Richard A. Brain, Syngenta Crop Protection; John P. Giesy, University of Saskatchewan; and Keith R. Solomon, University of Guelph

Alan J. Hosmer was born in Westerville, Ohio, in 1953 and passed away in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee near the town of Unicoi in September 2019. Alan was a lifelong environmentalist and advocate for nature as appropriately captured in a post provided by his son: “If you feel the need to do something for me or him, then just take some time to go plant a tree or clean a local stream in your area to help make the environment that he loved so much a bit cleaner.” At the memorial service, bags containing tree seeds were provided to plant in Alan’s memory. The thoughts and perspectives of a few of his friends and colleagues are provided below.

Alan once told a story about being lost at sea for several days on a catamaran sailboat, during which time he seriously thought he might not survive. However, he ultimately did make it back to land, and although he said his mustache and hair turned “white” instantly following the experience, he felt resolute, determined and motivated. Alan was a good scientist, conscientious, always advocating for the pursuit of truth in the face of mendacity, integrity in the face of provocation, and science in the face of sensationalism. Alan had integrity, dedication and grit, always displaying poise and composure.

After receiving a bachelor’s degree in biology and master’s degree in aquatic ecology from Bowling Green State University in the early 1980s, he worked as a fisheries biologist on the remote island of Guam (location of the sailboat calamity). Alan then worked as an applied experimental researcher at Wildlife International (now part of Eurofins), focusing particularly on micro- and mesocosm studies. In 1989, he joined Ciba-Geigy (later Novartis and ultimately Syngenta). Ever the ecologist, Alan developed a keen interest in fish and amphibians, contributed to the blueprint for the amphibian metamorphosis assay, now utilized as part of the endocrine disruptor screening program (EDSP) by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA).

Alan was a good scientist, and I am a better one for having known him. If there was something that he’d have resonate among the next generation of scientists, it would be to evaluate the evidence for yourself, to not be swayed by charisma and charm, rather rely on the data, experimental rigor and the weight of the evidence. These are the things I have learned, and I lament the passing of the scientist who helped teach me as much.

Richard A. Brain

Alan was greatly respected as a scientist and an honest man, who valued above all else, truth. He always treated everyone with the greatest respect. Alan had a quiet demeanor and went about his duties with dignity. Even in challenging and tense situations, he never once lost his cool and that quiet demeanor always kept circling back to, let’s look at the evidence, what does the data say. Alan worked for a company involved in crop protection, using technologies that have potential hazards, but he always approached each problem in a balanced way. I never considered Alan a “company man” but rather an advocate for the environment. He saw a need to protect the environment while producing the food and fiber for a hungry world.  Alan was an “environmentalist” but also a “humanist.” I learned a lot from Alan Hosmer.

John P. Giesy

Alan was a friend and colleague from the days of ECOFRAM (1998) until now. From that time, we worked on several projects related to agrochemicals produced by Syngenta and its predecessor companies. During these activities, I got to know Alan very well and respected him for his critical thinking and love of science. In a way, he was very like the great Scottish physicist Lord Kelvin, one of the founding fathers of modern science. Like Kelvin, he firmly held that if you could not measure something, it was not science. He was respected in the scientific community for his rigor, search for truth and support for meticulous scientific enquiry.

I recall him describing a “trip” in South Africa with great hilarity. The holiday with his children turned into a hallucinatory “trip” induced by the antimalarial mefloquine, and he greatly regretted not knowing if his memories of the big five were real or not.  It was during these times that he showed his love of a good story and his sense of humor, even when he was the butt of the joke.

Keith R. Solomon

Authors’ contract information: richard.brain@syngenta.com, jgiesy@aol.com and ksolomon@uoguelph.ca

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