Tribute to Bill Riedel from Demetrio Boltovskoy
I have had the privilege of benefiting from Bill’s guidance during my early years of work with radiolarians. Bill hosted me in his lab at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO) in 1976-1977, and then again in 1985-1986. Upon arriving in San Diego in late 1975, Bill and his wife, Elizabeth, offered me to stay in their home until I could find a suitable lodging elsewhere.
Bill was quite a unique person, always kind, generous, good-humored, enthusiastic, and in many ways a visionary. Not only did he “resuscitate” radiolarians as a tool for stratigraphic and evolutionary studies, but he also invested much of his time and efforts into making radiolarian information available to the community at large. Many classical works by Russian experts (M. G. Petrushevskaya, V. V. Reshetjak, and several others), originally published in Russian, became accessible internationally thanks to their translations into English supervised by Bill and funded by his grants. Before digital information appeared, the microfiche collection he assembled with his long-time coworker, Annika Sanfilippo, has for many years been the only readily accessible comprehensive source of most radiolarian literature.
At the dawn of the computer era, with the aid of several members of his research group, Bill undertook the creation of alternative radiolarian classification approaches based on computer-aided “morphologic descriptors”. Unfortunately, this visionary initiative proved too ambitious for its time, when data were still stored in cassettes and 8” floppy discs, but he clearly anticipated that traditional binomial taxonomy alone had (and still has) major shortcomings for the development of the field. He also anticipated the potential of computers and the internet not only for the generation of knowledge, but also for its dissemination, as shown some years later by the creation of Palaeontologia Electronica, with Bill as one of its founding members.
The years spent at Scripps had a major influence on me, both professionally and personally, for which I will be grateful to Bill forever. His open-minded wisdom, hospitality and generosity were a major influence in my life, as I am sure they were for many others he interacted with during his many fruitful years at Scripps.
Thank you, Bill. May you rest in peace in your beloved Australia, but your legacy will be long-lasting worldwide.Demetrio Boltovskoy
University of Buenos Aires-CONICET
Institute of Ecology, Genetics and Evolution of Buenos Aires