Edward was born in Mount Carmel, Illinois, on July 7, 1873. His family moved to a ranch in the San Joaquin Valley near Alila, Tulane County, California.
He began collecting for the Biological Survey in 1891, and in January of the next year he traveled to Mexico as an assistant of E. W. Nelson. He and Nelson traveled to all of the states of Mexico and Guatemala over 14 years to collect birds, mammals, and reptiles. In 1910, he went farther south and surveyed the canal area of Panama, while the canal was being constructed. In 1918, he served in the Sanitary Corps of the Army during World War I in France, trying to prevent the destruction of food and other supplies by rats.
When he returned to Washington he remained associated with the Biological Survey and was in charge of biological investigations from 1919 to 1925, as well as chief of the division of game reservations from 1925 to 1928. He became a senior biologist in the Division of Wilderness Research, working there until 1940. In 1944, he was named honorary associate in zoology at the Smithsonian Institution, and officially retired. At the end of his life he was writing about his experiences with Nelson in Mexico.
One thing particularly outstanding in Edward’s life was his important role in negotiating a treaty with Mexico to protect migrating birds and game mammals. The treaty was completed on February 7, 1936, and he was recognized by Mexicans as an authority on their fauna, who was more familiar with their biota than the Mexicans themselves.
Edward was a member of the American Ornithologists’ Union, the Cooper Ornithological Club, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Society of Mammalogists (of which he was president when he died), the Biological Society of Washington of which he was president for a time, the Washington Academy of Sciences, Cosmos Club of Washington, D.C., Explorers’ Club of New York, and Baird Ornithological Club. Most of Edward’s studies focused on small mammals, particularly small rodents like pocket mice and pocket gophers, and this was the focus of most of his writing. Two of his latest studies were on coyotes and tropical American monkeys, however. He also wrote a memorial of his early mentor, E. W. Nelson. Nelson had described a new genus of hummingbird in 1911, Goldmania, naming it in honor of Edward. Over fifty mammals, birds, reptiles, plants, and mollusks were named for him.
He was elected as a member of the Washington Biologists’ Field Club in 190l.
He and his wife, Emma, had three sons, Luther C., Orville M., and Nelson E.
Edward died on September 2, 1946, in Washington, D.C. He is remembered by friends and colleagues as modest, understanding, generous, and even-tempered.