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Volume 54


Jørgen Knudsen: 6 March 1918 - 7 October 2009

Jørgen Knudsen was born on the 6 March 1918 in the village of Børkop in Vejle County, Denmark. His father was a physician and his mother a nurse. Jørgen joined the University of Copenhagen in 1937 and in 1941 obtained a student assistantship in the University’s Zoological Museum to sort out the molluscs collected from all over the world by Th. Mortensen (1868-1952). From this material, Jørgen published his first paper on a new species of galeommatoidean, Jousseaumiella concharum, living commensally with a gephyrean and a polychaete in empty mitrid shells (Knudsen, 1944). Thus began a scientific career that would span many decades.

Jørgen graduated in January 1945 with a M.A. and, in that summer, with the Second World War over, a wealthy businessman, Viggo Jarl, wanted his yacht – the Atlantide - to be used for a scientific expedition. Jørgen was invited to participate. The expedition departed Copenhagen for ten months at sea in October 1945 and sailed first to Plymouth in England and then to West Africa, as far south as Angola and, on the return, as far west as the Açores. Upon his return in June 1946, Jørgen took up a position in the Royal Veterinary and Agricultural College in Copenhagen and then, in 1947, obtained a position at the laboratories of the then named Danish Biological Station at Charlottenlund.

While working at the station, Jørgen learnt that there was to be another Danish expedition departing in 1950. This was to be the second round-the-world Galathea Deep Sea Expedition, following in the path of the first in 1845. Jørgen was, however, ultimately denied the opportunity to participate in this expedition. Between 1950-1952, the expedition amassed a huge collection of deep-sea material, but it was not for a number of years that Jørgen could work on it. In 1957, Jørgen left the station, which had now become the Danish Institute of Fisheries Research, and rejoined the University Museum as a teacher and curator to replace Gunnar Thorson (1906-1971) who was building the University’s marine biological laboratory at Helsingør (Elsinore).

Between 1959-1960, Jørgen spent six months, sponsored by UNESCO, teaching at the marine laboratory in Nha Trang in Vietnam. There, he had the opportunity to join one of the cruises of the NAGA Expedition to research the Gulf of Thailand. In 1964, also sponsored by UNESCO, Jørgen began to teach marine biology to students from developing Asian countries at the University of Copenhagen. And, although he had been unable to join the Galathea, he set to work on the molluscan material the expedition had collected, producing three classic papers on the wood-boring species of Xylophaga, the deep-sea Scaphopoda and Gastropoda, and the Bivalvia. He also published further on the prosobranchs collected by Mortensen and wrote up the bivalves collected during the John Murray Expedition to the Indian Ocean (1933-1934). It was this detailed series of studies, really the first comprehensive examination of the deep-sea Mollusca, that made Jørgen’s reputation and he became the authority on them. This pioneering research earned him his doctorate (D.Sc.) in 1970.

It is less well known that Jørgen became an authority on cephalopods, writing up the eastern Mediterranean species, describing three new species of Sepiola and cataloging the type specimens in the collections of the Zoological Museum of the University of Copenhagen. In the 1980’s and early 1990’s, Jørgen’s research interests further diversified and he developed an interest in introduced species describing the immigration of marine invertebrates into the Danish Limfjord and the North Sea-Baltic Transition Area, and recording the arrival (in ~1984) of the American jack-knife clam, Ensis americanus, into Danish coastal waters.

Between 1988 and 1998, and typically funded by the Carlsberg Foundation, Jørgen participated in various Hong Kong and Australian marine and malacological workshops, always publishing his results of these field-based ventures. To complete the workshop circle, Jørgen also attended the Hong Kong workshops reunion conference (1977-1998) convened in 2001 and presented a poster upon his latest research on egg capsules, protoconchs and prosobranch reproduction. He was then 83 years old!

In addition to Danish, Jørgen spoke and wrote French, German and English virtually fluently and, over the course of his long career, translated and published some important biological texts first from German into Danish and latterly from Danish into English. From 1999 onwards, Jørgen, in collaboration with Jørgen Hylleberg and K.R. Jensen, translated many of Lorentz Spengler’s important taxonomic works into English. In the 21st century, and now into his 80’s, Jørgen continued his research and writing on invasive species, also in co-operation with Kathe Jensen.

To celebrate Jørgen’s 90th birthday, a meeting was held in Copenhagen from 6-7 March 2008. This was attended by family, friends and colleagues, many of whom gave talks in his honour (Jensen, 2009). For the proceedings of that meeting, Jørgen co-authored two papers on (i), fossil panopeans and (ii), on Johan Christian Fabricius. With these publications, he thus completed 65 years of scientific contributions to marine biology and malacology. Morton (2009) provides a list of Jørgen’s main publications, although he also wrote other, more popular, articles.

Jørgen was a quiet, modest, self-effacing gentleman. He was also a dedicated scholar and teacher, a helpful and co-operative colleague, a loyal and trustworthy friend and a warm human being. Over his long, fruitful and distinguished career, he obtained the respect of both the marine and malacological scientific communities virtually worldwide, and my personal admiration.

Jensen, K. R. (Guest Editor). 2009. Steenstrupia 30(2): 81-176. Special Issue dedicated to Jørgen Knudsen on the occasion of his 90th birthday, 6 March 2008.
Knudsen, J. 1944. A gephyrean, a polychaete and a bivalve (Jousseaumiella concharum, nov. sp.) living together (commensalistically) in the Indo-Malayan Seas. Videnskabelige Meddelelser fra Dansk naturhistorik Forening i Kjobenhavn 108: 15-24.
Morton B. 2009. Jørgen Knudsen: an appreciation. Steenstrupia 30(2): 83-92.

Brian Morton