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Ernst Mayr

The Darwin of the 20th Century

I went to the museum and I met Professor Stresemann, who greatly impressed me, even though I now have reconstructed, he was only 34 years old at the time. He demanded that he could see my daily notebooks of my bird observations, which I kept very carefully and made all sorts of sketches and everything else. Then he asked me questions about birds, one after the other, then he showed me specimens, and that was the hardest part because the specimens in the trays in the museum didn't look at all like the birds in the field. But anyhow when it was all finished, he said, "Well yes, I believe you, and I'm going to publish your observation." And he said, "What you saw was a Red-crested Pochard. That's a Mediterranean duck. Every once in a long while one of them strays across the Alps to Central Europe. The last one that did so before your observation " this was 1923 " the last one before that was in 1846." So it really was a strange thing. So he published it and a little friendship developed between myself and Stresemann, who was much taken by my incredible enthusiasm.
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Ernst Mayr

The Darwin of the 20th Century

I had no experience, of course. I had never shot a bird. I had never skinned a bird. Stresemann was very -- how shall I say -- optimistic about the whole thing, but I got a rush job training in some of these things and I went over to England and I talked it over with Rothschild and his curator about further matters of collecting. And then, the most fortunate thing was that I stopped in Java at the Dutch Colonial Museum, and they had some very experienced native Javanese assistants who had been on expeditions and were even good at bird skinning, and they agreed to lend me three of those to accompany me to New Guinea. In due time, I got to New Guinea and I established camps in various altitudes and in various villages, and collected, and collected, and collected. In due time I learned from these three Javanese whatever there is to be known about life in the jungle and in the mountains and how to make a camp and how to deal with the natives. And I built up rather beautiful collections.
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Ernst Mayr

The Darwin of the 20th Century

About two years ago, three years ago, for maybe the 20th time I went over the whole business of the species concept. What is a species? I looked at the major figures in the evolutionary synthesis, and I looked at Robzhansky and myself, and Huxley and Stebbins, all of us had reasonable species concepts, and the only person that had a species concept that I thought was quite absurd was the paleontologist G.G. Simpson. And then I said to myself, "Well, he can't have been a naturalist in his youth if he had such a peculiar, unworkable species concept." So I went to Simpson's biography and what did I find? I found that in college he was an English major. He had never been a naturalist as a youngster. He never collected anything, and he discovered geology in his senior year in college, and from there he went to stratigraphy and finally to paleontology. Not surprisingly, not having been a naturalist, he has no idea what a species is and he never had. I argued with him about the species concept year after year, but lacking that background, he was unable to see it, and that is the thing. Being a naturalist -- having had that background of being a naturalist -- gives you a view of nature that cannot be acquired just learning from books.
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Ernst Mayr

The Darwin of the 20th Century

One day Jim Watson's parents appeared in my office. They had some other thing to do in New York, no doubt, because they lived in Chicago. They knew I was an ornithologist and I think Jim knew about me and had already acquired a certain admiration for my work. So Ms. Watson asked me, "Jim wants to become an ornithologist. Where should he go for his studies of ornithology?" At that time, of course, everybody went to Cornell. And I said -- probably to their surprise -- I said, "He shouldn't study ornithology at all. He should, in his undergraduate career, get a very good basic training in biology. And when, after four years, he was still keen on ornithology, then I would be willing to suggest where you should go for graduate school in ornithology. Maybe other people said the same thing. I don't credit myself as being the only one who guided his future. Anyhow he did follow just that. He went to a good school -- I think it was the University of Chicago -- got an excellent training in biology, and of course in the course of that he encountered all sorts of interests, all sorts of problems that are far more interesting than bird watching, and so he never followed up his intention to become an ornithologist, but he became the discoverer of the double helix, all through my giving him good advice!
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Willie Mays

Baseball Hall of Fame

Piper and I would sit on the bench and he'd say, "This guy is going to knock you down. Don't worry about it," he said. "He's trying to scare you." He'd say, "This guy hits this way." He and I had a sign. His sign was behind his back, only with the hand, again, left or right. That's the way the guy's going to pitch. Because he was the manager and he used to call almost all the pitches, so he knew exactly what to do. So, Piper had the first influence on me to be patient and to learn because I wasn't old enough to understand about playing with guys that were 25. Some was older, some pushed their age back, so they might have been older than what I'm saying, but they was all grown. I'm out there by myself. I'm probably the youngest of all the teams around the league I'm talking about.
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Willie Mays

Baseball Hall of Fame

Willie Mays: In the South you only had certain things you could do. If you didn't play a sport, what could we do? When baseball season was over, we played basketball till 11 or 12 o'clock at night. Baseball season, we played 'til late afternoon. Football we played -- especially in the summer -- you could play up to around eight -- nine o'clock. So we played every day. I used to play on the high school team, and then go play sandlot ball on Sundays, without any shoulder pads and things. We didn't have no shoes, I used to kick barefooted. You know, 50 -- 60 yards. I used to kick the ball hard, you know. I didn't kick-off too much without shoes. I used to kick it, but on the side -- spiral.
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Craig McCaw

Pioneer of Telecommunications

I had a particular English teacher who was wont to challenge me in the learning of Macbeth. And as a result of that, I think I memorized more passages of Macbeth than anyone would ever want to know. But to this day, those beat heavily in my mind as I think about processes and about Macbeth's whole sort of philosophical relationship to opportunity and the good and evil that he failed to comprehend, and as it were control his most base instincts. And that ultimately destroyed him. And I must say that whole process with that professor was very powerful to me.
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Craig McCaw

Pioneer of Telecommunications

I think people who understand both science and philosophy, anthropology, whatever, really are going to be benefited the most. And I've always been rather negative about studying the specific aspects of business in school. I always have felt that business schools, which are too disciplined, create wonderful bureaucrats. And bureaucrats are important, but if you really want to make a contribution I think you need to be open to the possibilities.
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