Ernst Mayr on A Personal Message to Jim Watson
  Ernst Mayr     Biography    
Recorded: 31 Mar 2002

I gather I have an opportunity to talk with you. I’d much rather have you right here, but this is the next best thing. First of all, we just had several hours of wonderful conversations about Cold Spring Harbor which as you know is one my beloved memories. I wish I could go there more often but at my age, this is most likely not going to be possible. However, I wish you and all the Cold Spring Harborites and in particular the wonderful institution that you’ve built up my best wishes. I send you my best wishes and my greetings and I do hope to see you, Jim, one of these days. Good-bye.

Ernst Mayr has been universally acknowledged as the leading evolutionary biologist of the twentieth century. He earned his Ph.D. in ornithology at the age of 21 from the University of Berlin in 1926. During his tenure at the Berlin Museum, from 1926 to 1930, Mayr led ornithological expeditions to Dutch New Guinea and German Mandated New Guinea. In 1931, he was hired by the American Museum of Natural History, Department of Ornithology. During his 20-year AMNH tenure, Dr. Mayr described 26 new bird species and 410 subspecies, more than any other living avian systematist.

In 1953, Mayr became Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology at Harvard University's Museum of Comparative Zoology, and served as Director of the Museum (1961-1970). He has published hundreds of papers and eight books, including Systematics and the Origin of Species (1942), which became a landmark of evolutionary biology.

Mayr has been honored with more than 25 major scientific awards and honors and many honorary degrees, including the National Medal of Science (1970), the Balzan Prize in Biology (1983) and the Crafoord Prize of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (1999) with John Maynard Smith and George C. Williams "for their fundamental contributions to the conceptual development of evolutionary biology."

In 1995, Harvard’s Library of the Museum of Comparative Zoology was rededicated as the Ernst Mayr Library of the Museum of Comparative Zoology. Mayr has been a longtime friend and mentor to Jim Watson.