NY Times Obit #2
NY Times Obit #2
July 20, 2003
John F. Eisenberg, 68, Leading Expert on Mammals, Dies
By ERIC NAGOURNEY
Dr. John F. Eisenberg, whose research and writing on animal behavior, genetics and evolution made him one of the world's foremost experts on mammals, died on July 6 at his home in Bellingham, Wash. He was 68.
The cause was renal cancer, his associates said.
Dr. Eisenberg, who taught and studied for years at the National Zoo, the University of Maryland and the University of Florida, began his life's work by trapping and studying rodents as a boy in a Washington mill town.
He never lost his interest in mice and other small creatures, colleagues said, but during a 40-year career, he became an expert in mammals small and large, including the elephants he studied in Sri Lanka.
"He was known as a big thinker, a big-picture person," said Dr. Chris Wemmer, who worked as a graduate student under Dr. Eisenberg and who is now associate director for conservation at the National Zoo. "He was constantly sorting, sifting and parsing bits and pieces of information about the life histories of mammals and putting it all together."
Dr. Eisenberg's most influential scholarly work was "The Mammalian Radiations: An Analysis of Trends in Evolution, Adaptation and Behavior," published in 1981 and drawing on many academic disciplines, including ecology, genetics and behavior.
" `The Mammalian Radiations' was strikingly original and recast 230 million years of mammalian evolution in a coherent and well-organized manner," Dr. Bruce D. Patterson of the Field Museum in Chicago said in an e-mail message.
Dr. Eisenberg was also the author of the three-volume "Mammals of the Neotropics" (Kent H. Redford was the co-author on the last two), and wrote more than 150 journal articles on the ecology, behavior and evolution of mammals.
John Frederick Eisenberg was born in Everett, Wash. In a 1983 article, he recalled: "When I was about 10, I read a book that gave instructions on making a live trap using a tin can and a mousetrap. I caught and raised a number of small rodents as a hobby."
He graduated from Washington State University and then earned his master's and doctorate at Berkeley. He took a job at the National Zoo in 1965, and then left in 1982, when he was an assistant director, to teach in Florida. He retired in 2000 and moved back to Washington State.
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