Colleagues at the American Museum

"There were (in the 1930s and 1940s) an intellectual excitement and a level of professional competence and ornithological universality at the American Museum that had nowhere existed previously and that perhaps can never again be duplicated" (Mayr 1975c: 372). Chairman of the Bird Department was Frank Michler Chapman (1864-1945), an outstanding ornithologist with imagination and a broadly interested researcher (Fig. 3.9), who had published pioneering monographs on the birds of Colombia, Ecuador, the Peruvian Urubamba Valley and the Roraima Mountains (Mayr 1975c, 1980n; Lanyon 1995; LeCroy 2005; Vuilleumier 2005a). He had popularized ornithology in North America, promoted the cause of conservation and pioneered life history studies of tropical birds but now being in his seventies was no longer an innovator. Mayr felt that it was not to the best of the department to wait until Chapman, in 1942, would retire at the age of 78 years.

Robert Cushman Murphy (1887-1973) was employed in 1921 in order to write a report on the birds collected by the Brewster-Sanford expedition to the coastal

Fig. 3.9. Staff members of the Department of Ornithology, AMNH, photograph taken on F.M. Chapman's 70th birthday, 12 June, 1934. Seated (left to right) Ernst Mayr (Associate Curator of the Whitney-Rothschild Collections), R. C. Murphy (Curator of Oceanic Birds), F.M. Chapman (Curator-in-Chief), J.P. Chapin (Associate Curator of Birds of the Eastern Hemisphere), J. T. Zimmer (Associate Curator of Birds of the Western Hemisphere). Standing: C. O'Brien (Research Assistant), Katherine Johns (Secretary), Alice K. Fraser (Secretary), A.L. Rand (Research Assistant), Elsie M.B. Naumburg (Research Associate), Albert Brand (Research Associate) (AMNH Library photographic collection, negative no. 314442)

Fig. 3.9. Staff members of the Department of Ornithology, AMNH, photograph taken on F.M. Chapman's 70th birthday, 12 June, 1934. Seated (left to right) Ernst Mayr (Associate Curator of the Whitney-Rothschild Collections), R. C. Murphy (Curator of Oceanic Birds), F.M. Chapman (Curator-in-Chief), J.P. Chapin (Associate Curator of Birds of the Eastern Hemisphere), J. T. Zimmer (Associate Curator of Birds of the Western Hemisphere). Standing: C. O'Brien (Research Assistant), Katherine Johns (Secretary), Alice K. Fraser (Secretary), A.L. Rand (Research Assistant), Elsie M.B. Naumburg (Research Associate), Albert Brand (Research Associate) (AMNH Library photographic collection, negative no. 314442)

waters of South America. He became the world expert on seabirds, especially the tubenoses (Procellariformes). After much delay his excellent expedition report eventually appeared in 1936 in two volumes under the title Oceanic Birds of South America, but the planned monograph of the Procellariformes was never completed. During Mayr's first 2 years in New York, Murphy corrected his English and taught him quite a few language subtleties.

John Todd Zimmer (1889-1957) had collected birds in New Guinea and Peru and was contracted to produce a companion volume on Peru to Chapman's books on the ecology and biogeography of Colombia and Ecuador. Zimmer felt that at first the taxonomy of all these bird species had to be clarified and described literally hundreds of subspecies of Neotropical birds. Chapman is said to have written annually, around Christmas, a letter to Zimmer reminding him of the book on the Peruvian avifauna. However, Zimmer, who totally lacked Chapman's zoogeographical imagination, never even started it.

James P. Chapin (1889-1964) was a superb naturalist who had done graduate work at Columbia University under the most modern biologists of the period. He was, of course, fully familiar with the modern genetics of T. H. Morgan, who was in the same department of Columbia University. Chapin and Mayr had numerous conversations on evolution and he convinced Mayr of the importance of the findings about the effect of small mutations and of the invalidity of any belief in the inheritance of acquired characteristics. Most importantly, he (and Dobzhansky, p. 133) helped Mayr to abandon his early Lamarckian ideas and to see that the gradual evolution that the naturalists had insisted on could be explained by the new genetics of R. A. Fisher and the other modern geneticists (based on small mutations and recombination) and did not require any saltational interpretation of the early Mendelians. Other colleagues were Charles O'Brien, the collection manager, and Austin L. Rand who worked on birds from the New Guinea region. Mrs. E. Naumburg studied Brazilian birds and A. Brand experimented with bird song recording.

Among Mayr's colleagues from other departments whom he met in the staff lunch room and with whom he discussed technical and other matters were Frank Lutz, G. K. Noble, Charles Bogert, Ned (Edwin H.) Colbert, Mont Cazier, Frank Beach, Harry Raven (sometimes accompanied by his tame chimpanzee "Meshie" who dined with a fork and spoon at the staff table), Jack (John T.) Nichols (18831958), curator of fishes and founder of the journal Copeia, but also excellently informed about reptiles and birds, and G. G. Simpson. Unfortunately, Mayr never had any scientific conversations with Simpson in 23 years of lunches at the AMNH. Mayr had intensive evolutionary discussions only with Herman T. Spieth of City College whom, in 1946, he persuaded to give up mayflies in favor of Drosophila behavior. During two weeks in May, the time of warbler migration, Mayr, J. T. Nichols and J. T. Zimmer would go out to Central Park right after lunch for birdwatching. In the 1940s or early 1950s, Mayr founded the "Systematics Club" at the AMNH which met once a month for a presentation and discussion and continued to do so for many years after Mayr had left New York for Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Several younger colleagues joined the Bird Department and Mayr very much enjoyed mentoring them (Fig. 3.10). Dean Amadon (1912-2003) was engaged in 1937 for the egg collection and later became assistant curator. He did his PhD thesis on the Hawaiian honeycreepers. Eventually Amadon became Chairman of the Department (1957-1973) and was appointed the first Lamont Curator of Birds. E. Thomas Gilliard (1912-1965) had been hired as Chapman's assistant in 1932, when he dealt mostly with South American birds. Later he became Associate Curator of Birds and Mayr inspired him to focus his research on New Guinea birds, particularly the birds of paradise and bower birds. Hugh Birckhead (who was killed in France during the last stages of World War II) and Dillon Ripley (later Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution) were both influenced by Mayr in their research as well as was Charles Vaurie (1906-1975) who, as a teenager, had come to

Fig. 3.10. Staff members of the Department of Ornithology (AMNH), photograph taken on Dr. Chapman's 75th birthday, 12 June 1939. Seated (left to right) Elsie M.B. Naumburg (Research Associate), John T. Zimmer (Executive Curator), Frank M. Chapman (Curator), R. C. Murphy (Curator of Oceanic Birds), Ernst Mayr (Associate Curator of the WhitneyRothschild Collections). Standing (left to right) Dean Amadon (Research Assistant), Charles Schell (Assistant), Ruth Bowdon (Secretary), Charles O'Brien (Assistant Curator), Mildred Feger (Secretary), Hugh Birckhead (Assistant), E. Thomas Gilliard (Research Assistant) (AMNH Library photographic collection, negative no. 291112)

Fig. 3.10. Staff members of the Department of Ornithology (AMNH), photograph taken on Dr. Chapman's 75th birthday, 12 June 1939. Seated (left to right) Elsie M.B. Naumburg (Research Associate), John T. Zimmer (Executive Curator), Frank M. Chapman (Curator), R. C. Murphy (Curator of Oceanic Birds), Ernst Mayr (Associate Curator of the WhitneyRothschild Collections). Standing (left to right) Dean Amadon (Research Assistant), Charles Schell (Assistant), Ruth Bowdon (Secretary), Charles O'Brien (Assistant Curator), Mildred Feger (Secretary), Hugh Birckhead (Assistant), E. Thomas Gilliard (Research Assistant) (AMNH Library photographic collection, negative no. 291112)

the United States from France and became a dentist. He came often to the museum and Mayr introduced him to taxonomy from the late 1940s, at first working jointly with him on a revision of the drongo family (Dicruridae) and later supervising his long series of revisions of Palearctic birds. Eventually Vaurie was appointed to the staff and gave up dentistry becoming a full curator at the museum.

Known to Dr. Sanford were two wealthy young men, Richard Archbold (19071976) and John Sterling Rockefeller (1904-1988). The former invited Mayr to his father's quail shooting place in Thomasville, Georgia in November 1931 (seep. 111). During the 1930s, Dick Archbold financed and led three museum expeditions to New Guinea (Morse 2000). Three additional Archbold expeditions under the leadership of L.J. Brass explored the Cape York area of northern Australia (19471948), the outlying islands of southeastern New Guinea (1956-1957), and the central highlands of New Guinea (1958-1959). Sterling Rockefeller provided the funds with which E. Stresemann (Berlin) sent Georg Stein to Timor and Sumba in 1932. Rockefeller was supposed to work out this collection under Mayr's guidance, but by that time had lost interest in birds. The result was that Mayr himself studied this splendid collection analyzing at the same time the colonization of Australia by birds from the Lesser Sunda Islands (p. 181).

Other volunteers were Cardine Bogert (1937), who clarified the migrations of the New Zealand cuckoo Urodynamis, Eleanor Stickney (1943; later the collection manager of the Peabody Museum of Yale University), who published on the northern shorebirds collected by the WSSE in the Pacific and Martin Moynihan who, in 1946(c), published a paper with Mayr on the evolution of the Rhipidura rufifrons group (Moynihan later became the director of Barro Colorado Island, Panama, and made it into a world-class tropical research station), Daniel Marien, Karl Koopman (later a curator in Mammalogy at the AMNH and an expert on bats) and Kate Jennings (who made a major contribution to their joint paper on the variation in Australian bower birds, Mayr and Jennings 1952i). Staff members using increasingly the Whitney-Rothschild collections included Austin Rand, Dean Amadon and Thomas Gilliard. Rand was a Research Associate in the Department of Ornithology—an unpaid position. He was paid by Archbold Expeditions associated with the Mammal Department. In 1941 he went to his native Canada and then joined the Field Museum in Chicago in 1947.

Jean Delacour (1890-1985) came to New York after the defeat of France during World War II and was appointed technical adviser at the Bronx Zoo. This position left him time enough to work at the AMNH almost every day for several hours. Mayr and Delacour collaborated from the time of the latter's arrival in late 1940. They published several joint articles and the book, Birds ofthe Philippines (1946k) until Delacour moved to California in 1952 (Mayr 1986m). Their reclassification (1945e) of the duck family (Anatidae) had a wide distribution and was reprinted several times.

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