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Early life and education


The origins of my ideas on species
Ernst Mayr Scientist
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You must not forget that I was taught by [Erwin] Stresemann and [Bernhard] Rensch, who also had such ideas and published on such ideas and gave them, so, much of what I have published is in principle not entirely novel or new, it already has… had been pronounced by other people like Stresemann, Rensch, Karl Jordan, Ed Poulton, Moritz Wagner, if you go far enough back. It is only that I have been able to state it, articulate it perhaps more clearly, define it more decisively, produce more actual illustrations for it, and I think that there is no particular time point where I began to think about these things. As soon as I entered, so to speak, the Berlin [Natural History] Museum, that was the moment when I began to be exposed to such ideas.

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: Berlin Natural History Museum, Erwin Stresemann, Bernhard Rensch, Karl Jordan, Moritz Wagner, Edward Bagnall Poulton

Duration: 1 minute, 6 seconds

Date story recorded: October 1997

Date story went live: 24 January 2008