In Memoriam: Jean Harmon Langenheim, 1925-2021

Jean Langenheim, a professor emerita of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, died late last month in Santa Cruz. She was 95 years old.

Professor Langenheim was a plant ecologist and leading authority on amber and plant resins. Her investigations, which included fieldwork on five continents, covered every aspect of plant resins, including their chemistry, their roles in the ecology of the plants that produce them, the evolutionary history of resin-producing plants, and the many uses of resins throughout human history.

Dr. Langenheim was born in 1925 in Homer, Louisiana. In the early 1930s, the family moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she graduated from high school in 1943 and from the University of Tulsa in 1946 with a bachelor’s degree in biology. She was the first woman to serve as student body president at the Univerity of Tulsa. She went on to earn a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in botany at the University of Minnesota.

Dr. Langenheim taught or conducted research at the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Illinois, and Harvard University. She joined the faculty at the University of California, Santa Cruz in 1966.

At the University of California, Santa Cruz, Dr. Langenheim was the campus’s first female faculty member in the natural sciences and the first woman to be promoted to full professor. She later became the first woman to serve as president of the Association for Tropical Biology and the International Society of Chemical Ecology, as well as the second woman president of the Ecological Society of America and the Society of Economic Botany.

Professor Lanenheim retired from teaching in 1994 but remained active on campus as a professor emerita. She was the author of the memoir The Odyssey of a Woman Field Scientist: A Story of Passion, Persistence, and Patience (Xlibris, 2010).

Filed Under: In Memoriam


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