Stanley D. Carlson (1934-2009)


I first met Stan Carlson at the University of Wisconsin – Madison when he was the Ňsubstitute teacherÓ for Insect Physiology and Histology while Stanley D. Beck was away (Fall 1971). Stan taught for about a week on his specialty, insect vision. Since I was a graduate student working on Drosophila vision, I was quite excited, and I got to know him. I found out that he had connections in Sweden where he had done some microspectrophotometry (MSP). When he was planning a trip to Sweden, I prepared some slices of Drosophila eyes so that he could measure the absorbance of eye color pigments, my MA thesis and PhD dissertation topic. His data went into my dissertation and into my second paper.


Stan gave me the perfect opportunity to come back and visit Madison after graduating and starting my first job. He had obtained a hand-me-down universal microspectrophotometer (UMSP1) from Zeiss. I went to work, this time to study visual pigments rather than eye color pigments. I thought that histological slices would work, following the paper by Langer and Thorell, so I struggled with a freezing microtome. I met Reinhard Paulsen from Germany who was working with Deric Bownds. Reinhard thought that thick slices were better. Nothing worked, and it turned out that the UMSP1 was a terrible machine with the comparison slide mounted sideways where the cover slip would slide off. Little did I realize at the time that Doekele Stavenga from the Netherlands had already found that whole heads of living flies was the way to go, and I would eventually figure this out in my own lab and then go to work with him in the Netherlands in 1978.


Stan made difficult techniques look easy, and he took to setting up the electron microscopes in UWŐs Department of Entomology. By the early 1980s, electron microscopy seemed essential for my next studies and grants. I obtained a local grant from the University of Missouri – Columbia (where I had my second job) to spend 4 weeks rejuvenating the meager EM capabilities I had developed in 1971-1973 working with Allen Clark in WisconsinŐs anatomy department. Martin Garment was StanŐs SEM technician and Gary Gaard was his departmentŐs TEM technician. Also there was a well-funded HVEM, founded by Hans Ris, in a nearby building. As the work progressed, it looked like I might get what I wanted, but I was not quite there. StanŐs wife, Che Chi, had obtained her PhD with him. Although no longer in academics, she came in with the critical assistance at the right time. The Starks had only one car, so I flew up and back. Stan picked me up at the airport, took me back, had me to his house for occasional dinners (and also laundry), and was a generous friend.


I concentrated on the early episodes in our collaboration. That first yearŐs trip was followed by shorter annual trips for several decades. As I look back, electron microscopy was my major technique for over a decade. With nurturing, encouragement, mentoring, and friendship at every level, Stan opened the door to this phase in my career. Together, we published 7 papers, 8 research notes and 9 convention presentations from 1982 to 2000. Stan took the ball and ran with it, swiftly first-drafting our first few papers, and Stan, as well as Chi came to the vision meeting ARVO a few times.