Special Campus Memo: In remembrance of Kenneth A. Christiansen

November 28, 2017

Kenneth A. Christiansen, professor emeritus of biology, died Sunday, Nov. 26, at the age of 93.

Ken's storied career at Grinnell began in 1955. His courses included general biology, zoology, evolution, ecology, sociobiology, invertebrate zoology, insect biology, parasitology, and marine biology. In 1962, Ken was named Henry Waldo Norris Professor of Biology and in 1994 professor emeritus.

His research, beginning with his doctoral dissertation, focused on the evolution and taxonomy of Collembola, an order of arthropods found almost everywhere in the world. He wrote more than 60 papers and two books. For students who worked with him in the lab for more than one summer, he usually named a species after them.

After retiring from active teaching in 1989, Ken discovered that he missed teaching. So in 1990 he taught for a semester at Nanjing University. While he was in China, he enjoyed collecting cave Collembola in various regions of the country.

During World War II, Ken served as forward observer for a 2nd Armored Division mortar platoon. He earned his bachelor's degree from Boston University and his doctorate from Harvard University. Before coming to Grinnell, he taught at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon and at Smith College.

He received many grants and honors for his work and was a member of several professional organizations. He served on the Iowa Governor's Science Advisory Council from 1977-83 and 1989-97.

He is survived by his wife Phyllis Christiansen, his daughters Paula and Diane Christiansen and their spouses, and three grandchildren.

Funeral service arrangements are still being made. Please check back with Smith Funeral Home in Grinnell for details.

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