Van Deusen, Hobart M.
- Existence: 1910 - 1976
Hobart Merritt Van Deusen (born November 20, 1910, Newark, New Jersey, U.S. - died June 9, 1976, West Rumney, New Hampshire, U.S.) was an Assistant Curator in the Department of Mammalogy at the American Museum of Natural History from 1945 to 1975. He spent his career exploring and collecting specimens from the region of Australasia, specifically New Guinea. He participated in several expeditions, four of which were funded by Richard Archbold in the years 1948, 1953, 1959 and 1964. Van Deusen dedicated his life to the study of geographical distribution. His work has enhanced our understanding of the relationship between plant and animal life in New Guinea, Australia and the surrounding region.
- Graduates from Blair Academy in NJ.
- Graduates from Dartmouth College.
- Volunteers at the AMNH.
- Curator of the Mammalogy Department at the AMNH.
- Participates in the Cape York Expedition.
- Fourth Archbold Expedition to Eastern Papua, New Guinea.
- Sixth Archbold Expedition to New Guinea.
- Seventh Archbold Expedition to Australia and New Guinea.
- Retires from position as Curator at the AMNH.
Hobart Merritt Van Deusen (Nov. 20, 1910 – June 9, 1976) was born in Newark, NJ. He attended Blair Academy in New Jersey until 1929, and continued his education at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, where he worked in the school’s ornithology department as a cataloguer of birds. Van Deusen graduated in 1933 with a degree in zoology and completed post-graduate work at Columbia University.
In June of 1933 he began volunteering at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) while working in the foreign department of a New York bank and, later, the experimental engineering department of Curtiss-Wright in Caldwell, New Jersey. In 1945, he joined the AMNH as a Curator for the Department of Mammalogy. In 1946, he went on his first expedition for the AMNH to complete the museum’s Florida Black Bear habitat group for the Hall of North American Mammals.
Throughout his thirty-year career, he participated in several expeditions, funded by Richard Archbold, to explore the Southern Pacific region including the Cape York Peninsula expedition in 1948.
In 1952 the Van Deusen family went on vacation to Colombia where they visited Buena Ventura, Bogota, Cartagena, and Medellin. Although not a Museum-funded expedition, Van Deusen used the time to study the topography of the landscape and make connections with Colombian naturalists. He discovered that the mountainous regions contained a complex ecosystem of both plant and animal life due to the variance in altitudes. He returned with over 200 specimens, including two skulls of mountain tapirs, the skull of a Puda (the smallest American deer), a jaguar, a puma, wild dogs, ocelots, otters, water opossums, squirrels, mice and 25 different types of bats.
In March of 1953, Van Deusen embarked on the Fourth Archbold Expedition to New Guinea. The expedition gathered specimens from the Cape Vogel Peninsula, Collingwood Bay, the central range of Mt. Dayman, Goodenough Island and Fergusson Island. In April, Van Deusen visited the Tapitapipi Caves in Cape Vogel where he collected up to 8 species of bats. He also gathered tree-climbing kangaroos, cuscuses, feather-tailed and ringtail possums, giant tree rats, an ant eater, and numerous birds. (3) Van Deusen collected antibiotic materials for Chas. Pfizer and Co. and deposited the ectoparasites from his mammal specimens with the Army Medical Service Graduate School. Unfortunately, a fellow expedition member, Geoffrey M. Tate, fell ill after several months abroad, and Van Deusen accompanied him home a few weeks short of when the expedition was scheduled to finish. However, they still returned with a total of approximately 98,000 specimens.
In 1958, Van Deusen accepted a position, by letter, to be the Assistant Curator for Archbold Expeditions in the Department of Mammalogy at the AMNH. (5) The following year, he returned to New Guinea with Leonard J. Brass for the Sixth Archbold Expedition. It lasted from March 22, 1959 to late December of the same year. Both Brass and Van Deusen traveled, by air, from New York to Sydney, Australia and then to New Guinea. In December, they returned home with their findings which included 2,294 mammal and 4,095 reptile and amphibian specimens. Van Deusen had a secondary interest in reptiles and personally collected hundreds of them during this trip. He is also credited with collecting 170 vials of ectoparasites for the Army Medical Service Graduate School along with blood films and viscera for the Queensland Institute for Medical Research. (6)
The Seventh Archbold Expedition to New Guinea (1964) lasted seven months. Under the leadership of Van Deusen, Stanley O. Grierson (photographer and naturalist) and Dr. R. D. Hoogland (botanist), the team collected specimens from the Huon Peninsula in Papua New Guinea. They climbed the main peaks in the Saruwaged Mountain Range, including Mt. Rawlinson and Mt. Ulur and returned with approximately 12,000 plants, 3000 vertebrates and 18,000 invertebrate specimens. (7)
The work done by Van Deusen and his colleagues helped the AMNH compile one of the most comprehensive collections of animal and plant life from the South Pacific. The collection has facilitated scientific research on the relationship of flora and fauna found in the region of Australasia and helped identify problems of geographical distribution.
Van Deusen was affiliated with many professional organizations throughout his career. In 1947, he joined the American Society of Mammologists where he served on the Board of Directors until 1960; he then served as a Trustee for the remainder of his life. He held positions in the Explorers Club, the Urner Ornithological Club, the Montclair Bird Club, the Linnaean Society of New York, and the Eastern Bird-banding Association. He retired from his position at the AMNH in 1975.
Hobart Van Deusen died on June 9th, 1976 in West Rumney, New Hampshire.
(1) American Museum of Natural History. Annual Reports. New York: American Museum of Natural History, 1948/49-2010.
(2) Brass, Leonard J. "Results of the Archbold Expeditions. No. 68. Summary of the 1948 Cape York (Australia) Expedition." Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 102 (June 16, 1953): 135-206.
(3) Mayr, Ernst and Hobart Van Deusen. “The birds of Goodenough Island, Papua” American Museum novitates, no. 1792 (1956)
(4) American Museum of Natural History. Annual Reports. New York: American Museum of Natural History, 1953/54-2010.
(5) Van Deusen, H. M. Job acceptance letter. Received by A. E. Parr, Director of AMNH. June 2, 1958.
(6) Brass, Leonard J. Results of the Archbold Expeditions. No. 86. Summary of the Sixth Archbold Expedition to new Guinea (1959). Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 127. (1964): 145-216.
(7) Van Deusen, Hobart M. "Summary of the Seventh Archbold Expedition to New Guinea (1964)." American Museum Novitates, no. 2660 (1978).
- Note: Curator in AMNH Department of Mammalogy.
Cape York Peninsula
- Note: Expedition site; Hobart Van Deusen participated in the Cape York Expedition.
- Note: Hobart Van Deusen participated in the 4th. 6th, and 7th Archbold Expeditions to New Guinea.
Big Cypress Swamp
- Note: Expedition site; the Florida Black Bear Habitat Expedition was Hobart Van Deusen's first collecting expedition for the AMNH Department of Mammalogy. He gathered specimens for the Florida Black Bear habitat group in the Hall of North American Mammals.
- Note: Hobart Van Deusen collected specimens and surveyed the region of Medellín for an upcoming expedition.
- Note: Hobart Van Deusen collected specimens and surveyed the region of Bogota for an upcoming expedition.