Ed Folk, 2005, UI Photo

Ed Folk in Pt. Barrow, Alaska examing the wing of an injured Snowy Owl, cira 1968.

Selected Works

Full of adventure, history and delightful science, written for general audiences as well as scientists.
Nonfiction, Textbook
“Excellent for other classes besides those concerned only with environmental physiology.”

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We are happy to announce publication of "Science on the Far Horizon," Ed Folk's memoir of a life in science inspired by a passion for nature.

The making of a biologist...

One of the reasons for writing this book was to answer a question often asked of those who gravitate to the life-sciences: "How did you get interested in biology?" Using his own life as one example, Ed Folk pushes back the clock to relate some of his earliest experiences in the making of a biologist. He recounts the many hurdles he had to jump in order to continue to pursue his chosen path. The resulting book covers almost a century of history, describes fascinating people and places, and gives rare insight into this scientist as a young lad, student, researcher and scientist, father and teacher.

G. Edgar Folk grew up in the small town of Andover, Massachusetts. He became inspired by the natural world as a child, watching it unfold during long walks in the woods with his parents and outings in the family canoe. His education at Phillips Andover Academy, years of studies at Harvard University, and relationships with stimulating mentors, peers and colleagues all helped him realize his dream of doing research "on the far horizon."

Ed's scientific investigations took him to locations as far flung and diverse as the tropics and polar regions. He climbed mountains and crawled through caves in New England, Cuba and Haiti to band bats and study their reproduction. He encountered the world's most extreme tides in Nova Scotia’s Bay of Fundy as he traveled by boat to the remote island where he managed a small scientific station and studied sea birds. On the shore of the Arctic Ocean he set up a research laboratory where he studied bears, wolves, and other mammals and recorded their physiological and behavioral responses to the extreme environment.

But it was not all exotic locales: the ever-present need to earn money to pay tuition exposed Folk to interesting people and experiences. One of these experiences, winter camping, may have saved his life during WW II when he was asked to join the Harvard Fatigue Laboratory just before he was to board a military transport to cross the Atlantic. At this legendary research laboratory, he contributed to the war effort by working with the military to design, test, and improve cold-weather survival gear for the troops. His co-workers included many notable scientists such as Donald Griffin, Bruce Dill, Larry Irving, Per Scholander and Harwood Belding.

Folk's work in the Arctic resulted in landmark studies of biological clocks and hibernation, and he was the first to use implantable radio-telemetry to study hibernation in three species of bears. In 1966, he defined and advanced the new discipline of Environmental Physiology by publishing the first textbook in the field.

The author of three textbooks and 175 papers, Professor Emeritus Folk has been on the faculty of the Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics at The University of Iowa for 60 of his 98 years. He continues to inspire generations of researchers.

This eagerly awaited book, "Science on the Far Horizon," was completed and written with the assistance of Diana L. Thrift, a writer, editor and research assistant who has worked with Dr. Folk for more than ten years. She is co-author on many of his recent papers as well as his last textbook. A graduate of the University of Iowa's Nonfiction Writing Program, and formerly an adjunct instructor, Diana's own work has appeared nationally in journals, magazines, and anthologies. She is currently at work on another book.