Deaths Elsewhere

February 05, 2005

Ernst Mayr, 100, one of the world's leading evolutionary biologists and a longtime Harvard University faculty member, died Thursday at a retirement community in Bedford, Mass.

His work in the 1930s and 1940s, while a curator at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, established him as a leading neo-Darwinist, supporting a theory of evolution that is a combination of Darwin's natural selection theory and modern genetics.

In his travels in New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, Dr. Mayr showed, unlike Darwin, that species can arise from isolated populations.

"Professor Mayr's contributions to Harvard University and to the field of evolutionary biology were extraordinary by any measure," Harvard history professor William C. Kirby said, calling Dr. Mayr a "leading mind of the 20th century."

Dr. Mayr "shaped and articulated modern understanding of biodiversity and related fields," Dr. Kirby said.

Born in Kempten, Germany, Dr. Mayr joined the Harvard faculty in 1953 as a zoology professor and led Harvard's comparative zoology museum from 1961 to 1970. He retired in 1975.

Throughout his career, Dr. Mayr fought to make sure biology stood alongside physics, astronomy and chemistry.

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