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Rensch's influence. Working in the library and department of Entomology


Working at the Museum with Stresemann and Rensch
Ernst Mayr Scientist
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My mentor was Professor Erwin Stresemann, who was at that time clearly the world's leading ornithologist, a man who was not only highly intelligent, but very hard working; he edited two journals, he wrote a big textbook, he supervised students, he sent out expeditions. I never could understand how he could handle all these things, and he greatly influenced me because his thinking in the field of systematics was really absolutely at the foremost frontier. Another colleague there... who was only about four years older than I, another assistant, was Professor [Bernhard] Rensch who very much influenced me because he wrote a book on speciation, on the origin of species. And even though I didn't agree with every detail, it made me think about all the problems involved there and much of what he said influenced me and I followed it. In fact, in some ways he influenced me more than Stresemann had because Stresemann and I didn't talk as much about such matters.

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: Erwin Stresemann, Bernhard Rensch

Duration: 1 minute, 14 seconds

Date story recorded: October 1997

Date story went live: 24 January 2008