Talk:Ernst Mayr

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Punctuated evolution[edit]

In what way is allopatric speciation the basis of punctuated evolution ? Shyamal 12:11, 20 May 2004 (UTC)

Updated to peripatric speciation, based on a statement in an article of his, although that is obviously not independent verification. Noisy 09:56, 9 Jul 2004 (UTC)

--- I can't identify the "Rothschild collection" at AMNH> Collection of what? Wetman 07:39, 4 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Rothschild collection[edit]

Have modified it - bird collection !

Errors ID'd by Nature, to correct[edit]

The results of what exactly Nature suggested should be corrected is out... italicize each bullet point once you make the correction. -- user:zanimum

  • The entry says that Mayr solved the species concept - but, take it from me, there are still dozens of people arguing about it: this is a bit misleading.
  • Mayr was not sent to PNG by Rothschild, but by the American Museum of Natural History.
  • The original statement in the article was substantially correct: Rothschild was a sponsor of the NG expedition. I have edited this section to include what the original (i.e. pre-Nature correction) editor stated and the account that Mayr himself gave in his 1932 paper in Natural History (already cited in Other notable publications).--MayerG 09:18, 17 January 2006 (UTC)
  • The statement that "He continued to reject the view that evolution is the mere change of gene frequencies in populations, maintaining that other factors such as reproductive isolations had to be taken into account" is a bit odd; in that reproductive isolation presumably depends on the evolution of a genetic barrier - ie a change in gene frequencies.


Hi, User:Vsmith. Not sure why you removed the two references I put in. They were among the references I consulted in looking into the question of Rothschild's involvement with Mayr's expedition to New Guinea, and provide verifiable sources for some of what's in the article. (I am a cached page made it look like I was logged in when I actually wasn't, so the reference edit appeared as an anonymous one.)--MayerG 04:34, 18 January 2006 (UTC)

The 1974 reference contains text referencing much later works (1986 or so), so something needs to be corrected. I will try to find a more correct date, but it will take som time. The 1974 refers to the first publication of the essay, but it has later been updated and had a postscript added. I would think the later date should be used, with a note like ("revised 1974 essay"). ClausVind.

Nature dispute is finished?[edit]

I am assuming that the current updates are not related to the Nature dispute and that we can remove the NatureDispute template. -- Pinktulip 08:51, 25 January 2006 (UTC)

species concepts debates[edit]

I added a short paragraph that points out that Mayr was a staunch champion of the biological species concept against the many alternatives that were proposed. Karebh 03:54, 2 February 2007 (UTC)

species concept : BSC[edit]

In "What makes biology unique?" Mayr himself wrote that it is a mistake to give him the paternity of the BSC concept, and cites Bouffon, Jordan, Poulton Streseman and Rensch as the fathers of this concept.

--& Darwin discusses reproductive isolation as the defining distinction between species as well, although he did not strongly advocate it. The "modern" BSC, however, is best attributed to Dobzhansky. --Patrick Alexander —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 06:04, 3 October 2007 (UTC)


The use of PhD to refer to the German university Diplom is possibly misleading. It gives the title Doktor, but is the completion of a normal, though extended (5 or 6 years) higher education. The BA/PhD scheme is a great American invention, which is gradually replacing the long-cycle first degrees of central Europe (cf. Bologna process.) The Diplom thesis is not therefore the result of 2 or 3 years' specific research training, but something more like the requirement for an M.Sc.or B.Phil. I would suggest changing "PhD" to the more general "doctorate". James Wimberley88.23.182.194 08:10, 9 June 2007 (UTC)

It's over-simplistic to describe the bachelor-[master-]doctor degree system as "a great American invention". See Doctor_of_Philosophy#History for a more nuanced view. The general consensus seems to be that the award of a doctoral degree for advanced research originated at the University of Berlin and was copied by Yale, although the clear distinction between the three levels of degree is largely due to American practice, and is still resisted in parts of Europe (Oxford and Cambridge universities, for example, still award a Masters title for what is only first degree work). Peter coxhead (talk) 04:50, 16 January 2011 (UTC)
Changes made, although it was probably included due to Jared Diamond's note here, but this is a good point. The Nature review never pointed this out. Shyamal 08:39, 9 June 2007 (UTC)
Actually Gill mentions a "dissertation" and then uses the term "Ph D". ( Gill, F B (1994) Ernst Mayr, the Ornithologist. Evolution, 48(1):12-18.) Shyamal (talk) 05:57, 2 October 2009 (UTC)

I think this page needs a more precise explanation of the biological species concept. In Mayr's own words: the BSC "defines a species as a reproductively isolated aggregate of populations which can interbreed because they share the same isolating mechanisms" (E. Mayr, One Long Argument, Harvard U. Press, 1991, 29-30, 177-178). Stating simply that species according to this definition "can interbreed" does not do justice to Mayr's concept. He wrote in more than one book that inability for two parents to reproduce was not a test of a good species. The key is isolating mechanisms. Populations that normally tend to not interbreed, whether or not they can actually copulate, is the real test of a species according to the biological species concept. (talk) 05:52, 15 November 2012 (UTC)

Dawkins criticism?[edit]

Dawkins, in his books, never says that natural selection DOESN'T act on a whole organism. After all, it's the organism as a whole that lives or dies, not, say, the left leg, or a particular chunk of genetic code. I think he would say (though he could speak for himself) that "natural selection acts on genes" is short for "the genetic composition of the population is what evolves". After all, an individual organism does not evolve. It is born, grows, and dies.

Anyway, if we are going to put such specific criticisms of a specific person, who would reject his view being characterized this way, in the article, should we not include some balance, or should maybe we drop the whole subject altogether?Shrikeangel (talk) 04:41, 25 June 2009 (UTC)

According to Menno Schiltzhuizen, Mayr did not take many other ideas as well. The article does mention Haldane's statistical ideas. Frank Gill also makes a sideways remakr that Mayr "sometimes accepted" new ideas. So the critique of Dawkins really shows Mayr's failure to understand and incorporated new points of view. Of course everyone today understands that the concept does not imply that genes survive or reproduce in isolation. So this criticism has be viewed in the historic context and dropping the content would appear revisionist rather than useful. Shyamal (talk) 06:07, 2 October 2009 (UTC)

What about genetic program ?[edit]

Mayr have create the idea of genetic program (that doesn't exist!) and talk about all long in theses books. Not a world in this article, too bad (see the french version). Bertrand from France - 15:30, 27 October 2010. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk)

Middle initial should be dropped from article title[edit]

Mayr rarely (if ever-- I know of no examples offhand) used his middle initial. His books were all by "Ernst Mayr". I don't know when the initial was added to the article title (the history always shows the current title). Per WP:Article titles, Common names ("The term most typically used in reliable sources is preferred to technically correct but rarer forms"), the title should be changed back to "Ernst Mayr" (leaving of course, his middle name in the lead paragraph). I'd do it myself, but I don't know how to change titles without creating a new page, or how to save the edit history. MayerG (talk) 05:52, 17 February 2011 (UTC)

Agree. Moved it, hopefully there are no objections. (Hope the bots will fix the redirect links) Shyamal (talk) 07:57, 17 February 2011 (UTC)

Questions and suggestions[edit]


I'd like to see the list of awards as an actual list rather than run in to a paragraph. Lists are much easier to read. Also, I'd like dates on the awards if anyone knows them. Then we can put the awards into chronological order.

The quote headed "Mayr also had reservations about evolution:" an interpolation by a anti-evolutionist. The quote needs to be introduced in a better way, "Mayr had doubts about the ability of random mutations to improve complex structures' or something.

Unclear bits[edit]

  1. When invited to go with the other expedition to the Solomon Islands, did Mayr accept?
  2. Was the Bronx Birding group a subset of the Linnean Society chapter or a separate group entirely? I've disentangled the descriptions of them somewhat (the article switched back and forth with each sentence) but have not given them separate paragraphs. Perhaps someone who knows can complete the separation if they're unrelated groups.
  3. Was Mayr the one who invited the three Big Names mentioned to review Margaret Nice's book, thus getting her more attention?
  4. About the Nobel Prize, did Mayr say "evolutionary biology" or just "biology"?

Thanks! Monado (talk) 18:33, 10 February 2011 (UTC)


Most Wikipedia articles about people give a nationality right at the start. Would it be fair to call Mayr a "German-American" biologist? I don't know if he ever became a US citizen, but he is called a "deutsch-amerikanischer Biologe" in the German wikipedia.-- (talk) 22:23, 18 April 2011 (UTC)

Mayr addresses evolutionary biology[edit]

"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." Soranoch (talk) 00:43, 17 October 2013 (UTC)

Family: Son-in-law Ron Cowan[edit]

Is Mayr's son-in-law the widely known science journalist and if so, should that be mentioned in a section on family life? Ernst Mayr had a son-in-law named Ron Cowan who married Mayr's daughter Susanne who was born in 1937. That Cowan was born in 1934. There is an oft-published science journalist Ron Cowan who writes for Science News (and Nature) who apparently earned a BS in physics from NYU in 1978. Is this the same Ron Cowan and if so, would it add value to this EM article to mention that? Bob Enyart, Denver KGOV radio host (talk) 17:37, 1 September 2014 (UTC)

The entry for David Berlinski mentions in the first paragraph that his daughter Claire Berlinski is a well known journalist. Bob Enyart, Denver KGOV radio host (talk) 17:40, 1 September 2014 (UTC)