Joel Hedgpeth

August 7, 2006
From: Mike Neubig

Dear Bill,
I thought you might like to know that Dr Joel Hedgpeth, after who Polycera hedgpethi was named, died recently. He was 94.

Jim Carlton posted the following biographic note on the crust-L mailing list on 1 August.

Mike Neubig


Joel Hedgpeth

Joel Hedgpeth was one of the great icons of 20th century marine biology. His archives contain correspondence with every well-known marine biologist of the 20th century. Joel was a world-class expert on pycnogonids, wrote hundreds of articles and essays (including many philosophical and environmental pieces in the Quarterly Review of Biology, disguised as book reviews), edited the massive volume 1 of the Treatise on Maine Ecology & Paleoecology in 1957, still a gold mine of obscure 19th and 20th century literature and known in earlier years as "The Big Red Book"; edited and authored much of Between Pacific Tides through several editions (and objected very vigorously when Stanford University Press declined to name him the editor of the 5th edition of BPT), became a champion of the rare freshwater Californian shrimp Syncaris pacifica, and monitored the state of the environment from the 1930s through the 1990s. Joel's first scientific publication was in 1939, and he will appear as a co-author of the pycnogonid chapter in the 4th edition of Light's Manual (now the Light & Smith Manual) due out in early 2007 (University of California Press).

Joel took his undergraduate degree in 1933, his Master's in 1940 under S. F. Light (on diaptomid copepods), and his Ph.D. in 1952 under Ralph I. Smith, all at the University of California at Berkeley. His doctorate was on the distribution and ecology of invertebrates along the Texas and Louisiana coasts. Joel traveled extensively, including Pt. Barrow, Alaska; much of Europe; three visits to Antarctica, and one expedition to the Galapagos Islands (producing one of the first essays on the intertidal life of the Galapagos), although he never took a formal sabbatical. He was director of the extinct Pacific Marine Station (Dillon Beach, CA) and the OSU Marine Science Center (Newport, OR), served on innumerable panels and committees, received the Browning Medal in 1976 for environmental stewardship (often proudly pointing out how he had made the "EPA hit list"), wrote Seashore Life of the San Francisco Bay Area, and could speak knowledgeably about thousands of species of marine invertebrates and vertebrates around the world. He was honored in 1976 by a special symposium at the Linnean Society of London (a Hedgpeth festschrift resulting from that meeting was published in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society in 1978).

He founded the Society for the Prevention of Progress, and wrote poetry under the pseudonym Jerome Tichenor (for whom he had special stationery printed, showing Joel's famous red squirrel logo, and with an extensive entry at the bottom on a "bardic tradition" that the first environmental impact report was submitted by a delegation of squirrels at the time of Elizabeth I: the stanzas are written in Welsh and English). Joel had an abiding interest in poetry of the sea, and produced a 500-page unpublished manuscript on sea poetry.

Our last extensive conversations were in November 2000 (when Joel and I sat on his couch in Santa Rosa, and turned each page of Seashore Life, discussing the needed revisions), and December, 2001. I last saw him in 2005. In 2001, at the age of 89, Joel still fluidly laced his conversations with phrases in Latin, German, Welsh, and Russian (and expected his listeners to keep up). Joel Hedgpeth lead a long and distinguished career as a scientist, environmentalist, writer, poet, historian, traveler, critic, and philosopher, and represented the grand tradition of an earlier generation who took great pride in the depth of their knowledgeof the natural world.

Jim Carlton,
August 1, 2006

Neubig, M., 2006 (Aug 7) Joel Hedgpeth. [Message in] Sea Slug Forum. Australian Museum, Sydney. Available from

Thanks Mike,
Bill Rudman

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