LEONHARD A. STEJNEGER

Photo of Leonhard Stejneger

Leonhard grew up in Bergen, Norway, where he was born on October 30, 1851. He was a philosophy and law student at the University of Christina, where he also received his PhD degree. He became interested in the natural sciences and in his early twenties Leonhard published several handbooks on mammals and birds native to his country. In 1881, he went on an expedition to the United States to Bering Island, Kamchatka, and the Commander Islands in the North Pacific, where he joined the Smithsonian Institution. On this expedition from 1884 to 1889, he was collecting birds for the U.S. National Museum as assistant curator of birds. He wrote the majority of the volumes on birds of the Standard Natural History. Then in 1889, he became the curator of reptiles, and until June 1, 1911, he was the head curator of biology.

In 1895, he revisited the Commander Islands continually to take part in a study on fur seals for the Fish Commission, again in 1896 as a member of the Fur Seal Commission, and again in 1922 for the Department of Commerce. He was a delegate from the Smithsonian Institution to the Zoological Congress seven times and to the International Ornithologists Congress in 1905. He continually studied museum administration and finances in Europe from 1901 to 1913.

Leonhard was a life member of the Bergen Museum, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, Academy of Science of Christiana and Washington, and a fellow of the American Ornithologists Union, and the American Association for the Advancement of Scince. He was a member of the Foreign Zoological Society of London, Ornithological Society of Bavaria, Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, Biological Society Washington, and the American Society of Ichthyology and Herpetology. He also had the honor of commander on nomenclature and of permanent commander of the International Zoological Congress. He belonged to the Association of American Geographers and was elected to Sigma Xi. Leonhard was an honorary member of the California Academy of Sciences, British Ornithological Union, American Society of Mammalogists, and also the German Ornithological Society. In 1906, he became a Decorated Knight first class of the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav. In 1923, Leonhard was the recipient of the Walker Grand Prize given to him by the Boston Society of Natural History.

Leonhard was an accomplished writer and published a variety of literature. Most of his papers were published from 1873 to 1936, which included studies about birds, fur seals, herpetology of Puerto Rico, and other groups studied in foreign countries. The Stejneger’s beaked whale is named for him. Leonhard died on February 28, 1943, and services were held at All Souls Unitarian Church, Washington, D.C.

Leonhard became an honorary member of the Washington Biologists’ Field Club in 1921.