I had the pleasure of meeting Jim about 15 years ago, when he was brainstorming the idea of an NIH Program Project grant for a set of cross-species studies of the health-survival paradox. The health-survival paradox refers to the phenomenon in which women tend to have more illnesses across the life course but men tend to die at younger ages. I learned so much and had so much fun with Jim, as he helped initiate me into the literature on the health-survival paradox, taught me about how Program Project grants work, and led the large 7-project effort with gusto and enthusiasm. Although the entire 7-project grant was not funded, a smaller set of three of us was funded, including me here at Duke (studying wild baboons), and Jim and Kaare Christensen at the University of Southern Denmark.
This was the beginning of a 10-year collaboration during which I sat at the feet of the master to learn about human demography and had the distinct pleasure of teaching Jim about wild baboons. In the process I visited Denmark multiple times, was introduced to several people who became key collaborators, and enjoyed Jim’s eruditeness, humor, and generosity. In the aggregate my work with Jim played a unique and formative role in my research on aging, and I will always be grateful for his expertise and his interest in my work. I know I am not alone in reflecting that the world of aging research will feel Jim’s loss for years to come. Jim Vaupel was a phenomenal scientist, a generous and thoughtful teacher and collaborator, and a force of nature from whom the scientific world greatly benefitted.