I recently found my copy of John Bonner’s autobiographical book, Lives of a Biologist, in our cellar and read it the following weekend. The book produced a flood of memories of my time at Princeton and my association with John, above left, both as my senior-thesis adviser and later as my department chair in the (then) biology department. But this was followed by the news that he had died (In Memoriam, March 20). With all of this,
I was strongly reminded how much
I cared for John’s friendship, his tutelage in so many different ways, and his serving as a genuine example of what it means to be a worthy human being.
John spent 1957–58 in Edinburgh and was tempted to apply for a senior position in botany at the university. But Princeton offered him the rank of full professor, and he returned. In the fall of 1958 I chose him for my senior-thesis project on spore germination in Dictyostelium. This produced a short article in the Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Society, and I was pleased to see my name as co-author. Had John decided to leave Princeton, the course of my life would have taken a very different turn.
Perhaps my point is this: There are important junctures in one’s life where teachers (and others) can exert enormous influence and guidance. For me, John Bonner — one of the true giants in Princeton’s history — stood at one of those juncture points. If I can say this appropriately, I loved him for what he was, a most remarkable man, a wonderful teacher, and a very important person in my life.
Photo: University Archives, Princeton University Library