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Oblivious to being hired and fired by Lord Rothschild


Drinking whiskey with plantation managers
Ernst Mayr Scientist
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The redeeming feature in the Solomon Islands, at the lighter side, was that whenever we landed somewhere where there was a coconut plantation the fellow who was running the plantation usually – they were all Australians – was bored to tears with his job, hadn't seen a white person in... in maybe four months, five months, six months, and was just happy as could be to have us aboard. And of course the way in the Solomon Islands you celebrate anything is with lots and lots and lots of whisky. And so, sometimes however, we arrived at one of these plantations and the fellow had already emptied his last shipment of whisky, and then... I remember that we... on San Cristobal we left our liquor with the local fellow there as we went into the mountains, and because it was going to be Christmas we come back and celebrate Christmas with him, and when we came down... down to celebrate Christmas he already had finished all the bottles we had left with him. But that's an aside, but Australians all were the most helpful, most jolly people but they sure loved their whisky. And I must say I... I drank more whisky in those nine months in the Solomon Islands than I have ever since in the rest of my life.

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: Solomon Islands, San Cristobal

Duration: 1 minute, 24 seconds

Date story recorded: October 1997

Date story went live: 24 January 2008