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Ernst Mayr dies


NCSE joins the worldwide scientific community in mourning the death of Ernst Mayr, a towering figure in twentieth-century biology, on February 3, 2005, in Bedford, Massachusetts, at the age of 100. In more than twenty books and hundred of scientific papers, Mayr made fundamental empirical and conceptual contributions, not only to evolutionary biology but also to its history and philosophy. As a principal architect of the Modern Evolutionary Synthesis, he played a pivotal role in integrating seemingly divergent research traditions, helping to bring a new coherence to evolutionary theory based on genetics, systematics, and biogeography. His classic works Systematics and the Origin of Species (1942) and Animal Species and Evolution(1963) introduced the biological species concept and offered detailed explanations of the mechanisms of speciation. Born in 1904 in Bavaria, Mayr earned his Ph.D. in 1926 and joined the American Museum of Natural History in New York in 1932. In 1953, he was appointed Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology at Harvard University, where he was also a curator in the Museum of Comparative Zoology. During his career, he received numerous awards and honors, including election to the National Academy of Sciences (1954) and the National Medal of Science (1970). Prolific to the last, in his retirement he wrote such books as What Evolution Is (2002) and What Makes Biology Unique? (2004). Mayr was a long-time member of NCSE: we were honored by his support and are saddened by his death.