In memory of
John S. Edwards
John S. Edwards passed away on 25 March 2012 at the age of 80. To call him a Renaissance Man would be an understatement. He was a great naturalist and adventurer: he was especially fond of exploring “the secrets of strange insects that live in cold places.”
John was known around the world as one of the pioneers of insect developmental neurobiology. He was also a leading scholar in the ecology of high-altitude insects, cold tolerance of Antarctic insects, the role of insects in ecosystem regeneration following volcanic eruptions, and the evolution of insect flight. His academic passions extended far beyond science. He was also deeply knowledgeable about early American landscape painting and about early European music. This diversity of interests was apparent in his youth: his undergraduate advisor told him that he suffered “from responding to an excessive diversity of stimuli.”
John was a skilled mountaineer. He climbed around the world, made first ascents in Alaska, was on the expedition that made the first winter ascent of Denali, and was elected to the Alaska Sportsman Hall of Fame. He put his mountaineering skills to academic use in his pioneering studies of the ecology of high-altitude insects. His love of mountains inspired him to devote considerable efforts to protecting the North Cascades, including serving ten years on the board of the North Cascades Conservation Council.
At the UW John taught entomology, human ecology, and other courses for decades. He served as the Director of the Undergraduate Biology Program from 1982-87 and Director of the UW Honors Program from 1994-2000. He was appointed Emeritus Professor of Zoology in 2000, but his support for students did not end with this retirement. In 2009, John generously established the John S. Edwards Endowed Fund in Biology to provide support for graduate students conducting research in environmental biology.
John received many prestigious awards throughout his career, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Senior Humboldt Research Award, and a Jacob Javits Neuroscience Investigator Award from the NIH. He was a University Liberal Arts Professor and was named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and of the Royal Entomological Society of London. He served as Program Director for Developmental Neuroscience at the National Science Foundation.
John was passionate about early music. He learned to play the
harpsichord in his 70s, and was an active supporter of the Early Music Society
John’s personality is well described in
this passage from Art Davidson’s account of the first winter ascent of
“Though none of us had met John, people at the
John Edwards is survived and remembered fondly by his four loving sons, Richard, Duncan, Marten, and Zachary, and their families. John will be missed for his friendship, his wit, and his wisdom – and for his unbounded love of insects, music, and high places.
His delightful autobiography is accessible here. Look for Edwards and click on “Autobiography.”
Those wishing to honor John’s memory with a gift may do so by contributing to the endowment he established. To make a contribution, please mail a check to the John S. Edwards Endowed Fund in Biology at the following address:
c/o Kristy Brady
[Above: Karl Forsgaard photo]
John (4th from left) with N3C and NCI folks at the site of North Cascades Institute’s
[Karl Forsgaard photo]
John (2nd from left) at the N3C board meeting on