Ernst Mayr

Ernst Mayr was one of the 20th century’s leading biologists, specializing in theory of evolution.

Early life

He was born on July 5, 1904 in Kempten, Germany. Mayr’s father was a jurist who was also interested in natural history. His father used to take him and his older brother out on field trips quite often. He learned all the local birds from his elder brother Otto. His father died just before he was thirteen.


After the death of his father his family moved to Dresden where he completed his high school education. In February 1923, Mayr graduated from high school. He started attending the University of Greifswald in 1923. On June 24, 1926 he acquired a doctorate in ornithology from the University of Berlin. Mayr was only 21 years old at the time of finishing his doctorate.


In 1927 he visited New Guinea with a famous banker and naturalist Walter Rothschild. While there he collected several thousand bird skins, and was able to identify 26 new bird species.

After returning to Germany in 1930, he was offered a curatorial position at the American Museum of Natural History, which he accepted. While working there he wrote numerous publications on bird taxonomy, and a few years later he published his famous book “Systematics and the Origin of Species”, which concluded the evolutionary synthesis that was started by Darwin.

In 1953 Mayr joined the Harvard University as a professor of zoology. He retired from that position in 1975. During his retirement he published a lot of articles and 14 new books.

Later life

Ernst Mayr died in Bedford, Massachusetts on February 3, 2005. He was 100 years old.

Ernst Mayr quotes

“Mathematics is as little a science as grammar is a language.”

“Scientific progress consists in the development of new concepts.”

“Our understanding of the world is achieved more effectively by conceptual improvements than by discovery of new facts…”

“Mmost scientific problems are far better understood by studying their history than their logic.”

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