David B. Wake

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David B. Wake
Born(1936-06-08)June 8, 1936
DiedApril 29, 2021(2021-04-29) (aged 84)
Alma mater
SpouseMarvalee Wake
Scientific career
Doctoral advisorJay M. Savage

David Burton Wake (June 8, 1936 – April 29, 2021) was an American herpetologist. He was professor of integrative biology and Director and curator of herpetology of the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at the University of California, Berkeley. Wake is known for his work on the biology and evolution of salamanders as well as general issues of vertebrate evolutionary biology.[1][2] He has served as president of the Society for the Study of Evolution, the American Society of Naturalists, and American Society of Zoologists. He was a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Linnean Society of London, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society,[3] and in 1998 was elected into the National Academy of Sciences. He was awarded the 2006 Leidy Award from the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia.[4]

Wake was born in Webster, South Dakota, and grew up in nearby Pierpont.[5][6] His mother was a high school biology teacher. He cited as a strong influence his maternal grandfather, a Lutheran pastor and amateur naturalist who took David on botanical walks and introduced him to Latin terminology and evolutionary principles. When Wake was in high school his family moved to Washington state where he completed high school and enrolled in Pacific Lutheran College, declaring a history major and considering a career in law. He soon decided to become a biologist instead, graduating in 1958, and chose to pursue graduate school at the University of Southern California under Jay M. Savage. He chose salamanders as a model of how species diversify, earning an M.S. in 1960 and PhD in 1964: writing his doctoral dissertation on the biology of lungless salamanders (family Plethodontidae).[7]

Wake was hired by the University of Chicago in 1964, where he worked until 1969, when he was hired as faculty member of UC Berkeley and curator of the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology. He served as director of the MVZ from 1971 to 1998.[7] During his time as a graduate student, Wake met his future wife, Marvalee Hendricks, who was a student in a course he taught. She also became a graduate student in the Savage lab, and they married in 1962.[7] Their son, Thomas, is a zooarchaeologist.[5][8] Along with Elizabeth Jockusch, he identified several new species of Batrachoseps salamanders in 2001.[9]

Wake died on April 29, 2021, at his home in Oakland, California.[8]

Honors and awards[edit]

Wake is commemorated in the names of the salamander Cryptotriton wakei (Wake's moss salamander), the skink genus Davewakeum, the frog genus Wakea, and the lizard Cyrtodactylus wakeorum (Wakes' gecko)—the latter two named jointly after him and his wife.[10][11][12]

The specific epithet of the extinct Qikiqtania wakei was also given in his memory.[13]

David Wake was elected to the American Philosophical Society (1996), the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1997), and the National Academy of Sciences of the United States (1998). He was a Guggenheim Fellow (1981 – 82) and was recipient of the Distinguished Herpetologist Award from the Herpetologists’ League (1984), the Grinnell Medal from the MVZ (1998), the Henry S. Fitch Award from the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists (1999), the Joseph Leidy Medal of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia (2006) and the Fellows Medal of the California Academy of Sciences (2012).[14]

Book publications[edit]

  • Jensen, William A.; Heinrich, Bernd; Wake, David B.; Wake, Marvalee H., eds. (1979). Biology. Belmont, California: Wadsworth Publishing Company. ISBN 9780879011000.
  • Wake DB; Roth G, eds. (1989). Complex Organismal Functions: Integration and Evolution in Vertebrates. Chicester: John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-0471923756.


  1. ^ Griesemer, James (2013). "Integration of approaches in David Wake's model-taxon research platform for evolutionary morphology". Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences. 44 (4): 525–536. doi:10.1016/j.shpsc.2013.03.021. PMID 23588059.
  2. ^ Griesemer, James R. (2015). "What Salamander Biologists Have Taught Us About Evo-devo". In Love, Alan C. (ed.). Conceptual Change in Biology. Boston Studies in the Philosophy and History of Science. Vol. 307. Springer Netherlands. pp. 271–300. doi:10.1007/978-94-017-9412-1_13. ISBN 978-94-017-9411-4.
  3. ^ "APS Member History". search.amphilsoc.org. Retrieved 2021-12-10.
  4. ^ "The Four Awards Bestowed by The Academy of Natural Sciences and Their Recipients". Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia. The Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia. 156 (1): 403–404. June 2007. doi:10.1635/0097-3157(2007)156[403:TFABBT]2.0.CO;2. S2CID 198160356.
  5. ^ a b Staub, Nancy L.; Mueller, Rachel Lockridge (2017). "David Burton Wake" (PDF). Copeia. 105 (2): 415–426. doi:10.1643/ot-17-636. S2CID 90792676.
  6. ^ Henderson, Andrea Kovacs, ed. (2009). American Men & Women of Science: A Biographical Directory of Today's Leaders in Physical, Biological, and Related Sciences (26th ed.). Detroit, Michigan: Gale. p. 445. ISBN 978-1414457260.
  7. ^ a b c Wake, David B. (2010). "BIO". Evolution & Development. 12 (3): 244–245. doi:10.1111/j.1525-142X.2010.00409.x. PMID 20565534. S2CID 221679002.
  8. ^ a b Sanders, Robert (4 May 2021). "David Wake, a prominent herpetologist who warned of amphibian declines, is dead at 84". Berkeley News.
  9. ^ Jockusch, Elizabeth L.; Wake, David B. (2002). "Falling apart and merging: diversification of slender salamanders (Plethodontidae: Batrachoseps) in the American West". Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. 76 (3): 361–391. doi:10.1046/j.1095-8312.2002.00071.x. ISSN 1095-8312.
  10. ^ Beolens, Bo; Watkins, Michael; Grayson, Michael (2013). The Eponym Dictionary of Amphibians. Exeter, England: Pelagic Publishing. p. 355. ISBN 978-1-907807-42-8.
  11. ^ Beolens, Bo; Watkins, Michael; Grayson, Michael (2011). The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 66, 278–279. ISBN 978-1-4214-0135-5.
  12. ^ Bauer, Aaron M. [in French] (2003). "Descriptions of seven new Cyrtodactylus (Squamata: Gekkonidae) with a key to the species of Myanmar (Burma)" (PDF). Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences. 54 (25): 463–498. for their contributions to herpetology, vertebrate morphology, and evolutionary biology and for their valuable mentoring of many graduate students
  13. ^ Stewart, Thomas A.; Lemberg, Justin B.; Daly, Ailis; Daeschler, Edward B.; Shubin, Neil H. (August 2022). "A new elpistostegalian from the Late Devonian of the Canadian Arctic". Nature. 608 (7923): 563–568. doi:10.1038/s41586-022-04990-w. ISSN 1476-4687. PMC 9385497.
  14. ^ Bauer, Aaron M. (2021-12-27). "David B. Wake (1936 – 2021), Salamander Specialist and Evolutionary Biologist". Russian Journal of Herpetology. 28 (6): 380–382. doi:10.30906/1026-2296-2021-28-6-380-382. ISSN 1026-2296. S2CID 245527059.

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