Skip to main content

Lerner Marine Laboratory papers

Identifier: DR 088-089

Scope and Contents

The Lerner Marine Laboratory (LML) collection at the American Museum of Natural History contains documents, photographs, and clippings documenting the history of the lab from 1947-1977. Important elements of the collection include correspondence to and from key staff members; files on conferences, symposiums, meetings, and ceremonies; information about financial contributors; general paperwork; photographs of the lab, employees, and visitors; publicity documents and correspondence regarding publicity; projects, programs, and grants pertaining to the lab; construction, maintenance, insurance, and property paperwork; and receipts and bank statements. Natural History Magazine published an article by Philip Wylie about the laboratory in September, 1948, which is included in the collection.


  • 1947-1977
  • Majority of material found within 1948-1975


Language of Materials



Please contact Special Collections; materials are sometimes restricted.

Historical Note

Bimini in the Bahamas is a series of low-lying islands on the western edge of the Great Bahama Bank. Its proximity to the coast of Florida, combined with the Gulf Stream to the west and tropical lagoon to the east, made Bimini a natural location for a laboratory. With permission of the government of the Bahamas, Michael Lerner established the Lerner Marine Laboratory in 1947 as a field station of the American Museum of Natural History. The LML had living accommodations for researchers, laboratory equipment, indoor aquaria, and large outdoor holding pens for the study of sharks, saw-fish, tarpon, other large fish, and porpoises. LML has done research with possible medical applications, such as immunology, virology, transplantation rejection, and cancer research. At the request of the government of the Bahamas, the lab also studied the conch preliminary to starting a conservation program for this important part of the Bahamian diet.

The Lerner Marine Laboratory (LML) was founded in 1947 by Michael Lerner (1890-1978), a successful American businessman (he founded Lerner Stores) and well-known sports fisherman with a keen interest in marine biology. He underwrote the initial investment and then presented the Lab to the Museum of Natural History to be overseen by the Department of Fishes and Aquatic Biology. Lerner also organized the International Game Fish Association and served on the Board of Trustees at the American Museum of Natural History for many years beginning in 1941. He led numerous expeditions for the Museum to study marine life in places such as Chile, New Zealand, and Australia. Lerner was also an honorary member of the Department of Fishes and Aquatic Biology, and he served on the Financial Advisory Committee at the Lerner Marine Lab. The Lab was situated on the island of Bimini in the Bahamas. This location allowed scientists and researchers access to the abundant marine life which could be found in the Gulf Stream to the west of the island, as well as in the tropical lagoon to the east of Bimini. The facility was open to any major scientist and researcher in the field of marine biology free of charge. Visiting scholars had access to boats and equipment to gather and study marine life (fishes, vertebrates, algae) and the flora and fauna of the island. Many scientists have used the knowledge they acquired from research at the LML and applied it to the study of human ailments such as cancer, glaucoma and other eye diseases, and tumors, among others. Scientific research at the Lab has also uncovered hundreds of previously unknown marine and flora species. The Lerner Marine Lab was closed in 1977 for lack of funding. A scholarship fund was then set up in Michael Lerner's name to help budding scholars in the field of marine biology.

The collection contains correspondence to, from, and about the following individuals regarding the Lerner Marine Lab:

Michael Lerner (1890-1978)

Michael Lerner founded the Lerner Marine Laboratory in Bimini in 1947. Lerner was a successful businessman and naturalist with interests in sport fishing and marine science. Lerner was a member of the board of trustees at AMNH beginning in 1941, and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree from the University of Miami in 1952. Lerner also established the International Game Fish Association in 1939.

Captain Paul S. Bauer

Staff Consultant, House of Representatives, Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries Member of Financial Advisory Board, LML

Ann Breen

Office of Public Affairs, American Museum of Natural History, editor of Lerner Marine Laboratory newsletter

George B. Decker

Assistant Treasurer, American Museum of Natural History

Robert F. Mathewson

Neurophysiologist, resident director of LML

Thomas Dominick Nicholson

Director, American Museum of Natural History

James A. Oliver

Director, American Museum of Natural History (?-1969), then “coordinator of scientific and environmental programs” (according to clipping from The New York Times, May 24, 1969) from 1969.

Albert E. Parr

Director, American Museum of Natural History

Jerome G. Rozen, Jr.

Deputy Director for Research, American Museum of Natural History

Gardner D. Stout

President, American Museum of Natural History

James Tyler

Assistant Resident Director, then Resident Director of LML from 1971-1975

Jerome Wodinsky (b. 1927)

Wodinsky was Resident Research Scientist and Lerner Associate Curator at LML from 1970-1971.


15 Linear Feet

Related Archival Material

“Shark research (videorecording).” (Film Collection no. 274 -- Special Collections)

“Bimini: Operation Gulfstream, February 19-22, 1954 / by C. D'W. Gibson.” (65-C --Rare Book Collection)

“Bimini, 1948 [videorecording.]” (Film Collection no. 202)

“Walter F. Meister papers, 1952-1967.” (DR 124; Special Collections)

See also: Ichthyology Department records. Box 8, File 4 and Box 9, Files 1 and 2.

See also: The Biography Vertical Files, J-0, in the Special Collections of the AMNH under “Lerner, Michael (1890-1978), Established Marine Laboratory at Bimini for AMNH.”

See also: The photography file cabinets in the Special Collections section of the AMNH library under “AMNH Old Museum Photos, Roosevelt Memorial, Planetarium, Field Stations, Lerner Marine Lab.”

Numerous papers and doctoral theses have been written by graduate students studying at the Lerner Marine Lab. These include the following doctoral theses: Franklin Sogandares-Bernal (Univ. of Nebraska, 1958), “Studies on marine fish trematodes from the Gulf of Panama and Bimini, British West Indies”; Donald P. de Sylva (Cornell, 1958), “Systematics and life history of the great barracuda, Sphyraena barracuda (Walbaum)”; Claude Monty (Princeton, 1966), “Geological and environmental significance of Cyanophyta”; and L. William Clem (Univ. of Miami, 1963), “Virological and immunological studies of marine fish.” The following individuals have also written doctoral theses (titles unknown) based on research at Lerner: C. Lavett Smith (Univ. of Michigan); Sanford Moss (Cornell); John M. Arnold (Univ. of Minnesota); W. C. Cummings (Univ. of Miami).

Physical Description

The bulk of the collection consists of type-written letters and documents. Some notes are handwritten. The collection also contains a substantial number of photographs and newspaper clippings.


Lerner Marine Laboratory Collection, 1947-1977 (bulk 1948-1975)
Stephanie Eiberger (1995), revised by Lisa Krohn (2004 November)
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation provided support to make this finding aid available in ArchivesSpace (2016-2017). Minimal level collection record created with support from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) Hidden Collections grant, 2010.

Repository Details

Part of the Museum Archives at the Gottesman Research Library Repository

American Museum of Natural History
200 Central Park West
New York NY 10024 USA
(212) 769-5420