Jeffrey Cook, a longtime Science copyeditor and composer of the theme music for Science's weekly podcast, died unexpectedly on August 27. He was 65 years old.
Cook, who joined the editorial staff in 1994, was remembered by his colleagues as a perfectionist who cared deeply about matters of style in scientific publishing. His work at Science spanned the critical transition from hard copy magazine to online publications and touched every section of the journal except News.
"He was one of the more thorough people I've ever worked with," said Lauren Kmec, Science's managing editor. "Copyediting is a job of detail-oriented people, but Jeff was at the top of the list of detail-oriented people I've met. No stone left unturned, ever."
When Science's team recently revised its style guide, "he was the resource for just about everybody," said Chris Filiatreau, lead content production editor at the journal.
Cook compiled the acronyms guide and list of organizations and institutions that remain key references for all copyeditors, said Harry Jach, a lead content production editor who worked with Cook throughout his tenure.
A remote worker long before Covid, Cook cared for his colleagues and was usually the first to suggest a lunch to greet new hires, Kmec said.
Cook could sometimes come across as gruff in meetings, and he didn't mince words, his colleagues agreed. "But his mode of delivery was just getting the information across, and he always had the receipts, the references. He knew what he was talking about," Filiatreau said.
And then Cook would let loose with a joke or a one-liner, he added. "He would slip into his secret sense of humor and take everyone by surprise."
Another surprise that Filiatreau learned after Cook's death: Cook had contacted the Heinlein Prize Trust and convinced them to hire him to work on the "Virginia Edition," the complete edition of works by famed science fiction writer Robert Heinlein. Last year, Cook wrote about the meticulous editing experience in The Heinlein Journal.
"I wish I would've known about that, I would have talked his ear off," Filiatreau said.
A lifelong musician and composer, Cook began his editing career while earning a master's degree in harpsichord performance at the University of Minnesota. During that time, he worked at The Minnesota Daily, the weekly City Pages and the journal Applied Psychological Measurement.
Jach said that a high point of Cook's life was a trip to Europe, where he and his wife visited the home of composer Maurice Ravel on the outskirts of Paris. Cook convinced a caretaker there to let him play Ravel's piano.
"He was always mentioning his wife and his two daughters, and he spent a lot of time doing his best for his family and his children," Jach said.
Cook is survived by his wife Arlene Gottschalk, his daughters Eliya G. Cook and Rayna G. Cook, his brother Andrew Cook (Guil Hurst), sister Melissa Cook (Amanda Smith), and sister-in-law Bernice Gottschalk. Members of the Science team have made a donation to the American Civil Liberties Union in Jeff's memory.