HARTFORD -- Charles Lee Remington, a leading biologist in the study of butterflies and moths, died May 31 in Hamden. He was 85.
Dr. Remington taught at Yale University for more than four decades, serving most recently as professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology.
In his research on evolution, he suggested that there were regions where species tended to hybridize. He said species of all different types of plants, insects, and mammals might hybridize with close relatives.
The idea was soon considered discredited but has been recently revived.
"His flair was a willingness and ability to use his encyclopedic knowledge of the natural world to counsel students with interests as disparate as butterfly genetics, goat behavior, cave ecology, legal solutions to environmental issues, plant pollination, insect vision, and the locomotor physiology of monkeys," Lawrence F. Gall of Yale's Peabody Museum of Natural History said in a statement posted on the university's website.
As curator at the Peabody museum, Dr. Remington is credited with establishing a significant insect collection. It is known for its large numbers of specimens and rare holdings such as the world's largest collection of insects that are part male and part female, known as gynandromorphs.
"When you wanted to know anything about butterflies, you went to him," said Naomi Pierce, Hessel professor of biology at Harvard University and former student of Dr. Remington's. "It's just incredible if you think about the list of people who were his students or worked with him."
Dr. Remington was born in Reedville, Va. He spent his boyhood chasing butterflies alongside his father, P. Sheldon Remington, a school headmaster who was also a collector.
Dr. Remington studied biology at Principia College. During his military service in World War II, Dr. Remington served as a medical entomologist in the Pacific, researching afflictions such as insect-borne epidemics and centipede bites on servicemen in the Philippines.
He attended Harvard University for graduate studies and founded the Lepidopterists' Society with an equally butterfly-smitten undergraduate, Harry Clench. Today, the organization has about 1,500 members from 50 countries. The folksy newsletter the young men wrote is now the historic first issue of the international scientific publication known as the Journal of the Lepidopterists' Society.
At Harvard, Dr. Remington also began his friendship with writer Vladimir Nabokov, a serious amateur lepidopterist. Dr. Remington was a kindred spirit who understood the joy of a particular catch, what Nabokov once referred to as a "fellow sufferer."
In 1948, Dr. Remington began teaching at Yale, where with his bolo ties he cut a colorful figure among more buttoned-down colleagues.
Dr. Remington also established the first cicada preserve in the United States, near Sleeping Giant State Park in Hamden.
When the cicadas last emerged in Connecticut in 1996, Dr. Remington took advantage of the windfall on the 90-acre preserve to carry out experiments both scientific and culinary. "You know the slight sweetness that's in good, young venison?" said Dr. Remington, who arranged a taste-testing of the cicadas both boiled and fried. "Well, that's what the 17-year cicada tastes like."
Dr. Remington's marriage to Jeanne Remington of Boulder, Colo., ended in divorce. He leaves his wife, Ellen Mahoney of North Haven; his three children from his first marriage, Eric of Saratoga, Calif., Sheldon of Hilo, Hawaii, and Janna of Boulder; and three grandchildren.
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