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1 July 2007 IN MEMORIAM: GEORGE ADELBERT BARTHOLOMEW, 1919–2006
William R. Dawson
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Professor George A. Bartholomew, a Fellow and former Vice President (1971–1973) of the AOU, passed away on 2 October 2006. Known to colleagues, students, and other friends as “Bart,” he was born in Independence, Missouri, on 1 June 1919. His parents, his late brother Richard, and he moved from Kansas City, Missouri, to Berkeley, California, where he attended Berkeley High School. He completed an A.B. and an M.A. at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1940 and 1941, respectively. He then enrolled in the doctoral program in biology at Harvard University, but World War II intervened, leading to his service as a physicist in the Bureau of Naval Ordnance from 1942 to 1945. He returned to Harvard, completed his Ph.D. in 1947, and then joined the faculty of the Department of Zoology at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He retired from the UCLA faculty in 1987, but continued as a principal investigator in the Laboratory of Biomedical and Environmental Sciences until 1989.

Bart was an inspiring teacher at both the undergraduate and graduate levels and a supportive mentor of 42 Ph.D. recipients and 14 postdoctoral scholars. More than 1,170 individuals, a substantial fraction of today’s physiological ecologists, can trace their graduate academic lineage to him (see bartgen.bio.uci.edu/tree, an internet resource compiled by A. F. Bennett and C. Lowe). He supplemented his instructional efforts through co-authorship of two textbooks and 30 educational films, several of the latter dealing with the Galápagos Islands as an evolutionary laboratory. I was fortunate to have him as a major professor, because of his patience, sage guidance, rigorous standards, and considerable editorial skills. His accomplishments in teaching and research led to his being included among the 20 top professors in the history of UCLA (“The Bruin Century,” UCLA Today 20 (9), 2000).

Bart’s influence on functional studies of wild birds, mammals, reptiles, and insects has been profound. It results from 63 years of published research and a consistent approach that combined laboratory and field studies of ecologically relevant aspects of the physiology and behavior of animals that are exposed to unusually demanding aspects of the physical environment or that represent an extreme of specialization for the particular group. Bart’s scholarly accomplishments were reviewed (W. R. Dawson, Integrative and Comparative Biology 45:219–230, 2005) as part of Integrative Biology: A Symposium Honoring George A. Bartholomew, which was held in conjunction with the 2004 annual meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB). His scientific concern lay at the interface of physiology, behavior, and ecology. It achieved fundamental biological coherence at the organismic level because it encompassed problems directly relevant to the ecology or reproduction of the species under study. In principle, the research problems he addressed were defined by the performance of animals under natural conditions. He concentrated his investigations in three environmental settings—deserts, oceanic islands, and tropical forests and savannahs—and his work took him to North and Central America, Australia, Europe, Africa, Antarctica, and a number of islands including the Pribilofs, Midway, and New Guinea, as well as the Galápagos. His research led to groups of publications (among a bibliography of ∼155 titles) in several principal areas: (1) photoperiodic control of reproduction in birds, mammals, and reptiles; (2) reproductive cycles in mammals; (3) cardiac, respiratory, and metabolic studies of large reptiles; (4) water economy, electrolyte excretion, and respiratory physiology of birds and mammals; (5) energetics of locomotion in mammals, birds, reptiles, and insects; (6) hibernation and estivation in birds and mammals; (7) reproductive and social behavior in a variety of terrestrial and marine birds and marine mammals; (8) distribution and population dynamics of seals and sea lions; and (9) heat production, energetics, and locomotor behavior of insects. In most of these areas, the publications included both original research articles and one or more substantial and widely cited reviews. The variety of taxa and the contrasting properties of the environmental settings represented in Bart’s work led to his adopting a broadly comparative view that allowed him to delineate both convergences and differences in the ways in which dissimilar organisms meet similar problems. This, in turn, afforded him insights concerning the functional, ecological, and evolutionary aspects of adaptations.

Bart was widely recognized for his professional accomplishments. His honors include Fulbright and Guggenheim fellowships (1953– 1954 and 1961–1962, respectively) for research in Australia, a UCLA Distinguished Teaching Award (1966), the Brewster Medal of the AOU (1966), and the Fellow’s Medal of the California Academy of Sciences (1978). Further, he was the initial recipient of the Grinnell Medal of the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology (1983) and the Loye and Alden Miller Research Award of the Cooper Ornithological Society (1993). He was awarded honorary memberships in the Cooper Ornithological Society (1988) and the SICB (1990). Additionally, SICB established the George A. Bartholomew Award in his honor (1992); this award recognizes gifted young investigators in comparative physiology, comparative biochemistry, and related fields. Bart was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1981) and a member of the National Academy of Sciences (1985). He was also awarded an honorary D.Sc. by the University of Chicago (1987). Beyond his scholarly accomplishments, Bart contributed important services to the U.S. Marine Mammal Commission, Smithsonian Institution, California Academy of Sciences, National Science Foundation, and, as Chair and respected faculty member, to his department at UCLA. He also served as Chief Scientist on cruises of the RV Alpha Helix to New Guinea (1969) and the Galápagos Islands (1978).

Bart married Elizabeth (Betty) M. Burnham in 1942, and they had two children, Bruce and Karen (Searcy), who survive. In 1989, after 42 years in southern California, Betty and he moved to Novato, California, where, after more than 50 years of marriage, she passed away in 1993. Bart subsequently moved to a retirement facility in Greenbrae, California. In 1994, he married Ruth L. Myers, who shared his enthu- siasm for travel and painting. They continued to reside in Greenbrae for the 12 years of their marriage. Ruth preceded Bart in death by two months.

George A. Bartholomew’s accomplishments in teaching, graduate advising, research, and service provide a rich legacy for biology. His philosophical insights concerning the creative process and the nature of integrative biology represent an important part of this legacy. Many of these insights are summarized in his valediction included in the 2004 symposium honoring him (Integrative and Comparative Biology 45:330– 332, 2005). Those of us who were privileged to know him will always remember his unassuming manner, self-deprecating humor, generosity, supportive attitude toward young people, and adherence to high standards of scholarship. He greatly valued his professorial position, for he noted, “If one is fortunate enough to be associated with a university, even as one ages, teaching allows one to contribute to, and vicariously share in the creativity of youth” (op. cit: 331). Modestly, he felt that his most lasting contribution to science would be his students and the generations of their students following them. This is certainly a very important legacy (see the Bartholomew academic genealogy referred to above), but I feel that it is rivaled by the influence that Bart’s approach to his science will continue to have on avian biology and the other fields with which he was concerned. His satisfaction with his career choice is nicely summarized in a personal comment. “The wisest decision I ever made with regard to science, I made as a child. In the summer of 1932, shortly after my thirteenth birthday, I decided to become a zoologist, because I thought it would be fascinating to visit distant parts of the world and study exotic animals. I was right. It has been.” (op. cit: 332).

George Adelbert Bartholomew, 1919–2006 (At the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute on Barro Colorado Island, Panama, 1978. Photograph by Clifford A. Hui)

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William R. Dawson "IN MEMORIAM: GEORGE ADELBERT BARTHOLOMEW, 1919–2006," The Auk 124(3), 1090-1092, (1 July 2007). https://doi.org/10.1642/0004-8038(2007)124[1090:IMGAB]2.0.CO;2
Published: 1 July 2007
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