I was saddened to learn this morning that Dr. Richard Hoffman, Curator Emeritus of Recent Invertebrates at VMNH, passed away last night at the age of 84.
Richard was a curator at VMNH for 20 years, and that was after serving as Professor of Biology at Radford University for 29 years. I first met him in 1989, when I was an intern at the museum. He founded and for many years edited all of VMNH’s scientific publications, including Jeffersoniana.
Richard was “officially” an entomologist, but in reality he was more like an old-school naturalist, with an amazing breadth of knowledge about natural history. A regular part of a curator’s job is to try to identify objects that visitors bring to the museum. Occasionally I would be presented with a non-fossil specimen that was a complete mystery to me. When this happened I would take it straight to Richard, who would usually know right away what it was.
Richard had an insatiable thirst for knowledge, and stayed informed about all the research being carried out at the museum. He was with us in 1990 at Carmel Church, the day we discovered the holotype skeleton of Eobalaenoptera. He went with us to Solite on numerous occasions to help collect Triassic fossils. The last time I saw Richard was the day before I left on this trip, when he stopped by the paleo lab just to see if we had found anything new; he did this about once a week for as long as I’ve been at the museum.
Richard’s main research interest was millipedes; in his honor, here’s an example of one of Virginia’s millipedes, Narceus americana, that we photographed on the Virginia Creeper Trail walking across Proterozoic Konnarock Formation:
VMNH’s press release about Richard is here.