Saturday, November 26, 2011

R.I.P Lynn Margulis 1938-2011

Famed biologist Lynn Margulis died on November 22 at the age of 73. Lynn was one of the most creative scientists of our time. She was always pushing the edge of orthodoxy and sometimes she was right in a big way (i.e., the evolution of eukaryotes via endosymbiosis).

It would be difficult to overstate the positive impact of Lynn's work on our understanding of life, but also on my life personally, and Connie's too.

In 1989 I became the first (and only) student to be allowed to audit Lynn's "Environmental Evolution" course at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. This proved to be a significant turning point in my life.

For the final exam, I was asked to publicly present the essence of my mentor Thomas Berry's work in just five minutes. This was one of the most empowering assignments I was ever given, and it ultimately led me to devote my life to teaching and preaching "The Great Story."

My wife Connie, too, was blessed by Lynn's generosity of spirit and mentoring support. Lynn played an instrumental role in helping Connie get her first scientific paper published in 1990, in Biosystems: "Open systems living in a closed biosphere: a new paradox for the Gaia debate". She also helped Connie get her first two books published by MIT Press, From Gaia to Selfish Genes: Selected Readings in the Life Sciences, and Evolution Extended: Biological Debates on the Meaning of Life.

Thank you, Lynn. We love you. Transiting from life to death, you have now become a cherished memetic ancestor.

Here are a few reflections on Lynn's life and legacy worth reading...

• John Brockman, Edge: "Lynn Margulis 1938-2011 'Gaia is a Tough Bitch'"

• John Hogan, Scientific American: "R.I.P. Lynn Margulis, Biological Rebel"  

• National Center for Science Education: "Lynn Margulis dies"  

• MassLive: "University of Massachusetts community reacts to death of renowned scientist and professor Lynn Marguis"

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