George Melendez Wright
George Melendez Wright (June 20, 1904 – February 25, 1936) was an American biologist who conducted the first scientific survey of fauna for the National Park Service. He was born in San Francisco, California. Wright's Salvadorian mother Mercedes Melendez Wright was born in San Salvador, and was from one of El Salvador's most prominent dynasties; she died in 1906. His father was a sea-captain John Tennant Wright, a native San Franciscan; he died in 1912. Since both died when he was a child, he was left in the care of a great aunt, Cordelia Ward Wright, who encouraged his fascination with the natural world and interest in science. He went on to study forestry and vertebrate zoology at the University of California, Berkeley.
In 1927, Wright joined the staff of Yosemite National Park as assistant park naturalist. At the time, Park Service staff routinely killed predators and encouraged the public to feed bears and other animals. In 1929, he began conducting a 4-year wildlife survey program for national parks that he funded himself. The results were published in 1932 and 1933 in the series Fauna of the National Parks of the United States. The survey and reports established science as the basis for wildlife conservation in American national parks.
Wright died in an automobile accident at the age of 31 near Deming, New Mexico, while serving on a commission establishing new parks along the Mexican border. The George Wright Society is named in his honor.
- George Melendez Wright, Scientist and Visionary
- Untold Stories from America's National Parks
- Fauna of the National Parks of the United States:
- Preliminary Survey of Faunal Relations in National Parks (1932)
- Wildlife Management in the National Parks (1933)
- Portrait of George Melendez Wright circa 1930 (Historic Photograph Collection, Harpers Ferry Center)
- The George Wright Society