In memory of
William N. Tavolga
Tavolga, William N. Feb 9, 1922 - Apr 28, 2017 Bill Tavolga was an internationally known scientist who made lasting and fundamental contributions to our understanding of the sensory biology of marine organisms. Born in New York City to émigré Russian musician parents, as a child Bill was always turning over rocks and making lists, circumventing his father's ambitions for him to become a concert pianist. Music remained an important part of his life, and he served as president of the Sarasota Music Archive at Selby Library, applying his computer skills to the design and maintenance of its large data base of musical holdings. Fluent in Russian, he wrote the first Russian-language word processor "VolgaWriter." Bill's science interests at Townsend Harris High School led him to earn a B.S. in Biology at the City College of New York and a doctorate in Biology at New York University. There he met his wife Margaret. He was professor of biology at City College of New York and on the research staff in the Department of Animal Behavior at the American Museum of Natural History. Bill is viewed as the founder of the field of marine bioacoustics, and did important studies of the mechanisms of fish sound production and acoustic communication. Bill and Margaret, who taught biology at Fairleigh Dickinson University, took early retirement to Sarasota where he became a Senior Scientist at Mote Marine Laboratory. He and Margaret, a dolphin researcher, had been spending summers at Mote since its founding by their fellow graduate student Eugenie Clark as Cape Haze Marine Laboratory. Bill finished his career at age 90, retiring from Mote as director of the division of research in sensory biology and behavior, and Mote Laboratory has dedicated its sensory biology laboratory in his name. His wife Margaret, who in retirement volunteered at Selby Gardens and, among other contributions, prepared the care sheets for the orchid holdings, died after nearly 50 years of their marriage. Bill leaves in Sarasota his loving partner, Paula John, who will announce a memorial gathering for friends at a later date. He also leaves a worldwide circle of colleagues and friends, who will remember Bill as an extraordinary teacher, scholar, mentor, and role model as a man. Contributions in his name may be made to Tidewell Hospice, the Sarasota Music Archive, and the William N. Tavolga Endowment Fund at Mote Marine Laboratory.
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