Edgar Alexander Mearns

Edgar Alexander Mearns (September 11, 1856 in Highland Falls, New York November 1, 1916 in Washington, D.C.) was a notable American ornithologist and field naturalist.

Edgar A. Mearns
Born(1856-09-11)September 11, 1856
DiedNovember 1, 1916(1916-11-01) (aged 60)
Alma materColumbia College of Physicians and Surgeons
Known forco-founder of the American Ornithologists' Union
Spouse(s)Ella Wittich


Mearns was born to Alexander and Nancy Reliance Mearns née Clarswell. His grandfather Alexander was of Scottish origin and moved to Highland Falls in 1815. Edgar Alexander Mearns was educated in the Donald Highland Institute (Highland Falls). He attended the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons, where he graduated in 1881.

In 1881, he married Ella Wittich of Circleville, Ohio. The couple had one son and one daughter. Their son was born in 1886 and died in 1912.

Mearns became a doctor in the U.S. Army. From 1882 to 1899 Mearns served the military service as a surgeon. From 1899 to 1903, he was a medical officer in several army institutions. From 1903 to 1904 and from 1905 to 1907, he traveled to the Philippines; he had to interrupt his journey in 1904 because he came down with a parasitic disease. In 1905 a trip led him to Guam.[1] As major and surgeon in the army, Mearns was appointed medical officer to the International Boundary Commission; he reported on the fauna and trees of the boundary between Mexico and the United States in his 1907 Mammals of the Mexican Boundary of the United States.[2] In 1909 he retired from the army with a rank of a lieutenant colonel.

Later that same year he was invited by Theodore Roosevelt to accompany the Smithsonian-Roosevelt African Expedition as naturalist.[3] From 1911 to 1912 he was a member of the Childs Frick expedition in Africa to collect and prepare specimens of birds that Frick later presented to the Smithsonian Institution.[4]

Mearns co-founded the American Ornithologists' Union in 1883. He scientifically described several birds and other animal species, like the Taita thrush, the Apo sunbird, the Boran cisticola, the Chihuahuan grasshopper mouse, and the rufous-headed tailorbird.


Several animal taxa are named in honor of Mearns: five birds, seven mammals including Mearns's pocket gopher (Thomomys bottae mearnsi ), and the banded rock lizard (Petrosaurus mearnsi ).[5]


  1. Verdcourt, Bernard (June 1996). "Edgar Alexander Mearns - 1856-1916 - Collectors in East Africa - 24". The Conchologists' Newsletter. 137: 642–645.
  2. Mearns, Edgar Alexander (1907). Mammals of the Mexican boundary of the United States: A descriptive catalogue of the species of mammals occurring in that region; with a general summary of the natural history, and a list of trees. Government Printing Office. p. 359. Retrieved 2011-11-22.
  3. "Edgar Alexander Mearns Papers". Smithsonian Institution Archives. Retrieved 21 June 2013.
  4. "The Childs Frick Expedition". Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution: 122. 1912. Retrieved 21 June 2013.
  5. Beolens, Bo; Watkins, Michael; Grayson, Michael (2011). The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. xiii + 296 pp. ("Mearns", p. 174).

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