Joel Asaph Allen

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Joel Asaph Allen
Joel Asaph Allen 1838-1921.png
Joel Asaph Allen
Born (1838-07-19)July 19, 1838
Springfield, Massachusetts
Died August 29, 1921(1921-08-29)
Residence USA
Nationality American
Institutions American Academy of Arts and Sciences
Museum of Comparative Zoology
American Association for the Advancement of Science
Audubon Society
American Philosophical Society
Alma mater Harvard University
Known for Allen's rule

Joel Asaph Allen (July 19, 1838 – August 29, 1921) was an American zoologist, mammalogist and ornithologist.

He became the first president of the American Ornithologists' Union, the first curator of birds and mammals at the American Museum of Natural History, and the first head of that museum's Department of Ornithology.

He is remembered for Allen's rule, which states that the bodies of endotherms (warm-blooded animals) vary in shape with climate, having increased surface area in hot climates to lose heat, and minimized surface area in cold climates, to conserve heat.

Life and career[edit]

Allen was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. He studied at Harvard University under Louis Agassiz, and took part in Agassiz's 1865 expedition to Brazil in search of evidence of an ice age there, which Agassiz later claimed to have found, and in others within the United States.

He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1871.[1] In 1872 he was named assistant in ornithology to the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard. In 1873 Allen was the head of the naturalists of the Northern Pacific Railroad expedition from Bismarck, North Dakota to the Yellowstone and back for the Smithsonian. He explored Florida from a zoological perspective. In August 1883, with Elliott Coues and William Brewster, he sent the letter inviting selected individuals to form the American Ornithological Union at a meeting to be held in September. He was unavoidably absent from this initial meeting, but was nonetheless elected the new organization's first president. In 1885 he was appointed as the first curator of birds and mammals at the American Museum of Natural History, later becoming the first head of the museum's Department of Ornithology.

In 1886, he was one of the incorporators of the first Audubon Society, New York. He was a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and of the American Philosophical Society. From 1883 to 1886 he was the first president of the American Ornithologists' Union, which he had helped to found.[2]

The hundreds of letters which Elliott Coues (pronounced "cows") sent to him over many decades form one of the cornerstones of the history of American ornithology. Allen famously memorialized Coues[3] in the pages of The Auk, the A.O.U.'s journal, after the latter's death in 1899.

He formulated what is now known as Allen's rule, stating a correlation between body shape and climate, in 1877.

Allen used the initials J.A.A. when signing his many book reviews in The Auk.



  1. ^ "Book of Members, 1780-2010: Chapter A" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 15 April 2011. 
  2. ^ Who named it?
  3. ^ Allen, Joel Asaph. Biographical Memoir of Elliott Coues 1842-1899. National Academy of Sciences, 1909.

External links[edit]