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Geographical species variation in birds


The pros and cons of living in Tenafly, New Jersey
Ernst Mayr Scientist
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The natural surroundings were very attractive because we… our house was in an old apple orchard and we had an old apple tree in the… in the orchard, in… in our garden where a pair of flickers nested. There were barred white quails in the back yard. It was real nature, and furthermore, I had to drive only 10 minutes or 15 minutes by car to get into a big… to get to a big swamp, and other interesting areas and I could do a great deal of field work, ornithological field work, satisfying my instincts as a naturalist. And I… I… in these years that I was there in Tenafly raising my family I… I really had a wonderful time with one exception: every morning I had to spend one hour to get from there to the American Museum [of Natural History], and every evening I had to spend one hour getting home again. So this… 17 years of commuting was something that I considered very much wasted time, which of course it also was. And when finally my time at the American Museum was beginning to get near the end, we said, ‘Well, as soon as the children are out of high school we move back to New York somewhere right next to the Museum so that no more… commuting is necessary’.

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: American Museum of Natural History, New York, Tenafly, New Jersey

Duration: 1 minute, 26 seconds

Date story recorded: October 1997

Date story went live: 24 January 2008