UC Berkeley News


George Barlow

22 August 2007

Animal behaviorist and evolutionary biologist George W. Barlow, a professor emeritus of integrative biology and a well-known expert on cichlid fishes, died July 14 after a massive stroke. Barlow, a resident of Berkeley, was 78.

Born on June 15, 1929, in Long Beach, Barlow entered UCLA in 1947 with the expectation of becoming a doctor. After a lackluster freshman year he switched to biology, and formulated plans to get a Ph.D. in ichthyology.

While at UCLA he also was a starter on the freshman and varsity water-polo teams, and he long maintained an involvement with Berkeley's water-polo team.

Barlow graduated with an A.B. in biology in 1951. Following Korean War service he returned to UCLA to earn a Ph.D., which was granted in 1958. He immediately embarked on a two-year fellowship in Germany at the Max Planck Institute in Seewiesen, Bavaria, where he studied with the famed ethologist Konrad Lorenz. After six years at the University of Illinois, Urbana, he moved to Berkeley's Department of Zoology in 1966. He also served for a long time as curator of ichthyology at the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology here.

Barlow subsequently studied with Nikolaas Tinbergen at Oxford University in 1974 and 1975, and organized a yearlong workshop on behavioral development at Bielefeld University in Germany. He co-edited and published the workshop's proceedings in 1981. He also edited the papers from a 1978 conference on conflicts within the field of sociobiology that were published as Sociobiology: Beyond Nature/Nurture? (1980).

He was instrumental in negotiating with department-store magnate Richard Gump the 1981 transfer of land to create Berkeley's Richard B. Gump South Pacific Research Station in Moorea, Tahiti, for which he served as the first director. The station hosts students each year doing research on tropical ecosystems.

Barlow authored more than 160 scientific articles and three books, including The Cichlid Fishes: Nature's Grand Experiment in Evolution (2000). He was a fellow of the American Behavior Society and served as its president in 1979, and was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and of the California Academy of Sciences. He served on the board of governors of the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists from 1970 until 1975, and was a member of the American Society of Zoologists. He was awarded a Miller Professorship at UC Berkeley in 1972.

He also was editor of the journal Ethology from 1987 until 1990, and served on the editorial boards of several other journals.

Barlow is survived by his wife of 52 years, Gerta (Offczarczyk) Barlow of Alameda; daughters Linda Barlow of Denver, Bicka Barlow of San Francisco, and Nora Barlow of Anchorage; and six grandchildren.

A campus memorial service is tentatively planned for early September at Alumni House. Those interested in donating to student-travel scholarships should contact Bicka Barlow at bickabarlow@sbcglobal.net.

- Robert Sanders

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