1985 and to the National Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1981. He was the first recipient of the Grinnell Medal awarded by the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at the University of California Berkeley. The list of his professional achievements is extensive. George Bartholomew will always be a part of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology who represents the high standards of research and teaching that we strive for. In fact, our current mission to pursue the study of ecological and evolutionary processes through studies of natural populations is epitomized by his own research priorities. I am attaching the most recent version of Bart's research statement as a reminder of his strong commitment to question-driven science through a rigorous integration of field and laboratory research.

Bruce Bartholomew, his son, wrote to me that "if any of his former colleagues at UCLA should happened to ask you about donations in memory of my father, please let them know about The Bartholomew Fund for Field Biology". Memorial gifts may be made to the George A. Bartholomew Fund at UCLA. Checks should be made payable to the UCLA Foundation.

George Bartholomew's has left a lasting legacy to science and to the many, many former students and colleagues who were stimulated and motivated by his passion for science and wisdom about how organisms function.

In sincere sympathy to those of you who feel his loss deeply,

Victoria Sork
Chairperson
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

for more see Dr. Bartholomew's Web page