Paleonet: Fwd: [Science News] The Natural News for January 4, 2017

Plotnick, Roy E plotnick at
Thu Jan 5 21:24:01 GMT 2017

Didn't write it, just passing on. He was quite a character. - Roy

On 1/5/2017 2:26 PM, Jere LIPPS wrote:
> Thank you, Roy for the sad news about Matthew.  He certainly lived an 
> interesting and, at times I imagine, discouraging, life.  Although he 
> and I had a number of conversations and communications, I did not see 
> him often enough to understand much of what you wrote.  I appreciate 
> that write-up, as I always found his work interesting and useful--it 
> still is, as you point out.  And he was a fun guy, as I could tell 
> from a few encounters with him.    I am sorry to see him go, but what 
> a life!!
> */Jere/*
> */
> /*
> */Jere H. Lipps/*
> */jlipps at <mailto:jlipps at>/*
> On Thu, Jan 5, 2017 at 11:20 AM, Hasiotis, Stephen Tom 
> <hasiotis at <mailto:hasiotis at>> wrote:
>     Sad news indeed. Thank you for sharing this with us, Roy. I was
>     just flipping through /Evolution of Animal Behavior/ that he
>     coedited with Kitchell in 1986. What a great resource.
>     May his memory be eternal +
>     Steve
>     ***************************************
>     Stephen T. Hasiotis, Ph.D.
>     Professor of Geology
>     The University of Kansas Department of Geology
>     1475 Jayhawk Blvd., rm. 120
>     Lindley Hall
>     Lawrence, KS 66045-7594
>     Office: 785-864-4941 <tel:%28785%29%20864-4941>
>     Fax: 785-864-5276 <tel:%28785%29%20864-5276>
>     hasiotis at <mailto:hasiotis at>
>     KU Ichnology: _ <>_
>     ****************************************
>     *From: *Paleonet <paleonet-bounces at
>     <mailto:paleonet-bounces at>> on behalf of "Plotnick, Roy
>     E" <plotnick at <mailto:plotnick at>>
>     *Organization: *University of Illinois at Chicago
>     *Reply-To: *PaleoNet <paleonet at <mailto:paleonet at>>
>     *Date: *Thursday, January 5, 2017 at 1:06 PM
>     *To: *PaleoNet <paleonet at <mailto:paleonet at>>
>     *Subject: *Paleonet: Fwd: [Science News] The Natural News for
>     January 4, 2017
>     ​From the Field Museum: *
>     Matthew Nitecki, 1925 – 2016*
>     We are sad to announce that Matt Nitecki, Curator Emeritus of
>     Invertebrate Paleontology at The Field Museum, died on December
>     21, 2016, after a long illness. Matt came to the Museum in 1965
>     after having served as curator of the Walker Museum at the
>     University of Chicago. When the Walker closed, Matt oversaw the
>     transfer of its 720,000 specimens of fossil invertebrates to the
>     Field, and came along with them as Curator.
>     Matthew H. Nitecki was born in Poland in 1925, and left with his
>     mother and brothers in 1939 when Germany invaded Poland. After
>     living in Romania and France, he attempted to join the Polish Army
>     via England, but was jailed in Spain for illegally crossing the
>     border while trying to get to Gibraltar. Eventually released to
>     the Red Cross under a general amnesty of political prisoners under
>     the age of 18, he made it to England, became a paratrooper in the
>     Polish Army, and survived the Battle of Arnhem, well known from
>     the book and movie /A Bridge Too Far/. Matt lived in England for
>     several years after the war, going to school, including one year
>     at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies in Edinburgh, and
>     then emigrated to the United States with his parents and twin
>     brother. While working in Detroit, he saw a poster advertising the
>     University of Chicago, and decided to enroll. He earned his
>     Master’s and Ph.D. degrees from Chicago a few years later.
>     Matt was a prolific scientist, authoring more than 150 articles
>     and writing or editing 25 books and monographs, including what for
>     years was the standard reference on Mazon Creek fossils. His
>     special interests were “problematic” fossils and the history of
>     evolution, and he was considered the world expert on
>     Receptaculitids (enigmatic Paleozoic marine fossils of
>     indeterminate and contested phylogenetic placement, but currently
>     considered to be a group of algae). He taught geology field
>     courses in places like Starved Rock State Park, Galena and Apple
>     Rock Canyon in Illinois, the Missouri Ozarks, and the Grand
>     Canyon. He also ran the Museum’s Spring Systematics Symposium for
>     many years (of which more later). Like most curators, Matt kept
>     working after he “retired” in 1996, continuing his research on
>     algae and problematic fossils. His book, /Receptaculitids: A
>     Phylogenetic Debate on a Problematic Fossil Taxon/, was published
>     in 1999, and other book chapters and articles followed into the
>     early 2000s. His most recent project was a bibliography of 19^th
>     century paleontologist James Hall, co-edited with his wife (and
>     Field Museum Research Associate) Doris Nitecki and colleague Alan
>     Horowitz; it was submitted for publication a few days after his death.
>     It is almost inescapable to consider some scientists “characters,”
>     especially those with a few decades of fieldwork and academic
>     battles under their belts. But someone who fled Nazism, did time
>     in a Spanish prison, parachuted into the Battle of Arnhem, and
>     became an expert on enigmatic fossils, must be considered a
>     character of a different order. Matt will be remembered as an
>     accomplished scientist, a gracious host at his and Doris’ home in
>     the Indiana Dunes, and as a pint-sized, raspy-voiced, mischievous
>     imp—but for many, Matt will always be first and foremost the
>     mastermind of the renowned Spring Systematics Symposia in the
>     1980s—still remembered by old-timers at the University of Chicago
>     as “the Nitecki talks.” Most of these symposia resulted in edited
>     volumes, many of which are still in print. But more than that,
>     many of these events packed the Museum’s James Simpson Theater
>     with people eager to learn about the latest research or scientific
>     controversy from experts recruited from around the world. It was a
>     different time—no internet, no social media, cable TV just
>     dawning—but these symposia were successful because of Matt’s
>     foresight in choosing the right topics at the right time, and his
>     passionate and energetic follow-through. Today institutions like
>     ours continue to seek new ways to advance public understanding of
>     science, while pushing the frontiers of knowledge and grappling
>     with a broad range of global issues. Yet Matt was able to
>     routinely get 500-plus people—a mix of academics and interested
>     lay people—into the seats of a scientific symposium, year after
>     year. Matt truly made the Museum a hub for the dissemination of
>     scientific knowledge—a great accomplishment, and a huge
>     contribution to The Field Museum, and to science more broadly.
>     *
>     *
>     **
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Roy E. Plotnick
Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences
University of Illinois at Chicago
845 W. Taylor St.
Chicago, IL 60607

E-mail: plotnick at
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"The scientific celebrities, forgetting their molluscs and glacial periods, gossiped about art, while devoting themselves to oysters and ices with characteristic energy.." -Little Women, Louisa  May Alcott

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