John Stanton “Jack” McIntosh (1923–2015)

December 27, 2015
John Stanton “Jack” McIntosh (1923–2015).  

      With the passing of Jack McIntosh, vertebrate paleontology has lost one of its greats and a friend and colleague to many across the globe.  He fell under the spell of sauropods at the age of six after seeing the Diplodocus mount during a visit to the Carnegie Museum.  By the age of 13 he was corresponding with paleontologists such as Richard Lull. On his second day as a Yale freshman Jack was in the Peabody Museum repairing damaged Apatosaurus cervicals collected by Marsh and his crews.  During those days there was not much scientific interest in dinosaurs so he got his degree and went on to a career in theoretical physics.
     Fortunately, Jack never lost his passion for sauropods, continuing to visit collections, study specimens, and publishing papers.   For many decades Jack was the world authority on the group.  He traveled the globe doing collections research, photographing specimens, and studying maps and archives to unravel difficult problems.  He was interested both in alpha level taxonomy and the overall phylogeny of sauropods and published many classic morphological descriptions, as well as annotated catalogues of collections, and historical records such as the field journals of Arthur Lakes.  He is best known for his identification and description of a Diplodocus-like skull in Apatosaurus and “recapitation” the latter, based on specimens as well as historical excavation maps and records.  However, that is only one part of a larger corpus of work.
     Although all this paleontological work was done in his “spare time” and he never held a paleontological position, Jack had numerous unofficial students.  He was extremely helpful with photos, suggestions, information, and other support to many who later became PhD paleontologists at many institutions.  It didn’t matter whether you were a tenured researcher or an undergraduate just starting out, Jack was interesting in helping in any way he could and share his bottomless knowledge about sauropods.  As one of his colleagues so elegantly put it, he was both a gentle man and a gentleman.
     While vertebrate paleontologists are aware of his paleo work, they are less aware of his contributions in physics. Jack received his B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. from Yale University.  He arrived at Wesleyan in 1963 to help build the physics Ph.D. program, and in 1966 became the Foss Professor of Physics, a title he held until his retirement in 1991. During his years at Wesleyan, he served as chair of the physics department several times, served on many university committees, and was known as an energetic and enthusiastic teacher. Jack’s physics research focused on nuclear scattering theory and the four-nucleon problem.  His work resulted in important contributions to the development of nuclear physics theory. Less widely known was that during WWII Jack served as a weather flight officer on dozens of B-29 flights over Japan with many concomitant adventures. 

     The above is just the briefest of summaries of a remarkable, complex, and nurturing scientist, colleague, and friend.  I am working with several other colleagues to write a fuller account of the life and work to be published elsewhere.
Dan Chure (Dinosaur National Monument)