Richard Cowen

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Richard died suddenly and unexpectedly on January 8th, 2020 just a few weeks before his 80th birthday. The cause was cardiac arrest.
Richard grew up in the northwest of England attending local schools. He won a scholarship to Cambridge University [Christ’s College] and went on to earn his B.Sc. and his Ph.D. in Geology.
In 1967 he was offered a one-year position in the Geology Department at the University of California, Davis, and moved half-way around the globe. In 1968 he was offered a permanent tenure track position which he happily accepted. He reconnected with a college acquaintance, a fellow Brit, Jo, which resulted in their marriage in 1971. Together they raised two daughters.
Richard’s early paleontology research focused on the functional morphology of several extinct and living invertebrate animals. His later research focused on dinosaurs and the origin of flight as they evolved into birds. Family travel, whether overseas, or long car trips in the summer, was of great importance, including sabbaticals in Hawaii, the UK, and Australia while the girls were young. Many special memories stem from these adventures.
Richard was an incredible teacher. He loved to teach and in 1993 was awarded a “Citation for Distinguished Teaching” from UCD. He continued to teach UCD undergraduates even after his retirement in 2003. Later he created and taught classes for OLLI—the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and just loved his senior students, who just loved his classes.
Richard wrote and revised 5 editions of his textbook “History of Life,” which was translated into several languages and offered students around the world his view of the interactions among living organisms, their physical environment, and time. The textbook lives on as “Cowen’s History of Life.”
Always a voracious reader, in retirement Richard enjoyed volunteering for his local library. He embraced his role of “gentleman farmer,” including seasonal selling at the Davis Farmers Market. Always with a twinkle in his blue eyes, his wit, kindness, and curiosity will be greatly missed by family, friends, and colleagues.

Richard is survived by Jo, his wife of 48 years, his daughter Claire [Jacob] and Grandchildren Greta [11] and Teddy[7] of Seattle, WA, his daughter Alexandra [Nathan] of Portland, OR, and his sister Doffi [Tony] of Reading, England. There will be a “Celebration of Life” in the spring.
Please, no flowers. Donations can be made to OLLI, Winters Friends of the Library, The Cordell Durrell Field Geology fund at UC Davis Dept. of Earth and Planetary Sciences, or the Yolo County SPCA.

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