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The best summary of evolutionary literature on animals


Writing Animal Species and Evolution
Ernst Mayr Scientist
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My 1942 book Systematics and the Origin of Species continued to sell and I was repeatedly asked to bring out a revised edition. However, I had the feeling that so much had happened since the original publication, and furthermore, by taking out all the material on the methods and principles of systematics and publishing it as a separate volume, it seemed the volume no longer should be republished. And I told Columbia [University Press] to stop printing it and let it go out of print. However, there was, of course, a need for a replacement volume which would be rather different and I worked on it very hard, and I still have in my office, and I don't quite know what to do with it, four versions of this book. Whenever I finished one, I would go back to chapter one, revise that again, chapter two, revise it… by the time I had revised the last chapter I felt there was a great need to revise again chapter one. And I finally said, well, this can go on until Doomsday, and I decided now I publish it. And that was in 1963, and the new book was called Animal Species and Evolution.

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: 1942, Systematics and the Origin of Species, 1963, Animal Species and Evolution

Duration: 1 minute, 28 seconds

Date story recorded: October 1997

Date story went live: 24 January 2008