In addition to his wife, Mr. Jenkins is survived by their children, Jamie, Alec and Page Jenkins; his mother, and a brother, Jeffrey.
“His curiosity and passion for science and the natural world was boundless,” Margaret Raymo, Mr. Jenkins’s longtime editor, told Publishers Weekly. Over the last 25 years she and Mr. Jenkins had worked on more than 50 books together, first at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and then at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, where Ms. Raymo is executive editor, and where Mr. Jenkins and Ms. Page’s next two books will be published.
“He always had new ideas percolating — the hard thing was to decide which one to work on next,” she said. “He wanted to get kids excited about science.”
In a phone interview Ms. Raymo added, “I always learned something when we worked together.”
Over the years, Mr. Jenkins found himself increasingly frustrated by society’s creep toward creationism and other questionable science. The idea that evolution should be considered theory and not scientific fact, or that it shouldn’t be taught at all, particularly roiled him.
A gentle, soft-spoken man whose conversational style often soothed others, he was stunned a decade or so ago when he delivered a speech to a group of educators about the dangers of ignoring scientific data or manipulating facts for political gain or financial profit, and some in the audience walked out.
“Understanding how science works means that we know how to think critically about things,” he said that day, “that we can observe things as they really appear to be, rather than as we are told they are, formulate new ideas about those things, and test them against what we already know.
“This kind of thinking,” he added, “is essential if we want to preserve some sort of control over our lives and our culture.”