Our Boston Mensa Writing Group formed in 2008. Right from the beginning, Michael Coughlin joined us. Michael was well known in Cambridge, Massachusetts from the 1970s, participating in the music scene as a recording engineer. He adored all styles of folk music, especially fiddle music. Michael wanted to write essays about the theory of music and frequencies – how music varied from culture to culture, how it changed over time, and how humans reacted to it.
Michael was active in Boston Mensa beyond our writing group. For example, he was a regular at the New Mensans parties, welcoming new members with a smile.
The more our Boston Mensa writing group met, the more we realized how varied Michael’s interests were. He delighted in explaining to us why our novels about time travel were impossible. He helped us with in-depth research on near-light-speed travel and on telescopes. He showed off his own experiments on TV antennae of various shapes and sizes. He dreamed of creating a YouTube channel where he explained them to the world.
If a writer had a question about how radios might have worked in the 1920s, for a story about historic Alaska, Michael was right there with all the details and intricacies. If an author was writing a science fiction story about aliens, Michael had great insight.
Michael was fascinated with language. He continually honed an essay on how languages could be optimized by creating new letters which represented sounds. He was waiting for it to be just right before publishing it. He could definitely be a perfectionist.
He wrote an essay about what it was like to be part of the big smallpox vaccine push in New York in the 1940s. He was in the final stages of editing that one.
He loved visiting local museums and researching their statues. He wrote an essay about an Egyptian statue pairing at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. He wrote another essay about a bronze Amazon statue at the Harvard Museum.
When the pandemic hit, our interactions grew. We set up weekly 2-hour Zoom meetings so everyone in the group could remain motivated and creative. Michael was there every single week. He would offer ideas, suggest constructive feedback, and was a wonderful part of the conversation.
Michael was always supportive, happy to listen, and had a great easy-going nature. We could tease him incessantly about time travel and he happily let us give our point of view, before calmly letting us know it simply was impossible.
Michael loved taking photos of cats and always carried a pocket camera to capture stray cat images. In fact, it was a camera I gave to him that had a shutter issue. Michael figured out how to fix it. He could fix pretty much anything. We’ve given him countless iPhones, laptops, and other devices over the years, and he always enjoyed fixing them up. He especially loved taking a Windows computer and installing Linux on it.
Michael passed away in his home in July 2022 at age 82. At the time, he had at least six different writing projects that he was working on. He was immensely excited about getting them published soon. He had just published his essay on the Bronze Amazon statue in the Boston Mensa Beacon, and another essay on time travel was in the review stages at the Mensa Bulletin.
We all miss him immensely.
Note that I checked in with the Cambridge Police and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner on August 15th, 2022. They let me know that Michael’s legal name is James Michael Coughlin, and that they had found cousins of his who transferred Michael’s body to a funeral home. Legally, the office was not able to tell me which funeral home. I have not found any funeral home listing for Michael. It could be that Michael’s cousins do not have any intention of holding any ceremony and that they will not be posting an obituary for him. I will definitely update this page if I find any listing for Michael in the coming days.
Here is one of Michael’s time travel essays:
Here is Michael’s essay on fonetics –
Here is Michael’s essay on what makes music appealing:
Here is an article about his music efforts –