James (Jim) Binfield Pawley

We are heartbroken to announce the sudden loss of James Binfield Pawley, who collapsed playing tennis on Thursday March 7th and died almost immediately.


Jim was born January 15th 1944 in Gerrard’s Cross, England. He immigrated to Canada with his parents in 1946, first to Cloverdale, BC, where they joined his aunt Winifred and cousin Brenda on their chicken farm, and then to Vancouver. He spent summers on Gambier Island with the family of Jack and Joan Warn. In the late 1950s, the family moved to Ben Lomond, California. From 1962-66 he studied electrical engineering at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, and in 1972 he got his Ph.D. in biophysics at the University of California-Berkeley. After a series of postdoctoral positions (including in London, where he met his wife Christine), in 1978 he took a faculty position in the department of Zoology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. One of his main responsibilities was to run the three-story million-volt electron microscope, part of a national microscopy facility.


For sixteen years he also directed the 3D Microscopy of Living Cells Course on the University of British Columbia’s campus. With a faculty of internationally known scientists and cutting edge equipment loaned by manufacturers, the 3D Microscopy of Living Cells (motto, “It’s not just diffraction, it’s not just statistics: It’s biology!”) attracted participants from all over the world.  The course provided the foundation for his best-known publication, the Handbook of Biological Confocal Microscopy, now in its third edition and still an essential resource.


Galvanized by the threat of climate change, Jim spent recent years raising the alarm. He organized a teach-in at UW-Madison, and taught classes on climate change there and at the Elder College in Sechelt. He helped organize a climate march in Vancouver, marched in Washington DC, and gave lectures in many places including the Sunshine Coast, and Harbin, China. He was especially active in the Clean Air Society and the Sunshine Coast Community Solar Association; his letters often appeared in local papers.


Jim loved photography and music (especially Scarlatti); he loved to fix houses, furniture, and boats. In the late 1970s with friends, Jim built a cabin across the water from Egmont (boat access only). The family spent almost every summer there, trekking 2000 miles each way by car. He was a founder of the Doriston Music Festival, which in its first year was his kids on violins and keyboard, and Don and George Gilmour on mandolin and guitar. When Christine retired in 2012, the couple moved to the house they built in Sechelt. Jim loved the coast, and was so happy to be back in Canada after 56 years away. Every day, he looked out the window and said how lucky he felt to be here.


Jim loved his family very much. He is survived by Christine, his wife of 43 years; his three children: Alice (Stephen Hoffmann), Emily (Roger Turner), and John; and his four grandchildren: Sam and Laura Turner, and Simon and Jane Hoffmann. A private funeral was held this week in Sechelt. All will be welcome to share stories about Jim at the celebration of his life on July 31, 2019 at the Sunshine Coast Botanical Gardens (https://coastbotanicalgarden.org). We are hoping to arrange something for May 13 in Madison, time and location to be determined. People are also invited to send stories and photos to alicepawley@gmail.com to be bound into a book for his family. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Sunshine Coast Community Solar Association: https://suncoastcommsolar.weebly.com.  His family will post updates on the memorial celebration and donation fund at https://pawleypudding.ca/.

January 15, 1944 - March 7, 2019

Celebration of Life

May 13, 2019 in Madison, WI 6pm-8pm.  Photos are here.

July 31, 2019, in Sechelt, in the afternoon (3pm start)

Sunshine Coast Botanical Gardens

More information now posted here.

Donations in lieu of flowers

Sunshine Coast Community Solar Association