Laurence Irving

Laurence Irving dies; was leading biologist
Daily News-Miner, Saturday, Nov. 24, 1979
Portrait of Laurence Irving
Portrait of Laurence Irving

A memorial service for Laurence Irving one of the nation's leading biologists for half a century, will be Monday at 5:15 p.m. in the Lower Commons at the University of Alaska.

Irving, 84, died Tuesday in Fairbanks.

The man for whom the UA's Irving Building is named is survived by his wife, Florence; a daughter, Susan Irving Scholander, of La Jolla, Calif., and two sons, William Irving of Toronto and Laurence Irving of Fairbanks.

A panel of the National Academy of Sciences recommended establishment of the institute in 1962 and Irving headed it until 1966. At that time he stepped down to become advisory scientific director of the institute, a post he held until his death.

He was born in Boston on May 3, 1885, and attended Bowdoin College where he received his B.S. degree in 1916. An athlete and avid outdoorsman, he played hockey and was on the cross-country team there.

In 1917 he received his M.A. degree in physiology from Harvard University. Then he went to France during World War I as a lieutenant with the American Expeditionary Force. Two and a half years later he resumed his education and earned his Ph.D. from Stanford University, where he remained on the faculty for the next three years.

He rapidly began to make himself known in biology, both as an excellent researcher an exciting lecturer. In 1927 he joined the department of physiology at the University of Toronto and expanded his research into such areas as fish physiology, the metabolism of diving mammals and ornithology.

It was in Toronto that he developed an intense interest in professional wrestling. He was found by telling that for a while he feared his distinguished and somewhat stuff colleagues might discover his fascination with the sport. Then one night he was continually annoyed at ringside by a particularly loud and boisterous fan.

Turning around to ask for some quiet, he found the fan was “stuffy” persons in the department.

Irving’s research continued through the years and aside from being awarded several large grants, he produced a number of outstanding students, many of whom became successful scientists.

In 1937 he became chairman of the Zoology Department at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. He continued work on the biology of northern animals and made several expeditions to Alaska and the Canadian North.

During World War II he went back into the service and worked as chief physiologist for the Army Air Corps at the Air Force Proving Ground at Eglin Field, Fla. and the Wright Field Aeromedical Laboratories in Ohio.

He returned to Swarthmore after the war, and in 1947 became scientific director of the new Naval Arctic Research Laboratory in Barrow. In 1949 he became chief of they physiology section of the Arctic Health Research Center in Anchorage.

Scientists say that was the real beginning of research in arctic biology.

He received numerous awards for his scientific writings and remained an avid outdoorsman and gardener.

The Irvings’ gardens in Anchorage and Fairbanks were well-known points of interest.

He continued to regularly attend the seminars of the Institute of Arctic Biology.


UA Site named after Laurence Irving

Irving Building


Laurence Irving: An Appreciation, by William R. Dawson

Laurence Irving 1895-1979, a page on the Institute of Arctic Biology dedicated to him.