In 1971, John Corliss was Chair of the Department of Zoology at the University of Maryland and had just hired Gene Small as an Associate Professor. I was a nascent graduate student with Gene, Portia Holt (Lynn) was working on ciliate ultrastructure as a postdoctoral student in Corliss’s lab and Denis Lynn was studying sea-urchin ciliates as a doctoral student with Jacques Berger at the University of Toronto. In the summer of that year, Denis and Jacques traveled to Maryland to meet Gene Small. That trip laid the groundwork for what would be a long and productive collaboration between Denis and Gene, introduced Denis to the romance of his life and gave me the opportunity to acquire a scientific older brother and wonderful friend. One evening after good food, bad beer, and cigarettes of questionable composition, Gene and Jacques began a lively discussion about ciliate symbionts of cockroaches. During that discussion, Gene told us that giant cockroaches lived on the steps of the US Capitol and argued that they must have endosymbionts. While Gene’s suggestion that the US Capitol was filled with giant cockroaches might simply have been a political statement, we nonetheless piled into his car and were soon off to Washington D.C. to collect specimens. The trip into the city was somewhat harrowing, with a few illegal U-turns and at least one ignored red light, but we eventually landed safely in front of the Capitol. As we searched the darkest shadows of the Capitol steps, two policemen approached and asked what we were doing. Gene bluntly replied that we were trying to find a roach. At that moment I was absolutely certain we were all going to be arrested. Luckily, Denis recognized that the officers might have misunderstood what Gene meant by “roach “and quickly added that we were collecting cockroaches for scientific purposes. The officers seemed skeptical, but let us continue with our mission. While I am unsure if the roaches we collected actually had ciliate symbionts, I am certain that Denis saved me from a night in jail!
Just over a year later, Denis took a leave of absence from the University of Toronto and moved to Maryland to work with Gene. The two soon became the best of friends as they compiled data from the literature for what would eventually become the ciliate chapter for the first edition of the Illustrated Guide to the Protozoa. Denis’s organizational skills, his analytical approach to morphology and his ease of writing nicely, complemented Gene’s artistic, free-spirited, naturalist’s approach to the study of ciliates, along with his interest in the metaphysical. I recall Denis and Gene having many long discussions about ciliate ultrastructure, as well as the meaning of life. I also have vivid memories of them in a smoke-filled office scrawling across a blackboard sentences like, “The peritrich infundibulum is underlaid by a somewhat anarchically nodal, subtending, microfilamentous reticulum.” I was always amazed, and sometimes mystified, by the content and flow of those passages. The early days at Maryland had a major impact on Denis, helping to shape his doctoral research, his evolving perspectives on ciliate phylogeny, and his future life.
In subsequent years, Denis visited Maryland on many occasions, sometimes to continue his collaboration with Gene, sometimes just to visit old friends. Whenever we met, Denis greeted me with an enormous hug and treated me as a part of his family. He always remained my scientific older brother.