Ernst Walter Mayr

Ernst Walter Mayr

Bavaria (Bayern), Germany
Death 3 Feb 2005 (aged 100)
Bedford, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, USA
Burial Unknown
Memorial ID 10430252 · View Source
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Scientist. One of the world's leading evolutionary biologists, his efforts insured biology stood alongside physics, astronomy and chemistry; also credited with pioneering the study of the philosophy and history of biology. Along with scientists including Theodosius Dobzhansky and George Gaylord Simpson, he helped develop the "evolutionary synthesis" that fused Charles Darwin's theories with the science of genetics pioneered by Gregor Mendel. Born in Kempten, Germany, he was a devoted birdwatcher from his youth; when he sighted a rare duck in 1923, a red-crested pochard not been seen in Germany in 77 years, he gave up his medical degree from the University of Greifswald (the family profession was medicine) and studied ornithology at the University of Berlin whre, in 1926, at age 21, he received his Ph.D. Eventually joined the Harvard faculty in 1953 as a zoology professor and led its Comparative Zoology museum from 1961 to 1970, retiring in 1975. During his career he discovered 25 species of birds. The zoology library at Harvard is named after him. His 1942 book "Systematics and the Origin of the Species from the Viewpoint of a Zoologist" introduced the concept that new species were formed as a result of geographic barriers such as mountain ranges isolating populations resulting in his practical definition of a species as groups of animals that can interbreed and produce offspring. He was also a pioneer in promoting the history and philosophy of biology as fields of study. Best remembered for his groundbreaking book, Systematics and the Origin of Species, published in 1942 which integrated the theories of Darwin and Mendel. His other books include: The Growth of Biological Thought; One Long Argument: Charles Darwin and the Genesis of Modern Evolutionary Thought; Population, Species, and Evolution; Systematics and the Origin of the Species from the Viewpoint of a Zoologist; This Is Biology; Toward a New Philosophy of Biology; Evolution and the Diversity of Life: Selected Essays, The Evolutionary Synthesis, and What Evolution Is. After "retirement" he remained active in the international scientific community as professor emeritus at Harvard, and his most recent book, "What Makes Biology Unique?: Considerations on the Autonomy of a Scientific Discipline," was published in August 2004 when he was 100 years old. Mayr was the first scientist to win all three of the major prizes in biology: the Balzan Prize in 1983, the International Prize for Biology in 1994, and the Crafoord Prize in 1999. Also was a recipient of the National Medal of Science, Rockefeller University's Lewis Thomas Prize, the Japan Prize, the Linnean Society of London's Wallace Darwin Medal and Linnean Medal, the Royal Society's Darwin Medal, and the Benjamin Franklin Medal of the American Philosophical Society. Cause of death: liver cancer, in Bedford, Massachusetts.

Bio by: Fred Beisser

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Originally Created by: Fred Beisser
  • Added: 5 Feb 2005
  • Find a Grave Memorial 10430252
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Ernst Walter Mayr (5 Jul 1904–3 Feb 2005), Find a Grave Memorial no. 10430252, ; Maintained by Find A Grave Unknown.