[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index][Subject Index][Author Index]

Goodbye Dr. Hotton!

Well, they say better late than never. I could shoot AOL for this latest foul 
up but at least I have a good network of friends from the DMl and a 
fortuitous last email that tipped me off!

Dr. Hotton was the epitome of the gentleman-scholar! I cannot hope to do him 
enough justice with what I am about to say but at least it's from the heart! 
One day in the summer of 1990 I believe, virtually out of the blue I stumbled 
upon the now famous Muirkirk quarry where all these great Arundel fossils you 
hear about come from. I tried to get permission from the quarry personnel to 
"collect" there and was told "only if Nick Hotton at the Smithsonian says you 
can." They gave me his home phone number whereby I proceeded to immediately 
call him. From the instant he picked up the phone Dr. Hotton was genuinely 
interested in furthering my ambitions so long as science and the public 
interest were not compromised and we talked at great length. Mind you, we had 
never met nor was I known to him. I was just another amateur looking for 
fossils at that time. By the end of our conversation, we came to a 
"gentleman's agreement" regarding the disposition of fossils of significance 
going to the Smithsonian (one I have adhered to rigidly over the last 
9+years!) and he promised to call the quarry to OK my entry. Well, by the 
time it took me to walk back to the office from the outside pay phone, Dr. 
Hotton (I never felt deserving enough to call him "Nick," even to this day)  
had already vouched for me, true to his word, and I gained access to the 
site. Similarly, during the aforementioned conversation and without any 
condescension or feeling of coercion, I was impressed by Dr. Hotton's warm 
personality and his message of "doing real science" instead of just 
collecting fossils for my own sake struck home. He helped me to realize that 
a golden opportunity sat before me! I too could make a contribution to 
science here! This was a most fortuitous happenstance in that the person who 
previously had been working there had a falling-out with the landowners and 
was subsequently "un"-permitted to collect there.  Thus a void was created 
which I now slipped into.

Moreover, Dr. Hotton encouraged me to both keep in touch with him and make 
contact with the Smithsonian which I also did.

Over the first couple of year with modest success, I called his office or 
even at home to "check in" as agreed to, and was warmly received on every 
occasion. Subsequent to this and with better finds coming my way, he even 
arranged to visit with me at the site on two occasions (by this time his 
health was already beginning to give). On both visits he shocked me by 
walking in the long way into the site on a hot summer day (which is nearly a 
mile!) rather than letting me meet him at the gate and driving up or by 
meeting me at the back gate.

During these visits and phone calls "Nick" continually showed genuine 
interest in my progress both in the field and academically (the latter of 
which I had only then begun) and gave me valuable insight and advice in 
pursuing a professional career in paleontology which was once my life's dream 
and one that I had virtually given up on. He was never in a rush to be 
somewhere else either. After discussing the finds and what they might 
represent and identifying some of the then more curious (to me!) ones he also 
put me in touch with many researchers near and far that I should contact thus 
helping to get me "networked" within the VP community. It's amazing the 
results you get when you can legitimately say "Nick Hotton suggested that I 
contact you"!
In the last few years however I consciously decided not to call Dr. Hotton, 
especially at his home. This was due to his failing health and to preserve 
his privacy and also due to the fact that he was by now "semi-retired." Even 
during this period however, when we did meet either during a conference in DC 
or at the Smithsonian, he was still the same gentleman that I had first met a 
few years before. 
The icing on the cake for me at least was the discovery of the first known 
Arundel triconodont mammal during 1998 just after Dinofest. In the process of 
working with my coauthors in describing this new specimen we were afforded 
the opportunity to further honor Dr. Hotton by naming the specific name after 
him and thus Arundelconodon hottoni (n.gen. et sp) was agreed upon and made 
publication last summer. I am truly grateful that he was able to see this, my 
ultimate encomium to him before his passing. 
Had it not been for Nick Hotton, a true gentleman and scholar in every sense 
of the phrase, I would not be here today (metaphorically speaking of course) 
and many of the Arundel's secrets would likely have passed on into bricks!
I shall forever be indebted to him for the opportunities afforded me and the 
doors which are now open to me as a result.
He will be missed!

Goodbye Dr. Hotton!

Thomas R. Lipka
Paleontological/Geological Studies