In Memoriam Theodore J. “Ted” Cohn

Eminent orthopterist, mentor and friend, Ted Cohn who passed away Nov. 25

It is with deep sadness that I report the death of my good friend and mentor Ted Cohn, who passed away on Sunday 25 November in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It is difficult to find words to adequately convey the sorrow I feel. The loss is a great one and while the news of his death is a heavy personal blow, there are countless others who will feel the same. Everyone who new Ted – and there were many whose lives he touched – will undoubtedly feel the weight of this terrible loss.

Ted had a big heart and an even bigger personality. His larger-than-life character and infectious enthusiasm for so many things immediately endeared him to those he met.  He has been something of a personal hero of mine since my undergraduate days and in the years since, became a close friend. Always genuinely interested in my professional development and personal well-being, he was an unending source of advice, support and encouragement. I am not alone in this sentiment, as Ted was a profoundly important person to many young orthopterists and could always be found nurturing those students and early career scientists lucky enough to have met him. Ted was also a long-time officer and benefactor of the Orthopterists’ Society, having served two terms as President and many years as Treasurer. His great dedication to the Society and its mission were evident in his unerring support and decades of service.

Ted was a professor in the Department of Biology at San Diego State University from 1964 to 1993 but has always been closely affiliated with the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology (UMMZ) in Ann Arbor, where he received his Ph.D. in 1961 having worked alongside famous orthopterists such as Theodore Hubbell and Irving Cantrall. Following his retirement from San Diego State, Ted and his wife Jean spent their time living between Ann Arbor and San Diego, returning to the latter from January to April each year for the opera season. I would always plan my visits to the UMMZ to coincide with Ted’s presence and shall forever treasure the fond memories I have of perusing the Orthoptera collection with him. During my visits we would engage in lengthy and deeply pleasurable conversations, often over dinner or across Hubbell’s old desk in the Orthoptera range. The subject of our conversations would vary widely, from scientific discourse on the intricacies of orthopteran morphology or evolutionary theory, to the philosophy of music and his favorite operas. Whatever the subject, Ted’s passion and enthusiasm was always evident and I knew that he enjoyed those times as much as I did. He was always a joy to be around.

Ted was not only an eminent orthopterist, but a truly wonderful person with great depth of character. Throughout his long career, his tireless efforts to promote our discipline through steadfast support of young scientists and his exemplary work with the Orthopterists’ Society, have solidified his position as one of the greatest champions of orthopterology. Above all, he was my friend and I shall miss him.

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About Sam Heads

Entomologist and paleontologist at the University of Illinois.
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