The scientific field with the best obituaries

Everybody dies. But naturalists — the people who study animals and plants in those species' natural environments — well, they die interestingly. Some recent causes of death in this scientific field include: Elephant charge, being eaten by caimans (assumed), and the plague.


  1. Brown, Kirsty M. (1974-2003), marine biologist with the British Antarctic Survey, drowned, age 29, when attacked while snorkeling and dragged 200 feet underwater by a leopard seal.

    When the divers with the Planet Earth (or was it Blue Planet?) team talked about how nervous they felt around the leopard seals, they made it sound like it just had to do with the seal’s size and the fact that they were the apex predator of their area.  I had no idea they had actually killed people.

    [Edit: Blue Planet was released two years before her death.]

    1. For a different take on leopard seals you should take a look at this video featuring National Geographic photograph Paul Nicklen.

      I’ve been lucky enough to see him give this talk live, and what he doesn’t capture in the short video that he discusses in longer talks is the sheer terror of diving with an enormous leopard seal. The strength of their jaws, their speed, and their stealth make them a ferocious apex predator.

  2. One reason I’m a physicist is my subjects neither bleed on me, throw up on me nor eat me. Radiation is comparatively easy to deal with.

  3. Maggie, thanks for bringing this to my attention. I’m going to try to add some people I knew to that list.

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