Some Biogeographers, Evolutionists and Ecologists:
Chrono-Biographical Sketches

Allen, Joel Asaph (United States 1838-1921)
mammalogy, ornithology, zoogeography

Photo courtesy of The Auk.
Joel Allen was one of America's leading naturalists during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Among the many areas to which he made contributions one can specially notice the following: mammalogy, ornithology, biogeography, museum administration, scientific editing, specimen collecting, scientific administration, conservation, and taxonomic revision. Allen published over 1400 works, and not all of them were short notes. He first came to international attention with his "On the Mammals and Winter Birds of East Florida," which included detailed data on character traits variation; this was one of the first important studies of its kind, and greatly buoyed the at that time still-new theory of natural selection. Allen himself, however, was a Lamarckian-leaning naturalist who believed that the physical environment, especially climate, was the most important force promoting evolutionary change. One of the highlights of his work in this direction was his elucidation of one of the famous ecogeographic principles, "Allen's Rule": that the colder the environment in which animals live, the more they tend to have limbs and other body parts that are small, short, and less protruding. He also studied the relation of color patterns to climate, and argued that bird migration patterns are related to climate shifts initiated by the glacial epochs.

Life Chronology

--born in Springfield, Massachusetts, on 19 July 1838.
--1858-1862: attends Wilbraham Academy, Springfield
--1859-1861: collects and mounts some 300 specimens of birds and mammals
--1861: sells his zoological collection to further his education
--1862: enrolls in Lawrence Scientific School, Harvard University
--1865-1866: takes part in the Thayer expedition to Brazil
--1867: made curator of mammals and birds, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University
--1868-1869: collecting expedition to Florida
--1868-1880: curator of reptiles, birds and mammals, Boston Society of Natural History
--1871: publishes "On the Mammals and Winter Birds of East Florida" in the Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard College
--1871-1872: collects bird and mammal specimens in Great Plains and Rockies
--1873: collecting in the Yellowstone, Montana, region
--1876: elected to the National Academy of Sciences; publishes his The American Bisons, Living and Extinct
--1876-1883: editor, Bulletin of the Nuttall Ornithological Club
--1877: publishes "The Influence of Physical Conditions in the Genesis of Species" in Radical Review (including his best known elucidation of "Allen's Rule")
--1880: publishes his History of North American Pinnipeds
--1883: co-founds the American Ornithologists' Union
--1883-1891: president, American Ornithologists' Union
--1884-1912: editor, The Auk
--1885-1907: curator of birds and mammals, American Museum of Natural History, New York
--1886: assists in drafting the American Ornithologists' Union's Code of Nomenclature
--1886: co-incorporates the first national Audubon Society, New York
--1886: Ph.D. (honorary), Indiana University
--1889: made editor-in-chief of all the AMNH's zoological publications
--1890-1897: president, Linnaean Society of New York
--1903: receives the Walker Grand Prize, Boston Society of Natural History
--1907-1921: curator of mammals, American Museum of Natural History, New York
--1910-1921: member of the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature
--1916: receives the gold medal of the Linnaean Society of New York
--dies at Cornwall-on-Hudson, New York, on 29 August 1921.

For Additional Information, See:

--Biographical Memoirs, National Academy of Sciences (U.S.A.), Vol. 21 (1926).
--American National Biography, Vol. 1 (1999).
--National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 3 (1893).
--Dictionary of Scientific Biography, Vol. 17 (1990)
--Journal of Mammalogy, Vol. 11(2) (1930): 105-117.
--Journal of Mammalogy, Vol. 3(4) (1922): 254-258.
--Science, Vol. 54(1400) (1921): 397-402.
--Biographical Dictionary of American and Canadian Naturalists and Environmentalists (1997).
--Autobiographical Notes and a Bibliography of the Scientific Publications of Joel Asaph Allen (1916).
--The Auk, Vol. 39(1) (1922): 1-14.

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Copyright 2005 by Charles H. Smith. All rights reserved.

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