Ernst Mayr

Not to be confused with Ernst Mayr (computer scientist), Ernst Mayer, Ernst Meyer, Ernest Mayer or Ernest May.
Ernst Mayr

Ernst Mayr PLoS
Mayr in 1994
Ernst Walter Mayr

July 5, 1904
DiedFebruary 3, 2005 (aged 100)
Bedford, Massachusetts, United States
ResidenceUnited States
Alma mater
Scientific career
FieldsSystematics, evolutionary biology, ornithology, philosophy of biology

Ernst Walter Mayr ForMemRS (/ˈmaɪər/; 5 July 1904 – 3 February 2005)[1][2] was one of the 20th century's leading evolutionary biologists. He was also a renowned taxonomist, tropical explorer, ornithologist, philosopher of biology, and historian of science.[3] His work contributed to the conceptual revolution that led to the modern evolutionary synthesis of Mendelian genetics, systematics, and Darwinian evolution, and to the development of the biological species concept.

Although Charles Darwin and others posited that multiple species could evolve from a single common ancestor, the mechanism by which this occurred was not understood, creating the species problem. Ernst Mayr approached the problem with a new definition for species. In his book Systematics and the Origin of Species (1942) he wrote that a species is not just a group of morphologically similar individuals, but a group that can breed only among themselves, excluding all others. When populations within a species become isolated by geography, feeding strategy, mate choice, or other means, they may start to differ from other populations through genetic drift and natural selection, and over time may evolve into new species. The most significant and rapid genetic reorganization occurs in extremely small populations that have been isolated (as on islands).

His theory of peripatric speciation (a more precise form of allopatric speciation which he advanced), based on his work on birds, is still considered a leading mode of speciation, and was the theoretical underpinning for the theory of punctuated equilibrium, proposed by Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould. Mayr is sometimes credited with inventing modern philosophy of biology, particularly the part related to evolutionary biology, which he distinguished from physics due to its introduction of (natural) history into science.


Mayr was the second son of Helene Pusinelli and Dr. Otto Mayr. His father was a jurist (District Prosecuting Attorney at Würzburg)[4] but took an interest in natural history and took the children out on field trips. He learnt all the local birds in Würzburg from his elder brother Otto. He also had access to a natural history magazine for amateurs, Kosmos. His father died just before he was thirteen. The family then moved to Dresden and he studied at the Staatsgymnasium ("Royal Gymnasium" until 1918) in Dresden-Neustadt and completed his high school education there. In April 1922, while still in high school, he joined the newly founded Saxony Ornithologists' Association. Here he met Rudolf Zimmermann, who became his ornithological mentor. In February 1923, Mayr passed his high school examination (Abitur) and his mother rewarded him with a pair of binoculars.[5]

On 23 March 1923 on the lakes of Moritzburg, the Frauenteich, he spotted what he identified as a red-crested pochard. The species had not been seen in Saxony since 1845 and the local club argued about the identity. Raimund Schelcher (1891–1979) of the club then suggested that Mayr visit his classmate Erwin Stresemann on his way to Greifswald, where Mayr was to begin his medical studies.[5] After a tough interrogation, Stresemann accepted and published the sighting as authentic. Stresemann was very impressed and suggested that, between semesters, Mayr could work as a volunteer in the ornithological section of the museum. Mayr wrote about this event, "It was as if someone had given me the key to heaven."[5] He entered the University of Greifswald in 1923 and, according to Mayr himself, "took the medical curriculum (to satisfy a family tradition) but after only a year, he decided to leave medicine and enrolled at the Faculty of Biological Sciences."[6] Mayr was endlessly interested in ornithology and "chose Greifswald at the Baltic for my studies for no other reason than that ... it was situated in the ornithologically most interesting area."[6] Although he ostensibly planned to become a physician, he was "first and foremost an ornithologist."[6] During the first semester break Stresemann gave him a test to identify treecreepers and Mayr was able to identify most of the specimens correctly. Stresemann declared that Mayr "was a born systematist".[7] In 1925, Stresemann suggested that he give up his medical studies, in fact he should leave the faculty of medicine and enrol into the faculty of Biology and then join the Berlin Museum with the prospect of bird-collecting trips to the tropics, on the condition that he completed his doctoral studies in 16 months. Mayr completed his doctorate in ornithology at the University of Berlin under Dr. Carl Zimmer, who was a full professor (Ordentlicher Professor), on 24 June 1926 at the age of 21. On 1 July he accepted the position offered to him at the museum for a monthly salary of 330.54 Reichsmark.[8]

At the International Zoological Congress at Budapest in 1927, Mayr was introduced by Stresemann to banker and naturalist Walter Rothschild, who asked him to undertake an expedition to New Guinea on behalf of himself and the American Museum of Natural History in New York. In New Guinea, Mayr collected several thousand bird skins (he named 26 new bird species during his lifetime) and, in the process also named 38 new orchid species. During his stay in New Guinea, he was invited to accompany the Whitney South Seas Expedition to the Solomon Islands. Also, while in New Guinea, he visited the Lutheran missionaries Otto Thiele and Christian Keyser, in the Finschhafen district; there, while in conversation with his hosts, he uncovered the discrepancies in Hermann Detzner's popular book Four Years Among the Cannibals in German Guinea from 1914 to the Truce, in which Detzner claimed to have seen the interior, discovered several species of flora and fauna, while remaining only steps ahead of the Australian patrols sent to capture him.

He returned to Germany in 1930, and in 1931 he accepted a curatorial position at the American Museum of Natural History, where he played the important role of brokering and acquiring the Walter Rothschild collection of bird skins, which was being sold in order to pay off a blackmailer. During his time at the museum he produced numerous publications on bird taxonomy, and in 1942 his first book Systematics and the Origin of Species, which completed the evolutionary synthesis started by Darwin.

After Mayr was appointed at the American Museum of Natural History, he influenced American ornithological research by mentoring young birdwatchers. Mayr was surprised at the differences between American and German birding societies. He noted that the German society was "far more scientific, far more interested in life histories and breeding bird species, as well as in reports on recent literature."[9]

Mayr organized a monthly seminar under the auspices of the Linnean Society of New York. Under the influence of J.A. Allen, Frank Chapman, and Jonathan Dwight, the society concentrated on taxonomy and later became a clearing house for bird banding and sight records.[9]

Mayr encouraged his Linnaean Society seminar participants to take up a specific research project of their own. Under Mayr's influence one of them, Joseph Hickey, went on to write A Guide to Birdwatching (1943). Hickey remembered later, "Mayr was our age and invited on all our field trips. The heckling of this German foreigner was tremendous, but he gave tit for tat, and any modern picture of Dr E. Mayr as a very formal person does not square with my memory of the 1930s. He held his own." A group of eight young birdwatchers from The Bronx later became the Bronx County Bird Club, led by Ludlow Griscom. "Everyone should have a problem" was the way one Bronx County Bird Club member recalled Mayr's refrain.[9]

Mayr said of his own involvement with the local birdwatchers: "In those early years in New York when I was a stranger in a big city, it was the companionship and later friendship which I was offered in the Linnean Society that was the most important thing in my life."[9]

Mayr also greatly influenced the American ornithologist Margaret Morse Nice. Mayr encouraged her to correspond with European ornithologists and helped her in her landmark study on song sparrows. Nice wrote to Joseph Grinnell in 1932, trying to get foreign literature reviewed in the Condor: "Too many American ornithologists have despised the study of the living bird; the magazines and books that deal with the subject abound in careless statements, anthropomorphic interpretations, repetition of ancient errors, and sweeping conclusions from a pitiful array of facts.  ... in Europe the study of the living bird is taken seriously. We could learn a great deal from their writing." Mayr ensured that Nice could publish her two-volume Studies in the Life History of the Song Sparrow. He found her a publisher, and her book was reviewed by Aldo Leopold, Joseph Grinnell, and Jean Delacour. Nice dedicated her book to "My Friend Ernst Mayr."[9]

Mayr joined the faculty of Harvard University in 1953, where he also served as director of the Museum of Comparative Zoology from 1961 to 1970. He retired in 1975 as emeritus professor of zoology, showered with honors. Following his retirement, he went on to publish more than 200 articles, in a variety of journals—more than some reputable scientists publish in their entire careers; 14 of his 25 books were published after he was 65. Even as a centenarian, he continued to write books. On his 100th birthday, he was interviewed by Scientific American magazine. Mayr died on 3 February 2005 in his retirement home in Bedford, Massachusetts after a short illness. His wife, Margarete, died in 1990. He was survived by two daughters, five grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.[10][11]

The awards that Mayr received include the National Medal of Science, the Balzan Prize, the Sarton Medal of the History of Science Society, the International Prize for Biology, the Loye and Alden Miller Research Award, and the Lewis Thomas Prize for Writing about Science. In 1939 he was elected a Corresponding Member of the Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union. He was awarded the 1946 Leidy Award from the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia.[12] He was awarded the Linnean Society of London's prestigious Darwin-Wallace Medal in 1958 and the Linnaean Society of New York's inaugural Eisenmann Medal in 1983. For his work, Animal Species and Evolution, he was awarded the Daniel Giraud Elliot Medal from the National Academy of Sciences in 1967.[13] Mayr was elected a Foreign Member of the Royal Society (ForMemRS) in 1988.[1] In 1995 he received the Benjamin Franklin Medal for Distinguished Achievement in the Sciences of the American Philosophical Society.[14] Mayr never won a Nobel Prize, but he noted that there is no prize for evolutionary biology and that Darwin would not have received one, either. (In fact, there is no Nobel Prize for biology.) Mayr did win a 1999 Crafoord Prize. It honors basic research in fields that do not qualify for Nobel Prizes and is administered by the same organization as the Nobel Prize.

Mayr was co-author of six global reviews of bird species new to science (listed below).

Mayr said he was an atheist in regards to "the idea of a personal God" because "there is nothing that supports [it]"[15]

Mayr's ideas

As a traditionally trained biologist, Mayr was often highly critical of early mathematical approaches to evolution such as those of J.B.S. Haldane, famously calling such approaches "beanbag genetics" in 1959. He maintained that factors such as reproductive isolation had to be taken into account. In a similar fashion, Mayr was also quite critical of molecular evolutionary studies such as those of Carl Woese. Current molecular studies in evolution and speciation indicate that although allopatric speciation is the norm, there are numerous cases of sympatric speciation in groups with greater mobility (such as birds). The precise mechanisms of sympatric speciation, however, are usually a form of microallopatry enabled by variations in niche occupancy among individuals within a population.

In many of his writings, Mayr rejected reductionism in evolutionary biology, arguing that evolutionary pressures act on the whole organism, not on single genes, and that genes can have different effects depending on the other genes present. He advocated a study of the whole genome rather than of isolated genes only. After articulating the biological species concept in 1942, Mayr played a central role in the species problem debate over what was the best species concept. He staunchly defended the biological species concept against the many definitions of "species" that others proposed.

Mayr was an outspoken defender of the scientific method, and one known to sharply critique science on the edge. As a notable example, in 1995, he criticized the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) as conducted by fellow Harvard professor Paul Horowitz as being a waste of university and student resources, for its inability to address and answer a scientific question. Over 60 eminent scientists led by Carl Sagan rebutted the criticism.[16][17]

Mayr rejected the idea of a gene-centered view of evolution and starkly but politely criticized Richard Dawkins' ideas:

The funny thing is if in England, you ask a man in the street who the greatest living Darwinian is, he will say Richard Dawkins. And indeed, Dawkins has done a marvelous job of popularizing Darwinism. But Dawkins' basic theory of the gene being the object of evolution is totally non-Darwinian. I would not call him the greatest Darwinian.

— Ernst Mayr, Edge[18]

Mayr insisted that the entire genome should be considered as the target of selection, rather than individual genes:

The idea that a few people have about the gene being the target of selection is completely impractical; a gene is never visible to natural selection, and in the genotype, it is always in the context with other genes, and the interaction with those other genes make a particular gene either more favorable or less favorable. In fact, Dobzhansky, for instance, worked quite a bit on so-called lethal chromosomes which are highly successful in one combination, and lethal in another. Therefore people like Dawkins in England who still think the gene is the target of selection are evidently wrong. In the 30s and 40s, it was widely accepted that genes were the target of selection, because that was the only way they could be made accessible to mathematics, but now we know that it is really the whole genotype of the individual, not the gene. Except for that slight revision, the basic Darwinian theory hasn't changed in the last 50 years.

— Ernst Mayr, Edge[18]

Currently recognised taxa named in honour of Ernst Mayr

  • Bismarck Black Myzomela - Myzomela psammelaena ernstmayri Meise, 1929 [19] - a subspecies of bird, a honeyeater, family Meliphagidae, confined to several small islands to the west of the Admiralty Islands, in western Oceania, northeast of New Guinea.
  • Ernst Mayr's Water Rat - Leptomys ernstmayri Rümmler, 1932 [20] - a species of rodent, of the family Muridae, from the Foja Mountains of Papua Province, Indonesia, and Central Cordillera, Adelbert Range, and Huon Peninsula of Papua New Guinea.
  • a roundworm - Poikilolaimus ernstmayri Sudhaus & Koch, 2004 [21] - a new species of nematode, family Rhabditidae, associated with termites of the genus Reticulitermes, on Corsica.
  • New Ireland Rail - Hypotaenidia ernstmayri (Kirchman & Steadman, 2006) [22] - a relatively large, probably flightless, extinct rail, family Rallidae, known from subfossil remains found on prehistoric archeological sites, in caves on New Ireland, in the Bismarck Archipelago, western Oceania. (Although described in the genus Gallirallus, this species is now placed in Hypotaenidia.[23])
  • Star Mountains Worm-eating Snake - Toxicocalamus ernstmayri O'Shea, Parker & Kaiser, 2015 [24] - a 1.2 m, rare and secretive, venomous snake from the family Elapidae, believed to feed exclusively of earthworms, particularly the giant earthworms of the Megascolecidae. The etymology reads: The species name ernstmayri is a patronym honoring the German-American ornithologist, systematist, and evolutionary thinker Ernst Mayr (1904–2005). There are several connections linking Ernst Mayr to this new species of Toxicocalamus, which make him, and this snake, the ideal candidates for a patronym. First, Mayr himself visited New Guinea, and during the late 1920s he spent over 2 years conducting fieldwork in an area now part of PNG, as a member of a joint Rothschild–AMNH expedition focusing on birds of paradise (Aves, Passeriformes, Paradisaeidae), during which he collected many new bird and orchid species. Second, the holotype of T. ernstmayri has been housed in the MCZ collection, mislabeled as Micropechis ikaheka, after having arrived and been accessioned in June 1975, the month and year that Mayr retired. Third, the true identity of this specimen was recognized by one of us (MOS) during a visit to the MCZ in May 2014, undertaken with the financial support of an Ernst Mayr Travel Grant from Harvard University, awarded to enable examination of the Toxicocalamus holdings at the MCZ and the AMNH, the two U.S. institutions where Mayr worked. Finally, 2015, the publication year of this description, marks the decennial of Mayr's passing at age 100, and naming a New Guinea snake after him seems a suitable tribute.
  • an assassin bug - Bagauda ernstmayri Kulkarni & Ghate, 2016 [25] - a species of cavernicolous, thread-legged assassin bug, known only from Satara, in the Western Ghats of Maharashtra State, India.

Mayr's summary of Darwin's theory

Darwin's theory of evolution is based on key facts and the inferences drawn from them, which Mayr summarised as follows:[26]

  • Every species is fertile enough that if all offspring survived to reproduce, the population would grow (fact).
  • Despite periodic fluctuations, populations remain roughly the same size (fact).
  • Resources such as food are limited and are relatively stable over time (fact).
  • A struggle for survival ensues (inference).
  • Individuals in a population vary significantly from one another (fact).
  • Much of this variation is heritable (fact).
  • Individuals less suited to the environment are less likely to survive and less likely to reproduce; individuals more suited to the environment are more likely to survive and more likely to reproduce and leave their heritable traits to future generations, which produces the process of natural selection (fact).
  • This slowly effected process results in populations changing to adapt to their environments, and ultimately, these variations accumulate over time to form new species (inference).

In relation to the publication of Darwin's Origins of Species, Erst Mayr identified philosophical implications of evolution:[27]

  • An evolving world, not a static one.
  • The implausibility of creationism.
  • The refutation that the universe has purpose.
  • Defeating the justifications for a human-centric world.
  • Materialistic processes explain the impression of design.
  • Population thinking replaces essentialism.



  • Mayr, Ernst (1942). Systematics and the Origin of Species, from the Viewpoint of a Zoologist. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-86250-0.
  • Mayr, Ernst (1945). Birds of the Southwest Pacific: A Field Guide to the Birds of the Area Between Samoa, New Caledonia, and Micronesia. New York: Macmillan.
  • Mayr, Ernst (1963). Animal Species and Evolution. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-03750-2.
  • Mayr, Ernst (1970). Populations, Species, and Evolution. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-69013-4.
  • Mayr, Ernst (1976). Evolution and the Diversity of Life. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-27105-0.
  • Mayr, Ernst. & William B. Provine, (eds) (1980). The Evolutionary Synthesis: Perspectives on the Unification of Biology, ISBN 0-674-27225-0
  • Mayr, Ernst (1982). The Growth of Biological Thought. Cambridge (Mass.): Belknap P. of Harvard U.P. ISBN 978-0-674-36446-2.
  • Mayr, Ernst (1988). Toward a New Philosophy of Biology. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-89666-6.
  • Mayr, Ernst (1991). Principles of Systematic Zoology. New York: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 978-0-07-041144-9.
  • Mayr, Ernst (1991). One Long Argument. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-63906-5.
  • Mayr, Ernst (1997). This Is Biology. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-88469-4.
  • Mayr, Ernst (2001). The Birds of Northern Melanesia. Oxford Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-514170-2.
  • Mayr, Ernst (2001). What Evolution Is. New York: Basic Books. ISBN 978-0-465-04426-9.
  • Mayr, Ernst (2004). What Makes Biology Unique?. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-84114-6.

Global reviews of species new to science

Other notable publications

  • 1923 "Die Kolbenente (Nyroca rufina) auf dem Durchzuge in Sachsen". Ornithologische Monatsberichte 31:135–136
  • 1923 "Der Zwergfliegenschnäpper bei Greifswald". Ornithologische Monatsberichte 31:136
  • 1926 "Die Ausbreitung des Girlitz (Serinus canaria serinus L.) Ein Beitrag zur Tiergeographie". J. für Ornithologie 74:571–671
  • 1927 "Die Schneefinken (Gattungen Montifringilla und Leucosticte)" J. für Ornithologie 75:596–619
  • 1929 with W Meise. Zeitschriftenverzeichnis des Museums für Naturkunde Mitteilungen aus dem Zoologischen Museum in Berlin 14:1–187
  • 1930 (by Ernst Hartert) "List of birds collected by Ernst Mayr". Ornithologische Monatsberichte 36:27–128
  • 1930 "My Dutch New Guinea Expedition". 1928. Ornithologische Monatsberichte 36:20–26
  • 1931 Die Vögel des Saruwaged und Herzoggebirges (NO Neuginea) Mitteilungen aus dem Zoologischen Museum in Berlin 17:639–723
  • 1931 "Birds collected during the Whitney South Sea Expedition. XII Notes on Halcyon chloris and some of its subspecies". American Museum Novitates no 469
  • 1932 "A tenderfoot explorer in New Guinea" Natural History 32:83–97
  • 1935 "Bernard Altum and the territory theory". Proceedings of the Linnaean Society of New York 45, 46:24–38 [1]
  • 1938 Birds of the Crane Pacific expedition, Ernst Mayr and Sidney Camras, Zoological Series of the Field Museum of Natural History, Volume XX, No. 34.
  • 1940 "Speciation phenomena in birds". American Naturalist 74:249–278
  • 1941 "Borders and subdivision of the Polynesian region as based on our knowledge of the distribution of birds". Proceedings of the 6th Pacific Scientific Congress 4:191–195
  • 1941 "The origin and history of the bird fauna of Polynesia". Proceedings of the 6th Pacific Scientific Congress 4:197–216
  • 1943 "A journey to the Solomons". Natural History 52:30–37,48
  • 1944 "Wallace's Line in the light of recent zoogeographics studies". Quarterly Review of Biology 19:1–14
  • 1944 "The birds of Timor and Sumba". Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 83:123–194
  • 1944 "Timor and the colonization of Australia by birds". Emu 44:113–130
  • 1946 "History of the North American bird fauna" Wilson Bulletin 58:3–41
  • 1946 "The naturalist in Leidy's time and today". Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia 98:271–276
  • 1947 "Ecological factors in speciation". Evolution 1:263–288
  • 1948 "The new Sanford Hall". Natural History 57:248–254
  • 1950 The role of the antennae in the mating behavior of female Drosophila. Evolution 4:149–154
  • 1951 Introduction and Conclusion. Pages 85,255–258 in The problem of land connections across the South Atlantic with special reference to the Mesozoic. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 99:79–258
  • 1951 with Dean Amadon, "A classification of recent birds". American Museum Novitates no. 1496
  • 1953 with E G Linsley and R L Usinger. Methods and Principles of Systematica Zoology. McGraw-Hill, New York.
  • 1954 "Changes in genetic environment and evolution". Pages 157–180 in Evolution as a Process (J Huxley, A C Hardy and E B Ford Eds) Allen and Unwin. London
  • 1955 "Karl Jordan's contribution to current concepts in systematics and evolution". Transactions of the Royal Entomological Society of London 107:45–66
  • 1956 with C B Rosen. "Geographic variation and hybridization in populations of Bahama snails (Cerion)". American Museum Novitates no 1806.
  • 1957 "Species concepts and definitions". Pages 371–388 in The Species Problem (E. Mayr ed). AAAS, Washington DC.
  • 1959 "The emergence of evolutionary novelties". Pages 349–380 in The Evolution of Life: Evolution after Darwin, vol 1 (S. Tax, ed) University of Chicago.
  • 1959 "Darwin and the evolutionary theory in Biology". Pages 1–10 in Evolution and Anthropology: A Centennial Appraisal (B J Meggers, Ed) The Anthropological Society of Washington, Washington DC.
  • 1959 "Agassiz, Darwin, and Evolution". Harvard Library Bulletin. 13:165–194
  • 1961 "Cause and effect in biology: Kinds of causes, predictability, and teleology are viewed by a practicing biologist". Science 134:1501–1506
  • 1962 "Accident or design: The paradox of evolution". Pages 1–14 in The Evolution of Living Organisms (G W Leeper, Ed) Melbourne University Press.
  • 1964 Introduction, Bibliography and Subject Pages vii–xxviii, 491–513 in On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, by Charles Darwin. A Facsimile of the First Edition. Harvard University Press.
  • 1965 Comments. In Proceedings of the Boston Colloguium for the Philosophy of Science, 1962–1964. Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science 2:151–156
  • 1969 Discussion: Footnotes on the philosophy of biology. Philosophy of Science 36:197–202
  • 1972 Continental drift and the history of the Australian bird fauna. Emu 72:26–28
  • 1972 Geography and ecology as faunal determinants. Pages 549–561 in Proceedings XVth International Ornithological Congress (K H Voous, Ed) E J Brill, Leiden, The Netherlands.
  • 1972 Lamarck revisited. Journal of the History of Biology. 5:55–94
  • 1974 Teleological and teleonomic: A new analysis. Boston studies in the Philosophy of Science 14:91–117
  • 1978 Tenure: A sacred cow? Science 199:1293
  • 1980 How I became a Darwinian, Pages 413–423 in The Evolutionary Synthesis (E Mayr and W Provine, Eds) Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
  • 1980 with W B Provine, Eds. The Evolutionary Synthesis. Harvard University Press.
  • 1981 Evolutionary biology. Pages 147–162 in The Joys of Research (W. Shripshire Jr, Ed.) Smithsonian Institution Press.
  • 1984 Evolution and ethics. Pages 35–46 in Darwin, Mars and Freud: Their influence on Moral Theory (A L Caplan and B Jennings, Eds.) Plenum Press, New York.
  • 1985. Darwin's five theories of evolution. In D. Kohn, ed., The Darwinian Heritage, Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, pp. 755–772.
  • 1985. How biology differs from the physical sciences. In D. J. Depew and B H Weber, eds., Evolution at a Crossroads: The New Biology and the New Philosophy of Science, Cambridge MA: The MIT Press, pp. 43–63.
  • 1988. The why and how of species. Biology and Philosophy 3:431–441
  • 1992. The idea of teleology. Journal of the History of Ideas 53:117–135
  • 1994. with W.J. Bock. Provisional classifications v. standard avian sequences: heuristics and communication in ornithology. Ibis 136:12–18
  • 1996. What is a species, and what is not? Philosophy of Science 63 (June): 262–277.
  • 1996. The autonomy of biology: the position of biology among the sciences. Quarterly Review of Biology 71:97–106
  • 1997. The objects of selection Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 94 (March): 2091–94.
  • 1999. Darwin's influence on modern thought Crafoord Prize lecture, September 23, 1999.
  • 2000. Biology in the Twenty-First Century Bioscience 50 (Oct. 2000): 895–897.
  • 2001. "The philosophical foundations of Darwinism" (PDF), Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 145: 488–495, archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-04-14
  • 2002. with Walter J Bock. Classifications and other ordering systems. Zeitschrift Zool. Syst. Evolut-Forsch. 40:1–25

See also


  1. ^ a b c Bock, Walter J. (2006). "Ernst Walter Mayr. 5 July 1904 -- 3 February 2005: Elected ForMemRS 1988". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 52: 167–187. doi:10.1098/rsbm.2006.0013. JSTOR 20461341.
  2. ^ Meyer, A. (2005). "On the Importance of Being Ernst Mayr". PLoS Biology. 3 (5): e152. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0030152. PMC 1073696.
  3. ^ Rennie, J. (1994), Profile: Ernst Mayr – Darwin's Current Bulldog, Scientific American 271 (2), 24-25.
  4. ^ Haffer 2007:12
  5. ^ a b c Haffer 2007:22
  6. ^ a b c Mayr & Provine, 1998:p. 413.
  7. ^ Haffer 2007:23.
  8. ^ Haffer 2007:35.
  9. ^ a b c d e Barrow, Mark V. (1998), A Passion for Birds: American Ornithology after Audubon. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-04402-3.
  10. ^ Snibbe, Kris (2005-02-04). "Evolutionary theorist dies at 100". NBC News. Retrieved 2019-07-06.
  11. ^ Bradt, Steve (2005-02-10). "Ernst Mayr, giant among evolutionary biologists, dies at 100". Harvard Gazette. Retrieved 2019-07-06.
  12. ^ "The Four Awards Bestowed by The Academy of Natural Sciences and Their Recipients". Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia. 156 (1): 403–404. June 2007. doi:10.1635/0097-3157(2007)156[403:TFABBT]2.0.CO;2.
  13. ^ "Daniel Giraud Elliot Medal". National Academy of Sciences. Archived from the original on December 29, 2010. Retrieved 2 March 2016.
  14. ^ "Benjamin Franklin Medal for Distinguished Achievement in the Sciences Recipients". American Philosophical Society. Retrieved November 27, 2011.
  15. ^ Shermer, M.; Sulloway, F.J. (2000). "The grand old man of evolution". Skeptic. 8 (1): 76–82.
  16. ^ Sagan, C. (1982). "Extraterrestrial Intelligence: An International Petition". Science. 218 (4571): 426. Bibcode:1982Sci...218..426S. doi:10.1126/science.218.4571.426-a. ISSN 0036-8075. PMID 17808525.
  17. ^ Sagan, Carl (1995). "The Abundance of Life-Bearing Planets". Bioastronomy News. 7 (4).
  18. ^ a b Brockman, John, ed. (October 31, 2001). "Ernst Mayr: What Evolution Is". Edge. 92.
  19. ^ Meise, W. (1929). "Zwei neue Rassen von Myzomela nigrita". Ornithologische Monatsberichte). 37: 84–85.
  20. ^ Rümmler, H. (1932). "Ueber die schwimmratten (Hydromyinae), zugleich Beschreibung einer neuen Leptomys Thos., L. ernstmayri, aus Neuguinea". Aquarium (Berlin). 1932: 131–135.
  21. ^ Sudhaus, W.; Koch, C. (2004). "The new nematode species Poikilolaimus ernstmayri sp n. associated with termites, with a discussion on the phylogeny of Poikilolaimus (Rhabditida)". Russian Journal of Nematology. 12 (2): 143–156.
  22. ^ Kirchman, J.J.; Steadman, D.W. (2006). "Rails (Rallidae: Gallirallus) from prehistoric archaeological sites in Western Oceania". Zootaxa. 1316: 1–31. doi:10.5281/zenodo.173941.
  23. ^ Hume, J.P., 2017, Extinct Birds (2nd edition). Bloomsbury Natural History. 576 pp. ISBN 978-1472937445.
  24. ^ O'Shea, M.; Parker, F.; Kaiser, H. (2015). "A new species of New Guinea Worm-eating Snake, genus Toxicocalamus (Serpentes: Elapidae), from the Star Mountains of Western Province, Papua New Guinea, with a revised dichotomous key to the genus". Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology. 161 (6): 241–264. doi:10.3099/0027-4100-161.6.241.
  25. ^ Kulkarni, S.; Ghate, H.V. (2016). "A new cavernicolous assassin bug of the genus Bagauda Bergroth (Heteroptera: Reduviidae: Emesinae) from the Western Ghats, India". Zootaxa. 4127 (2): 365–375. doi:10.11646/zootaxa.4127.2.8. PMID 27395629.
  26. ^ Mayr 1982, pp. 479–480
  27. ^ Watson, Peter (2005). Ideas—A history of thought and invention from fire to Freud. HarperCollins. p. 641. ISBN 978-0-06-089287-6.

Works cited

  • Haffer, Jürgen (2007). Ornithology, Evolution, and Philosophy: The Life and Science of Ernst Mayr, 1904-2005. Berlin: Springer. ISBN 978-3-540-71778-2.
  • Mayr, Ernst (1998). The Evolutionary Synthesis. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-27226-2. Reprint of 1980 edition (Mayr and William B. Provine, eds) with new preface.

Further reading

External links

August Weismann

For the 19th-century New York politician, see Augustus Weismann.Prof August Friedrich Leopold Weismann FRS(For) HFRSE LLD (17 January 1834 – 5 November 1914) was a German evolutionary biologist. Ernst Mayr ranked him as the second most notable evolutionary theorist of the 19th century, after Charles Darwin. Weismann became the Director of the Zoological Institute and the first Professor of Zoology at Freiburg.

His main contribution involved germ plasm theory, at one time also known as Weismannism, according to which inheritance (in a multicellular organism) only takes place by means of the germ cells—the gametes such as egg cells and sperm cells. Other cells of the body—somatic cells—do not function as agents of heredity. The effect is one-way: germ cells produce somatic cells and are not affected by anything the somatic cells learn or therefore any ability an individual acquires during its life. Genetic information cannot pass from soma to germ plasm and on to the next generation. Biologists refer to this concept as the Weismann barrier. This idea, if true, rules out the inheritance of acquired characteristics as proposed by Jean-Baptiste Lamarck.The idea of the Weismann barrier is central to the modern synthesis of the early 20th century, though scholars do not express it today in the same terms. In Weismann's opinion the largely random process of mutation, which must occur in the gametes (or stem cells that make them) is the only source of change for natural selection to work on. Weismann became one of the first biologists to deny Lamarckism entirely. Weismann's ideas preceded the rediscovery of Gregor Mendel's work, and though Weismann was cagey about accepting Mendelism, younger workers soon made the connection.

Weismann is much admired today. Ernst Mayr judged him to be the most important evolutionary thinker between Darwin and the evolutionary synthesis around 1930–1940, and "one of the great biologists of all time".

Crescent-caped lophorina

The crescent-caped lophorina or Vogelkop superb bird-of-paradise (Lophorina niedda), sometimes noted as the curl-caped bird-of-paradise, is a species of the Paradisaeidae (bird-of-paradise) family. It is endemic to the Bird's Head Peninsula in New Guinea. First described in 1930 by Ernst Mayr, it had been treated as a subspecies of the superb bird-of-paradise but was elevated to the status of a full species in 2018 based on its striking black plumage that's feathers absorb 99.95 percent of light and behavioral differences especially visible in the courting male, as shown in audiovisual data documented by Scholes and Timothy Laman of Harvard University's Museum of Comparative Zoology.

Ecotypic variation

In population genetics, ecotypic variation is the type of genetic variation found in a large continuous geographic populations. Variation of this kind is homogeneous, due to factors such as gene flow. In 1954 Ernst Mayr wrote a landmark paper attacking the idea that subspecies in ecotypic populations lead to formation of incipient species. According to Mayr species formation occurred in populations which were small and isolated, that is, populations which exemplified typostrophic variation.

Eisenmann Medal

The Eisenmann Medal is awarded by the Linnaean Society of New York (LSNY) in recognition of the recipient's ornithological excellence and encouragement of amateur efforts in ornithology and birding.The medal commemorates the ornithologist and prominent LSNY member Eugene Eisenmann (1906-1981). It has been awarded since 1983; in some years no medal is awarded.

Eisenmann medalistsSource: Linnaean Society of New York

1983 - Ernst Mayr

1984 - Joseph J. Hickey

1985 - Olin Sewall Pettingill

1986 - Roger Tory Peterson

1987 - Chandler S. Robbins

1988 - Frank B. Gill

1989 - Helen Hays

1990 - C. Stuart Houston

1991 - David B. Wingate

1993 - G. Stuart Keith

1995 - Guy Tudor

1998 - Dean Amadon

2001 - Robert S. Ridgeley

2002 - William S. Clark

2003 - F. Gary Stiles

2004 - David J.T. Hussell and Erica H. Dunn

2005 - John W. Fitzpatrick

2006 - David A. Sibley

2008 - Malcolm C. Coulter

2009 - Kenneth V. Rosenberg

2011 - Alvaro Jaramillo

2012 - Clive Minton

2013 - Kenn Kaufman

2014 - Sophie Webb

2016 - Tim Burkhead

2017 - Peter Harrison

Ernst Mayr's water rat

Ernst Mayr's water rat (Leptomys ernstmayri) is a species of rodent in the family Muridae, named for evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr.

It is found in the Foja Mountains of Papua Province, Indonesia, and in the mountains of northeastern Papua New Guinea.

Ernst Mayr (computer scientist)

Ernst Wilhelm Mayr (born May 18, 1950) is a German computer scientist and mathematician. He received the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize in 1997 awarded for his contributions to theoretical computer science.Mayr's research in computer science covers algorithms and complexity theory. He also explores symbolic mathematics/computer algebra and methods in bioinformatics. His principal interests lie in describing and modeling parallel and distributed programs and systems, the design and analysis of efficient parallel algorithms and programming paradigms, the design of algorithm solutions for scheduling and load balancing problems and investigation of their complexity theory. He also explores polynomial ideals and their complexity and algorithms as well as algorithms for searching and analyzing extensive bioinformatic data.After studying mathematics at Technical University of Munich with a scholarship from the Maximilianeum foundation and computer science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mayr did his doctorate at Technical University of Munich in 1980. In 1982, he became assistant professor of computer science at Stanford University, where he also participated in the Presidential Young Investigator Program. In 1988, he was appointed to the Chair of Theoretical Computer Science at Goethe University Frankfurt. Mayr has held the Chair of Efficient Algorithms at Technical University of Munich since 1993 where he also served as the dean of his faculty from 2000 to 2003. In 1997 he co-founded the annual international conference Computer Algebra in Scientific Computing with Vladimir P. Gerdt and served as a general chair from 1998 to 2013.

Founder effect

In population genetics, the founder effect is the loss of genetic variation that occurs when a new population is established by a very small number of individuals from a larger population. It was first fully outlined by Ernst Mayr in 1942, using existing theoretical work by those such as Sewall Wright. As a result of the loss of genetic variation, the new population may be distinctively different, both genotypically and phenotypically, from the parent population from which it is derived. In extreme cases, the founder effect is thought to lead to the speciation and subsequent evolution of new species.In the figure shown, the original population has nearly equal numbers of blue and red individuals. The three smaller founder populations show that one or the other color may predominate (founder effect), due to random sampling of the original population. A population bottleneck may also cause a founder effect, though it is not strictly a new population.

The founder effect occurs when a small group of migrants that is not genetically representative of the population from which they came establish in a new area. In addition to founder effects, the new population is often a very small population, so shows increased sensitivity to genetic drift, an increase in inbreeding, and relatively low genetic variation.

Genetic program

In biology, a genetic program of a cell is a physiological change brought about by a temporal pattern of activation of a particular subset of genes.The metaphor was introduced simultaneously by Ernst Mayr and François Jacob, Jacques Monod in 1961 in two separate articles.

George Sarton Medal

The George Sarton Medal is the most prestigious award given by the History of Science Society. It has been awarded annually since 1955. It is awarded to an historian of science from the international community who became distinguished for "a lifetime of scholarly achievement" in the field.

The medal was designed by Bern Dibner and is named after George Sarton, the founder of the journal Isis and one of the founders of modern history of science.The Sarton Medalists are:

1955 - George Sarton

1956 - Charles Singer and Dorothea Waley Singer

1957 - Lynn Thorndike

1958 - John Farquhar Fulton

1959 - Richard Shryock

1960 - Owsei Temkin

1961 - Alexandre Koyré

1962 - E. J. Dijksterhuis

1963 - Vassili Zoubov

1964 - not awarded

1965 - J. R. Partington

1966 - Anneliese Maier

1967 - not awarded

1968 - Joseph Needham

1969 - Kurt Vogel

1970 - Walter Pagel

1971 - Willy Hartner

1972 - Kiyosi Yabuuti

1973 - Henry Guerlac

1974 - I. Bernard Cohen

1975 - René Taton

1976 - Bern Dibner

1977 - Derek T. Whiteside

1978 - Adolph Pavlovich Yushkevich

1979 - Maria Luisa Righini-Bonelli

1980 - Marshall Clagett

1981 - A. Rupert Hall and Marie Boas Hall

1982 - Thomas S. Kuhn

1983 - Georges Canguilhem

1984 - Charles Coulston Gillispie

1985 - Co-winners: Paolo Rossi (philosopher and historian of science) and Richard S. Westfall

1986 - Ernst Mayr

1987 - G.E.R. Lloyd

1988 - Stillman Drake

1989 - Gerald Holton

1990 - A. Hunter Dupree

1991 - Mirko D. Grmek

1992 - Edward Grant and George A. van Sande

1993 - John L. Heilbron

1994 - Allen G. Debus

1995 - Charles E. Rosenberg

1996 - Loren Graham

1997 - Betty Jo Teeter Dobbs

1998 - Thomas L. Hankins

1999 - David C. Lindberg

2000 - Frederic L. Holmes

2001 - Daniel J. Kevles

2002 - John C. Greene

2003 - Nancy Siraisi

2004 - Robert E. Kohler

2005 - A. I. Sabra

2006 - Mary Jo Nye

2007 - Martin J. S. Rudwick

2008 - Ronald L. Numbers

2009 - John E. Murdoch

2010 - Michael McVaugh

2011 - Robert J. Richards

2012 - Lorraine Daston

2013 - Simon Schaffer

2014 - Steven Shapin

2015 - Robert Fox

2016 - Katharine Park

2017 – Garland E. Allen

Hard inheritance

Hard inheritance was a model of heredity that explicitly excludes any acquired characteristics, such as of Lamarckism. It is the exact opposite of soft inheritance, coined by Ernst Mayr to contrast ideas about inheritance.

Hard inheritance states that characteristics of an organism's offspring (passed on through DNA) will not be affected by the actions that the parental organism performs during its lifetime. For example: a medieval blacksmith who uses only his right arm to forge steel will not sire a son with a stronger right arm than left because the blacksmith's actions do not alter his genetic code. Inheritance due to usage and non-usage is excluded. Inheritance works as described in the modern synthesis of evolutionary biology.The existence of inherited epigenetic variants has led to renewed interest in soft inheritance.

History of speciation

The scientific study of speciation — how species evolve to become new species — began around the time of Charles Darwin in the middle of the 19th century. Many naturalists at the time recognized the relationship between biogeography (the way species are distributed) and the evolution of species. The 20th century saw the growth of the field of speciation, with major contributors such as Ernst Mayr researching and documenting species' geographic patterns and relationships. The field grew in prominence with the modern evolutionary synthesis in the early part of that century. Since then, research on speciation has expanded immensely.

The language of speciation has grown more complex. Debate over classification schemes on the mechanisms of speciation and reproductive isolation continue. The 21st century has seen a resurgence in the study of speciation, with new techniques such as molecular phylogenetics and systematics. Speciation has largely been divided into discrete modes that correspond to rates of gene flow between two incipient populations. Today however, research has driven the development of alternative schemes and the discovery of new processes of speciation.

International Prize for Biology

The International Prize for Biology (国際生物学賞, Kokusai Seibutsugaku-shō) is an annual award for "outstanding contribution to the advancement of research in fundamental biology." The Prize, although it is not always awarded to a biologist, is one of the most prestigious honours a natural scientist can receive. There are no restrictions on the nationality of the recipient.

Past laureates include John B. Gurdon, Motoo Kimura, Edward O. Wilson, Ernst Mayr, Thomas Cavalier-Smith, Yoshinori Ohsumi and many other great biologists in the world.

Museum of Comparative Zoology

The Museum of Comparative Zoology, full name "The Louis Agassiz Museum of Comparative Zoology", often abbreviated simply to "MCZ", is the zoology museum located on the grounds of Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It is one of three natural history research museums at Harvard whose public face is the Harvard Museum of Natural History. Harvard MCZ's collections consist of some 21 million specimens, of which several thousand are on rotating display at the public museum. The current director of the Museum of Comparative Zoology is James Hanken, the Louis Agassiz Professor of Zoology at Harvard University.

Many of the exhibits in the public museum have not only zoological interest but also historical significance. Past exhibits have included a fossil sand dollar which was found by Charles Darwin in 1834, Captain Cook's mamo, and two pheasants that once belonged to George Washington, now on loan to Mount Vernon in Virginia.

The Harvard Museum of Natural History is physically connected to the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology; for visitors, one admission ticket grants access to both museums. The research collections of the Museum of Comparative Zoology are not open to the public.

New Britain sparrowhawk

The New Britain sparrowhawk (Accipiter brachyurus) is a threatened species of bird of prey. It is endemic to two Papua New Guinea islands, New Britain and New Ireland. Even in 1934 Ernst Mayr, in his survey of mountain bird life during the Whitney South Sea Expedition, found the New Britain sparrowhawk to be very rare.

Sanford's sea eagle

The Sanford's sea eagle (Haliaeetus sanfordi), sometimes listed as Sanford's fish eagle or Solomon eagle, is a sea eagle endemic to the Solomon Islands. The "sea eagle" name is to be preferred, to distinguish the species of Haliaeetus from the closely related Ichthyophaga true fish eagles. The species was described in 1935 by Ernst Mayr who noticed that earlier observers had overlooked it, thinking it was a juvenile of the white-bellied sea eagle.

Society for the Study of Evolution

The Society for the Study of Evolution is a professional organization of evolutionary biologists. It was formed in the United States in 1946 to promote evolution and the integration of various fields of science concerned with evolution and to organize the publication of a scientific journal to report on new research on evolution across a variety of fields.

The Society was established at a meeting in St. Louis on March 30, 1946. Fifty-seven scientists attended the meeting, which was chaired by Alfred E. Emerson. George Gaylord Simpson was elected as the Society's first President, with E. B. Babcock, Emerson, and J. T. Patterson as his Vice-presidents and Ernst Mayr as secretary. This society grew as an extension of the US National Research Council's Committee on Common Problems of Genetics and Paleontology (later renamed the Committee on Common Problems of Genetics, Paleontology and Systematics).The first annual meeting of the society was held in Boston, December 28–31, 1946. A grant from the American Philosophical Society led to the publication of the journal Evolution.

Commonly known as 'evolution meeting,' the annual conference is often held together with the Society of Systematic Biologists and the American Society of Naturalists.

The society has an official journal Evolution. It was started in 1947 and is published by John Wiley & Sons. In 2017, it launched a second journal Evolution Letters.

The Growth of Biological Thought

The Growth of Biological Thought (992 pages, Belknap Press, ISBN 0674364465) is a book written by Ernst Mayr, first published in 1982. It is subtitled Diversity, Evolution, and Inheritance, and is as much a book of philosophy and history as it is of biology.It is a sweeping, academic study of the first 2,400 years of the science of biology. It focuses largely on how the philosophical assumptions of biologists influenced and limited their understanding. It includes many important general observations about the role of philosophy in scientific inquiry and the place of biology amongst the sciences.

Toward a New Philosophy of Biology

Toward a New Philosophy of Biology: Observations of an Evolutionist (published by Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1988) is a book by Harvard evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr.

A collection of 28 essays, five previously unpublished, grouped into ten categories—Philosophy, Natural Selection, Adaptation, Darwin, Diversity, Species, Speciation, Macroevolution, and Historical Perspective. The book, Mayr notes in the Forward, is an attempt "to strengthen the bridge between biology and philosophy, and point to the new direction in which a new philosophy of biology will move."

Two-empire system

The two-empire system (two-superkingdom system) was the top-level biological classification system in general use before the establishment of the three-domain system. It classified life into Prokaryota and Eukaryota. When the three-domain system was introduced, some biologists preferred the two-superkingdom system, claiming that the three-domain system overemphasized the division between Archaea and Bacteria. However, given the current state of knowledge and the rapid progress in biological scientific advancement, especially due to genetic analyses, that view has all but vanished.

Some prominent scientists, such as Thomas Cavalier-Smith, still hold to the two-empire system. The late Ernst Mayr, one of the 20th century's leading evolutionary biologists, wrote dismissively of the three-domain system, "I cannot see any merit at all in a three empire cladification." Additionally, the scientist Radhey Gupta argues for a return to the two-empire system, claiming that the primary division within prokaryotes should be among those surrounded by a single membrane (monoderm), including gram-positive bacteria and archaebacteria, and those with an inner and outer cell membrane (diderm), including gram-negative bacteria.

This system was preceded by Haeckel's three-kingdom system: Animalia, Plantae and Protista.


This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.