February 13, 1916 - December 26, 1981
Dorothy Elizabeth Bliss was 40 years old when she came to the Museum, in 1956, as assistant curator of invertebrates in what was then the Department of Fishes and Aquatic Biology. Twenty-four years later, a newly-made curator emerita, she could look back on a long list of accomplishments in the study of the terrestrial adaptation of crustaceans and crustacean neuroendocrinology. Her research, supported throughout her Museum career by the National Science Foundation, explored growth, locomotion, water balance and hormones in land crabs. She was editor-in-chief of the 10-volume The Biology of Crustacea, president, in 1978, of the American Society of Zoologists, and a member of the Corporation of the Bermuda Biological Station for Research, Inc.
Dr. Bliss was born in Cranston, R.I. In 1916. She received her Bachelor's and Master's degrees at Brown University, from which he would later receive an honorary degree. In 1952 she earned her Ph.D. at Harvard. At the time of her appointment to the Museum, she was a teaching fellow at Harvard, working there on what would be a lifetime study of gecarcinus lateralis, a land crab species she first encountered as a graduate student and which was the subject of her doctoral dissertation. Dr. Bliss brought this work with her to the Museum and by 1968 she had risen to the post of curator of invertebrates. Her work was interrupted in 1974 when she was persuaded to take on the duties of a department chairman, and in the three years she held this position she supervised the merger of two related small departments into the Department of Invertebrates, today known as the Division of Invertebrates.
In addition to her work at the Museum, Dr. Bliss was on the anatomy faculty at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine from 1956 to 1964 and was an adjunct professor of zoology at the City University of New York from 1971 to 1980. Departing the Museum in 1979, she returned to her home state, where she became adjunct professor of zoology at the University of Rhode Island. Dr. Bliss died of cancer in a Providence hospital on December 26, 1987.
Writing of Dr. Bliss after her death, the biologist Linda Mantel noted that as a museum curator, she influenced uncounted younger researchers working on crustaceans, also that she was responsible for major exhibits in the Hall of Invertebrates. Dr. Mantel notes, too, that while Dr. Bliss was an avid reader, sailor, woodworker, gardener, photographer and scientific artist, she found time not only to breed and train prize-winning golden retrievers, but to respond patiently to people who called the Museum to report that they “found something with a lot of legs on the beach.” (source: Finding aid for Mss .B55)
Worked at the American Museum of Natural History in the Department of Invertebrates.
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