Death notices

One important but sobering duty I have as editor of this magazine is to report the deaths of our members. We have thousands of members, of course, and I certainly don’t know them all personally, but I appreciate that a stranger to me is a very special person to another

In most cases, word of a recent death trickles in.

Our executive director, Barbara Gordon, who seems to know just about everybody, often spots death announcements and lets me know. Cindy Whalen, our membership coordinator, periodically checks our list of emeritus members so that she can keep our records updated. And sometimes members will notify us when their colleagues have passed away.

Roy P. Mackal
Read the obituary for Roy P. Mackal.

You might wonder how we determine which obituaries to include in the magazine. If the member has made key discoveries or held leadership positions with the society or its journals, we do our best to recognize his or her contributions in a Retrospective article. It’s especially helpful when colleagues offer to write it. 

Another consideration is how long ago the member passed away. In most cases, if more than a few months have passed, a news magazine like ours has, by industry standards, missed its window. But there are exceptions, like one in this month’s issue.

In early July, Cindy sent what I thought at first was a typical death notice, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. She provided a link to an obituary, like she usually does. She also provided a link to a Wikipedia page, which was a little odd. And she included a note: “I love this one.” I was intrigued.

I clicked the first link. The headline read, “Loch Ness Monster & Mokele-Mbembe Researcher, Cryptozoologist Roy P.Mackal Has Died.” It wasn’t making sense. This fellow was an ASBMB member?

As a matter of fact, Mackal joined the society in 1953, back when he was a young biochemistry faculty member at the University of Chicago, before he abandoned the bench to track down elusive beasts. He apparently remained an ASBMB member until his death last year.

I found lots of reporting on Mackal’s adventures, including a People magazine interview with him before he set off for the Congo swamps to find what might have been “the last of the dinosaurs.” I watched videos of him and about creatures I’d never heard of. I cruised cryptozoology websites – some serious and some not so much. (Cryptozoology, by the way, is the study of hidden animals and often derided as a field.)

Mackal passed away on Sept. 13, 2013. I’ve written an obituary for this longtime member who was not at all representative of our general membership but who was nonetheless a larger-than-life character. I apologize for its lateness, but I hope you enjoy it.

Angela HoppAngela Hopp ( is editor of ASBMB Today.