In Memoriam John “Jack” E. Randall Jr. PhD
I just received this message that Jack (as all friends called him) E. Randall died three days ago. This really hit me deeply. Not only have I lost a very dear and close friend, but the entire world of fishes has lost one of the prime ichthyologists and taxonomist that ever lived. Just as recent, exactly one year ago with the age of 94 almost the entire issue of aqua, International Journal of Ichthyology, covered the valid species and variants of the porcupine fishes (family Tetraodontidae: Diodontidae). He had with co-authors over 60 valid species photos in it, a work never done before. In the scientific journal I mangage and in which he was on the editorial board from the begin (1992 – see www.aqua-aquapress.com)- Jack and I been together on international congresses, like in Noumea, in Durban (second photo) and others, and he supported my work from the begin when we meet at the Senckenberg Museum in Frankfurt in the late 1970s with Friedhelm Krupp, the first scientific editor of aqua (and today again). Jack was the ichthyologist who published nearly one thousand scientific papers and described close to 700 new fish species (almost all marine), probably more than any other fish taxonomist in his life, and many of those in aqua, since 1993, almost in every issue he contributed new papers peer reviewed. Jack also wrote and co-authored many marine books, also more than most. And many fish species bear his name. This amazing biologist, ichthyologist, taxonomist and nature lover and constant diver around the world, will be missed by all nature lovers, globally, his amazing and unique works will stay forever, but his wisdom, knowledge and unique ichthyological papers will be missed worldwide. R.I.P. my dear friend. The aqua-team and myself send their sincere condolences to his wife and family, no one can or will forget “Jack” and his contribution for the world to get a better understanding of the life below water. Aloha Jack. Will miss you every day, and all the aqua-team…
Managing Editor of aqua, International Journal of Ichthyology
In Memoriam – Celebration of a Legend
Dr. John E. Randall (1924-2020)
World renowned ichthyologist Jack Randall, passed away at his home in Kaneohe, Hawaii on 26 April 2020 at the age of 95. He was and will long remain a giant of his craft, who long ago achieved legendary status for his academic achievements and more importantly as a caring person, who greatly influenced a legion of admiring colleagues and numerous young students over many decades. Jack Randall’s passing marks the end of an amazing chapter of underwater discoveries. I really believe, more than any other person, he was responsible for what we all now take for granted – the use of scuba as an integral tool for coral-reef fish research. To say that Jack was passionate about his work would be a huge understatement. He lived and breathed fishes for his entire adult lifetime. His publishing output over the years was absolutely phenomenal and begs the question among us mere mortals of how did he find the time and energy for the amazing number of new taxa he described. In a career spanning more than 65 years Jack was the sole author or coauthor of 942 publications, a staggering figure to anyone who realizes the amount of work and detail these days that routinely goes into a single published article.
Jack was born on 22 May 1924 in Los Angeles, California. His father John was a building contractor and mother Mildred (McKibben) was a dedicated housewife. He grew up in the Los Angeles area, eventually attending college at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). University studies were interrupted by WW II, when Jack served as an officer in the US Army. He later resumed studies at UCLA, receiving a Bachelor’s Degree in Zoology in 1950. He developed a passion for sailboats during his college days and after graduation sailed to Hawaii in his small sailing craft, Nani, with three friends, arriving in time to enroll in graduate school at the University of Hawaii for the Fall Semester in 1950. In a stroke of good luck he met his future bride, Helen Au, at a student orientation gathering and they married in 1951. Helen has been a wonderful lifetime partner, contributing in so many ways that includes raising their two children and being actively involved in research projects, not to mention keeping the Randall household running smoothly during Jack’s frequent forays into the field.
Jack studied under Professor William Gosline and received his PhD from UH in 1955. The subject of his thesis was the life history of the Convict Surgeonfish (Acanthurus triostegus) and taxonomic review of the surgeonfish family Acanthuridae. He began his publishing career in 1952 when he co-authored his first paper dealing with a marine biological study of Onotoa Atoll, Gilbert Islands that appeared in the Atoll Research Bulletin. His first new species descriptions appeared soon after, involving five species of the surgeonfish genus Ctenochaetus. During the course of his long career, Jack Randall described the unthinkable total of 834 new fish species. Dr. William Eschmeyer and co-workers summarized the history of ichthyology in 2010, acknowledging Jack Randall as the eighth most productive author of all time. Over the span of his career Jack was universally acknowledged for his many contribution.
After receiving his PhD, Jack, Helen, and their two-year old daughter Lori cruised to Tahiti aboard Nani, collecting a wealth of specimens and data during a lengthy sojourn, returning to Honolulu in 1957. Most of the following decade was spent in the Caribbean Sea, where he initially worked at the University of Miami Marine Laboratory and later conducted marine biological surveys in the U.S. Virgin Islands. In 1961the Randalls moved to the University of Puerto Rico where Jack was the Director of the Institute of Marine, a position he held until returning to Hawaii in the mid-1960s.
Jack Randall was a massive influence on my own career. I am incredibly fortunate that are paths crossed in September 1966 when I was a young student at the University of Hawaii. I still vividly recall our first meeting. I was only a few weeks into a graduate program, working as a research assistant to shark specialist Dr. Albert Tester when I learned that Dr. Jack Randall was back in Honolulu. At this stage Jack was in his early 40s and already had a reputation as the foremost expert on the classification of both Atlantic and Indo-Pacific coral reef fishes. I had read all his publications and knew this was a man I had to meet. He was employed as the Curator of Fishes at the Bishop Museum and as a part-time biologist at the University of Hawaii’s marine lab at Coconut Island. I did some detective work and discovered which days Dr. Randall worked at Coconut Island and his usual arrival time for the early-morning shuttle boat. Armed with this knowledge, I waited patiently on the dock one morning. When he finally arrived I introduced myself and quickly explained that I was a frustrated shark student, who had heard about all of his wonderful coral-reef exploits, and that I would love to work for him if it were possible. I gave Jack my phone number, but was not overly optimistic. He was very polite, but did not seem overly enthused with the rapid-paced sales pitch. But miracles do happen and a few days later he telephoned and offered a job as his assistant at the Bishop Museum. This was the beginning of a wonderful 4-year long apprenticeship. He also became my PhD supervisor at the university and thanks to his meticulous guidance I quickly learned the nuances of taking care of a world-class fish collection, as well as the gradual realization I might be able to follow his footsteps with a career path in ichthyology. I was certainly envious of Jack’s frequent field trips and longed to join him, but at first this was impossible due to classroom studies and the demands of the museum job.
Eventually Jack invited me to join several excursions to Johnson Island and Enewetak Atoll in the Marshall Islands, where UH maintained a small field laboratory. The first dive at Enewetak was unforgettable. I watched in disbelief as Jack was attacked by a grey reef shark. We were collecting fish with rotenone (a commonly used ichthyocide) and the shark was aroused, eventually making a wide sweep on the edge of visibility and then a rapid beeline for Jack. Fortunately he shot the shark with a small spear in the gill-slit region, deflecting the attack at the very last moment. This was a grand introduction to diving with Jack and many more adventures were to follow. One of our most epic trips was to remote Easter Island, where only a few fish species had previously been collected and for good reason. Up until shortly before our visit in 1969 there were no commercial flights to the island. So the only alternative was to arrive via ship, which visited once annually, remaining for one week. Therefore, the choice was either one week on the island or one year, neither which was very appealing. But in 1968 monthly LAN Chili flights began, consisting of a 9-hour journey from Tahiti aboard a DC-6. We spent one month on the island and every dive was filled with excitement. The sea was always rough, turbid, and a cool 72° F. In those days our equipment was crude, double hose regulators no BCs, and flimsy (or none in my case) wetsuits. Nevertheless, we collected numerous new fishes and nearly tripled the number of species that were known from the island. We enjoyed more trips together after graduating from UH in 1971 and migrating to Australia with my wife Connie and son Tony. This included field work at Lord Howe Island (New South Wales), Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Thailand, Maldives, Seychelles, Mauritius, Kenya, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Oman, UAE, and Qatar.
Jack never let an opportunity to dive go to waste. After a busy two weeks at Enewetak Atoll we were at the airstrip waiting for the departure flight back to Honolulu. An announcement was made that the flight would be delayed for 1-2 hours due to mechanical problems. The reef flat beckoned just across the road, only 100 meters away. So Jack immediately riffled his bags for a swimsuit, mask, snorkel and bag of rotenone. In a matter of minutes we were dispersing the chemical and shortly afterwards began picking up fish. This continued for nearly an hour when I heard the unmistakable roar of jet engines revving, but despite my warnings Jack continued looking for more fish. Finally we ran over to the airstrip, just in time to see the plane slowly moving away from the terminal. I’ll never forget the sight of Jack dashing out in front of this huge jet aircraft, shirtless and still dripping wet in his bathing suit with mask and snorkel pushed back on his forehead, madly gesticulating at the pilot to stop. The flight crew responded in kind with frantic warning waves and minutes later the plane was on its way without us. I’m sure Jack was secretly pleased we were now faced with the prospect of extra days of fish collecting. Finally, five days later we were able to hitch a tedious, all-day ride to Honolulu in a C-124 military aircraft that was transiting from Japan. I am fortunate to have so many memories of those shared travels and experiences. Of course I’m just one of many whose lives were touched directly or indirectly by Jack Randall. His former student, Richard Pyle has established a website (http://marineexploration.org/jack/) for Jack’s acquaintances to share their stories and appreciation of his many accomplishments. I urge everyone to view this wonderful tribute. Jack Randall will be greatly missed, but his countless achievements will continue to inspire future generations of scientists and underwater naturalists. Very best wishes and sincere condolences are extended to Helen, daughter Lori and son Rod, and their wider families including four grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
Gerald R. Allen, Perth, Western Australia