April 19, 1887 - March 19, 1973
Robert Cushman Murphy, an ornithologist, conservationist, author and museum curator, spent 35 years with the American Museum of Natural History, retiring as chairman of the Dept. of Ornithology and Lamont Curator of Birds in 1955. Murphy's interests in oceanic birds and conservation were established during his first expedition for the AMNH, the 1912-1913 South Georgia Island Expedition. After working for several years at the Brooklyn Museum, Murphy was appointed associate curator of birds at the AMNH in 1921. He eventually went on 13 expeditions, to Peru, the Mediterranean Sea, New Zealand and other Pacific Islands, Bermuda, Venezuela, and islands in the Caribbean, often accompanied by his wife, Grace, a naturalist, conservationist and author. During the 1920-1941 Whitney South Sea Expedition, Murphy's expertise kept him out of the field so that specimens could be processed, studied and classified as soon as they arrived. In 1932, Murphy faced the daunting task of cataloging the 280,000 birds acquired by the AMNH when it purchased Lord Rothschild's Tring collection. With the help of Grace Murphy and Ernst Mayr, the work was completed in 4 months, producing a manuscript of 740 pages. Murphy published five books, including Birds of Peru (1925) and Oceanic birds of South America (2 v., 1936, 1948). In addition, he was co-author or contributor to five others, and wrote between 500 and 600 articles, both scientific and popular. Murphy died in 1973. (source: Robert Cushman Murphy collection, 1913-1973 (bulk 1930-1973). Mss .M87)
Worked at the American Museum of Natural History in American Museum of Natural History. Department of Ornithology.
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