by Greg Mayer
Ernst Mayr was one of the greatest biologists of the 20th century, an architect of the evolutionary synthesis, and chief exponent of the biological species concept and geographic speciation. Jerry and I both had the privilege of knowing him. I was fortunate to be able to attend his 100th birthday party in 2004 (at the end of which he gave a brief impromptu talk on his life and achievements, which he summarized by saying “I’ve had a wonderful life.”), and Jerry wrote what I regard as the canonical obituary in Science (not open access, unfortunately) after his death in 2005. A biography of Mayr (the first, but probably not the last) by Jurgen Haffer was published in 2007
I was greatly pleased, therefore, to run across, more or less accidentally, Web of Stories, a website which features videos of long interviews with interesting people, including Ernst Mayr. The Mayr interview, conducted in 1997 by Mayr’s student Walter Bock, a famous biologist in his own right, consists of 150 high quality video segments, each a few minutes long, with their content identified by subject matter.
Here’s a clip in which Mayr discusses the founding of the Society for the Study of Evolution and its journal, Evolution. (For a full scholarly account of this, see Betty Smocovitis’s paper on thesubject.) You’ll have to click the link to see it; I’ve tried very hard to embed the video, but the provided code doesn’t work.
In lieu of embedding the Web of Stories video, here’s another, shorter interview done in 2000.