Clinton Hart Merriam

Prominent American mammalogist and ornithologist. The son of a U.S. congressman and a practicing medical doctor, Merriam worked as a young man with the Hayden survey. In the 1880s he founded and built up a bureau within the Department of Agriculture that conducted key studies on the taxonomy and geographic distribution of North American birds and mammals. Merriam's 1890 paper argued that altitudinal shifts in community composition seen on Arizona's San Francisco Mountain correlated with latitudinally arranged "life zones" across the North American continent, both gradients being controlled by temperature. The "life zone" system also was advocated by Merriam's colleague Allen. Merriam's 1893 paper attacked experimental biology in defense of natural history, a position also favored by his friend Roosevelt. In 1906 he opposed the mutationist doctrine, arguing that field evidence supported gradual evolution and the important role of geographic isolation in divergence. First president of the American Society of Mammalogists and founding member of the American Ornithologists' Union. Friend of T. Roosevelt. Not to be confused with the paleontologist J. C. Merriam. Merriam normally did not use his first name.


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