The Malacologist | The Malacological Society of London The Malacological Society of London The Malacologist

Volume 48


Joe ("Joseph") Cecil Britton

(14 October 1942 - 29 November 2006)

Joe Britten in1986; photo by Brian Morton

Joe Britton was born on 14 October 1942 in Fort Worth, Texas, and died peacefully after a long illness and battle with multiple myeloma on 29 November 2006. Joe was educated at Texas Christian University (TCU), Fort Worth, graduating in 1963 with a degree in biology. He also completed a M.Sc. degree at TCU on the marine molluscs of Puerto Rico and then went to George Washington University in Washington to undertake a Ph.D. degree under the supervision of Harald H. Rehder on a revision of the Lucinidae of the Western Atlantic. He worked with the collections at the Smithsonian Institution and obtained the degree in 1970.
Following their graduation, Joe married fellow TCU student Rebecca (Becky) Brooks on 28 December 1963 and, following completion of his Ph.D in Washington, returned to his alma mater in 1971 as an Assistant Professor in Biology. Here he began research on Texas freshwaters and soon discovered the introduced Asian clam, Corbicula fluminea, that was fast becoming a pest throughout the southern states of the U.S.A., specifically with regard to the blockage of power station cooling water systems, including nuclear ones. Increasingly, Joe's research interests began to focus on the marine environment and in 1989 the co-authored text-book Shore Ecology of the Gulf of Mexico was published by the University of Texas Press (reprinted 1994) and became an instant success.

Joe loved to travel - to the Caribbean, Hong Kong, Australia and Europe - and co-authored Coastal Ecology of the Açores that was published in 1998 by Sociedade Afonso Chaves (English and Portuguese editions).

Joe's last overseas research trip was in 2000 to participate in the Eleventh International Marine Biological Workshop on the Dampier Archipelago, Western Australia. His co-authored papers published in the proceedings of that workshop are among his last as his health began to decline and because of his wish to spend more time with his family in Texas. Over a publishing career spanning 32 years, Joe Britton established himself as a freshwater and marine biologist of especial note with an abiding interest in malacology.

More than this, however, Joe was acknowledged by all the many generations of undergraduates he taught to be a superb teacher, his one regret being that his university did not allow his department to supervise higher degree students. Joe was also an amazing organizer. Each year he organized and taught on a field trip from Texas to the west coast of the USA that became known to generations of students as the "Western Trip". On this trip, a convoy of assorted vehicles containing staff and students, co-led by Joe, would head off west on a round trip, camping and exploring the social, archaeological, geological and biological features of the nation's "Great West". On one memorable trip, the convoy, as always loaded to the gunnels with gear to last two weeks of field work and camping, was instructed by Joe to meet him at a general store on the outskirts of Fort Worth. And, importantly, to leave in one vehicle a space of 4' x 2' x 1'!!

This instruction was duly followed and drawing up the vehicles in front of Joe in the car park outside the store, field trip participants were overjoyed to see that he held a parcel of the said dimensions labeled "Portable Kitchen Sink".I first met Joe in 1978 and established with him a friendship and mutually respectful working and publishing partnership that lasted until his death.

He was a wonderfully warm, co-operative, intelligent and generous colleague who was liked by all and who never had an unkind word to say about anyone. Joe was a truly lovely man who will be sorely missed professionally and as a friend by many but, especially, by me.
Joe is survived by Becky, his wife of 42 years, their three children, Mark, David and Janet, and seven grandchildren, all of whom he loved, nurtured and cherished and who returned that love.In terms of a career and a family, blended so worthily, what more could a man ask for?

Brian Morton