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Theft of rare books from our library


I retire as director of the Museum of Comparative Zoology
Ernst Mayr Scientist
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We had more graduate students during my directorship than ever before or ever after. I think we… the peak was that at one time we had a total of 58 graduate students working on the different people in the… in the Museum of Comparative Zoology [MCZ]. The sad part of the story is, and I cannot conceal it, that my successor… just about destroyed everything that I had built up and he replaced the curators in… in systematics by functional morphologists, not even particularly good ones; he neglected everything. He once took a sabbatical without appointing even a… an acting director; he never filed a single annual report so… we have annual reports at the MCZ from the days of… of Louis Agassiz in 1859, up to my… retiring as director in 1970, but none since. So the… the… and no more historical records about the place, and this is a very sad story, but there was nothing I could do about it. My retiring coincided with the retiring of Mr Pusey as President who understood the situation, and his replacement by a jurist, Terry Park, who didn't know what it was all about. And I will not go into detail now, but this is a very sore spot and a very great disappointment for me, that… what… we now have, however, the wing, we have the field station, except that the director of the field station is a… is a… metabolic physiologist who works indoors and I think has no interest whatsoever in the field station. They should make an appointment in environmental sciences but, so far, they have failed to do so.

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: Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University, 1859, 1970, Louis Agassiz, Nathan M Pusey

Duration: 2 minutes, 1 second

Date story recorded: October 1997

Date story went live: 24 January 2008