Clinton Hart Merriam

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Clinton Hart Merriam
Picture of Clinton Hart Merriam.jpg
Picture of Clinton Hart Merriam, by Frances Benjamin Johnston
Born (1855-12-05)December 5, 1855
New York City
Died March 19, 1942(1942-03-19) (aged 86)
Berkeley, California
Nationality USA
Fields Zoology
Institutions United States Department of Agriculture
National Geographic Society
Known for Life zone concept
Author abbrev. (botany) Merriam

Clinton Hart Merriam (December 5, 1855 – March 19, 1942) was an American zoologist, ornithologist, entomologist, ethnographer, and naturalist.

Life and career[edit]

Known as "Hart" to his friends, Merriam was born in New York City in 1855. His father, Clinton Levi Merriam, was a U.S. congressman.

Merriam studied biology and anatomy at Yale University and obtained an M.D. from the School of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University in 1879. He taught for a while at Harvard University.

Merriam died in Berkeley, California in 1942.

His sister Florence Augusta Merriam Bailey was a pioneering ornithologist who introduced popular field guides for bird identification. She married Vernon Bailey a field naturalist and long-time collecting partner of C. Hart Merriam's. His grandson Lee Merriam Talbot (born 1930) was a geographer and ecologist who was among the IUCN team which rediscovered the Persian Fallow Deer in 1957, and secretary general of the IUCN from 1980 to 1983.


In 1886, he became the first chief of the Division of Economic Ornithology and Mammalogy of the United States Department of Agriculture, predecessor to the National Wildlife Research Center and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. In 1883, he was a founding member of the American Ornithologists' Union.[1] He was one of the original founders of the National Geographic Society in 1888. He developed the concept of "life zones" to classify biomes found in North America along an altitudinal sequence corresponding to the zonal latitudinal sequence from Equator to Pole. In mammalogy, he is known as an excessive splitter, proposing, for example, tens of different species of North American brown bears in several genera.

In 1899, he helped railroad magnate E. H. Harriman to organize an exploratory voyage along the Alaska coastline.

Some species of animals that bear his name are Merriam's Wild Turkey Meliagris gallopavo meriami, the now extinct Merriam's Elk Cervus elaphus merriami, Merriam's Pocket Mouse and Merriam's Chipmunk Tamias merriami. Much of his detail-oriented taxonomy continues to be influential within mammalogical and ornithological circles.[citation needed]

Native Americans[edit]

Later in life, funded by the Harriman family, Merriam's focus shifted to studying and assisting the Native American tribes in the western United States. His contributions on the myths of central California and on ethnogeography were particularly noteworthy.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The American Ornithologists' Union", Bulletin of the Nuttall Ornithological Club VIII (4), October 1883: under cover 
  2. ^ "Author Query for 'Merriam'". International Plant Names Index. 
  • Bean, Lowell John. 1993. "Introduction". In The Dawn of the World: Myths and Tales of the Miwok Indians of California, by C. Hart Merriam, pp. 1–12. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln.
  • Kroeber, A. L. 1955. "C. Hart Merriam as Anthropologist". In Studies of California Indians, by C. Hart Merriam, pp. vii–xiv. University of California Press, Berkeley.
  • Sterling, Keir B. 1974. The Last of the Naturalists: The Career of C. Hart Merriam. Arno Press, New York.
  • Anon. 1942 [Merriam, C. H.] Ent. News 53:150
  • Anon. 1942 [Merriam, C. H.] Science 95: 318
  • Daubunnire, R. F. 1938: [Merriam, C. H.]. Quart. Rev. Biol. 13:327–332

External links[edit]