I did not know Elizabeth Harmon, but the loss of a one hitting her stride mid-career, obviously well-liked by students at Hunter College and pursuing original research under the demanding conditions of her work in Southern Ethiopia, must lace a sense of injustice with the grief felt by those who loved her. This leaves unmentioned the greater loss experienced by a quiet but sizeable community wishing to better understand our past and counting on the steady work of Dr Harmon and others like her, to press on with that task.
05 April 2009
"Rift Valley" : Obit-Symbol of Evolutionary Primatology's Loss
A sponsored obit in the NYT today announced the loss of Dr. Elizabeth Hunt Harmon, a professor at Hunter College in NYC who had co-directed a paleontological project in Southern Ethiopia's Rift Valley. I don't know Dr. Harmon, and don't study in this field. But as I mulled the particular character of this loss, the name "Rift Valley" seemed to take on additional meaning: the rift between the politics of federal R&D spending and attempts to quantify the benefits of fields like paleontology; the rift created by the loss of Harmon's perhaps 30 or more years of her own investigation, or by inspiring the investigations of others; the rift between one's career plans and what fate permits us to achieve.
Following was my hurried post.