Sunday, February 25, 2007

R.I.P. John Heyning

John Heyning, one of the great authorities on cetaceans, has died.
Heyning, deputy director of the research and collections at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, was 50 years old. While he researched everything from dolphins to whale lice, his specialty was ziiphids, or beaked whales, a group of little-known, deep-diving species we are still discovering and classifying. Heyning was instrumental in learning much of what we do know, constantly traveling to beaches wherever a cetacean was washed up. Some years he hauled as many as 30 carcasses to his laboratory. Among other accomplishments, Heyning documented that the common dolphin was actually two species, the short-beaked and the long-beaked.
It is always true that great scientists leave us too soon. Sometimes, though, it really strikes home. Heyning was passionately curious, open-minded, brilliant, and everything else a scientist should be. He spread his knowledge among his colleagues through many papers and monographs and to the public in the book Masters of the Ocean Realm: Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises (University of Washington Press, 1995).
Goodbye and Godspeed.

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