In their own words: Paul Ehrlich

| November 7, 2020 | Leave a Comment

File: Download

Media Type: Article - Recent

Year of Publication: 2020

Publisher: BioScience

Author(s): Paul R. Ehrlich

Categories: ,

When did you first know that you wanted to work in the life sciences? I can’t really remember when I didn’t. I was very interested in nature when I was a kid. My father was a businessman, and my mother was an intellectual who encouraged all kinds of interests. I was sent to a Boy Scout camp, where there was a nature program, and I got interested in nature, and eventually, I was introduced to butterfly collecting. Later, when I was 15 and living in north Jersey, and I went to the American Museum of Natural History and was introduced to Charles Michener. He was then the curator of Lepidoptera.

He was the world’s greatest expert on bee taxonomy and the behavior of social insects, but the only job he could get, getting out of Berkeley, was to be curator of Lepidoptera, and he conned me into mounting butterflies for him by giving me, for my butterfly collection, specimens from around the world without data. And he encouraged me to join the Lepidopterists, Society, of which I suspect I’m now the oldest living charter member. I should mention, I had a huge debt
to Michener. I met him when I was 15, and we were still friends in his last year, when he was 97, and I was 82. We had perhaps the longest friendship of a
student and a mentor in the history of biology, or close to it. Mitch was absolutely wonderful.

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In Their Own Words chronicles the stories of scientists who have made great contributions to their fields. These short histories provide our readers
a way to learn from and share their experiences. Each month, we will publish in the pages of BioScience and on our podcast, BioScience Talks
(, the results of these conversations. This history is with Paul Ehrlich, president of the Center for Conservation
Biology and Bing Professor of Population Studies Emeritus at Stanford University. He is also a past president of AIBS.
Note: Both the text and audio versions have been edited for clarity and length.

The views and opinions expressed through the MAHB Website are those of the contributing authors and do not necessarily reflect an official position of the MAHB. The MAHB aims to share a range of perspectives and welcomes the discussions that they prompt.