Obituary: Peter Marler FRS, birdsong expert

Saddened to hear of the death on Saturday of Peter Marler, a pioneer of research on birdsong and animal communication and professor emeritus at the UC Davis Department of Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior and Center for Neuroscience.

According to the Sacramento Bee, Marler, who was in poor health, had to be evacuated from his home in Winters, CA early on July 5 due to a wildfire. He died later the same day.

I interviewed Marler in 2008 when he was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society, equivalent to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.

Obituary: William J. (Bill) Knox, physicist who worked on the A-bomb

We’d like to note the passing of William Jordan Knox, professor of physics, who died in July at the age of 92. A full obituary was published in the Davis Enterprise. Born in 1921, Knox studied at UC Berkeley from where he was recruited into the Manhattan Project to build the atomic bomb during World War Two. He was one of the scientists from the project to sign a letter to President Harry Truman urging that the first bomb be dropped at sea as a demonstration, rather than being used against a city. (Knox’s faculty colleague John Jungerman also worked on the Manhattan project, witnessing the first atomic test at White Sands, N.M.).

Ron Baskin, biophysicist

Ron Baskin, professor emeritus of molecular and cellular biology at UC Davis, passed away July 3. A memorial service will be held this weekend (July 31) at the Episcopal Church of St. Martin in Davis. A full obituary can be found here.

Baskin was well-known for his work on biophysics and muscle contraction, as described in the obituary. He was also closely involved in one of earliest stories I did as a science writer here at UC Davis, and one I have continued to follow over the past few years. In 2001, with Steve Kowalczykowski, Piero Bianco and others, he developed technology to film a single enzyme unzipping a piece of DNA in real time.

Obituaries for Marjorie Grene

An obituary for philosopher Marjorie Grene, who died March 16, was published Sunday in the New York Times. She was 98. Grene, best-known for her work on the philosophy of biology, was  a faculty member and chair of the UC Davis Department of Philosophy from 1965 until she her mandatory retirement in 1978. She later moved to Virginia Tech.

“She was, arguably, the founding figure in the new field of philosophy of biology,” wrote UC Davis philosophy professor Michael Wedin in a memorial notice posted online.