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Serving on the Biology Council


Discussion groups in New York and Cambridge
Ernst Mayr Scientist
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In New York in the… among the ornithologists and at the [American] Museum [of Natural History], I always had some informal groups that I was organizing for discussions and so… and in the later years in… in Cambridge I organized such a group again, dealing with basic questions in evolutionary theory and in philosophy. And my late wife, Gretel… it was a small group, we were never more than about 12, 10, eight, 10, 12, 15 people. We always selected some particular subject or topic, let's say laws or the nature of selection or something, and my wife provided a marvelous dessert for each of these occasions, and I sometimes wondered whether some of the participants didn't come more for the dessert than for the discussion. But there were quite a few well known philosophers attended these.

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: New York, Cambridge

Duration: 1 minute, 7 seconds

Date story recorded: October 1997

Date story went live: 24 January 2008