4242 - Ornithology: Handout No. 1
Some Important Names in North American Ornithology
numbers refer to slightly less brief biographies in The Birder's Handbook,
Ehrlich et al.)
Carolus Linnaeus (p. 629)
1707 - 1778
father of biological taxonomy. A
Swedish professor of botany and medicine at Uppsala University, Linnaeus
developed the hierarchical taxonomic system used today, culminating in the
binomial (genus and species) name which uniquely identifies all known biological
species. Although he never
travelled to North America, Linnaeus named a large number of species from
specimens shipped back to Europe from North America.
William Bartram (p. 129)
1739 - 1823
grandfather of North American ornithology.
Travelled extensively in the southeast.
Alexander Wilson (p. 277)
1766 - 1813
with Audubon, one of the fathers of N.A. ornithology.
Started before Audubon (collecting a Red-headed Woodpecker the day he
arrived from England), produced American Ornithology; or, the Natural History
of the Birds of the United States. His
observations and taxonomic work proved more lasting than Audubon's.
John James Audubon (p. 413)
1785 - 1851
Son of a sea captain, born in Haiti, trained as an artist in France and came (dodging being drafted into Napoleon's army) to the U.S. in 1803. The artistic father of American ornithology. (Alexander Wilson was the scientific father.)
Thomas Nuttall (p. 357)
1786 - 1859
of Audubon, wrote the first "field guide" to North American birds,
illustrated with woodcuts, which was still in print in the 20th century.
Charles Bonaparte (p. 463)
1803 - 1857
Napoleon’s nephew, spent 5 years in U.S. (1823-28), when he produced supplements
to Alexander Wilson's American Ornithology.
The father of systematic ornithology.
Charles Darwin (p. 475)
1809 - 1882
most important scientist in the history of biology.
He "discovered", along with Alfred Russell Wallace, the theory
that species evolve through differential survival of offspring based on natural
variation between individuals. Birds
played an important role in developing this theory.
He saw the variation that had been introduced by selective breeding in
domestic pigeons and recognized the same patterns in the finches of the
Galapagos Islands. His concept
provided a framework for virtually all our observations of the natural world.
John Cassin (p. 515) 1813 - 1869
preeminent American-born ornithologist, curator of birds at the Academy of
Natural Sciences (Philadelphia), author of the first comprehensive study of
western birds. Described 193
species of birds. (Cassins
Thomas Brewer (p. 647)
1814 - 1880
physician and reporter for a Boston newspaper, Brewer was an important amateur
ornithologist, who provided much information on avian biology to Audubon.
Like Spencer Baird, Brewer bridged the gap between the early (Audubon
& Alexander Wilson) and modern eras of North American ornithology.
Bears the somewhat ignominious burden of having been a supporter of the
introduced House Sparrow (English Sparrow).
(Brewer's Blackbird, Brewer's Sparrow).
Spencer Fullerton Baird (p.
569) 1823 - 1887
studying Alexander Wilson's Ornithology, and corresponding with Audubon,
Baird went on to begin the modern era of North American ornithology.
He was the first Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, adding greatly
to its collections by encouraging military escorts to railroad exploration teams
to bring back specimens, and one of the first American supporters of Darwin's
theory of natural selection. (Bairds
Charles Bendire (p. 439)
1836 - 1897
as a collector for Spencer Baird (Smithsonian) collecting specimens (especially
eggs) in the west, where he was a major in the indian wars.
Joel Asaph Allen (p. 343)
1838 - 1921
curator of birds at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard, founder of the
AOU, and first editor of the Auk (AOU's journal).
Believed Lamarckian, rather than Darwinian explanation for inherited
differences. Known for Allen's Rule.
Elliot Coues (p. 565)
1842 - 1899
army surgeon in the Indian wars, he used his time in the west to collect
specimens and learn about the natural history of the birds of the region.
His Key to North American Birds broke tradition and made
information that had previously been available only in technical journals
accessible to the lay public.
Robert Ridgway (p. 119)
1850 - 1929
of birds at Smithsonian (Later U.S. National Museum of Natural History) for 60
years! Helped produce the first AOU
Checklist of North American Birds, and 8 volumes of the monumental Birds of
North and Middle America (1901-1919).
Frank M. Chapman (p. 43)
1864 - 1945
of bird collections at the American
Museum of Natural History
AMNH, started Bird-Lore (which became Audubon), developed
museum displays with birds in habitats.
Arthur Cleveland Bent (p.
637) 1866 - 1954
amateur ornithologist, he edited and wrote most of the monumental, 26-volume
series, "Life Histories of North American Birds" (1919-1968).
Nine years after his papers began appearing in the Auk in 1901, the
Smithsonian asked him to continue the life history series begun by Charles
Bendire. Bent started from scratch
and spent the next 44 years working on the project.
A few sections of the last volume had to be written after his death and
the final installment in the series was published in 1968.
Joseph Grinell (p. 411) 1877 - 1939
in establishing the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at Univ. Cal.
Published over 500 papers. Recognized
(and stated explicitly) the importance of isolation in the process of
Margaret Morse Nice (p. 579)
1883 - 1974
having done graduate work in ornithology, when her husband took a job at Ohio
State, she was unable to get a job at the University, instead becoming in
Tinbergen's words, "an American housewife [who] was the greatest scholar of
them all." Nice was the most important woman in the history of North
American ornithology, most well-known for her studies of territoriality and
population dynamics in a color-banded population of Song Sparrows.
Waldo Lee McAtee (p. 539)
1883 - 1962
by a lecture given by Frank Chapman, he went on to become an expert in the food
habits of birds and other vertebrates, based on his analyses of stomach contents
- a technique he pioneered. His Curriculum
Vitae (résumé) lists over 1,200 publications!
Alexander Wetmore (p. 95)
1886 - 1978
Secretary of the Smithsonian, published on a wide variety of topics, supported
Bent as he produced the "Life Histories" series.
The preeminent ornithologist in North America at one time.
Robert Cushman Murphy (p.
215) 1887 - 1973
under Frank Chapman at the AMNH, became the world's authority on marine birds.
George Miksch Sutton (p. 87)
1898 - 1982
artist and prolific ornithologist (ca. 250 papers published), especially
interested in northern birds.
Konrad Lorenz (p. 57)
1903 - 1989
most famous for his work with imprinting and the nature of displays.
Co-founder, with Tinbergen, of the field of ethology.
Argued that behavior evolved in the same way as morphological features.
Ernst Mayr (p. 389)
1904 - 2005
started studying birds in South Pacific, written influentially on Animal
Species and Evolution, preeminent in the "Neodarwinian evolutionary
synthesis". While beginning his work with birds, his influence on biology
was far more widespread. Finished
his career at the MCZ (Harvard).
Alden H. Miller (p. 267)
1906 - 1965
preeminent ornithologist while the focus of this science shifted from
systematics and biogeography to behavior, ecology and physiology.
Director of the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at UC Berkeley, following
his mentor, Joseph Grinnel.
Roger Tory Peterson (p. 563)
the modern field guide, a skilled artist who probably did more than any living
person to get people outdoors, involved in the living world around them.
Nikolaas Tinbergen (p. 71)
1907 - 1988
Co-founder, with Lorenz, of the field of ethology.
Best known for work with Herring Gulls.
Rachel Carson (p. 511)
1907 - 1964
an ornithologist per se, (she was a marine biologist) but as author of Silent
Spring, she drew our attention to the misuse of pesticides, which were
causing catastrophic declines in populations of Peregrine Falcons, Ospreys, and
Bald Eagles. Silent Spring refers to a spring without birdsong.
David Lack (p. 187)
1910 - 1973
helped develop radar in WWII then used it to study migration.
Long-time director of the Edward Gray Institute of Ornithology at Oxford,
especially interested in island faunas and the evolution of reproductive
strategies in birds.
Robert MacArthur (p. 525)
1930 - 1972
student of the great ecologist, G. Evelyn Hutchinson, MacArthur was a brilliant
birder and theoretician. He pioneered the use of mathematical models in ecological
studies. His Ph.D. thesis on the
division of ecological niches between 5 species of warblers in the Maine conifer
forests is a classic - it was published almost in its entirety in the journal
Ecology and only took 20 pages! We
can only dream of what he might have contributed to science had he not died of
cancer at such an early age.
Theodore A. Parker, III
Parker, the worlds authority on Neotropical birds and their conservation,
died at a tragically early age in a plane crash on a cloud-covered forest
mountain in Ecuador. He pioneered
Conservation Internationals Rapid Assessment Program for identifying target
areas for conservation. One is
tempted to say that Ted forgot more about Neotropical birds than anyone else
ever knew, but I dont think Ted ever forgot anything - he certainly never
forgot a bird call. Few would
dispute that he was the greatest field ornithologist of all time.