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JOHN T. ZIMMER (1889-1957)


John T. Zimmer was sufficiently introverted that even those who worked with him for years at the American Museum of Natural History could report little about his life, apart from his professional activities.  “The general impression he created at the museum,” his eulogists wrote, “particularly after the loss of his wife [in 1945], was of a man of semi-recluse traits whose aim in life was consistently centered on the huge task of deciphering and spreading on the record the relationships of birds in the continent that has produced more families and species than any other” (Murphy and Amadon 1959, 421).  His particular expertise was on the birds of Peru, an interest that commenced with his participation in the Marshall Field Peruvian Expedition in 1922-23. By the time his account  of the 1,497 specimens he collected on the expedition was published by the Field Museum in 1930, Zimmer had moved to the American Museum of Natural History, where he remained for the rest of his career.