Some Biogeographers, Evolutionists and Ecologists:
Chrono-Biographical Sketches

Murphy, Robert Cushman (United States 1887-1973)

If one wishes to acknowledge the record of his involvements, Robert C. Murphy was truly one of the twentieth century's leading ornithologists. Most of his professional life was spent at the American Museum of Natural History, through which he visited all parts of the world to conduct research or attend numerous international conferences, built up an unsurpassed collection of bird specimens, and greatly improved displays. Murphy was best known for his studies on the natural history and biogeography of marine birds; his most celebrated work, Oceanic Birds of South America, is a classic title. Murphy published some twelve books and six hundred papers over his career; many of these writings concerned conservation subjects. He received dozens of awards and notices worldwide, and was an officer of one type or another in hardly a smaller number of organizations and institutions. Before Murphy's time the biogeography of marine birds had not been well understood (many were simply viewed as vagrant populations), and his studies shed much new light in this direction.

Life Chronology

--born in Brooklyn, New York, on 29 April 1887.
--1911: Ph.B., Brown University
--1911-1917: curator of mammals and birds, Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences
--1912-1913: accompanies whaler to South Atlantic Ocean; stays on South Georgia Island for several months
--1915: expedition to Baja California
--1917-1920: head of the department of natural science, Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences
--1918: A.M., Columbia University
--1919-1920: expedition to Peruvian coast and islands
--1921-1926: associate curator of birds, American Museum of Natural History
--1924-1925: leads expedition to Peru and Ecuador
--1924: delegate to the third Pan-American Scientific Congress
--1925: publishes his Bird Islands of Peru
--1926-1942: curator of oceanic birds, American Museum of Natural History
--1936: publishes his Oceanic Birds of South America, in two volumes
--1937: receives the William Brewster gold medal of the American Ornithologist's Union
--1938: receives the bronze medal of the John Burroughs Society
--1941: honorary D.Sc., Brown University
--1942-1949: chairman, department of birds, American Museum of Natural History
--1943: receives the Elliot medal of the National Academy of Sciences
--1947: publishes his Logbook for Grace; Whaling Brig Daisy, 1912-1913
--1948-1950: president, American Ornithologists' Union
--1949-1955: Lamont curator of birds, American Museum of Natural History
--1953: publishes his Land Birds of America, with D. Amadon
--dies at Stony Brook, Long Island, on 20 March 1973.

For Additional Information, See:

--The Auk, Vol. 91(1) (1974): 1-9.
--Biographical Dictionary of American and Canadian Naturalists and Environmentalists (1997).
--American National Biography, Vol. 16 (1999).
--National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. F (1942).
--New York Times No. 42060 (21 March 1973): 48.
--Ambassador to the Penguins: A Naturalist's Year Aboard a Yankee Whaleship (2003).

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

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