Paul Illg's research specialty was parasitic copepods, tiny crustaceans that live symbiotically with other marine life and signal the health of marine environments.
In three decades with the University of Washington zoology department, he published widely and collected landmark grants.
But his curiosity flowed beyond academic boundaries. He loved all nature, maintained a beach home on San Juan Island and collected Asian and Native-American art.
Beauty and the relationships among life forms always captured his attention and prompted him to call them to the attention of others.
"He was basically an intellectual who had many interests, especially art," said his wife of 51 years, Ruth Illg of Seattle. "There's a lot of art in science, especially things viewed through the electron microscope."
Mr. Illg died Sunday (May 10) of kidney disease. He was 83.
His teaching at the UW and its Friday Harbor laboratories attracted leading students and researchers from around the world, said his colleague Trish Morse.
"He had an illustrious career in the life sciences," Morse said. "He was one of a handful of biologists working at UW from the '50s through the '80s who made the university one of the leading institutions in the world for studying marine zoology, especially the invertebrates."
Born in Pinole, Calif., a small town northeast of San Francisco, Mr. Illg grew up fascinated with plants, animals and marine life in the Bay Area. He earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in zoology at the University of California at Berkeley.
While at Berkeley, he was a research assistant to noted marine zoologist F.S. Light, and embarked on the marine-zoology studies that became his professional passion and his life's work - parasitic copepods.
In the mid-1940s he did research on human blood fractions and penicillin at Cutter Pharmaceutical Laboratories in Berkeley. In the late 1940s he served as a curator in the Division of Invertebrate Zoology at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. He earned a Ph.D. at George Washington University in 1952 - the same year he joined the UW's zoology department.
His research earned grants from the National Science and the Guggenheim foundations. His influence was felt from the Coconut Island Marine Laboratory of the University of Hawaii, where he spent a sabbatical year in 1958-59, to the Woods Hole, Mass., Oceanographic Institute, where he taught in 1969.
After retiring from the UW in 1983, he taught marine biology in eastern Micronesia. He considered teaching native people the relationships between reef plants and animals one of his most rewarding experiences.
Other survivors include his son, Joseph Illg of Seattle, and his daughters Elizabeth Illg of Friday Harbor and Maliki Tara of Maui, Hawaii.
A memorial gathering will be held Aug. 8 on Illg Beach at Friday Harbor.
Remembrances may go to The Seattle Foundation, 425 Pike St., Suite 510, Seattle, WA 98101.