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"Richard Archbold and the Archbold Biological Station"

A book by Roger A. Morse, Cornell University

[Morse, R.A. 2000. Richard Archbold and the Archbold Biological Station. Univ. Florida Press, Gainesville.120 pp. ISBN 0-8130-1761-0. $29.95]

"Richard Archbold and the Archbold Biological Station" is the title of a new book designed to answer questions about the life of Richard Archbold and the founding and operation of the Station and to be published by University Press of Florida in April, 2000.

The Archbold Biological Station was founded by the explorer Richard Archbold (RA) (1907–1976) in 1941. RA devoted his life to the support of science and technology. His first experience with field research was as a member of a French-British-United States biological expedition to Madagascar in 1929. The United States portion was under the auspices of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City and underwritten by RA's father, John F. Archbold. The source of RA's financial support was moneys inherited from his grandfather, John D. Archbold, who was the second president of Standard Oil Corporation after John D. Rockefeller.

The experience in Madagascar inspired RA to finance and lead three expeditions to New Guinea during the 1930s, the last of which, in 1938–1939, was the most elaborate (nearly 200 people) and successful. Thousands of specimens of animals were deposited at the American Museum, and of plants at the Arnold Arboretum. Support for explorers of the third expedition came via a twin-engine PBY aircraft originally designed as an amphibious bomber for the U.S. Navy and at the time the largest aircraft in private ownership.

When World War II prevented further exploration abroad RA founded the Archbold Biological Station in Lake Placid, Florida. At the time he thought that he would lead more New Guinea expeditions and he wanted a place to keep his group together until that time came. The original Station property of 1,050 acres had been acquired by John A. Roebling in 1929 as the site of a winter home for his wife who was suffering from tuberculosis. RA, and John's son, Donald, had been school mates, and were in contact during the late 1930s. When Donald's mother died, the Roeblings lost interest in living on the property, although construction of the service and storage buildings was completed during 1930–1935. In 1941, John Roebling gave the Red Hill Estate to RA for one dollar to establish a biological research station. The Station has grown so that it now contains 5,140 acres including its own 90-acre, pristine Lake Annie typical of lakes in south central Florida.

RA settled in at the Station and the challenges of converting Roebling’s warehouse into a research facility and of providing housing for visiting scientists soon dominated his interests so that he never returned to New Guinea after WW2, although he supported four more Archbold Expeditions to New Guinea. The Station’s excellent facilities and abundant protected land soon attracted a steady stream of biologists conducting research in ecology, behavior, physiology, and taxonomy. Throughout the succeeding decades RA was the Station’s resident manager working continually to improve facilities and to provide logistical support, and taking a keen interest in the research projects of visiting and resident scientists and how he could facilitate them, until his death at the Station, his home since October 1941, on 1 August 1976.