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Archbold, Richard



  • Existence: 1907 - 1976



Richard Archbold (1907-1976) was an American mammalogist, photographer, aviator, environmentalist, explorer and patron of scientific research. A Research Associate at the American Museum of Natural History since 1931, he founded Biological Explorations in 1935 (renamed Archbold Expeditions in 1940), a non-profit corporation which sponsored staff and a collection at AMNH until after his death and supported a series of expeditions to the environs of New Guinea. (1) After leading the first three of these expeditions, Richard Archbold focused his attention on the founding and management of what would become the Archbold Biological Station in Florida.

April 9, 1907
Participation in the Mission zoologique franco-anglo-américaine à Madagascar
New Guinea
Led 1st, 2nd and 3rd Archbold Expeditions to New Guinea
Expedition in Arizona
Purchased land in Florida to found the Archbold Biological Station
August 1, 1976

Biographical Note

Born April 9, 1907 in New York, Richard Archbold was the oldest son of John Foster and May Barron Archbold. The family fortune was built by his grandfather John D. Archbold, the second president of the Standard Oil Corporation. When a child his family relocated to Thomasville, Georgia, where Richard was influenced by ornithologist Herbert Lee Stoddard and developed a deep passion for ecology (2). Archbold was photographer and mammalogist on the Mission zoologique franco-anglo-américaine à Madagascar between 1929 and 1931, a joint effort by institutions from America, France and England. Archbold's father provided the funding for the American Museum of Natural History to join the expedition. During this expedition he met ornithologist Austin L. Rand who became a lifelong colleague and friend. This experience focused his interests on biological research and exploration (3). Ornithology enthusiast and AMNH patron Dr. Leonard Sanford encouraged Archbold, introducing him to Ernst Mayr and suggesting New Guinea as a potential research site (4). Archbold began organizing the first expedition to New Guinea in 1933-1934. He hired Australian botanist Leonard Brasswho would later lead four of the Archbold expeditions. Archbold led the first three New Guinea expeditions in 1933-34, 1936-37 and 1938-39 which were scientifically successful and technologically innovative. Realizing the need for better methods of communication and transport between campsin this mountainous, lake-filled island region, Archbold explored the use of aircraft and radio communication (5) and purchased a Fairchild Model 91 amphibious plane, the Kono, for use on the second of the New Guinea expeditions (6). The Kono was felled mid-expedition by a storm squall but had shown the vessel's functional suitability for the environment. For the third New Guinea expedition, Archbold acquired a military sea plane from Consolidated Aircraft Corporation in San Diego, which he had fitted to his specifications. He ironically named it the Guba, after the Guinean word for the storm squall that had downed the previous aircraft. After a series of preparatory test runs across the country, Archbold was contacted by the Russian government and ultimately sold the plane to them for what would be a fruitless search and rescue mission for a missing Russian pilot. To replace that plane, Consolidated fitted out a second ship, named the Guba II for transport of material and staff on the expedition. Archbold and his Guba II made aviation history. At the conclusion of the expedition's collecting period, the plane was chartered by the Australian and British governments to test a new westerly air route over the Indian Ocean and Africa. Australian Captain Patrick G. Taylor was brought in to assist as navigator for the early stages of the journey. In July of 1939, after having flown across Australia, the Indian Ocean, Africa, and the Atlantic Ocean, with a celebratory stop at the New York World's Fair, the Guba II and crew landed in San Diego Bay. They had successfully flown around the world at its widest point near the Equator. It was the first sea plane to fly over Australia, the first plane to fly over the Indian Ocean, and the first flight over equatorial Africa by a sea plane (7). Although Archbold intended to return to New Guinea, the outbreak of World War II prevented any plans for travel or exploration. He directed his efforts to what he could do in the United States and staged an expedition in Arizona to collect mammal specimens for the AMNH Hall of North American Mammals. Additionally, he arranged for the acquisition of the family estate of his childhood friend Donald Roebling in Florida (8). Archbold envisioned a station for research and scientific activity that could continue stateside during the war and in 1941 founded the Archbold Biological Station. It would be the first biological research station affiliated with AMNH and would become Archbold's lifelong passion. He designed it as a scientific cooperative space, providing residencies and inviting students and scientists to participate.. He remained in Florida for the rest of his life, encouraging and supporting the scientists he sponsored. Throughout his lifetime, Archbold was active in various exploration, scientific, and civic organizations and was honored with several accolades. He was a member of the Explorer's Club, honored by Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands with the Order of the Orange after the 1939 Expedition, and given a special citation from the National Aeronautic Association (9). Commemorative stamps were issued in honor of the historic round the world flight of the Guba II, and in 1969 AMNH Board of Trustees presented Archbold with a silver medal of the American Museum of Natural History in honor of his contributions (10).


(1) Archbold Biological Station (2013) "Richard Archbold (1907-1976), Explorer and Patron of Science, CV," Archbold Biological Station, 2013, retrieved from

(2) Roger A. Morse, Richard Archbold and the Archbold Biological Station (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2000), 1-2.

(3) ibid, 4

(4) ibid., 11

(5) Austin L. Rand, "Richard Archbold, 1907-1976," The Auk 94, no. 1 (1977): 186.

(6) Curtis S. Adkisson, "Aviation and the Archbold Expeditions, Part 1," Archbold Happenings 2, issue 11 (1996): 15.

(7) Katrina Pescador, Consolidated Aircraft Corporation (Google eBook) (Arcadia Publishing, Sep 17, 2008), 45.

(8) Morse, 34

(9) Curtis S. Adkisson, "Aviation and the Archbold Expeditions, Part 4," Archbold Happenings 3, issue 4 (1997): 11.

(10) AMNH (March 1970), Grapevine, v. 27 no 3



  • New Guinea (Associated Country)
    • Note: Expedition site; Archbold led 3 expeditions to this region and financed others.
  • Papua New Guinea (Associated Country) -- Date: 1933 - 1964
    • Note: Expedition site; Archbold led 3 expeditions to this region and financed others.
  • New York (N.Y.) (Other) -- Date: 1929 - 1976
    • Note: Archbold was a research associate and financial supporter for the AMNH, sponsoring the Museum's Archbold Expeditions, which acted out of the Museum and providing for a collection and curator. In 1969 he was presented with a silver medal of the American Museum of Natural History.
  • Arizona
    • Note: Expedition site; Archbold spent time during his youth in Arizona, and staged an expedition there during WWII.
  • Florida -- Date: 1941 - 1976
    • Note: Archbold founded the Archbold Biological Station in 1941 and spent 35 years as its director. Besides running and financing the station, he became very involved in the community.
  • Madagascar -- Date: 1929 - 1931
    • Note: Expedition site; Archbold participated in the Mission zoologique franco-anglo-americaine a Madagascar between 1929 and 1931, which inspired his continuing interest in expeditionary work.
  • Australia -- Date: 1939    
    • Note: Archbold was asked by the Australian government for assistance in 1939 in finding an alternate air route, which resulted in his historic transcontinental flight on the Guba II. He also sponsored expeditionary work in Australia.
  • Georgia
    • Note: The Archbolds had a family home in Thomasville, Georgia.
  • West New Guinea -- Date: 1933 - 1976
    • Note: Expedition site; Archbold led 3 expeditions to this region and financed others.


Found in 7 Collections and/or Records:

Archbold Biological Station photographic slides, circa 1960-1969.

Identifier: PSC 109

Photographs taken at the Archbold Biological Station, Lake Placid, Florida, circa 1960s. Richard Archbold pictured in some images. Field photographs tagging and marking animals, including a turtle, opossum and a white-footed mouse.

Dates: circa 1960-1969

Archbold Expeditions collection

Identifier: Archives Orn197
Scope and Contents

Correspondence, field catalogs and bird lists.

Dates: 1929-1967

Field and Expedition Equipment

Identifier: Mem 305
Scope and Contents Since 1887, the American Museum of Natural History has been conducting field expeditions in every continent. This is one of the main resources for the Museum’s scientific research and collection development activities throughout all its disciplines. This grouping holds the equipment that were used during expeditions from around 1877 to 1996. Most of these expeditions required direct interaction with the natural habitat of the subject of study, which usually involves being out in the...
Dates: Usage: circa 1877-1990s

Madagascar Expedition collection

Identifier: Archives Orn140
Scope and Contents

Correspondence, map, copy of report by Jean Delacour, Archbold's field notes, Rand list of birds of Madagascar, report on mammals, supply lists

Dates: 1928-1932

The Archbold Collections at the American Museum of Natural History, 1928-1980.

Identifier: Archive Mammalogy Archbold
Scope and Contents The Archbold Collections at the American Museum of Natural History is comprised of material that documents the expeditionary fieldwork of Richard Archbold and the Archbold Expeditions. It is housed within the AMNH Department of Mammalogy Archive, and encompasses a variety of formats, including photographs, slides, film, scrapbooks, correspondence, financial records, and field documentation such as catalogs, specimen lists, field notes and journals. These describe both the day-to-day...
Dates: 1928 - 1980; Majority of material found within 1930 - 1964