Human obituaries

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 2005:

Miriam Rothschild, 96, died on January
20 in Northamptonshire, England, recalled by
The Times of London as “Beatrix Potter on
amphetamines.” Like Potter, Rothschild
performed dissections and vivisection early in
life, but became a strong animal advocate later
in life. The daughter of banker Charles
Rothschild, who as a hobby identified more than
500 flea species, Miriam Rothschild catalogued
more than 30,000 flea species between 1953 and
1973. Her uncle Lionel Walter Rothschild also
encouraged her interest in biology, collecting
more than 2.3 million butterflies, 300,000 bird
skins, 300,000 birds’ eggs, several pet
cassowaries, and 144 giant tortoises. Miriam
Rothschild followed them into entomology,
working with Nobel Prize-winning chemist Tadeus
Reichstein to decode the relationship between
insects’ consumption of toxins to deter predators
and their protective coloration. She also became
a leading expert on parasitic flatworms. After a
World War II air raid destroyed her seven years’
worth of flatworm research, she broke codes for
British military intelligence, while housing 49
Jewish children who had escaped from Nazi
Germany. Eventually she began to think about the
ethics of her scientific work. “I was once taken
aback,” she wrote in her 1986 book Animals and
Man, “by an unusually able assistant of mine
suddenly deciding to quit zoology. Apparently
she had been given a live, instead of a dead
mouse, to feed to a stoat. Not having the
courage to kill the mouse herself, she hurriedly
pushed it into the cage. She watched fascinated
while the animal crouched terrified in a corner,
facing the tense, bright-eyed stoat preparing
for the kill. To the girl’s consternation she
then experienced a violent orgasmÅ  Looking back
at the first half of my life as a zoologist,”
she continued, “I am particularly impressed by
one fact: none of my teachers, lecturers, or
professors, none of the directors of
laboratories were I worked, and none of my
co-workers, ever discussed with me, or each
other in my presence, the ethics of zoology. I
know several zoologists,” she added, “who have
admitted that they suffered from the fear of
being dubbed ‘unmanly,’ and struggled to
overcome their dislike of causing animals pain,
or killing them.”

Ernst Mayr, 100, died on February 3 in
Bedford, Massachusetts, remembered as “the
leading evolutionary biologist of the 20th
century” by The New York Times, and “The Charles
Darwin of the 20th century” by Reuters. An avid
birder as a boy in Germany, Mayr at age 19 “was
about to leave for medical school,” wrote Carol
Kaesuk Yoon of The New York Times, “when he
spotted a pair of red-crested pochards, a
species of duck who had not been seen in Europe
for 77 years. Though he took detailed notes, he
could not get anyone to believe his sighting,”
until he met Berlin Zoological Museum
ornithologist Erwin Stresemann, who invited Mayr
to become a weekend assistant. Completing a
Ph.D. in natural history, Mayr collected–and
ate–more than 3,000 birds between 1928 and 1930,
doing field research in New Guinea and the
Solomon Islands as an employee of Lionel Walter
Rothschild (see Miriam Rothschild obituary,
above). This work inspired his theoretical
exploration of how species come to be
differentiated. Mayr cofounded the Society for
the Study of Evolution in 1946 and was first
editor of the journal Evolution. Joining the
Harvard faculty in 1953, he remained active in
evolutionary study to the end of his life. He
was credited with identifying 24 bird species and
more than 400 bird subspecies.

Barbara Jo Petry, 57, better known as
the mystery writer Barbara Burnett Smith, was
killed by a car on February 19 near her home in
Austin, Texas, while trying to retrieve a newly
adopted rescued Airedale from the street. Petry
was known to friends for her love of her two
cats, Naranja and Sinatra, and her older
rescued Airedale, Rafferty.
Katlyn Collman, 10, of Crothersville,
Indiana, on January 25 detoured into a rundown
apartment house on her way home from a
convenience store to tell a resident that his dog
had been hit by a train. Unawares, she saw a
methadrine lab allegedly operated by Charles
Hickman, 20, and two alleged co-conspirators.
Her remains were found in a stream five days
later, hands bound behind her back. Hickman is
charged with murder. Two other men are charged
as accomplices.

Myrtle “Myrt” Starr, 62, died of cancer
on February 9 in Lompoc, California. From 1984
to 1996 Starr ran the petting zoo at the Alisal
Ranch in Solvang. “We had sheep in the closets,
baby pigs in the oven, we even had a bobcat and
a hawk,” daughter Susan Mailander told Hildy
Medina of the Santa Barbara News-Press.
“Everyone was always bringing animals to us who
needed a home.” In early 2003 Starr found
several hundred neglected horses on the land of
an acquaintance, Buellton rancher Slick Gardner,
while looking for a foal whom Gardner had
promised to give her. Gardner was eventually
convicted in one of the largest neglect cases
ever, jailed for a year, and put on probation
for five years. Starr cofounded an organization,
Wildhorses in Need, to help look after about 300
horses who were removed from the Gardner property.

Jerry Berard, 85, died on February 15
in Wausau, Wisconsin. A 30-year employee of
Standard Oil, Berard upon retirement became an
animal control officer for the Humane Society of
Marathon County, working in that capacity for 24
years.

Gerd Kohl, 39, a seven-year keeper at
the Vienna Zoo in Austria, was impaled on the
tusks of a four-year-old bull elephant named Abu
on February 20, while giving the elephant a
shower. Kohl had raised Abu since infancy.
Founded in 1752, the Vienna Zoo last had a
keeper fatality in 2002, when a 21-year-old
woman was killed by a jaguar.

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