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Working at the American museum


Murphy, Chapin and Zimmer
Ernst Mayr Scientist
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[Robert C] Murphy was the great specialist on South Sea Island... on oceanic birds and he eventually published a book on the oceanic birds of South America. [James P] Chapin was a specialist on African birds. He was also the only member of the department who had completed zoological training and had a doctor's degree in biology. He was a specialist in African birds and his book on the birds of the Congo, the first volume of that, is the first good treatment of the biology of tropical birds. And the third one, John T Zimmer, was a specialist in Peruvian birds, and concentrated on describing all the unworked material from South America that the American Museum [of Natural History] had, and they had large collections. [Frank M] Chapman actually had hired him to write a report on the biogeography and ecology of Peruvian birds, but Zimmer was so busy with describing the new material he never wrote that report that Chapman had expected.

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: South Sea Island, South America, Africa, Congo, Peru, American Museum of Natural History, Robert C Murphy, James P Chapin, John T Zimmer

Duration: 1 minute, 14 seconds

Date story recorded: October 1997

Date story went live: 24 January 2008