Eyerdam, Walter J. (Walter Jakob), 1892-1974

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Exist Dates

1892 November 16 - 1974 December 31

Biographical or Historical Note

WALTER JAKOB EYERDAM was born on November 16, 1892 in Seattle, Washington.

Eyerdam was considered on the the twentieth century’s greatest collectors of mollusks, plants, birds and mammals. Eyerdam collected for the AMNH Whitney South Sea Expedition from 1929 to 1930. The Whitney South Sea Expedition was an ornithological expedition originated by Dr. Leonard C. Sanford and funded by Harry Payne Whitney, with the mission of systematically exploring Polynesia, Melanesia, and Micronesia for previously undiscovered or little-known bird specimens. It was the largest ornithological expedition ever conceived. Active field research was conducted from 1920 to 1941.

Eyerdam and his friend William Coultas initially approached Robert Cushman Murphy, curator of birds at AMNH, about funding for an expedition to East Siberia. Murphy instead suggested WSSE with both men in the roles of collectors. Although their duties were the same, Coultas was appointed leader.

Eyerdam was a lifelong member of the Pacific Northwest Bird and Mammal Society. He wrote several articles for The Murrelet on birds of the Solomon Islands (XI: 76-78, 1930) and Aleutian Islands (SVII: 48, 52, 1936). Eyerdam was a well known malacologist. He wrote over 100 articles on mollusks, primarily for The Nautilus.

Eyerdam was also a skilled cooper, steel chipper and mineralogist. He traveled to over 50 countries throughout his life, often associated as a collector with many museums and universities. His major expeditions were to Siberia, the Andes and the South Pacific. He made five trips to the Soviet Union and the Siberian steppes from 1925 to 1931. Many of his specimens are housed in the American Museum of Natural History, the Field Museum in Chicago and the Smithsonian Institution.

Eyerdam and his wife had one daughter, Lilo Homchick. Walter Eyerdam died on December 31, 1974 at the age of 82.


    Eyerdam, Walter J. “Eyerdam Journal August 1920-July 1930”. Whitney Expedition, bound book U. Department of Ornithology, AMNH.
    Richardson, Frank. “In Memoriam: Walter Jakob Eyerdam.” July 6, 1975. American Museum of Natural History - Whitney South Sea Expedition file.
    “Walter Eyerdam, Explorer In Solomons and Siberia.” Associated Press. January 3, 1975.



Written by: Cara Shatzman
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