February 20, 1915–September 8, 1993
BY ALAN GELPERIN, JOHN G. HILDEBRAND, AND THOMAS EISNER
VINCENT DETHIER WAS A man of many facets—scientist, writer, musician, historian, explorer, and paragon of civility. His interests and activities ranged broadly, from the biophysics of chemosensation and the comparative architecture of renaissance cathedrals, to the ecology of natural populations and the tonal structures of baroque cantatas. Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it took a university—nay, several universities—to provide the depth and diversity of colleagues and coworkers to engage fully Vince’s varied interests in science and the arts.
Thanks to his exceptional vitality, Vince paid little heed to advancing years. When he was stricken with his sudden, final illness on September 8, 1993, he was in the classroom inaugurating another course for a group of lucky college students, fully 54 years after the start of his teaching career. He was the Gilbert L. Woodside Professor of Zoology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, a position that did not carry a teaching responsibility. Even among his friends and colleagues, few could believe that Vince was 78 years old. He had just returned from a summer spent in his beloved family home in East Blue Hill, Maine, where he wrote many of his more than 170 scientific papers and 16 books, as well as numerous short stories.