I much appreciated W. Barksdale Maynard ’88’s thoughtful and timely article on Professor E. Grant Conklin. I knew well Conklin’s pioneering contributions to embryology, but not of his championing of evolutionary biology during crucial times. The article rekindled pleasant memories of my time in Guyot Hall in the early 1950s. I saw Professor Conklin frequently there, but did not really know him. He was nearly 90, but often working, and for some reason my most vivid recollection of him is that he always walked up the stairs, eschewing the (rather slow) elevator. It never ceases to amaze me that my life in biology overlapped Conklin, who was in the first cohort of American Ph.D.s in biology, trained — as Maynard points out — by W.K. Brooks.
It was also a joy to see the photo of John Bonner, looking not too different from when, as a young assistant professor, he was my sophomore-year adviser. We corresponded just a few years ago, after I read his memoir Lives of a Biologist.
My junior-year adviser was Frank Johnson, who was Osamu Shimomura’s post-doctoral adviser for the 2008 Nobel Prize-winning research project on green fluorescent protein. They did this work during summers at the Friday Harbor Laboratories of the University of Washington, and when I started teaching summer courses there in 1963, I was pleasantly surprised to meet up again with Professor Johnson and his crew. A true gentleman and scholar, Frank Johnson was also an inspiring teacher. He fashioned special long-handled collectors to capture jellyfish research subjects from the laboratories’ docks. He carefully painted these devices with vivid orange and black stripes and painted his initials and Princeton’s on them. Nearly a half-century later, several are still in use at the laboratories!