Edgar Alexander Mearns (1856-1916) was an army surgeon and field naturalist. He developed an early interest in natural history, studying the flora and fauna around his home in Highland Falls, New York. Mearns' primary biological interests were ornithology and mammalogy. During his tours in the US Army he managed to collect extensively across the United States, United States-Mexican border as member of the United States-Mexican International Boundary Survey (serving as medical officer), and the Philippines. The National Museum of Natural History houses thousands of his specimens, 30,000 just from his collecting during 1892 to 1894. Though not initially a professional collector, he was well respected in the field natural history, and was even invited by Theodore Roosevelt to accompany the Smithsonian-Roosevelt African Expedition as naturalist. From 1909 to 1910, Mearns explored parts of British East Africa from Mount Kenia to the White Nile. Mearns' last expedition was in 1911, when he served as a naturalist with the Childs Frick Expedition to Africa.
During his years of collecting, he shared his interest with his son Louis. The quote below is from one of his field book “E. A. Mearns field book, 1902” from collection SIA Acc. 11-097, and shows that this shared enjoyment of natural history was not just limited to his son.
Spermophilus mexicanus parvidens – A pair of these ground squirrels was given me by a Seminole woman at Ft. Clark, Texas. They were caught by pouring water down their holes, and taken as they emerged therefore to escape drowning. I let them go in our back yard at Ft. Clark beside a pile of old lumber in which they sought shelter. Later they dug a burrow beneath this heap of rubbish having an exit outside the bound fence which enclosed the yard. These squirrels and a rabbit which likewise resided in the same pile of rubbish in the corner of our yard were the theme of numerous comments by my wife and children in my absence during the Spanish War. Under date of November 10, 1898, my wife wrote: “the squirrel has a big hold in the yard, and he is carrying down excelsior for his winter nest. I like to see them around.” Lepus bachmam(?) – Louis di Z. Mearns [Edgar Mearns’s son] wrote June 22, 1898: “our rabbit has a hold in the front yard under a tree, and I saw it twice today.”
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