Eric Ottleben Callen (1912–1970)

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Professor of Plant Pathology, McGill University, Montreal and father of coprolite analysis

Early Life and Education

Born Erick Ottleben in Germany in 1912, the son of Otto Ernst Arno Ottleben and Gertrude Callen, Eric moved to Scotland with his Scottish mother and his siblings following his parents' separation/divorce. Educated at Peebles High School and George Heriot's School (where he was a Medallist in German) and went on to study Botany at the University of Edinburgh, first at undergraduate and then at PhD level. He was a member of Edinburgh University Botanical Society and Edinburgh University Ski Club.

Academic Career

After graduating, he moved to Canada and spent most of his career based at McGill University, Montreal, as Professor of Plant Pathology. Despite having no anthropology or archaeology background, he devoted ten years to developing standards for coprolite processing, identification, and analysis. He worked alone in the smallest of workspaces, never taught a course on the subject, received no awards nor praise for his pioneering efforts.

Death and Legacy

At the age of only 58, he suffered a heart attack while on a field trip in Peru in 1970 and was as buried at Ayacucho, Peru. Since his death, coprolite research has been extended well beyond the bounds of his initial research.