Gary Douglas James

1954–2020

Gary D. James died suddenly at age 65 years of a massive heart attack on October 15, 2020. Then, he was teaching an undergraduate anthropology course on lifestyle and stress and a seminar on chronobiology. He had just published a major article in the American Anthropologist on “Allostasis and Adaptation: Biocultural Processes Integrating Lifestyle, Life History, and Blood Pressure Variation” (2020), and was revising a successful Cambridge University Press book that Gillian Ice and he had edited, Measuring Stress in Human Populations: A Practical Guide to the Field (2007). He was at the peak of his academic and scholarly productivity!

James’s graduate training was at Penn State University under Paul T. Baker, Edward E. Hunt, and other influential biological anthropologists from that period. His interests in physical and emotional stress arose during dissertation work, where he measured urinary catecholamines to test the effects of modernization on Samoan natives. Coursework in anthropology and human biology was augmented by graduate courses in statistics, after which James developed into a first-rate mathematical statistician and an expert in research design. His first professional position was at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, where he conducted research on hypertension and blood pressure variation with a high-powered team of biomedical research scientists. Following 12 years at Weill Cornell, he moved to Binghamton University in 1998, originally to the School of Nursing with a joint position in the Anthropology Department, and ultimately, to a position as professor of anthropology.

During a career of more than 35 years, James authored or coauthored more than 200 scientific papers, book chapters, and reviews in anthropological, hypertension, health, and biomedical journals, and he served as a member of the editorial boards of numerous journals within and outside of anthropology. As an academic, he was truly a “triple threat:” First, he was a popular teacher at the undergraduate and graduate levels and a dedicated mentor of graduate students. He supervised more than two dozen PhD dissertations and theses and served on many more in the Nursing School and in the Anthropology Department. Second, his own research productivity was substantial, with his collegial contributions via statistical and analytical advice, and his collaborations were extensive. Third, his service to the profession of anthropology, to Binghamton University, and to his own departments were quite remarkable. He held a number of offices in the Human Biology Association, including president, he chaired many university committees, and he was director of the biomedical anthropology master’s program at Binghamton University. For these latter contributions, he was elected to the State University of New York Distinguished Academy as Distinguished Service Professor, but he could have been recognized equally for his research or his outstanding teaching and mentoring.

Above all of his professional qualities and accomplishments, James was an incredibly pleasant, cheerful, and lighthearted person. He was a font of knowledge on popular trivia, grade “B” films, 1930s and 1940s music, and he was fun to converse with. He is survived by his wife, Kathleen James, and by a host of saddened colleagues, friends, and students.

(Michael A. Little and Ralph M. Garruto)

Cite as: Little, Michael A. and Ralph M. Garruto. 2020. “Gary Douglas James.” Anthropology News website, December 7, 2020. DOI: 10.14506/AN.1550

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