William Orville Ayres

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William Orville Ayres (September 11, 1817 – April 30, 1887) was an American physician and ichthyologist. Born in Connecticut, he studied to become a doctor at Yale University School of Medicine.

Ayres was also interested in natural science, however, particularly in ornithology. He became friends with famed ornithologist and painter John James Audubon, who named a woodpecker (now called the Northern Flicker) after him, mentioning him by name in his Birds of America:

I have named this handsome bird after my young and learned friend W. O. AYRES, Esq., who is well known to science as an excellent ichthyologist; and who also is well conversant with the birds of our country. [1]

As the first Curator of Ichthyology of the California Academy of Sciences,[2] Ayres wrote several many papers on the fish of California, despite poor facilities. In a letter to a colleague at the Smithsonian Institution Ayers pled for support for the fledgling academy:

I am working along here in the dark as well as I can, with almost nothing in the way of books or means of reference, and what mistakes I make, some of you more advantageously situated must correct. [3]

Since there were no established scientific journals available, he turned to local newspapers to publish his descriptions of fish. [4]

In 1882 Ayres wrote an article in The American Naturalist, "The Ancient Man of Calaveras" about the Calaveras Skull, a human skull purported at the time to have been found in a mine in Calaveras County, California. He defended the claim that the skull was indeed of ancient origin. That the skull was of ancient provenance is now generally believed to have been a hoax.

Ayres's name (cited in Latin as ayresii) is used in the binomial names of several species of birds and fish.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Missouri Red-moustached Woodpecker
  2. ^ http://www.calacademy.org/membership/membership.php
  3. ^ California Wild Spring 2003 - Science Amid the Saloons
  4. ^ California Academy of Sciences - 150th Anniversary Celebration