I retire today

September 30, 2015 • 4:01 am

Before people who like this site worry that I’m retiring from writing here, let me clarify. That is not what I mean by “retiring.”  Posting here will continue as usual, though there will be only two posts today. As of 4:30 p.m. Chicago time, I’m retiring in the conventional sense—from my job at the University of Chicago. As I sleep tonight in Poland, seven hours ahead of Chicago, I will be transformed from Professor to Professor Emeritus (or, on this site, to Professor Ceiling Cat, Emeritus).

This has been in the offing for two years, but I don’t often post here about personal issues, and wanted to delay this news until retirement was a fait accompli. And, as today’s Hili dialogue suggests, not that much will change for me, save that I will no longer do research with my own hands or teach students (emeritus faculty aren’t allowed to teach at Chicago). I get to keep my office, and will still work hard, but the nature of that work will change a bit.

Several years ago, I began to realize that my job as a scientist and academic was not as challenging as it had been for the previous 35 years. I had mastered the requisites of such a job: doing research, writing papers, mentoring and teaching students, getting grants, and so on.  The one challenge left was discovering new things about evolution, which was the really exciting thing about science. I’ve always said that there is nothing comparable to being the first person to see something that nobody’s seen before. Artists must derive some of the same satisfaction when creating new fictional worlds, or finding new ways to see the existing world, but it is only those who do science—and I mean “science” in the broad sense—who are privileged to find and verify new truths about our cosmos.

But finding truly new things—things that surprise and delight other scientists—is very rare, for science, like Steve Gould’s fossil record, is largely tedium punctuated by sudden change. And so, as I began to look for more sustaining challenges; I slowly ratcheted down my research, deciding that I’d retire after my one remaining student graduated. That decision was made two years ago, but the mechanics of retirement—and, in truth, my own ambivalence—have led to a slight delay. Today, though, is the day.

What am I going to do now? Well, I’m not going to take up golf, which I always found a bit silly. I won’t do any more “bench work”—research with my own hands—but I’m not going to abandon science. I will still write about it, both on this website and in venues like magazines and their e-sites, and I’m planning a popular book on speciation. Writing, for me, is the New Big Challenge, and one that can never be mastered. My aspiration is to write about science in beautiful and engaging words, and to find my own voice so that I’m not simply aping the popular science writers I admire so much. That is a challenge that will last a lifetime, for there is never an end to improving one’s writing.

And I do plan to travel more, visiting those places I’ve longed to see but haven’t had time: Antarctica, Australia, Southeast Asia, Bali, the wildlife refuges of Africa, Patagonia, and so on.

But let me look back now, for I feel the urge to close my academic career by summarizing it.

When I was applying for jobs, my advisor, Dick Lewontin, used to write in his recommendation letters something like this: “If Jerry has one fault, he’s too self-deprecating and tends to sell himself short.” He was right, for I never wanted to succumb to the arrogance of those who internalize the admiration they receive. But today I’ll try to be honest without being too self-deprecating.

So what have I accomplished? First, it’s been a good career. Scientifically, I’ve accomplished far more than I ever imagined. In truth, had I known as a graduate student the hurdles I’d have to surmount to become a professor at a great university and accomplish a goodly amount of widely cited research, I probably would have given up.  But I didn’t look at the whole track: I took things one hurdle at a time. Now I’m at the end of the race, and though can’t say I’ve won, I’m happy with my finish.

What am I proudest of? My research, of course, for the desire to find out things was what made me a scientist. The pivotal moment was when, as an undergraduate in genetics class, we were given two tubes of fruit flies, one with white eyes, the other with the normal reddish-brown eyes. We were assigned the job of finding out what mutation caused the eyes to lose pigment. When I crossed the flies from the two tubes, the offspring had normal-colored eyes, but when those “F1 progeny” were crossed among themselves, one got four colors in the offspring: normal, white, and two new colors: dark brown and bright orange. How could that be? I remember puzzling this out, and then the solution came to me in a flash while sitting on the bleachers in swimming class. The white-eyed flies must have two mutant genes, one that blocked the production of red pigment (producing brown eyes), and one blocking the brown pigment (orange eyes). When both mutations were present, no pigment was produced, ergo white eyes. I went back to the lab, tested that theory, and found not only that I was right, but that the two genes resided on the same chromosome (the second), though they were far apart. I gave them cumbersome names, but they were in fact the classic mutations cinnabar and brown.

The excitement of that moment, and the clean results I got when testing my hypothesis, is what made me an evolutionary geneticist. Since then, I’ve always tried to do experiments in which the result are clean: experiments in which there are two possible outcomes that are easily distinguishable. While the study of evolution is often messy, evolutionary genetics is neater, and both my students and I have concentrated on studies in which the results unequivocally favor one hypothesis rather than another. It all goes back to that moment in gym class.

I am proud of my work on speciation, and I will try not to be overly modest when claiming that I think I helped revive the study of how species form, at least in a genetic sense—a research area that had lain moribund for many years. There is now a cottage industry of work on speciation, much of it inspired by the work my students and I did at The University of Maryland (my first job) and then at The University of Chicago. The specific things we found, and what they meant, will of course be immersed in and then covered by the stream of science, and our names will be forgotten. But that is the fate of most of us, and it is enough for me to have shunted the evolutionary-biology stream towards one of its more important questions: why is nature divided up into lumps (species) instead of forming a complete organic continuum? And how do those lumps form? I was privileged to have made a few discoveries that helped answer these questions, and to have inspired others to make even more discoveries.

What I’m proudest of, I suppose, is the book I wrote with my ex-student Allen Orr, Speciation, published in 2004. It took each of us six years to write, was widely acclaimed and, more important, was influential. I still see that book as my true legacy, for it not only summed up where the field had gone, but also highlighted its important but unsolved questions, serving as a guide for future research.

I’m also very proud of my graduate students, which are one’s human legacy: the academic sons and daughters whose work will change the course of science long after I’m gone. I have had a very small output of students: only four, with one of them opting for a career in science writing. The other three are well-known academics, and I’m immensely proud that they’re all seen as “stars.” I can’t really claim credit for their accomplishments, as they were all self-starters, nor can I say that I had an eye for talent. All I can say is that I sat in the lab with them, engaged in nonstop conversation about science as we “pushed flies” together (counted and manipulated flies under the microscope with ermine-fur paintbrushes); and I think that conversation helped motivate and guide them.

And I’m proud that up to the very end I did my own research with my own hands. I don’t fault those senior scientists who tell others what to do and sit in their offices writing up the results of that guided research, but being a lab manager was never my forte. In fact, given that I loved to work at the bench, I didn’t have time to manage others, and this also constrained me to have only one student at a time. (I’ve also had only one postdoc, and I am proud of her accomplishments as a molecular evolutionary geneticist.)

On a more mundane level, I’m proud of having never gone without grant support for my entire career, something that’s a rarity in these days of tight funding. I had the same grant, renewed every three years, for over three decades: “The genetics of speciation.” I am immensely grateful to the National Institutes of Health for providing the largesse for all my research.

What could I have done better? To a determinist like me, regrets are unproductive (though perhaps useful to others), as I couldn’t have done other than what I did. But I wish I had been a better teacher, especially of undergraduates. Given that my true love was research, and that one is evaluated at a place like the University of Chicago largely on research rather than teaching, I probably put too little effort into teaching. I wish I had had interacted more with my undergraduate students, for at the University of Chicago they are a bright and curious bunch. My teaching ratings always came in about average, and I always wished they were higher. On the other hand, a lot of my research was done in collaboration with undergraduates who asked to work in my lab after taking my evolution course, and several of these have gone on to careers in either science or medicine.

The University of Chicago is a diverse and stimulating place: we have great professors and courses in every area of the liberal arts and sciences. I wish I had interacted more with my diverse colleagues over my career. The University is a bit Balkanized, though, so such opportunities are rare, and there’s precious little time. But I love the humanities, and wish I had sat in on courses in English, philosophy, history, and the sciences of physical anthropology, paleontology, and so on. Perhaps I’ll have more time to do that now. But at least I fulfilled the two vows I made as an aspiring academic: I would never leave college, and I would always have a job in which I could wear jeans to work.

Academics who retire are often asked what advice they have for younger folks. (I have in fact been asked that question repeatedly throughout my career.) And of course we all tend to advise people to do exactly what we did! For that is really all we can say: do the things that, we think, helped make us personally successful. And here I’ll mention two things, both of which characterized my own career. Perhaps these can influence the neuronal wiring of younger researchers and affect their own lives.

First, there is no substitute for hard work. Brains are not enough, and, in truth, I’ve never seen myself as particularly smart. But I have worked very hard—often seven days a week—and it is to that hard work that I attribute what success I’ve had. Good ideas are few—I’ve had about three in my life—but everyone has the capacity (though not perhaps the inclination) to work hard. To all grad students, then: if you’re not in the lab on weekends, you’re not doing it right. That is not to say that you shouldn’t have a life outside the lab, for of course that’s vital, but if you’re passionate about your work, you’ll want to do it outside conventional work hours. Science is not a nine-to-five job.

The second bit of advice was imparted by my mentor Dick Lewontin at his “pre-retirement” party at Harvard, when he stood up in front of the coelacanth—the “living fossil” fish preserved in a tank of formalin, which Dick pointed out as an appropriate backdrop. He ended his brief remarks by emphasizing the one thing he wanted the younger generation to absorb. It was this: if you’re a professor, DO NOT slap your name as an author on the papers of your students—at least not unless you did substantial work on the project. Such gratuitous co-authorship inflates your curriculum vitae in a less-than-honest way, and also diminishes the accomplishments of your students.

It is a truth universally acknowledged in academics (and named the “Matthew Effect” after the appropriate Biblical verse) that the “senior author” of a research paper—the head of the lab where the work was done—gets the lion’s share of credit for that work. The unfortunate result is that the graduate students and postdocs are left picking up the crumbs, seen as mere functionaries. That is not the way it should be. Senior authors have already attained their status and security, while junior authors are merely aspiring to such a position. To me, the only justification for putting your name on a student’s paper is that you either did a large portion of the work with your own hands or contributed substantially to the analysis. Simply handing a student an idea, providing the funding or materials for the research, or helping the student/postdoc write the paper isn’t sufficient to warrant authorship. Those are our duties as professors, while our privilege is to do the science and find out new things.

One anecdote about this. My first well-known paper showed that, as revealed by gel electrophoresis, some genes had many more alleles (gene forms) than previously thought—up to twenty or thirty forms segregating in a population. I wrote up a paper for the journal Genetics, and at the top put the names of two authors: myself and Dick Lewontin. At the end of the day, I timidly placed the paper on his desk for his comments and emendations.

The next morning I found the paper on my desk, covered with red scrawls (Dick’s handwriting was atrocious), but with Lewontin’s name crossed out. He told me, “Don’t ever do that again.” Lewontin was part of a lineage of academics who abjured credit-mongering. His own advisor, Theodosius Dobzhansky, often published research that derived from his own ideas, for which he did much of the physical labor of reading chromosome slides, and for which he wrote the entire paper—and yet his name wasn’t under the title. Often his technicians were the sole authors: Boris Spassky and Olga Pavlovsky. And Dobzhansky came from the very first modern genetics lab—that of Thomas Hunt Morgan—whose members (save, perhaps, H. J. Muller) didn’t care very much about who got the credit. I am proud to be part of that lineage and of trying to sustain its traditions.

I’m often told that without putting your name on every paper coming from your lab, you won’t advance professionally. That is not true. For 30 years I submitted grant proposals to the National Institutes of Health listing all the papers published during my previous funding period. Many of these papers did not have my name on them. And the NIH didn’t care a bit: they cared about how much good research had been done on their dime, not whether my name was on the papers; and they continued to fund me.

So to the professors: try to not grab credit that you really don’t deserve. It is your job to help students write papers and find good ideas; it is your job to guide their research and suggest how to analyze that research. But that does not justify your taking credit for their work. To the students: do not assume automatically that your professor’s name should go on your paper. Perhaps that’s the lab “tradition”, and you must hew to it lest you offend your boss. But even if you must succumb to this form of coercion, try not to do it yourself when you become the boss.

And with that advice I will end this post. I have had a good run, I regret nothing, at least scientifically, and I’ve been given the greatest privilege a scientist can have: to be the first to discover some previously unknown things about our universe.

339 thoughts on “I retire today

  1. Jerry: Very best wishes for a long and happy retirement. I hope your travels will bring you to New Zealand one day.

    1. I can only endorse this comment!

      This all makes what I said in my e-mail to you yesterday about your day today seem rather prescient!

      I’m pleased we’re not going to lose you here – I’m sure most of us, like me, learn a lot both from your knowledge and the way you impart it. I’m glad that will continue.

      And again, we’re not far from Australia, and you have to come here to get to Antarctica, so I hope I can show you my corner of New Zealand one day.

      All the best! 🙂

      1. Ditto.

        If you come to Auckland you can walk with and pet a cheetah at the zoo.

        One of your achievements is WEIT. The book was a model of clarity for this non-scientist and the website remains a daily must-read.

        A compulsive book-buyer in my youth, I now strictly limit myself; FvF was this year’s choice.

      2. And you need to see the Kakapo! Plus many people regret not spending more time in NZ when they go on a “down under” trip.

        1. I met a guy from Germany who had two months to see Aussie and NZ, and decided to do six weeks in Australia and two weeks here because of the size. When he got here, after his six weeks in Oz, he wished he’d done it the other way around (i.e. 2 weeks in Australia and 6 weeks in NZ) because there’s just so much more to see here.

  2. I wondered when you would!

    The encomiums will fill this page & many more, but WEIT readers are I am sure very grateful to you for sharing so much with us, both in biology, rationalism &, not least, food porn! 😉

  3. Lovely text, Jerry. I’ve got inspired.
    Perhaps you would like to come to Brazil to talk to us at the Uni. BTW, was WEIT (the book) translated into Portuguese?
    Best of luck in your new career phase!

  4. Congratulations, Jerry! It is an awe inspiring moment in a person’s life when he/she can sit back for a bit, review the life led, and be happy with the outcome! You should be proud!

    I am sure that all of us who follow this post “religiously” are very happy for you. Enjoy the travel, and keep up the good writing.

  5. Congratulations! It’s not an ending, it is a change in direction. Enjoy your new work and career.

    (I am investigating Medicare supplement plans over the next few months and will gladly share any knowledge I gain)

  6. Coyne & Orr 2004 helped me a lot while getting a Ph.D (very recently). Before reading that book, I want to admit here, I did not have a clear understanding of the field I was working on, as a student! Only after reading your book I could give a really good graduation seminar with a healthy level of self-confidence.

    And the book also helped me a lot to come up with novel hypothesis, I hope, would soon be tested during my first post-doc period.

    So, I am more than grateful to you & to Orr for that!

    P.S. An update of that book would be great since you have some more time from now on 🙂

    1. That book was a gem! By 2004 I had already been giving multiple lectures on speciation in an evolution class for >15 years, but that book beautifully crystallized and summarized what was known about speciation (and what we didn’t know) and it cleared away some of the clutter (e.g., some of the exaggerated or poorly supported claims of sympatric speciation).

      There is no question that it guided research on speciation in subsequent years and stands as one of those rare books that is frequently cited in empirical (data) papers. Given all of the speciation research these days that identifies specific candidate genes relevant to speciation, an update would indeed be great as well.

  7. Congratulations on your retirement. I hope your travel plans work out and look forward to reading about your adventures

  8. I am a humanities prof based in Japan, but even so (?) I find what you have written here a wonderful inspiration. I have a few years before my own retirement, but now I have something clear to aim at and try to live up to. (Of course, rephrased in the rather different terms of my field.) Greatest thanks, and warm congratulations.

  9. Congratulations, Jerry! Enjoy your retirement. I look forward to reading this site for a long time and all your future books.

  10. Just by the way. Today two of my students submitted their PhD dissertations. A young woman from Uzbekistan (writing in English), and a young Japanese man (writing in Japanese). It has been a wonderful learning process to work with both of them, and the Japanese man will probably end up my successor, eventually. I feel proud to have contributed in this way to Japanese scholarship in a very Japanese field.

  11. Congratulations! May you find contentment and joy, not that you didn’t have any before. MOAR contentment and joy, is I guess what I mean.

  12. Congratulations on your career & good luck with the further writing. I recommend WEIT to just about everyone as it was so well written & utterly comprehensive. Hope to see many wildlife photos from your travels!

  13. I feel awe and gratitude to be able to see such dedication and passion.

    Thank you for this tremendous effort and incredible gift to both the science and world-wide community. It’s astounding.

  14. Congratulations on being able to retire with a sense of fulfilment from a successful career in science. As you indicate that the future will not involve settling back into an armchair with pipe and slippers, may I wish you every success in your new ventures and that they will prove to be as fulfilling as your career as a university professor.
    I look forward to the book on speciation!

  15. All the very best for the future. Here’s wishing you a long and happy retirement, which sounds well planned. Your teaching of evolution to the masses with WEIT is already a huge contribution to humanity, and I look forward to further popular writings.

  16. Congratulations on your graduation from the official academy, to a continuation of your wonderful work with the broader community and writing. Just think – no more meetings, academic trivia and all the things you find irksome. Emeritus has a nice ring to it and my emeritus colleagues continue to be fulfilled without the administrivia. The life of the intelligent quest and sharing it goes on. J\I’m just delighted for you, and pleased that you will still be with us.

  17. Gratulacje i dlugie zycie, for a career and life well and fully lived, with so much more to come. I retired from the classroom last year after 37 years, and though I miss the daily interaction with young people, my world has expanded in ways I could not have imagined a year ago. New and unexpected horizons await, Szanowny Panie.

  18. May I add my congratulations and best wishes for a very long and happy and fulfilling retirement.

    Like you, I was fortunate enough to have a Ph.D. supervisor who refused to put his name on the papers I wrote during my period as a research student. When I wrote his obituary for the Royal Astronomical Society, I made a point of noting that fact, because I felt that it reflected the essential integrity of the man.

  19. I gladly join everyone else to congratulate you on your career, and the looming retirement from it. I look forward to reading your new species book.

    But why are species generally isolated lumps and not graded along a continuum? I suppose the easier answer is that the intermediates are lesser competitors to an ecological niche and so leave fewer descendants. But there must be other reasons such as being less attractive to the whims of mate preference.

        1. I think one Bengal and, a bit later, one rescue would be nice. 🙂 But that depends on the sociability of the Bengal!

  20. Jerry,

    Congratulations on entering this new phase of your life. And best regards for a career of success and integrity.



  21. Thanks so much for sharing all of that, very interesting. May I also add my sincere congratulations, and also ongoing thanks.

  22. I will simply add my most sincere congratulations and best wishes. After three decades in the classroom I am happily looking forward to moving on to new ventures as well. All the best!

  23. Jerry,
    For some, retirement is not about leaving the work force but transitioning to new endeavors. Congratulations on a job well done and best of luck with the transition. I look forward to following your development as a writer.

  24. Now, if you ever want to get involved with aviation security and want to help me think, let me know. You’ve been through it many times so I’d appreciate your input T.

  25. I retired about 10 years ago, and its been the best time of my life. I sincerely wish the same for you. You’re going to be the master of your destiny rather than a followers of someone else’s dictates.

    Erhm. Pro tip: One can’t stress enough the usefulness of a strategically timed nap.

    Mazel tov!

  26. If I may be so bold, I’d like to post my own thoughts on the retirement of Jerry “King” Coyne. Let me start by saying that, to my knowledge, everything Jerry posts above is very true and sincere. I was Jerry’s second PhD student, and indeed, even when I had a surprising result that culminated in a paper in one of the very top scientific journals, Jerry graciously let me publish the work without his name on the paper. Does that mean he didn’t do anything for the study? Absolutely not! He advised VERY heavily on the project, from conception to execution to write-up. He even did some of the hands-on pieces (e.g., anonymizing the flies before the experiments for me so I would be unbiased). Hence, his quote “It is your job to help students write papers and find good ideas; it is your job to guide their research and suggest how to analyze that research” is 100% sincere, and his graciousness facilitated my career advancement greatly, as well as surely the advancement of all of his other students. (One tiny amusing exception– a chemist dean at a school at which I interviewed for a job questioned why my adviser’s name wasn’t on the paper and asked, point-blank, if I had “stolen” the data and written the paper without my adviser’s knowledge…)

    Second, Jerry says, “I’ve never seen myself as particularly smart.” He may not acknowledge it, but the man is brilliant. The number of seminal experiments he devised over this decades as a pre-emeritus faculty member would be difficult to count– experiments that did not rely on technological advances but sheer ingenuity of using genetics to get at a fundamental evolutionary question. Many of his papers from the 1980’s and 1990’s are VERY heavily cited still today because of their ingenuity (as well as more recent ones, of course), and many of them spawned other researchers to change the way they were doing experiments to mimic the approaches that Jerry came up with. If that ain’t smarts, then I don’t know what is. That moment in Jerry’s gym class not only inspired him but inspired the field of study.

    Third, Jerry has lots more to be proud of than his book Speciation (which is outstanding). In 1989, Jerry and his student Allen Orr published a seminal paper on patterns of speciation in Drosophila. To my knowledge, for many years, and likely still today, that was the single most-highly cited paper in the journal (which was founded in ~1947). Indeed– the paper even appeared as a mention in a movie on a chalkboard behind star David Duchovny. One of my undergraduates spotted it, and I told Jerry, who was initially CONVINCED I was pranking him (which, I confess, I had done more than once– poor guy). But it was true– here’s a link:
    That said, while Jerry’s research is awesome and influential, it’s clear that he reached a broader group through the book that matches the title of this blog, as well as sustaining this blog. As scientists who receive funding from taxpayer dollars, we are beholden to NOT just share insights with the small group of specialists but with the world at large, and Jerry has been inspirational to so many people with Why Evolution Is True. My classes have used this book for years– to put numbers on it, I have 400-500 students each semester in my on-campus class and ~30,000 students per iteration of my online class. And I’m merely one of probably hundreds if not thousands of professors who use this book, so the impact Jerry is making on dissemination of science is so great that it’s hard to conceive!

    Finally, on a more personal note, Jerry has always been an outstanding mentor. As he notes, he only had 4 students receive PhDs under him, and all were “high investment” for him (to use an ecological term, he applies K-selection). I came straight out of college fairly young, and was definitely petulant with Jerry on multiple occasions– times that I now regret having acquired more grey hair (well, higher proportion of grey– I lost a lot of hair on top). Still, Jerry pressed forward to be an outstanding adviser for me all the time nonetheless. Non-academics may not appreciate the bond that is created between PhD students and advisers (and to a lesser extent other lab members)– it’s very analogous to a family connection, to the extent that “family trees” are frequently constructed:
    Despite my petulance, Coyne was always gracious with this teenager-like “offspring”, and went FAR out of his way to foster my career, much like a caring parent would. “I owe Jerry” is such an understatement that it trivializes the words– we share a long-term connection spanning now 23 years that has positively influenced me and everyone else with whom I’ve interacted scientifically.

    Jerry– enjoy your last pre-emeritus day. THANK YOU for all you’ve done for me, for your other students (undergrad, grad, and postdoc), for the University of Chicago, for the subfield of study of speciation, for the broader field of study of evolution, and for enhancing the understanding of science around the world. Your achievements will continue to yield dividends for centuries to come, and we look forward to many more upcoming writing achievements as Emeritus Prof. Coyne.

    PS– Come visit!

      1. As one who took Prof Noor’s fantastic online genetics course, I can attest that you taught him “real good”, Jerry: humor, pranks, and all:-)

              1. Good one!!

                Recent NYer cartoon had Wile E. coyote walking the plank and hovering in mid-air and the pirates on the ship yelling “Look down NOW!”

  27. Congratulations. The nice part about retiring from a career in science is that even though you don’t go into the lab each day, science itself is still there for you.

    What I do miss are the people. Outside of the lab many of the minds that you meet are not quite the same. So nurture the ties with those folks as long as you can.

  28. Congratulations Professor Ceiling Cat, Emeritus! Enjoy your retirement! A new phase of life is always exciting to contemplate. We, your readers, will look forward to your continued writing, plus more travelogues and snaps from exotic places!

  29. Congratulations PCC. Time was when retirement was seen as the end of ones productive life, but thanks to science many of us are now living longer and healthier lives. So there’s no reason to believe that this ‘third act’ cannot be as fruitful and satisfying as your working life was. Enjoy…..

  30. A gracious summary, Dr. Coyne. Thank you for your scientific contributions. Thank you for being a mensch. Thank you for waving the cudgel of truth against the mendacious spirit of our times.

    Enjoy yourself. Really. I’ve enjoyed reading your writings and, perhaps the highest compliment one scientist can pay another, I’ve learned many things from your writings.

    I know you won’t stop. And I look forward to reading your insights in the future. The best to you. Take care, my long distance friend.

  31. Congratulation on your great career and happy retirement.
    The German word for retirement is Ruhestand, which roughly translates to “state of rest”, in your case it’s Unruhestand -> “state of unrest”. 😉

  32. “It’s a dangerous business, [Prof. CC], going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” Take the next adventure, and take us with you. Paz y luz.

  33. You should include in your accomplishments what you have given to us – US, your readers. You have widened my horizons and stimulated my curiosity about science, the world, the cosmos, both small and large. You get no credit for my atheism, that way preceded your words, but you do provide hope that it will prevail in greater numbers of future humans.(Cats – and dogs, Sir,- are way ahead of us in that).
    I’m 87 and you have improved, made happier, more interesting, my walk into old age enormously. Thank you.

  34. Congratulations on your retirement, enjoy every minute and don’t leave this life with regrets ,live life to the full thats all you can do.

  35. Congratulations. The University of Chicago was always a powerhouse in evolutionary biology and you are a power in the house.
    Your biggest accomplishment for public education was “Why Evolution is True”. That book did what reading multiple previous books could not. It was a clear, concise, well-ordered explanation. Before that book, many believed evolution was true, but could not articulate why that was so. Your book changed that. That book would not have been possible without your life in science.
    This is my favorite website. When I press “w” in my browser, Google fills in your url.

  36. Grattis på din pensioneringsdag. (Swedish: Congratulations on your retirement day.)

    A truly remarkable career, and I look forward to what’s surely more to come. But, for the moment, there must be a pair of boots commemorating the occasion.

  37. From the standpoint of one for whom work has more often than not merely been a means to an end, rather than an avocation, let me say ‘congratulations.’ I hope retirement is at least as fun and rewarding for you.

  38. Congratulations professor! As a student myself, I will take your advice to heart. I wish you the best of luck in whatever will come next.

  39. Jerry,

    Between your OP and Mohamed’s comment, I’ve got a tear in my eye. You have led a fascinating and fulfilling life to this point and it seems a sure bet that you will continue to do so. You have contributed greatly to your society in many ways, from advancing knowledge to providing an example of human decency, and I can’t really think of any better legacy than that.

    Congratulations on your achievements to date and your retirement, sincere thanks for sharing and best wishes on your future challenges.

    Darrell Ernst

  40. Of course, you are rightfully proud of your scientific and academic accomplishments. But. this website is also a big part of your legacy. It has provided a forum for those people who need a place to resist the flood tide of ignorance that is sweeping this country.

    Congratulations and thanks!

  41. Congratulations, Jerry.

    As Mohamed N’s post above attests, your influence is exponential to your personal contact. As a role-model, you show others how to impact still more people. We often don’t realize how we affect others. It is great that some of us are able to tell you.

    May your future exceed your past in accomplishment and joy.

    Linda Grilli Calhoun

  42. Best wishes to you, Professor.
    I am not a scientist but your book WEIT is one of my all time favorites.
    Enjoy your retirement!

  43. Your aspirations to broaden your experiences should add much joy to your life. I retired at 45 from business and became a dilettante generalist. It is fun, although new ‘discoveries’ are rare. Clever phrases and syntheses of knowledge are about it. If in Five College area of Western MA., dinner is on me!

  44. Congratulations on an inspiring career, and thanks for this very fine valedictory statement. It deserves to be printed in the alumni magazine, at least. I join all your other readers in being grateful for your posts and wishing you a delightful retirement and many interesting adventures!

  45. The best part is:
    And I’m proud that up to the very end I did my own research with my own hands.
    At the age of 67 my wife and I published a chemistry paper with all the work including washing glassware was done by us.

  46. Congratulations Jerry Coyne. Your books and your blog have enlarged my life immensely. Keep on truckin’. Your site is part of my daily nourishment.

  47. Moar congrats from me – glad you’re joining the club! Your students’ loss is our gain. Looking forward very much to your proposed book on speciation for non-specialists. And of course to many more articles – scientific as well as polemic – on this fantastic site.

  48. I am a great admirer of your writing, and for purely selfish reasons I am delighted that no more of your prose will devoted to grant proposals (having written and reviewed countless proposals I know all too well how much effort is involved). As Professor Emeritus I hope you are able to write to your heart’s content about whatever interests you. Best wishes for a long writing career.


  49. Congratulations, and I know we all will look forward to your continuing engagement with helping all of us know more and learn more. Here’s hoping that wisdom (in the world) will follow your efforts.

  50. A hearty congratulations to you. And thanks for providing this forum which extends your community of friends and provides a great place for me to join the fun.

  51. The following, statement, regarding “Speciation” is absolutely true:

    “It…was widely acclaimed and, more important, was influential. I still see that book as my true legacy, for it not only summed up where the field had gone, but also highlighted its important but unsolved questions, serving as a guide for future research.”

    During my time as a graduate student (2003-2008), this book was absolutely foundational, and it remains my primary authority on all things speciation. My copy is dog-eared as hell and much revered. Thanks for writing it, and enjoy “retirement”

  52. Thank you for sharing your story. I especially appreciated your advice to professors to not grab the credit for another’s hard work…I saw this happen constantly at the institutions and labs where I worked. Your humility and “guy next door” approachability have been what sets you apart from many others. I will never be able to thank you enough for coming to Greenville, South Carolina to present your accomplishments. I am honored to have gotten to know you!

  53. Congratulations. And condolences. I hope that you have found the way to retire from all the stuff you don’t like to do, while still working on the stuff you do like to do.

    Speciation is a very important book, a worthy successor to (and improvement on) Ernst Mayr’s Animal Species and Evolution. Your work on Drosophila speciation has been an essential part of a major development in evolutionary biology — the reunion between work on within-species variation and work on between-species differences. When I was a grad student, in the 1960s, these two lines of work were almost completely separate. Now the two are interacting in new and productive ways. You can take a good chunk of the credit.

    I’ll look forward to your writings. I hope that they include occasional review articles.

  54. Congratulations!
    The Spanish for “retirement” is “jubilación” which does have a positive sound, doesn’t it?
    I’ve found WEIT (book and website) extremely stimulating, and when in my dotage (I’m an emeritus business prof) signed up for Mohamed Noor’s on-line genetics course was delighted to learn that WEIT was one of the textbooks.
    It was great meeting you at INR5. I look forward to reading you here an in your next book(s). And maybe hearing you live sometime.
    Good travels!
    Najlepsze życzenia!

  55. An Oriental saying: real life starts at 70! Jerry, you are still -5. Enjoy Nature and enjoy real life (in Chinese, 欣賞自然享受人生)

  56. Congratulations on your retirement, Jerry, although it sounds from your post that you are hardly retiring at all. May you enjoy what you do in the future as much as you have enjoyed what you accomplished in your past.

  57. I first read WEIT back in 2009 by accident, checking it out at the library, but did not know you from Adam. Sorry for that line.

    Later, I had to get the book for myself because just reading it once was not enough. What I learned specifically from this book was the less you know about something the more you can get out of a good book on the subject. I did not even look until later at the names of some of the people who wrote praise – Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. I guess I know a good read when I accidentally pick it up.

    Do not worry about retirement because you will be just as busy in that position as ever before and you won’t even know why.

  58. I haven’t read the whole piece nor the comments… so I am going jump ahead of myself: As I read “I retire today” my heart started thumping faster to go back to normal again as I read the first sentence…

    Thank you Jerry, now I need to go change underwear.

  59. Congratulations, Jerry. The world, especially the academic world, needs more people like you. I read your posts first thing every day. Thank you for your contributions to science and to humanity in general. May you enjoy a long and healthy retirement.

  60. Congratulations and all the best to you. As a lay person, WEIT is/was a real eye-opener for me, such that I have it several formats, most especially as an audiobook for my daily commute. I’d previously read a lot of Carl Sagan’s material, so WEIT and “Your Inner Fish” fleshed out the framework of knowledge provided by Dr. Sagan.
    As for “grabbing credit”, that custom was the reason for Candace Pert’s falling out with her professor after Pert had isolated a brain neuro-receptor. She wouldn’t sit still for it.
    Lastly, I wish that there were a site for discussion and Q&A of WEIT. There are so many questions and ideas…

  61. Congratulations and best wishes, enjoyed reading your summary. Very glad that WEIT will continue, it is my favorite site thanks to PCC– and the excellent commenters, too. Thanks!

  62. Congratulations on everything you’ve achieved, Jerry. WEIT was a seminal work which has surely brought to many an understanding of evolution that was previously lacking.

    I hope you continue to run this website for many years to come though quite where you find the energy I’m really not sure!

          1. Interesting combination! For riding do you prefer a bike that is light, quick and precise, like a sabre, or something that is less nimble but with more heft and brute strength, like a two handed Claymore?

    1. I have never taken it up, but I can see how others enjoy it. Not strenuous, requires thinking.
      My way of playing would involve beer and laughter and teasing, and only informal score keeping.

        1. Aaargh:-). Perhaps in cowboy boots and Hawaiian shirt and John Goodman, John Turturro (Jesus) and Steve Buscemi as team-mates?

      1. I grew up surrounded by course, I’ve been playing since I was 9. I don’t do it much anymore because it’s a very expensive sport to pursue and the environmental impact of golf courses is often terrible. I guess I ca just go fr a nice walk on Sunday morning now, without needing to lose 4 balls in a pond.

  63. Congratulations on a long and accomplished career and I look forward to more of your written work in the future (especially on food!).

  64. If you’ve been as influential to your students and co-workers as you have been to us laypeople, then you’ve surely done a marvelous job! Best of luck in your retirement! At least we’ll be able to find you here! Take good care of yourself.

  65. Congratulations Professor from south korea.

    Ever since i watched your video on youtube, i became your fan.

    Not long after, your book ‘why evolution is true’ was translated into korean and it’s sitting in my bookshelf as one of my favorate collections along with Dawkins’ and Pinker’s.

    Congratualtions again and i really look forward to reading your next book about speciation soon.

  66. Congratulations! Enjoy your retirement!

    I can only dream about what it would have been like being an under grad in your class. I’m an undergrad reading this blog, although I don’t understand it all, but I do learn something every time I read it. Thank you!

  67. Congratulations on a life well lived, and while the second half of your life is before you, the half you’ve left behind is exemplary, to put it mildly. I am in awe.

  68. Congratulations Jerry Coyne: *Still* “the hardest working man in the evolution business.” Now, from more remote locations.

  69. What I’m proudest of, I suppose, is the book I wrote with my ex-student Allen Orr, Speciation, published in 2004.

    I was going to say that if you didn’t. It’s a brilliant book, comprehensive yet easy to read. It influenced me a lot, and I try not to think about species at all other than as the conveniently packaged tips of trees.

  70. Congratulations Jerry – this piece was warm-hearted, intelligent and restrained. I hope you enjoy life post-retirement just as much as you did before.

    I don’t know much else to say, since all I know is what I read on this website, and the website has been pretty separate from your personal professional life, but I’m very glad you’ll still be posting at WEIT and writing books. WEIT is one of only two websites I visit daily as a routine – and if you started including football transfer gossip and Manchester United match reports I could reduce that number to one…

    Best wishes

  71. Thanks for sharing a bit of your personal life with us today – you have a life to be proud of! Congratulations on your retirement and never forget that YOU get to decide what’s next!

  72. Jerry, with the possible exception of all the science posts you’ve done, this is the best post I’ve read on your site. You did win the race — the only one that matters: you left your corner of the academic world a significantly better place than you found it. And, considering just how amazingly good it already was when you got there, that’s no small accomplishment.

    Now, I’ve got to read the hundreds of posts of those who beat me….


  73. Jerry, this was an awesome read and I savored every paragraph. I have enjoyed reading your informative, educational posts, though I’ve rarely commented. After reading this post, I have the utmost respect for you. Congratulations on your accomplishments and retirement. I’m happy to read that you will continue to follow your bliss. All the best to you in this new chapter of your life.

  74. You are an original and a breath of fresh air. Long may your good work and obvious enjoyment of life continue.

    Many thanks.

  75. Matthew Cobb here: I’d like to add my congratulations to Jerry. When he told me he was writing this piece I unwittingly put my finger on Lewontin’s character analysis, as I said ‘don’t be too self-deprecating!’. Jerry’s technical work on the genetic basis of Haldane’s Rule, and his work on the mating behaviour of Drosophila has been incredibly important. It inspired me, and it was a real privilege to be in the same lab as him during two of his sabbaticals in France – first at Gif in 1985, then at Orsay in 1992 (dates are approximate).

    My only regret is that we only wrote two pieces together, with very different tones. One was a letter to Nature attacking their pandering to the Templeton Foundation, the other was an in memoriam piece in Evolution about our mutual friend and colleague, Daniel Lachaise, with whom Jerry did some great work on a new species of Drosophila on the island of Sao Tome in Africa.

    You’ve stopped fly pushing and lecturing Jerry, but you won’t stop using that inquisitive mind and sharp logic that was such a vital part of your research career, and which we will still see on this site.

    Congratulations on an academic life well lived, which has had a real impact on how we understand the world!


  76. Congratulations Professor Coyne! Like many, I have enjoyed your book and articles (not so much the cats…).

    Thanks for the insights into your experience in academe.

    I am still teaching and in fact use stuff from your website all the time, so keep it up!

  77. Congratulations! You’ve gotten to live this long, in good health and in a job you like. This is not something many people get to do.

    I’m glad you will still have your office because the squirrels need you – someone, please think of the squirrels!!

    As for self-deprecation I was like that for years but I think mine could be more classified as self-loathing. Then I worked in the Corporate world and changed to promoting my accomplishments. It didn’t get me very far but at least I didn’t feel like as much of a loser (as I languish in a crappy job, relegated to doing stupid work all the while dealing with health issues, aware that I won’t make it to old age — maybe I should retire too damn it).

  78. Congratulations. Now you have more time to do even more of what you do so well – write (and travel). No committee meetings (which were the bane of my existence). You will enjoy your time, even if it isn’t spent sitting on the veranda and spitting watermelon seeds over the rail.

  79. Congratulation on a long and successful career both in and out of you field.
    As you say little will change and we all look forward to future accomplishments from your hand

  80. I look forward to the popular book on speciation. There is a real need for such a book. Well I certainly need it.
    Forever in blue jeans!

  81. Congratualions, Jerry. You are a true inspiration. Although, I have to admit all this pent up anxiety I had for you about your going back to school was for naught. Enjoy!! Can’t wait for your next book.

  82. This is a momentous announcement, akin to Jon Stewart’s announcement about leaving The Daily Show. I wish you all the best in your “new career”.

  83. Warm and heartfelt congratulations, Jerry! This is a lovely summary of your career, I wish you a full and happy retirement!

  84. It’s been a pleasure to know you Jerry and to have had you visit our little meeting twice. I hope you will still be available for speaking engagements in the future and I sincerely wish you all the best in your retirement.

  85. The nicest part about this is that you are happy with your career. It’s a feeling not everybody has (but I do). So happy “retirement”. You will certainly find what we all do, that there is no longer enough time to do everything you want. 😉

  86. That was a heart-stopper when I saw the title in my feed reader!! I’m a very long time lurker here and never commented before: but let me just say this, I hold this website and your writings in a very dear place. I’m glad you will continue writing here and elsewhere and wish you a long, happy and productive retirement, Professor (now emeritus). All the best from across the pond. If perchance you ever happen to be in Yorkshire, England – look me up, and I’ll buy you a very well deserved pint.

  87. It’s been a treat reading about the life you’ve led and you have the laurels to rest on.
    I hope the travel posts increase as a consequence. And I hope the posts about academia don’t attenuate.
    (And I appreciate the sentiment you enjoy wearing jeans to work- software engineers in CA have that same luxury. I was one for over 2 decades.)
    The compulsive punster in me demands that I post this logo of a Canadian annuities company. (The punster in me also compels to note I look forward to finding out why speciation is not specious.)


  88. Congratulations, Jerry! Welcome to the ranks. Your announcement was quite poignant and roughly paralleled the character of my own career in Architecture – quite different things, I know, but a lot of the same dynamics. So, thanks for the memories.
    While your retirement future is determined, I think you may find as I have that what you imagine it will be may be delightfully inaccurate. But I am looking forward to all those books. There are never too many science writers for me.

  89. Jerry,
    After 33 years in academic biological science I went part-time a few months ago. I’m not quite ready to contemplate full retirement but it doesn’t seem as far away as it once did, and I think I can relate to the mix of feelings you’ve described.

    All I can say is to wish you a long, happy and fulfilling retirement, and long may you continue to inspire, educate and entertain us with your books and, of course, this indispensable website!

  90. To have made important contributions to one’s field is the goal of all research scientists; most fall far short of your accomplishments. Enjoy the satisfaction of a job well done!

    Now you have more time to devote yourself to improving this world with your unique voice. I look forward to listening. 🙂

  91. Congratulations and Happy Retirement!

    May you find even more happiness in retirement; I’m so jealous..but only for 9 months.

  92. I started as a chemistry major in 1960 but plenty of sex with a woman delayed my getting back to school for seven years and then a history major with emphasis in labor history and black history. I have followed science and evolution all my life and have read a great number of books and read WEIT as soon as it was out. Great book and I bought more copies and gave or sold to friends. Your WEIT site I have followed daily and have enjoyed immensely. Still reading Faith vs Fact. Congratulations for your accomplishments and what you will learn for us in the future! Thank you for all of us who you have influenced !

  93. really enjoyed reading this. as a young graduate student in the life sciences, I would do well to “ape” many of Jerry’s habits as a scientist!

  94. You may regret not putting more of your time into your teaching, Professor Coyne, but the Evolution class you taught with Brian Charlesworth was one of my favorite classes at the U of C (I TA’ed it the next year) and absolutely inspired me to pursue an academic career studying evolution. Ironically, I only came to love Drosophila well into graduate school and to study speciation genetics even later; I wish I had learned to push flies as an undergraduate in your lab. Congratulations and I hope you make the most of your retirement!

    1. Ooh. I really liked the Macroevolution seminar he team taught with Paul Sereno. Much food for thought there, and good times were had by all.

    2. I completely agree that you should not sell yourself short as a teacher of undergraduates. I took your evolution course as an undergrad at Chicago, and it was truly wonderful. Most of the classes I took were amazing, but your teaching stood out as particularly real and relevant. It was clear that you were personally passionate about everything you taught in that course. You also had a very serious-about-science while still being a bit goofy attitude that I found personally appealing. (You handcuffed a briefcase containing the final exams to your wrist and made a big production of bringing them in…) I remember clearly everything I learned from you, despite the fact that it was nearly 30 years ago. Since then, I have eagerly read and absorbed all of your books, and am so very grateful to have the opportunity to have continued learning so much from you. Thank you for your contributions to science, and to my own personal journey. You have truly earned your new position as Professor Emeri-cat in chief.

  95. Professor, there is little I can add to the many eloquent comments above save to say thank you for the entertainment and education provided by your posts on this website and congratulations on a great career.

  96. I’ve been sitting in a waiting room while my car gets a tune-up and have had to blow my nose and wipe my eyes a couple times…luckily most people are buried in their phones like me. This is a beautiful post and inspirational is an understatement. Reading what others have to say about how you’ve affected their lives is wonderful. I am in agreement and want to say WEIT is the first thing I read every morning. It’s really become a part of my daily routine and it has deeply enriched my life. It is remarkable to me how many brilliant readers comment on WEIT, and this gathering of great minds is an accomplishment in its own right.

    So with that I want to add another Congratulations on your retirement! You deserve the best life has to offer.

    Mark Richardson

  97. Congratulations on making it to this milestone in life! 🙂

    Will your university email still work for sending you wildlife photography or will you have a new address to send things to?

    1. The University is letting Jerry keep his office (and sqrlz!), so I’m sure they’ll let him keep his email, too. In fact, I’m sure he’ll have his email even after he gives up his office (if he ever does).


      1. My son got his PhD from Princeton three years ago and he still has his email address. I think that is typical of grad school and higher. It doesn’t cost them anything.

        1. Much, much better to sleep with the cats than the fishes. Though, I suppose, to be fair, we and the cats are fishes…and now my head hurts…I should go find Baihu and sneak a cat nap with him….


  98. Congratulations, Prof. CC, on a stellar career, and for sharing some of what you’ve learned with us. Now the fun begins!

  99. Na dzrowie, Jerry! I’m due to hang up my stethoscope in two months, after which I hope to have a life spent mostly in the darkroom with interesting chemicals (but will probably be largely devoted to cleaning up cat sick!) I look forward to your future writings, long may they continue.

  100. It’s a lovely, gracious retirement note, but I rather don’t believe it very much. You’ve always seemed to me to be a polymath who’s got more done before breakfast than anyone I’ve ever observed. You’re like the poster child for “be all that you can be”.

    So if, as you say, you’re retiring, it can only mean that what you’ll be up to now would send the rest of us to the hospital. Or bed, at the very least.

  101. Well, that’s lovely – thank you for the thoughts.

    I have to say your writing voice is already distinctive – the combination of simple honesty and trenchancy with your handful of signature synonyms is both agreeable and hard to mistake.

  102. Congrats! And well said. Your saying that Speciation is the work you’re most proud of reminds me of Dawkins saying that The Extended Phenotype is the work he’s most proud of. In both cases, it’s not your more accessible, popular work, but the more hardcore science. I’d bet many artists, musicians, etc. would also say they are most proud of works that are not their most popular. And of course, good science is very artistic.

  103. A wonderful summing up to an obviously wonderful career. I am Polish but know only a few phrases often repeated in our grandparents’ house. My grampa would always greet us with a shot glass of homemade honey whiskey, a delicious tradition I keep up. It may not be the tradition where you are now, but close enough. I raise a shot glass of honey whisky to you Jerry with the refrain we always say: Nasz Zdrowie!

  104. Thank you for all of the hard work you have done over the years. You and many others like you are inspirations to the next generation of scientists.

    I hope to live up to the ideals that you outlined in your last few paragraphs.

  105. How exciting for you. I guess you’ll have to buy more boots to replace the ones you are gonna wear out in your travels.

  106. Congratz Jerry! There is something melancholic when people write about their journey, but luckily you have much more to do and places to see. Thank you for this wonderful and inspiring write-up and the work you put into writing. Doing more of it is a great task — say the readers — but here you do it again, you’re selling yourself short!

  107. I usually don’t comment on this website (I am one of the silent observers of the posts here), but I wish to say congratulations and enjoy your well earned retirement Jerry!

  108. I turned 40 this year and have noticed the passage of time more than in recent years. I already miss you, even though I only know you by reading this website!

    You’ll still write here until you stop writing here. I hope you have the drive to continue for many years to come.

    Thank you for the information you’ve imparted over the years, and I look forward to more of it!

  109. That’s a beautiful text about a really good life. Princess Hili must be so very proud. I am too, of being one of your readers. Cheers!

  110. Congratulations Jerry – your writing and accomplishments are things to be truly proud of. I certainly enjoy reading your _website_ and look forward to coming here every day (several times per day actually… come to think of it, most of those website hits from Australia are probably mine)

    I know you will have fun, and if you do come to Australia it would be great to see you. Do get onto the ABC’s Q and A as Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss have done.

    Cheers Mate!

  111. “Congratulations” is, of course, inadequate. But you understand. I “retired” at the turn of the millennium, and found myself busier than before. I really don’t know how I got any work done (some would say, “Not enough,” and I would not disagree. You will like it. I found it so much fun to be “demoted” and to labor in the field with someone else doing all the paperwork and other bullshit.

    What IS “a species?” (The question my friend Karen Sausman used to ask her students, and asked me in about 1965. I still don’t know the answer.)

  112. What a great summary of your career as a hands-on scientist. Thanks so much for sharing! I’m glad you’re keeping your office. As a graduate of Chicago, it continues to be a major anchor of my world. So glad you’ll still be there–still feeding the squirrels and monitoring the ducklings in Botany Pond. Cheers and Congratulations! Can’t wait to see what you do next!

  113. My best wishes in your new “job” as retiree. I hope I will enjoy your homepage for a much, much longer time.

  114. Well done , Jerry! Retiring from the university isn’t retiring from intellectual and scientific life. So much more to do and more time to do it.

  115. Congratulations on your retirement, Jerry, and happy trails for all the travels you have planned. Doing one’s own research with one’s own hands is the cat’s PJs, and I’ve never regretted my decision to be much more a bench researcher and much less (or not at all) a lab manager. I’ve had nowhere near as illustrious a career as you, and I’m primarily a lowly anatomy and neuroscience instructor, but I’ve been productive on my own terms without (I think) exploiting others.

    Now I just have to manage to live and stay healthy until age 70 or so, which is when my financial manager says I can afford to retire comfortably. I’m investing in support socks for all those long hours standing in gross anatomy lab … maybe a back brace too.

  116. Dr. Coyne,
    Today, we finished up our 5th year of using WEIT for the evolution portion of our Intro. Biology course at Hiram College. You may not have taught many undergrads at Univ. of Chicago, but you have touched lots of them through WEIT. Appropriately, we covered speciation today. Thank you for helping us all teach and learn about the beauty and power of evolution.

  117. Jerry
    Congratulations on your decision to slow down a little.

    Take it from me, you never do really retire. Since making that same decision a few years ago I still don’t know what a Saturday or a Sunday even looks like, let alone experienced them.

    This is a seminal phase in your life but there is much, so much more you have yet to share with us and inform us about.

    For me, every day, the WEIT website is my Sydney Morning Herald for catching up with the news. There is always a bed in our house for you should you visit Australia, particularly Canberra and the Australian National University. Twenty minutes drive tops from a 14 acre property filled with kangaroos and wombats.

  118. A great “final” pre-emeritus post Jerry. I’m sure all the academics reading this would wish to be able to write something of the same tenor when they retire. An academic job is really a privileged one and it is clearly one that you have embraced in all its facets.

    The bad news is that every decent retired academic I know seems to be busier than before-although with much more choice.

  119. Jerry…… you have greatly enriched my life with your writing. I am proud to call you my hero just like the late Christopher Hitchens. Congratulations on all your accomplishments.

  120. Welcome to my side, me and Kink!

    We have warm cookies because we bake them every day. Tuna and liver cookies – you don’t know what you’re missing!

    Looking forward to the new blog – Why Evolution Is True, Ha Ha, Just Kidding!

    Should be a laff riot.

    1. Truly the best daily read on the Internet. I hope you continue with your incredible output, while at the same time developing and exploring new interests.

      All the best to you Professor Coyne!! You have great influence on the world. Honestly. You really do!

      1. As a teacher of high school students, you have influenced my understanding of evolution and how to teach it with passion and interesting examples. I use video and picture clips from your site often. You are very good at educating in an understandable way (and I’m sure you do great research too), so I look forward to many more posts and books !!

        Thank you

  121. Congratulations on your retirement. The great thing about it is you’ll be so busy and engaged that pretty soon you’ll wonder how you ever found time to go to the office; and as Calvin’s dad pointed out – on their deathbed no-one wishes they’d spent more time at the office.

    Keep us posted and many thanks..

  122. Congratulations and Thank You. Thank you for your contribution to Science. Thank you for your authorship, helping ‘the public’ better understand Science. And personally thank you for your graciousness. An ‘out-of-the-blue’ on vacation phone call from a CA high school teacher was enough to allow a short meet-and-greet in your lab. Congratulations and Thank You!

  123. Many congratulations on your retirement, and thank you for all the stimulation you provide, and for the many beautifully written pieces you write, including the very moving one above.

  124. Hey Jerry!
    Congratulations and best wishes for this new phase in your life! It’s going to be a ton of fun 🙂

  125. Congrats and well done Prof Ceiling Cat!

    You seem to have done this “life thing” very well: a satisfying, productive career, leading to a retirement enriched with passionate interests to pursue. It’s inspiring.

    I’m glad you will still be writing for WEIT!

    – Vaal

  126. A wonderful and thoughtful post. Hooray for PCC, E! And hooray for us — more time to write to us on your webpage, and from more interesting and exotic places.

  127. Ooo, the dots all connect now… The Dialogues, the trip abroad, the retirement – you’re coauthoring a book with Hili, aren’t you? That’s awesome, just don’t let fame go to her head. I don’t want the two of you to have a “It used to be about the music (science)” moment. Cats are notorious divas.

    Seriously, though, I’m happy that you’re happy, so congratulations on the well-earned retirement. And at the risk of sounding overly sentimental (not to mention handing out advice that I’m not qualified to give, but whatever, I love doing that,) my writing advice to you would be to remember that there’s a lot of heart that goes into writing. Or if you would like that phrased in a more science-y and analytical way, let’s call it “recognition of complex context-specific emotional patterns and their invocation”. Even if it’s the form that you plug nonfiction into. I knew why I liked this site when I read your commentary on The Dead – why this wasn’t some blah, boring, or droning science lecture.

    Hope you and Hili are celebrating with champagne and cherry pie and Fancy Feast somewhere!

  128. Don’t go away,Jerry. What you do on your blog amazes me. I couldn’t write as much as you do in 100 lifetimes. Or think as much or understand as much. Always with terrific style and clarity. I hope your allegiance to determinism does not prevent you from feeling good about your career. The Peter Frampton song about liking your “way” comes to my mind in the present context And I am the enemy in that I think about the meaning of life and get off on trying to find weaknesses in Darwinism.

  129. Congratulations. I have to say, I am jealous.

    I am looking forward to the book about speciation. I will be first in line to buy it.

  130. Dr. Coyne,

    Thank you for all your contributions to biology. Your “Speciation” book was a huge influence on me (still have it on my shelf) and helped me get a couple of NSF grants!! Hope you have a long and wonderful retirement. You are one of the reasons why Chicago is so well known for evolutionary biology.

  131. Your papers and your three books had a very big impact on me. Thanks for them all and please keep the books and the posts coming.

  132. Congratulstions to a career well lived. And best wishes and hopes for an exciting and care-free (“sorgenfreies”) retirement.

    It would be interesting if you could look back at a few of your (famous and/or infamous) articles, and sketch how they came about: initial idea, problem framing, formalizing the research question, and how the results fit in (or didn’t). A portayal of scientific work, so to speak, with an autobiographical touch.

    Perhaps that’s not so appealing to you (also, a bit presumptuous to suggest to you what to do with your free time) but to people interested in science it might be a boon.

    In any case: Happy Retirement!

  133. I must add my congratulations too. I retired a couple of decades or so ago myself. Retirement is the best part of having to work for a living. Now you really get to do what you want to do rather than what others tell you to do.

    When I left, I told my colleagues: You want to know where I am? Just check the fishing reports. Wherever the fish are biting is where I’ll be. That’s not entirely true but you’re not supposed to believe everything a fisherman tells you.

    And, when the fish aren’t biting, there’s opera: The Metropolitan Opera movie theater telecasts and radio broadcasts (I apologize for that plug but it’s meant for Ben and Merilee who are also opera lovers plus anyone else).

    This is my favorite web site and I try not to miss a single post. Best wishes, Jerry. I have both your recent books.

    1. Yay, opera! Did you see Trovatore, Dale? We’re more or less on the road for a month so will see reruns of that and I think it’s Otello. Got tix for all the other “first nights/afternoons”. Yay Dmitri!!
      Maybe Jerry will develop the taste in his retirement?? You can love both opera AND Neil ayoung:-)

      1. Sorry for being a day late on this reply. I’ve seen all the recent movie theater telecasts of the Met. We have three new ones coming up this month. Even though you’re traveling, you may be able to catch a Met telecast at a “theater near you” by visiting their website. I saw two operas a year ago on my epic trip from CA to FL and back again in my motorhome.

        Ben, if you see this, I think you would enjoy seeing these Met telecasts (I call them Theater Casts). Check out their website and look under Cinema.

        1. Before I forget, check out this link I got by email yesterday.

          Apparently you can stream the Vienna Staatsoper. I will look into the details when I get home and see if I can “cast” it onto my TV. Even though it costs something, it may well be worth it. I’ll probably spring for one broadcast and see how it works out. I also need to get a better audio system for the TV.

          I’ll wait for the Met reruns. We’re travelling with a pooch and wouldn’t want to leave her for hours in a motel room while passing through Seattle, for example. Everywhere we’re staying ( TRNP, Moab, Whistler) is not likely to have Met broadcasts.

          1. Everywhere we’re staying ( TRNP, Moab, Whistler) is not likely to have Met broadcasts.

            No worries if it’s not on the radio. You can stream it from most any classical radio station.

            …assuming you’ve got an Internet connection, of course….


            1. Of course, but I’ll be out hiking in redrock country on Sat and will watch the reruns at our hometown cinema in November:-). We’ve got Sirius opera radio in the car and can listen 24/7 driving across the country. We could even belt along, though I believe we’d kill each other ( J’s voice is even worse than mine, and that’s saying something.)

              1. Merilee and Ben, thanks for replying to my belated opera posts. I’m off to catch Saturday’s season opener “Theatercast” from the Met. Eventually (probably months from now) many PBS stations will re-broadcast most or all Met “theatercasts” but you have to keep your eye on their schedules to see when. Last year I watched The Merry Widow both at the theater and a few months later on Public TV. Renee Fleming was marvelous as The Widow (I think she’s the goddess of opera singers).

              2. I agree with you about Renée and it was a magnificent production of The Merry Widow! Nathan Gunn was terrific, too.

              3. Merilee, you might not get this but didn’t see a reply link to your reply so I’ll try this link. Today (Sat 10-3) I saw Il Trovatore. A worthwhile production for you to catch on a rerun if you can. Plot is a little stupid for our day and age but that’s not unusual for opera. Dmitri Hvorostovsky was count di Luna. He gave a marvelous portrayal despite just recovering from a brain tumor (the audience gave him a standing ovation when he first stepped onstage and threw flowers at him on the opera’s conclusion). Hope you get to see many Met HD productions this season.

              4. Thanks, Dale! I somehow got connected to a Facebook group called Met Opera Live in HD. Check it out if you’re on FB! People commenting on the production from all over the world. yes, apparently people threw white roses for Dmitri even in movie theaters! ( they had thrown a ton at his live performances). People said that the woman who played Azucena the gypsy was particularly good. I think I’ve seen her in that role before. I think that all opera plots are pretty cheesy, but the music of Trovatore is glorious!! I can’t wait to see the rerun!! I think we also have Otello coming up this fall which may be my very favorite opera.

  134. Jerry does indeed have a long, successful, career as a scientist to look back on and be proud of. I’m a few years younger than he is, and I’ve been following him since I was an undergraduate at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. While I was student there in the 1970s, Jerry interviewed for a position in Stony Brook’s department of ecology and evolution. Jerry was a young Turk, and back then he looked the part, with an unruly beard and shock of dark hair. He had done groundbreaking work in the measurement of genetic variation in natural populations using electrophoresis, and already published several important papers. Unfortunately, in properly measuring genetic variation and levels of genetic divergence, Jerry had shown that it was more difficult to do this than people had thought. Jerry’s work can be said to have culminated, and brought to an end, the era of “find ’em and grind ’em” electrophoretic surveys of genetic variation, and protein electrophoresis became a much less used method in evolutionary genetics and systematics. So Jerry had brought his own field of expertise to a conclusion. Jerry did not get the job, for reasons I don’t know, but it was Stony Brook’s loss. I can’t recall who was hired, and I mean no offense to whomever it was, but everyone now knows and recalls Jerry.

    After Stony Brook, I did my graduate work at the Museum of Comparative Zoology, where Jerry had been a student. Jerry was long gone, but he was a not infrequent visitor. My office mate was Jerry’s good friend Ken Miyata, and Dick Lewontin, Jerry’s advisor, was also my de jure advisor (because E.E. Williams, my de facto advisor had retired), so I got to know Jerry during his visits. Although only an occasional visitor, Jerry’s presence was felt in the Lewontin lab, not just by his intellectual contributions from when he had been a student there, but by a number of artifacts he had left behind. Most striking, because of the effort that had gone into it, was “The Jerry Coyne Drosophila pseudoobscura Esterase-5 Zoo”. This was a display case containing examples of flies (dead flies, actually– it was more properly a museum) of the many genotypes discovered by Jerry at the esterase-5 locus. The flies were, of course, externally identical: each labeled fly, with its esterase alleles identified, looking just like the fly next to it. Also in the lab, with a little more intellectual content than the Zoo, was a piece of paper with the question Jerry posed to Dick in response to Dick’s critiques of “adaptationism”: “Why are polar bears white?” It is a question that the two of them still ponder, and disagree about.

    “The Jerry Coyne Drosophila psedoobscura Esterase-5 Zoo”; note the “Young Turk” Jerry at lower left and right.

    Although speciation had figured in Jerry’s early electrophoretic work, it became the central focus of his later and continuing work. Jerry revived the dormant field of the genetic analysis of isolating barriers, a field created by Theodosius Dobzhansky Jerry’s academic grandfather. Jerry was well acquainted at the MCZ, both personally and intellectually, with Ernst Mayr, one of the giants of 20th century biology, who extensively documented and developed the concepts of biological species and geographic speciation. On one of Jerry’s visits to the MCZ, a delegation of population geneticists consisting of, as I recall, Jerry, Steve Orzack, and myself (I was an honorary geneticist), went to see Mayr (known affectionately, but not in his presence, as “Uncle Ernst”) in his cavernous, book-filled office up in the MCZ’s 5th floor bird department. Mayr had long maintained that his most original contribution to speciation theory was the concept of ‘genetic revolutions’. We went to ask him what a genetic revolution was. We discussed this with Mayr, but his ultimate response was “You’re the geneticists: you tell me.” And indeed, Jerry has devoted most of his career to elucidating the genetics of speciation, although finding less of a revolution than Mayr would have preferred. Jerry’s work led to the publication in 2004 of his magisterial monograph, Speciation, written with Allen Orr. At Mayr’s 100th birthday party in May, 2004, I conveyed to Mayr Jerry’s best wishes, and that Jerry would be sending him a copy of the soon to appear book. Mayr, still sharp mentally, recalled Jerry appreciatively. (Jerry could not attend due to illness.) When, after a long and wonderful life, Mayr died the next year, the editors of Science called upon Jerry to write his obituary, which might, I think, be rightly regarded as the canonical obituary; in it Jerry called Mayr “the Darwin of the 20th century”.

    On another of Jerry’s visits, he left a note for a fellow Lewontin student on the occasion of the student’s graduation. It said, “Congratulations. Now get back to work.” On yet another visit, he left a similar note on my desk when he stopped by, and I wasn’t there: “Get to work.” Both Jerry and I wound up at midwestern universities, not too far apart from one another, and I got to see that Jerry’s enormous, almost frenetic, productivity was undergirded by the sentiment expressed in those notes. He admonishes not only others, but himself, to get to work. At almost any hour of the day, Jerry will respond to an email. I’m only sure that he actually sleeps because I’ve seen him sleeping. Now, with his retirement from formal duties at the University of Chicago, Jerry has more time to devote himself to writing and to running WEIT, expanding his role as a public intellectual, and planning further book projects. He still has a lot to get done.

    Congratulations on your retirement, Jerry. Now get back to work!

    The more mature Jerry, touched by the noodly appendage of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (drawn by L. Menon).

    The more mature Jerry, touched by the noodly appendage of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (drawn by Latha Menon).

        1. Ah — actually, this one is easy.

          The ideal white is a Lambertian (diffuse) reflector that re-radiates all incident electromagnetic radiation with perfect efficiency. Another way of putting this would be that white is the same color and brightness as the light source.

          There are, of course, no actual real-world surfaces that are perfectly white. But there’re some things that, for all insensitive porpoises, are close enough as makes no difference. The best such example is a commercial product known as Spectralon. It’s unlikely you’ve ever seen it; it’s insanely expensive and most commonly found on the inside of integrating spheres or on reflectance standards. But you have almost certainly seen a very close second: PTFE (Teflon) thread seal tape — that stretchy white tape that plumbers wrap around the ends of pipe fittings to keep them from leaking and to make sure they’ll come apart again. Refer to the unraveled roll; the tape is very thin and thus translucent. Another very common substance worth an honorable mention is plain ol’ styrofoam…its reflectivity (efficiency) is typically closer to 80% – 85% rather than the 99%+ of PTFE and Spectralon, but it’s also an equal-energy reflector: it’s a very light (essentially-)perfectly-neutral gray.

          The hollow clear tube mechanism of Polar bear fur is actually an excellent way to achieve white, and many very white surfaces are structurally similar at a microscopic level.

          A last note…many things we superficially think of as being white actually aren’t. Paper is the best example; it tends to absorb proportionately more shorter (bluer) wavelengths, giving it a yellow tint…which paper manufacturers compensate for by adding fluorescent blue dye. Compare some office paper with PTFE tape; the paper will look brighter and maybe whiter, but that’s because it’s absorbing UV light that you can’t see and re-emitting it as blue light that you can see. When you come to realize what you’re looking at, it starts to become the McDonald’s of paper….



    1. Beautiful ecomium, Greg!

      I happen to know a Ken Miyata as well, a math teacher from the Toronto area, whom I met during several conferences at Phillips Exerer Academy in N.H. Ken taught at a very good public high school in Thornhill, north of Toronto, which was populated mainly by Jewish students and teachers. As a Japanese-Canadian, Ken was a bit of an anomaly, but well-liked by the students, who insisted on giving him a Jewush nickname. Thus was born Moishe Miyata

      Moishe is now retired and doing field trials with his Border Collies.

  135. Oh, great, I would end up following Greg Mayer!

    Well, speaking of that, thank you Dr. Mayer for that most informative post! I particularly enjoyed the explanation of Jerry’s Young Turk days and conclusions about genetic variation, having been part of a find ’em & grind ’em lab myself during approximately the same era. (I think I could still pour a starch gel in my sleep.)

    Loved the pictures you included as well. 🙂 Yours & Dr. Noor’s tributes were most serendipitous additions to this outpouring of love and respect for Jerry.

    Jerry, that essay was just beautiful! I’m going to be thinking about it and smiling all week. And beyond. It’s been such a privilege to be part of the vast WEIT-ian community and to start each day looking forward to whatever diverse wonders would be posted here.

    It’s always strange how those who would have the most to brag about so often tend to be self-deprecating. I’m glad you managed to set that aside in today’s post, though to me it still sounded overly modest.

    What an accomplishment to arrive at this milestone and be able to look back on such a fulfilling and accomplished career. Very few of us–certainly not I–will be able to do similarly. Thank you for everything, and I eagerly await dispatches from your next chapter of life. (More of the same would be just dandy.) Skål!

      1. Thank you! Your description, of course, applies to this entire thread.

        (When I started typing I was right after GM’s post; by the time I’d finished, I see a bunch of others had snuck in. 🙂 )

  136. Good luck, and I don’t need to tell you, keep busy. I have enough of a problem keeping up with your daily output as it is, D*g knows how I’ll manage now that you have more free time!

    Lovely essay by Jerry, and a nice counterpoint from Greg.

  137. Best wishes for a happy retirement, Jerry!

    To inspire and challenge others to think and grow is perhaps the noblest use of one’s time. You should be justifiably proud of your academic career.

    You’ve inspired more people than you’ll ever know. And you did it wearing cowboy boots…which is pretty bad ass.

  138. I am so glad I found your website some time ago. It has been a continual source of pleasure, in keeping abreast of a wide range of topics and interests.
    It has been great to participate in your commentariat and see and hear such a diverse range of ideas and opinions.

    I appreciate it that you even went to the trouble to send me a Massimo Pigliucci article on scientism when I was having trouble finding it.

    I love cats and I love a true open minded scientific liberal sentiment, you and your web site have provided a wonderful place to come for those things.

    I am glad it will be on going.

    I am in the process of thinking of retirement too. Good luck in yours and, well done with your career. Very well done.

    Don’t listen to the New Zealanders, it is nice there but Australia is a continent, with an unsurpassed range of features. We even have an Antarctic division.

    All the best.

  139. Late to the party, but I join everyone in wishing you a long and happy “retirement”.

    I agree entirely with your sentiments about doing the work yourself, I hate the way that senior scientists often end up as just lab managers, yet still take credit for the work.

    Not sure about other countries, but in UK this is made even worse by the fact that grant money is treated as an output, not an input, in the RAE/REF. In other words if you spend your time writing grant applications to pay for people to do your work for you, you get more credit than if you did the work yourself.

  140. Congratulations and all best wishes for the future. As another Canadian reader, your website is always on my must read first list and I have learned a huge amount about biology, evolution, music and literature from it. I really appreciate the high quality of your writing and on your insistence on good manners in your commenting policy. Long may it continue!


  141. Congratulations, Jerry, and best wishes for a well-earned retirement. I’ve always had the impression that you’re too modest about the quality of your work. Orwell, apparently, thought the same about ‘1984’. As the man said, “I do not wish to comment on the work; if it does not speak for itself, it is a failure.” Your work will likewise live on. Bon voyage around the world. x

  142. Congratulations Jerry! Good to hear you had a good academic life, and will continue to experience it.

  143. Congratulations! And thank you for this site – so refreshing in a maze of advertising and pop ups elsewhere on the web. You have a great variety of subjects including cats, wonderful cats. Enjoy your ‘retirement’.

  144. Congratulations, and happy first day of retirement! Thank you for continuing to share your thoughts and views with us. I wish you the best in your future adventures and look forward to many more posts about anything and everything. Cheers!

  145. More time for anti-theism activism!

    You set an example more academics should follow instead of retreating to their ivory towers while the fundamentalist Christians sabotage our civilization.

    Thanks for all you do.

  146. Jerry surely has a ton of great things to retire to. But just in case he’s looking for *one* more thing, how about learning to cook from scratch for that Bengal kitteh I see in his future?

  147. Best wishes into retirement, Prof CCE.

    Well, I’m not going to take up golf, which I always found a bit silly.

    “A good walk, spoiled.” I forget who said it, but it’s a common enough comment, even in the home of golf, sub-tropical Scotland.

  148. love this post and your passion for knowledge, mr. coyne. thanks for sharing the news with us and thanks for all the great work you’ve done and will continue to do with your writing!

  149. Congratulations – though future students will miss you – you obviously will have more time to do your writing and other things. I discovered your website a few months ago and love it. Australia has huge biological diversity – the Great Dividing Range that spans the entire south to north near the coast of the eastern part creates its own diversity. There are the tropics to the north, The Daintree rainforest, and the Great Barrier Reef, and the temperate south, and the massive Murray Darling river basin system. Then the arid interior, and more temperate areas (and wineries) around Adelaide, Perth and the south west around Margaret River.

  150. Dear Jerry,
    I choose a few extracts from your admirable and thoughtful Retirement Post:

    “honest without being too self-deprecating – I couldn’t have done other than what I did – wish I had been a better teacher – I have worked very hard – I’ve been given the greatest privilege a scientist can have: to be the first to discover some previously unknown things about our universe.”

    These I think sum you up in a nutshell. Prodigious in both talents and accomplishments yet modest: a truly rare person and personality. Congrats on your rewarding official career (vocation?) and also on your considerable extracurricular endeavours, in all of which you are entitled to feel justly proud and the latter of which I and a host of others worldwide hope will long continue unabated.

    Most of us live achieving little else than survival to procreate but some “happy few”, individuals with outstanding abilities and industry, manage to enlarge the human store of useful knowledge and/or expertise. You are among that highly-valuable elite.

    So you “could not have done otherwise”. Yes, Freewill is a spurious and unnecessary idea born of religion and old philosophy, but in no way can hard Determinism, the total absence of any so-called “Freewill”, detract from your achievements which demonstrate and give the measure of your worth as a human to your fellows and posterity. Now your retirement being a change of circumstances will set different/less constraints on your activities, effectively a different freedom. Still a valid term to use by Determinists but used in a different way from its usage by non-Determinists.

    All the very best, Arthur Morris
    (who retired 34yrs ago, aka mogguy -erstwhile occasional Commenter, aremo14@yahoo.co.uk)

  151. Bravo, Jerry, on your science and the way you’ve approached it throughout your career. I look forward to working with you in your new phase.

  152. Congratulations, Jerry.

    This site and two books (WET and FvsF) have been part of my education in a way. Thanks much as well for bringing together an ecclectic and interesting crowd on the site.

  153. I hope you enjoy your retirement and keep up your writing. You have been a major inspiration for me, even though my own writing and even reading of science blogs and similar sites has dropped off recently due to time constraints. It’s also interesting to hear your thoughts on science and life, especially when comparing them to my own experiences and people I’ve met.

    I do disagree with what you said about working all the time though. I’m not saying it doesn’t work in some cases but to the best of my knowledge the available evidence all points to shorter working weeks being better for health and productivity, that longer hours are not more productive (productivity increases stop after about 46 hours per week) and that shorter hours reduce the number of mistakes made. I’d actually say that there’s a problem with the way our society is run that our productivity has increased (due to mechanisation, computers and other technology)yet the hours we work have stayed constant or even increased.

  154. I wish you a wonderful retirement, but must take issue with one thing you wrote: To the extent that a subjective-ish craft like writing CAN be mastered, you certainly HAVE mastered it. You are an excellent popular science communicator. I’m going now to write in “Coyne’s speciation book” in my Amazon wish list.

  155. Congratulations on your retirement! I’ve been reading and enjoying your website since the beginning and feel like I know you like a friend now. If you want to improve your already brilliant writing then I can’t wait to read your future books.

  156. Take the long way home Professor, I think you will find the lounge room still fully seated and eager for the next phase.
    You sir are one of the good guys,
    congratulation on your retirement, to tell you the truth, what that would mean to me is, perhaps and I hope, you get to do more of what you like to do and less of what ‘others’ want you to do.

    1. I hope, you get to do more of what you like to do and less of what ‘others’ want you to do.

      Actually…I think one of the remarkable defining characteristics of Jerry’s career is that he mostly did do what he wanted. Though I know for a fact that he’s relieved and thrilled he’ll never again have to submit another grant application to keep his colleagues employed, I’m also pretty sure that the applications were for exactly the work he most wished to do.


      1. That did occur to me by what was said in the post and perhaps I’m thinking of myself as I’m not far off retiring but maybe his guitar might need a little attention, more engagement with friends, that sort of thing.
        I am nowhere near the league of the Professor and his accomplishments I appreciate just being in the lounge.

  157. Dear Professor Ceiling Cat, Emeritus, I will raise a glass to you. This was an especially enjoyable post and thread of comments. Congratulations and thank you. (I wish I could would make you some banana pudding!)

  158. Congratulations, Jerry! I hope your days are filled with interesting things to do; I also hope that you will not quit this site any time soon! It’s a breath of fresh air, and gives me hope for humanity. Thanks for your contribution to science and secularism.

  159. Late to the party as usual but, job done professor! Congratulations on a fruitful career and … enjoy yourself!

  160. Congratulations on your retirement, Professor Coyne! Your work and writing have had a huge impact on my thinking and work as an evolutionary biologist. You have inspired both my research on speciation and my teaching of evolution to undergraduates. I look forward to reading your upcoming book!

  161. I can’t tell you the mixture of pleasure and indignation that felt while reading “Faith vs. Fact”. I can also not imagine the amount of abuse that you are likely to be receiving because of this book. It’s all too clear that, as a species, we still have a long, long way to go before becoming civilized. My only fear is that the fanatic religious forces, still so prevalent worldwide, will abort that effort. My nightmare is that of ISIS with nuclear weapons facing a US president with the mindset of a Ted Cruz, or just about any GOP candidate.

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