Gene Eisenmann part 2 (Birds & Names)

MexicoDoug at MexicoDoug at
Tue Apr 2 17:03:56 EST 2002

Where are the Eisenmann type greats today?  See Direct Quotes below how this 
mild-mannered unifying figure helped make birders a happy bunch.  He once 
commented that the minutia folks like birders face was greater than lawyers 
(Dr. Eisenmann was a Harvard and Harvard Law graduate who quit on a modest 
income to work at the museum of Natural History practically as a public 

As a follow-up to my message below, I just received an old copy of the 
obituary for Gene from my father.  I think my suspicions were on the mark, 
and would like to share this quote from the obituary.  While it is not a 
solely a direct reply to Mike G or anyone for that matter, since I think 
posting it could help wafe out some of the rotten egg odor by adding to 
perspective of a great Ornithologist, I don't think involking a birding great 
in the context of 'hating' names to justify sometimes unpleseant arguments is 
appropriate and I think taking his name this way would have disappointed Gene 
greatly.  And regarding his disposition to help people and freely give of his 
research, this guy was a saint, and only the Lord (and maybe Ron, if Ron 
permits what I intend as a well meaning joke) knows if any of those are 
lepping around.

Best.  Doug Dawn, Monterrey, Mexico.

Related to how he will be remembered and the issue of vernacular & scientific 

Direct Quote:  "The American Ornithological Union's Check-List, however, will 
be a fitting memorial and a testimony of his ability to compromise and his 
ability to bring often strongly divergent viewpoints into a semblance of 
consensus.  Gene's interest in birds, their biology, evolution, geographical 
variation, and conservation went far deeper than any side issues such as 
names, whether common or scientific."

Related to his influence and modesty:

Direct Quote: "His influence on ornithology was wider than indicated than by 
his relatively modest bibliography for his immense file of notes on 
neo-tropical birds centered in Panama, and radiating north and south 
therefrom, was always at the disposal of any serious worker.  His assistance 
went far beyond supplying notes and comments; he would spend weeks on end 
going through manuscripts line-by-line, making corrections and suggestions.  
Such assistance is acknowledged in numerous works on the birds of Middle and 
South America in recent years.In Rodolphe Meyer de Schauensee's important 
"Species of South American Birds", for example, Gene's help was so 
substantial that he was offered junior authorship, but he declined the honor."

 << By the way, Gene Eisenmann of the AMNH, who assembled the first 
comprehensive list of  Central American bird species, hated patronyms and 
went to great lengths  to contrive English names, hopefully descriptive, that 
were not based on a person's name.>>
 Hi Mike G, While there may be some truth in what you say, I suspect your use 
of the the word 'hated' regarding Gene would not be well received by him.  I 
don't have any first hand knowledge, but your mention of him got me curious 
if he was the same birding partner my parents spoke fondly of when they had 
more get-up-and-go and were a bit younger (50 years ago).  Indeed he was 
their good friend and they frequently were a birding trio.  Dad mentions he 
was a brilliant attorney :-), staunch conservationist, and expert on 
Panamanian bird nomenclature.  He sorely misses Gene, and says Gene's 
attitude was of mutual respect, and that he was the furthest thing from being 
obnoxious.  Sounds to me like some of today's "experts" on this list and 
elsewhere do have a lot to learn from Eisenmann indeed.
 Saw 19 species of butterflies in the high montane region nearby here in 
Mexico, so summer is here.  Too bad the winter was so dry.  That is usually 
bad news...
 Doug Dawn
 Monterrey, Mexico >>


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