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The two evolutionary syntheses


The Rothschild collection comes to America
Ernst Mayr Scientist
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At the time the Rothschild collection came to America, there was a great deal of complaint in Europe that the… it would now be sitting there as just the… the booty of… of Americans and wouldn't do much good. Well, the truth of the matter was that immediately it was very widely used. Any number of people came to write family revisions, Delacour's entire work after… that's the French ornithologist, after he came to America was on the Rothschild collections. The various family revisions like Vaurie's on the Dicruridae, and myself and Amadon on the Dicaeidae, and there are many, many others, were all based on these collections and I'm quite sure that if they had stayed in England they wouldn't have been used even a third as much. So the coming of these collections to America was actually of enormous benefit to the Rothschild collection because it was much more used than before. And furthermore, later on when the… this is something… we mentioned later, when Peters’ check-list [Check-list of Birds of the World] was… was made, to have these collections available was of tremendous… was a tremendous advantage and greatly helped that particular project.

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: Rothschild collection, United States of America, Europe, England, Jean Théodore Delacour, Charles Vaurie, Dean Amadon

Duration: 1 minute, 23 seconds

Date story recorded: October 1997

Date story went live: 24 January 2008