It is with great sadness that I have to note the passing of my friend and colleague Bob Dalgleish, who died suddenly on December 7th in San Diego following one of his many travels. Bob was a central figure in the Phthiraptera (louse) research community, first and foremost as a taxonomist, but also as a leader and organiser or international efforts to promote research on lice and taxonomy. Bob (with Steve Barker) was central to restarting the regular International Congress on Phthiraptera (ICP), more fondly known to us as the louse meetings, and helped establish the International Society of Phthirapterists to which he was eventually elected President. Like many of the younger members of the louse community, my first memories of Bob were as a PhD student when he put me in touch with other taxonomists around the world that could help with my own research efforts. His gentle and supportive influence, jovial attitude and generosity with his time left a particular mark on me that like many others who encountered Bob, I will never forget. I remember one particular occasion when my enthusiasm for what I was working on caused me to call Bob from Glasgow University (UK) at his home in California. Bob had the grace not to mention that at the time I called it had just turned 6am, and that I must have got him out of bed at this early hour.
As part of his research Bob built up a collection of more than 10 thousand slides of parasitic lice, many of which have been transferred to the Smithsonian Institution. He also established a major host-parasite database on bird and mammal-louse associations, and has been honoured with six species of lice named after him. Bob had a particular interest in computers and the Web. He recognised taxonomy for what it is (an information science) and understood the power of organising data as a service to the wider biological community. He was an early pioneer of these efforts and started the Phthiraptera.org website which was he built up to be a tremendous resource for the wider louse research community. More recently Bob became involved in the journal Zootaxa, where he acted as taxon editor for submissions on Phthiraptera, but also as a major supporter of efforts led by Zootaxa to change the way taxonomy is published.
Bob was born in Scotland and emigrated to the U.S. while still a teenager with his family. He graduated Point Loma High School, class of 1957, and San Diego State prior to enrolling at Cornell where he obtained his Ph.D. in biology. His career began at the Huyck Preserve close to Albany, N.Y, before moving on to administrative positions in both private and public universities throughout the East coast of the U.S. until retirement in 2000 when he returned to San Diego. Following retirement, Bob took the opportunity to travel extensively, making regular trips to meet many of his colleagues and family members worldwide. He had a particular interest in the social history of taxonomists working on lice and acted as glue that bound the wider louse research community together. While many of the 100 or so clinicians, veterinary scientists, evolutionary biologists, and taxonomists working on various aspects of parasitic louse biology do not directly know each other, we all knew Bob, and through his efforts, especially with the development of the ICP meetings, we began to become a more interdisciplinary research community. At the upcoming ICP meeting in Turkey this June 2010, his absence will be especially noted, and I understand that there are plans to dedicate the meeting to his memory.
Following retirement Bob met and married Mary Strobbe who survives him alongside his sister, Irene Thomson, three children, one stepson, and four grandchildren, in addition to numerous nieces, nephews and cousins. He died suddenly at his home at his desk surrounded by his specimen collection and literature, and next to his computer. Bob, you will be sorely missed.
Bob Dalgleish, (second left) with Roger Price (third from the left), Roger’s wife (far left) and myself (far right) in San Diego on a visit I made in August, 2007. Mary was behind the camera.