Mary J. Rathbun

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Mary Jane Rathbun
Born(1860-06-11)June 11, 1860
DiedApril 4, 1943(1943-04-04) (aged 82)
Alma materGeorge Washington University
Scientific career
InstitutionsSmithsonian Institution
Author abbrev. (zoology)Rathbun

Mary Jane Rathbun (June 11, 1860 – April 4, 1943) was an American zoologist who specialized in crustaceans. She worked at the Smithsonian Institution from 1884 until her death.[1] She described more than a thousand new species and subspecies and many higher taxa.


Mary Jane Rathbun was born on June 11, 1860, in Buffalo, New York, the youngest of five children of Charles Rathbun and Jane Furey. Her mother died when she was only one year old, and Mary was therefore "thrown on her own resources."[2] She was educated in Buffalo, graduating in 1878, but never attended college.[2]

Rathbun was 4 ft 6 in (1.37 m) tall, and was noted for having a dry sense of humor.[2]

Rathbun at work

Rathbun first saw the ocean in 1881 when she accompanied her brother, Richard Rathbun, to Woods Hole, Massachusetts.[2] He was employed as a scientific assistant to Addison Emery Verrill, alongside Verrill's chief assistant, the carcinologist Sidney Irving Smith. Rathbun helped label, sort and record Smith's specimens, and worked on crustaceans ever since.[2]

For three years, Rathbun worked on a voluntary basis for her brother, before being granted a clerkship by Spencer Fullerton Baird at the Smithsonian Institution.[2]

After 28 years of working at the museum, Rathbun was promoted to assistant curator in charge of the Division of Crustacea.[2] In 1915, after her retirement, the Smithsonian Institution designated Rathbun an "Honorary Research Associate," and in 1916 she was granted an honorary master's degree by the University of Pittsburgh. She qualified for a Ph.D. at George Washington University in 1917.[2] Rathbun was a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Washington Academy of Sciences, and the Wild Flower Preservation Society.[3]

Rathbun died in Washington, D.C., on April 4, 1943,[3][4] at the age of 82, from complications associated with a broken hip.[2]


Rathbun's first publication was co-written with James Everard Benedict and concerned the genus Panopeus; it was published in 1891.[2] She officially retired on December 31, 1914, but did not stop working until her death.[2] Her largest work was Les crabes d'eau douce ("Freshwater crabs"), which was originally intended as a single publication, but was eventually published in three volumes between 1904 and 1906.[2] She wrote or cowrote 166 papers in total, including descriptions of 1147 new species and subspecies, 63 new genera, one subfamily, 3 families and a superfamily, as well as other nomenclatural novelties.[2] The taxa first described by Rathbun include important commercial species such as the Atlantic blue crab Callinectes sapidus,[5] and the tanner crab, Chionoecetes bairdi.[6]


A number of taxa have been named in honor of Mary J. Rathbun:[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bronstein, Judith L.; Bolnick, Daniel I. (1 December 2018). ""Her Joyous Enthusiasm for Her Life-Work …": Early Women Authors in The American Naturalist". The American Naturalist. 192 (6): 655–663. doi:10.1086/700119. ISSN 0003-0147. PMID 30444652. S2CID 53567449.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Waldo L. Schmitt (1973). "Mary J. Rathbun 1860-1943" (PDF). Crustaceana. 24 (3): 283–296. doi:10.1163/156854073x00641. JSTOR 20101989.
  3. ^ a b "Rathbun, Mary Jane (1860-1943), invertebrate zoologist | American National Biography". doi:10.1093/anb/9780198606697.article.1302014. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  4. ^ "Mary Jane Rathbun | American marine zoologist". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2018-01-25.
  5. ^ Michael Türkay (2010). "Callinectes sapidus Rathbun, 1896". World Register of Marine Species. Retrieved October 26, 2010.
  6. ^ Peter Davie (2010). "Chionoecetes bairdi Rathbun, 1893". World Register of Marine Species. Retrieved October 26, 2010.
  7. ^ Hans G. Hansson. "Dr. Mary Jane Rathbun". Biographical Etymology of Marine Organism Names. Göteborgs Universitet. Retrieved October 26, 2010.
  8. ^ Peter K. L. Ng & Paul F. Clark (2003). "Three new genera of Indo-West Pacific Xanthidae (Crustacea, Decapoda, Brachyura, Xanthoidea)" (PDF). Zoosystema. 25 (1): 131–147. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-03-19.

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