At the gymnasium in Dresden, his classmates Robert Hensel and Karl Baessler were Ernst's best friends. They remained in contact throughout their lives. Mayr visited Baessler 60 years later in Bamberg where, after having left Leipzig at the end of World War II, he had established a publishing company, and they corresponded until shortly before Baessler's death in 1990. Hensel became a metallurgist and later went to America where he lived in Indianapolis. However, they saw each other only once or twice after his arrival in the States. In Greifswald, during his first semesters, Ernst met one friend for life, Martin Hennig, and commented: "It is somewhat ironic that the best friend of my student days should be a theologian. But except for a few Christian dogmas, our thinking about man's obligations, about ethics, about all practical philosophy and wisdom were very much the same." They were still corresponding and visiting each other at the age of 90. However, none of these friends shared Ernst's interest in natural history.
Among the PhD students he met at the Museum of Natural History Berlin was Emil Kattinger. They saw each other daily. He was a great help in Ernst's preparation for the PhD examinations: "Every morning in the lab I asked him about all the novel things he had learned the previous evening and night and with my own good memory I stored it in case it should be asked in my final exam." There were no friendships with girls, although he did enroll in dancing classes as usual in society at that time.
In a survey of his friendships during his youth, Mayr felt that none of them had a particularly decisive impact on his development.
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