Robert K. Josephson

The MBL flag will be lowered in memory of Society Emeritus member and former Trustee Dr. Robert K. Josephson who passed away on February 6, 2016.  Dr. Josephson was an Emeritus Professor of the Departments of Neurobiology and Behavior, Cell and Developmental Biology and Ecology and Population Biology at the University of California, Irvine.

The following obituary was provided by his family.


It is with sadness that we report the death of Robert K. Josephson who died at his home in Laguna Beach, California following a three month battle with lymphoma.  Bob was Emeritus Professor of the Departments of Neurobiology and Behavior, Cell and Developmental Biology and Ecology and Population Biology at the University of California, Irvine.

Bob had a long history of continuous involvement with the MBL having first been a student in the Invertebrate Zoology Course as an undergraduate. Subsequently, he became an instructor in this same course, 1965-1969 and then its Director from 1972-1974.  He served as an MBL trustee during the years 1972-1976 and was a member of the editorial board for The Biological Bulletin from 1962-1972.  He conducted summer research at the MBL from 1965 until his retirement in 2005.

Throughout his research career, Bob became a recognized creative mind and leader in two distinct areas of behavioral physiology; 1) the role of nerve nets in the behavior of primitive metazoan animals (coelenterates), and 2) the design constraints and performance of skeletal muscle.  He was a pioneer in utilizing computers to model behavioral responses of animals, and similarly in introducing the ‘work loop’ method for evaluating muscle work and power output under varying conditions of muscle strain and muscle length.  His powers of observation and intuition are legend to those who knew him well, but one example was his observation that katydid singing muscles operated at high frequency by matching their output to the harmonics of a guitar string.  He had a gift of relating complex phenomena in the form of stories and observations even children could understand.

The MBL and the Woods Hole community were a significant part of his life.  He was an enthusiastic boater, biker, fisherman, community supporter, and homeowner.  Bob is survived by his brother Paul, his wife of 12 years Trudy, as well as three children (Beth, Sue and Eric) and seven grandchildren from his first wife Ginnie.