Nils Olof Pellmyr, 60, of Moscow


Nils Olof Pellmyr, of Moscow, died Dec. 4, 2017, at the age of 60, far too young for his family and for the scientific community.

Known to friends and family as Olle, he was born in Stockholm, Sweden, on June 19, 1957, to Nils and Elsa Pellmyr.

The young Olle quickly engaged himself in the scientific milieu of Sweden, collecting insects, conversing with scientists and making katydid omelettes. At age 14, he created a collage of 1,500 postage stamps in the shape of a butterfly, earning him an article in the local newspaper.

In high school, he became a finalist in the 27th International Science and Engineering Fair and traveled to Denver, Colo., with his project on the largely-unstudied measuring worms of the Nordic countries. This was his first encounter with the United States, where he eventually settled.

After getting his Ph.D. from Uppsala University, Olle traveled back to America to continue his research. During a postdoctoral fellowship with Dr. John Thompson at Washington State University he began studying Greya moths. This research eventually led to his groundbreaking discoveries on the co-evolution between yuccas and yucca moths, which none other than Charles Darwin had characterized as "the most remarkable example of fertilisation ever published."

In 1992 he married his old acquaintance and friend, Elise Augenstein, a marriage that lasted over 25 years, to his death. They moved together to Nashville, Tenn., where he became a full professor at Vanderbilt University and she completed her medical residency. In 2002 they moved to Moscow with their son, Björn, when Olle obtained a faculty position in the biology department at the University of Idaho. As a professor there for nearly 10 years, Olle trained many students to follow in his footsteps as scientists. He is remembered well by colleagues over the world.

In his personal life, Olle was quiet and unassuming, though he possessed a wicked sense of humor and an immense body of knowledge.

Olle is survived by his wife, Elise Augenstein; his son, Björn Pellmyr; and his sisters, Ulla Fredholm and Kirsten Lindgren.

Recommended for you