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Fallout from the Patterson affair


The wrong Patterson
Ernst Mayr Scientist
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The real committee that ran this Princeton conference was [Glen] Jepson, the palaeontologist in Princeton, [George Gaylord] Simpson and [Theodosius] Dobzhansky, and… this is just a funny anecdote, but it is sort of topical: one of Dobzhansky's greatest friends, a co-worker in drosophila, a very distinguished one, was a Professor [John T] Patterson in Texas. And so, when Jepson was preparing the conference, Dobzhansky called him and said, ‘Be sure to invite Patterson’. And Jepson wrote back, ‘Yes, of course I'll invite Patterson’. But there is also a palaeontologist Patterson, Brian Patterson, and when Jepson said, I'll invite Patterson, he thought of the palaeontologist. So, when the Princeton meeting came and – this isn't quite historically correct how I tell it, but it… it sounds better – Dobzhansky came from the railroad station, he came to the building where the… we were to assemble, the first thing he asked is, ‘Where is Patterson?’ Dobzhansky had this kind of a… a way of talking. And Jepson said, ‘Oh, he probably is at the bar, that's where he usually hangs out’. And Dobzhansky was quite puzzled because he didn't think his friend Patterson in Texas was that fond of… of the bar. So he went to the bar and he said, ‘Where's Patterson?’ And somebody says, ‘He stands right here’. Well, it was the Texas Patterson and his Patterson… it was the… it was not the Texan, it was the… the palaeontologist Patterson from Chicago.

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: Princeton University, Texas, Chicago, George Gaylord Simpson, Theodosius Dobzhansky, Glenn L Jepson, Brian Patterson, John T Patterson

Duration: 1 minute, 49 seconds

Date story recorded: October 1997

Date story went live: 24 January 2008