The oldest of three boys, Dr. Jenkins was born in New York City and grew up with his grandmother in Colorado while his father served in World War II.
While studying at Princeton University, he met Eleanor Tracy on a blind date, though not with each other. She mentioned that she wasn’t sure how to change train stations in New York to get back to Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, so he drove her to the proper station, more than an hour away.
Before marrying, they dated in college and during his nearly four years in the Marine Corps.
After graduating with a master’s and doctorate from Yale University, he worked at Columbia University before moving to Harvard.
Since the mid-1970s, Dr. Jenkins and his wife shared a 19th-century farmhouse and apple orchard in New Hampshire.
Dr. Jenkins, who in recent years lived in Arlington, once wrote that he traced his interest in live animal research to a serendipitous stop in Nairobi on the way back from a graduate school trip to South Africa.
“At the time, Black rhinos in the bush were as thick as rats in a dump. With my camera set on self-timer, I managed to pose with one—before the beast came on with a charge. I barely made it back to my Morris Minor [rental car] in time, lost a lens cap on the way, but became, as a result of those three weeks, as much intrigued by living vertebrates as by their extinct relatives.”
In addition to his wife, Dr. Jenkins leaves a brother, Henry Edgar II of Sausalito, Calif.; a son, Henry Edgar III of Denver; a daughter, Katherine Temperance Leeds of Watertown; and two grandchildren.
A memorial service in Memorial Church at Harvard will be announced.
Shubin said the field expeditions he shared for 30 years with Dr. Jenkins were “pure Calvinist” for their suffering. They spent four summers digging in the Arctic without finding a thing, but Dr. Jenkins managed to shower every day, despite temperatures that dropped to minus 10, and kept everyone laughing and in good spirits.
“There was a joy to the whole thing,” said Shubin, who had been planning another expedition with Dr. Jenkins next summer. “He loved home, he loved his wife and his family. But for him, fieldwork was where his senses came alive. . . . He would almost tingle with the sense of discovery.”
Karen Weintraub can be reached at Karen@KarenWeintraub.com.