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Seafaring Scientist
Alfred Goldsborough Mayor, Pioneer in Marine Biology

Lester D. Stephens and Dale R. Calder

The first biography of the renowned biologist, illustrating the thrills of his oceanic exploration and discoveries

Infused with a hearty sense of adventure and zeal for discovery, Seafaring Scientist recounts the achievements of a giant in the field of marine biology. Alfred Goldsborough Mayor (1868–1922), a Harvard-trained marine biologist and close associate of Alexander Agassiz, founded and directed on behalf of the Carnegie Institution the first tropical marine biological laboratory in the Western Hemisphere. Located on Loggerhead Key in the Gulf of Mexico, the Tortugas Laboratory under Mayor's leadership attracted some of America's most brilliant scientists. Mayor himself achieved international prominence in the field of biology for his authoritative work on jellyfishes and coral reefs.

Lester D. Stephens and Dale R. Calder fill the gaps in the historical record about Mayor with this first book-length account of his life and work. They detail Mayor's passion for biology, association with Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology, and rise to international prominence in the scientific community. Few field naturalists could claim to have visited as many truly exotic locales as Mayor, who traveled throughout the South Pacific and indeed around the world before returning to the United States to establish a research station at Dry Tortugas in 1904.

Illustrated with twenty-four black-and-white photographs as well as four diagrams and eight color illustrations drawn by Mayor, who was also a gifted artist, Seafaring Scientist describes Mayor's determination to develop the Tortugas Laboratory despite daunting operational problems related to the remoteness of the site and its vulnerability to hurricanes. Stephens and Calder enumerate the contributions made by Mayor and other investigators at the outpost and discuss Mayor's monumental three-volume opus, Medusae of the World.

Written to appeal to the armchair explorer as well as the professional researcher, Seafaring Scientist captures the thrills of scientific quest and discovery as well as the trials of seeking support and recognition that defined the life of this extraordinary marine biologist.

Professor of history emeritus at the University of Georgia, Lester D. Stephens is the author of numerous works on the lives and work of American naturalists, including Joseph LeConte, Gentle Prophet of Evolution and Science, Race, and Religion in the American South: John Bachman and the Charleston Circle of Naturalists, 1815–1895.

Marine biologist Dale R. Calder is curator emeritus in the Department of Natural History at the Royal Ontario Museum; associate professor of zoology at the University of Toronto; a research associate of the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum, and Zoo; and has served for the past six years on the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature.

"I have stood on the ruins of Alfred Goldsborough Mayor's laboratory on remote Loggerhead Key, wondering, and now I know. This book fills a gap in American zoological history with an important and very interesting figure who will now receive the attention he deserves."—Edward O. Wilson, University Professor Emeritus, Harvard University

"The most comprehensive volume to date on Alfred Goldsborough Mayor and his Tortugas Laboratory, Seafaring Scientist admirably reflects the expertise of its two authors—Lester Stephens, historian of American science, and Dale Calder, marine biologist. Their narrative flows along through a successful mix of historical facts and scientific observations as it introduces us not only to its principal subject but also to a host of other well-known scientists whose lives and work intersected with those of Mayor. The volume resonates with ideas relevant to contemporary scientific inquiries—the low status of taxonomy, the premium on experimentation, biopolitics, and the power of the individual—and invites renewed appreciation for the accomplishments of Mayor and his peers."—Daphne G. Fautin, Professor and Curator, University of Kansas, Natural History Museum, and Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

"This authoritative biography of Alfred Goldsborough Mayor is meticulously researched, impeccably written, and beautifully illustrated. Mayor, an internationally recognized expert on coral reefs, not only founded the first tropical marine research station in the Western hemisphere but wrote a three-volume masterpiece Medusae of the World. For rescuing him from historical oblivion, Stephens and Calder deserve our appreciation."—Ronald L. Numbers, Hilldale Professor of the History of Science and Medicine, Department of Medical History and Bioethics, University of Wisconsin



book jacket for Seafaring Scientist


6 x 9
248 pages
36 illustrations
ISBN 978-1-57003-642-2
paper, $29.95s

ISBN 978-1-57003-641-5
cloth, $54.95s

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