[Taxacom] FW: [Annelida] Nathan Wendell Riser, 1920-2006

Petersen, Mary Elizabeth MEPetersen at snm.ku.dk
Thu Aug 10 02:03:43 CDT 2006

Dear Colleagues,

Since Kevin is not a member of the Taxacom discussion list, I offered to forward his tribute to Prof. Nathan W. Riser. 
We have lost one more of those who have really made a difference.


Dr. Mary E. Petersen
Scholar in Residence, Polychaeta
Darling Marine Center, University of Maine
193 Clark's Cove Road
Walpole, ME 04573-3307
E-mail: mepetersen at maine.edu
Tel. DMC: +1 (207) 563-3146 ext. 222
Fax DMC: +1 (207) 563-3119


From: Mary E. Petersen [mailto:mepetersen at maine.edu]
Sent: Thu 10-Aug-06 0:14
To: mazurkie at maine.edu
Subject: FW: [Annelida] Nathan Wendell Riser, 1920-2006

From: annelida-bounces at oat.bio.indiana.edu
[mailto:annelida-bounces at oat.bio.indiana.edu] On Behalf Of Kevin Eckelbarger
Sent: Monday, August 07, 2006 1:05 PM
To: annelida at magpie.bio.indiana.edu
Subject: [Annelida] Nathan Wendell Riser, 1920-2006

Colleagues:  Prof. Nathan Wendell Riser, known to his colleagues as
"Pete" and to his graduate students as "Doc", passed away at his home
in Swampscott, Massachusetts on July 26, 2006 at the age of 86. In
many ways an old school naturalist, he published on the biology and
systematics of dorvilleid, nerillid, protodrilid, and syllid
polychaetes of the Gulf of Maine, non-Otoplanid Proseriate
turbellarians from the region, and nemerteans from New England and
elsewhere. After serving in the Navy Medical Corps during WWII, he
did his Ph.D. (awarded 1949) on tapeworms with Prof. Tage Skogsberg
at the Hopkins Marine Station (Stanford University) at a time when
American marine biology was coming into full bloom. Ed Ricketts (made
famous in John Steinbeck's book Canary Row) had recently published
"Between Pacific Tides" (1939) and was still collecting invertebrates
from local tide pools when Riser was a student. He held various
teaching and research positions at the University of Pennsylvania,
Fisk University (as Chair of Biology), Woods Hole Oceanographic
Institution, the Marine Biological Lab, and the University of New
Hampshire before assuming a faculty position at Northeastern
University in Boston in 1957 where he served as Chair of Biology.
While teaching invertebrate zoology in New Hampshire during the
summers of 1950-1957, he was joined by many prominent colleagues
including Marion Pettibone who became a curator at the Smithsonian
Institution. For many years he also led collecting expeditions to
northern Maine with many leading invertebrate zoologists including
Libbie Hyman. His interest in interstitial polychaetes attracted many
European polychaetologists who joined him during his many collecting
trips throughout New England.
         In 1967 he was appointed the founding Director of
Northeastern University's Marine Science Institute (now Marine
Science Center) in Nahant, a position he held until his retirement in
1985. While Director, he hosted countless invertebrate zoologists
from throughout the world who visited New England to collect
specimens and attend conferences. Although worms were his first love,
he had a general appreciation for biology so his friends and
colleagues represented many diverse fields. Over the years, he
influenced many undergraduate and graduate students who went on to
professional careers in medicine and biology. His interests were very
broad but he always had a special fondness for polychaetes and
nemerteans, in particular. His wife (Jean) told me she had to take
him to the hospital emergency room a few years ago with a heart
problem and when the attending physician asked him what he did for a
living he replied: "I'm a doctor too - I'm a doctor of worms."
         Doc Riser continued to conduct his research at the Nahant
lab until very recently and he maintained an active correspondence
with his students and colleagues. He continued limited field work
until his health failed but he went to his lab nearly every day to
work on research papers and he never lost his enthusiasm for
invertebrate zoology. It is appropriate that the Nahant lab is
located a short distance from the private summer cottage and marine
laboratory of Harvard Professor Louis Agassiz, the founder of
American marine biology in the mid-19th century. Agassiz was a
pioneer in marine science education and he promoted the formation of
seaside laboratories where students could "Study nature, not books."
Like Agassiz, Doc Riser was a teacher and he used the "Agassiz
method" of instruction by introducing students to the beauty of
living invertebrates. I was his second Ph.D. student at Northeastern
(1974) and today I teach invertebrate zoology at the University of
Maine in much the same way that he taught me: I take students into
the field to collect and I allow them to discover the beauty of
invertebrates - especially the worms.
         Northeastern University will hold a memorial service for
Prof. Riser on Monday August 14 at the Nahant Country Club at
1PM.   To see a partial list of his publications and graduate
students, visit the web site for the Marine Science Center and click
on "Events" and "Riser Lecture": http://www.marinescience.neu.edu/

Kevin J. Eckelbarger.
Director, Darling Marine Center
University of Maine
193 Clark's Cove Road
Walpole, Maine 04573
Phone: 207-563-3146 (ex. 203)
FAX: 207-563-3119


Professor of Marine Sciences
School of Marine Sciences
University of Maine
Orono, Maine 04469

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