Some Biogeographers, Evolutionists and Ecologists:
Chrono-Biographical Sketches

Schmidt, Karl Patterson (United States 1890-1957)

Although Karl Schmidt made few important new discoveries, he was widely known as one of the most solidly productive herpetologists of his time. Apart from his many systematic revisions (he named over two hundred species, and was a leading expert on coral snakes), he was an outstanding collector, both of specimens and literature, and enriched the Field Museum's holdings in both respects. Further, he was fluent in German, and took part in several translations of key works; he also wrote several guide and survey works that became very popular with the public. Schmidt's zoogeographical writings reveal that he was, on the whole, a solid supporter of a W. D. Matthew brand of dispersalism. Schmidt's death has frequently been written of: he was bitten in his lab by a juvenile African boomslang which he doubted could produce a fatal dose, so he administered no antivenin. Unfortunately, he was wrong; nevertheless, he made notes on the symptoms he experienced almost right up to the end.

Life Chronology

--born in Lake Forest, Illinois, on 19 June 1890.
--1906: enters Lake Forest College
--1913: enters Cornell University; receives A.B. in 1916
--1916-1922: research assistant at the American Museum of Natural History in New York
--1919: collecting expedition to Puerto Rico
--1922: named assistant curator of reptiles and amphibians at the Field Museum, Chicago
--1923: collecting expedition to Honduras
--1926: collecting expedition to Brazil and other South American countries
--1933-1934: collecting expedition to Guatemala
--1937: helps translate and edit the American edition of Richard Hesse's Ecological Animal Geography
--1937: advanced to curator of reptiles at the Field Museum
--1937-1949: herpetology editor for Copeia
--1939: collecting expedition to Peru
--1941: publishes his Field Book of Snakes of the United States and Canada, with D. Dwight Davis
--1941-1955: chief curator of zoology at the Field Museum
--1942-1946: president, American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists
--1943: made a lecturer in zoology at the University of Chicago
--1949: co-authors the textbook Principles of Animal Ecology
--1952: D.Sc. (honorary), Earlham College
--1953: collecting expedition to Israel
--1954: president of the Society for the Study of Evolution
--1955: retires; made curator emeritus of zoology
--1956: elected to the National Academy of Sciences
--1957: publishes his Living Reptiles of the World, with Robert F. Inger
--dies at Chicago, Illinois, on 26 September 1957.

For Additional Information, See:

--American National Biography, Vol. 19 (1999).
--Dictionary of Scientific Biography, Vol. 18 (1990).
--Biographical Dictionary of American and Canadian Naturalists and Environmentalists (1997).
--Fieldiana: Zoology, Vol. 37 (1955).
--Copeia, (3) (1959): 189-192.
--Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America, Vol. 39(1) (1958): 39-41.
--Science, Vol. 127 (1958): 1162-1163.
--A History of Herpetology at the American Museum of Natural History. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, Vol. 252 (2000).

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

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