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I make changes at the Museum of Comparative Zoology


Being made director of the Museum of Comparative Zoology
Ernst Mayr Scientist
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After I had been at the Museum [of Comparative Zoology] [MCZ] for… from 1953 to 1960 or thereabouts, Professor Romer came to me one day and he said, ‘Well, you're the obvious person to become the next Director’, and I said, ‘Well, I've done a lot of administrative work at the American Museum [of Natural History]. I accepted the Alexander [Agassiz] Professorship as a Research Professorship and I don't want to become Director’. And he said, ‘Well, I'll have to talk with the President’. So he talked with Mr Pusey and after a while it was Mr Pusey who said, ‘We have decided you have to be the next Director’. And again I said no, and after some… back and forth like this, one day Mr Pusey called me up and he said, ‘I herewith’, oh no, he said, ‘We have been totally unable to find anybody suitable for this position, therefore I herewith appoint you Director of the MCZ’. Well, I said, ‘Okay. I… if it can't be helped, but’, I said, ‘I take it for 10 years and not a single year more’.

The late German-American biologist Ernst Mayr (1904-2005) was a leading light in the field of evolutionary biology, gaining a PhD at the age of 21. He was also a tropical explorer and ornithologist who undertook an expedition to New Guinea and collected several thousand bird skins. In 1931 he accepted a curatorial position at the American Museum of Natural History. During his time at the museum, aged 37, he published his seminal work 'Systematics and Origin of the Species' which integrated the theories of Darwin and Mendel and is considered one of his greatest works.

Listeners: Walter J. Bock

Walter J. Bock is Professor of Evolutionary Biology at Columbia University. He received his B.Sc. from Cornell and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard. His research lies in the areas of organismal and evolutionary biology, with a special emphasis on functional and evolutionary morphology of the skeleto-muscular system, specifically the feeding apparatus of birds.

Tags: American Museum of Natural History, 1953, 1960, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University, Alfred Romer, Nathan M Pusey

Duration: 1 minute, 11 seconds

Date story recorded: October 1997

Date story went live: 24 January 2008