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Prof. Dr. Aykut Kence

Aykut Kence was born on 27 August 1946 in Istanbul. He spent his childhood and youth in Istanbul, started his education at Karaahmet Paşa Primary School. He went to Şehremini Secondary School in 1958. In 1961, he went to Pertevniyal High School in Fatih which is Turkey’s one of the oldest schools. He started studying at Science Faculty of Istanbul University in 1964 fall. There, he took zoology and botany classes. The education he took at Istanbul University, based on critical thinking, helped him to become one of the academicians that assign the fundamentals of evolutionary biology in Turkey. In his university years, he was very brash and a successful student. His colleague professor doctor Mehmet Sakınç mentions Kence with the words “I passed all the classes but one person from the group outscored all of us by getting an excellent score.”

Field events that he joined with his college friends were the other topic that affected his life undoubtedly. In the department, at weekends, they had to go on various discovery trips to a-day long fields such as Adalar, Yalova, Çamlıcalar, Yakacık, Sarıyer, Küçükçekmece; other than laboratories. A group that is full of successful students, were developing their observing skills by going on discovery trips(excursions).

Aykut Kence’s first field experience was Antalya and West Taurus mountains’ excursions where he went with his friends Önder, Aydonat, Mehmet, Nermin and Meral. Aykut’s duty was collecting the Drosphila melonagaster (fruit fly) that is very famous in genetic researches. The other duty that is given by the head of the department was collecting the Drosphilas with his friend Mehmet in Lüleburgaz. His interest in these flies (also known as vinegar fly) continued throughout his academic life. He made his genetic researches that are the datas of his eight different papers he published from 1975 to 2004, with fruit flies.

Aykut Kence, who earned a NATO scholarship in 1968 upon graduating from Istanbul University, started his doctorate in counseling of Professor Dr Sokal at State University of New York, Stony Brook. Meanwhile, he married one of his friends with whom he joined research groups together in his doctorate years. He published his doctorate paper “Ethological İsolation and Mating Behavior of  Houseflies (Musca Domestica)” in 1979 while he was in Ankara, METU. 

When he was 29 he decided to go back to Turkey, He studied population genetics by using insect models. He continued to study population genetics and evolutionary biology after he came to the country. He examined genetic variability and evolutionary dynamics on different species such as vinegar fly, housefly, chickpeas, humans, goats. He came to METU as a lecturer. Between 1975 and 1980 he continued his duty here with the title of assistant professor.

 

In these years, with the head of Ministry of Education Vehbi Dinçerler’s attempts, there was an anti evolutionary campaign in the Ministry of Education. During the 1980s and 1990s, biological evolution was removed from the secondary school and high school curriculum or was not told completely true and the informations which are given about this topic were not enough. Aykut Kence used every chance to tell the importance of education of evolution and to prove anti evolutionist groups that they’re wrong. He discussed a lot of people on various platforms, and wrote articles about this topic. With his friends, he published an “Anti evolutionists are raising their profiles in Europe” themed paper in Nature journal, by that move, he presented numerical data for the acceptance of evolution. 

Aykut Kence earned his associate professorship in 1980, and in 1986, he won a TUBITAK scholarship. He worked as the head of the METU Biology Department during his associate professorship until 1988. The year he became a professor, in 1988, he was nominated for Turkish Medical Association Public Health Service Award and III. Science Academy International Insect Physiology and Ecology Center Award. The same year again, he was chosen as the secretary of Fundamental Sciences Research Group Committee and as the head of the Turkey Biologists Association. He worked in Turkey Biologists Associations for six years actively.

After the Chernobyl Disaster in 1986, while the effects of radiation were on the news and spoken about,  Aykut Kence revealed the deficiencies of Turkish Atomic Energy Authority with the scientists from METU Chemistry Department such as Olcay Birgül, İnci and Ali Gökmen; he stated the precautions that can be taken to beware from the radiation.

During the 1990s, Aykut Kence studied mostly about Turkey’s honeybee species’ genetic, morphological and behavioral variety. The studies he was carrying out that time had various contents; from mate selection behavior in flies, to regional and practical issues such as Turkey’s local gene sources or honeybee colony losses. 

 

While carrying out several researches about honeybees, Aykut Kence published more than twenty papers from 1994 to 2007. By saying: “The genetic that will be done in Turkey with honeybees is necessary for the reclamation studies and it should be protected. The implementation of ‘replacement of Turkey’s regional honeybee species with foreign species’ should be prevented.” he defended that the honeybee genetic variation should be protected in order to profit from, today and in the future; in firstly Muğla, then Trakya region and all Anatolia.

Aykut Kence was nominated for five eclat awards between the years 1996 and 2006. He made great events happen in Ankara such as Geometric Morphometrics Workshop, Evolution in Daily Life, Eurbee4. He helped the translations of Genetic Terms Dictionary, Quantum Leaps in the Wrong Direction, Evolution to be done. He was one of the founders of Evolution Committee in 1998. This committee is connected to Turkish Academy of Sciences.

He supported and helped the students in METU to make the minor evolution seminars, which were organized by biology students, bigger and national. “National Evolution Conference” is being organized every year since 2005. In 2014, the conference’s name was changed to “Aykut Kence Evolution Conference” after Kence’s death. 

Organized by METU Biology and Genetics Society, Aykut Kence Evolution Conference defends the uncensored science and tells the facts of evolution to its attendants every year. Aykut Kence Evolution Conference keeps the memory of Aykut Kence alive.

 

References

Tezcan, A significant loss from the world of biology and entomology: Prof. Dr. Aykut KENCE (27 August 1946-1 February 2014). Türkiye Entomoloji Bülteni, 4 (4): 259-268. 

https://bilimvegelecek.com.tr/index.php/2014/03/01/aykut-kenceyle-universite-yillari/ (Prof. Dr. Mehmet Sakınç) (Prof.Dr.Mehmet Sakınç)

http://bilimveaydinlanma.org/content/images/pdf/mdt/mdtc2s2/aykut-kencenin-izinde-bilim-emekcileri-ne-yapmali.pdf

Gökmen, İ.G., Birgül, O., Kence, A., Gökmen, A. (1995). Chernobyl radioacti- vity in Turkish tea and its possible health consequences. Radioanalytical and Nuclear Chemistry, 198, 487-497.
Peker, D., Cömert, G., Kence, A. (2010). Three decades of anti-evolution campaign and its results: Turkish undergraduates’ acceptance and un- derstanding of the biological evolution theory. Science and Education, 19, 739-755.

Somel, M., Somel, R.N.Ö., Kence, A. (2007). Turks fighting back against anti-evolution forces, Nature, 445, 147.

Kence, (2006) Türkiye Balarilarinda Genetik Çeşitlilik Ve Korunmasının Önemi, Uludağ Arıcılık Dergisi

Kandemir, İ., M. Kence, W. S. Sheppard & A. Kence, 1998. “Characterization and conservation of Honeybees (Apis mellifera) in Turkey, 115”. Proceedings of the XVIIIth International Congress of Genetics (10-15 August 1998, Beijing, China).