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Neal Smith (1937-2012)

October 01, 2012

Neal Smith (1937-2012)

After faithfully e-mailing daily best picks from the scientific literature to a broad community of colleagues, journalists and policy makers for years, Neal died early this morning

We will receive no more "Science Sendings" from emeritus staff scientist and friend Neal G. Smith, who first arrived at STRI in 1963 after finishing a Ph.D. in ornithology at Cornell University. After faithfully e-mailing daily best picks from the scientific literature to a broad community of colleagues, journalists and policy makers for years, Neal died early this morning. His year-long fight with a progressive neurodegenerative disease deeply saddened those of us who expected his analytical bombast at weekly science seminars and in response to research that he felt did not meet former director Martin Moynihan’s criteria of ‘first rate.’ Neal’s critical nature was a form of caring deeply for keen natural history observation—like his observations of yearly hawk migrations through Panama—followed by rigorous testing and debate. He celebrated our achievements, sharing them far and wide, and lambasted our shortcomings.

When we needed to know anything about goingson at STRI during the last 5 decades, Neal was the encyclopedia of choice. In former STRI director Ira Rubinoff’s words, "Neal was a first-class naturalist, willing to share his profound knowledge of tropical organisms from insects to Peripatus to birds, with investigators beginning their work in the tropics." We will miss Neal’s stories about Eugene Eisenmann, Ernst Mayr, Robert MacArthur and life on Barro Colorado Island in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Neal recounted STRI history in a way that no one else could.



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