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The Wall of the Dead:

A Illustrated Memorial to Fallen Naturalists

Based on work by Richard Conniff

Banister, John(1650–1692), British naturalist and clergyman, shot  “per misadventure ,” age 42, when he bent over to pick a plant while exploring in Virginia.

Barbadillo, Pablo (1984-2008), a young Spanish biologist doing his doctoral dissertation field work on large reptiles and how humans interacted with them in Amazonian Peru. He was based at the Los Amigos Biological Station (CICRA)in the Madre de Dios department, when he traveled to a small town upriver on the Madre de Dios and did not return, age 23. Police found his body in an advanced state of decay, cause of death unknown.

Barthelt, Annette (1963-1987), marine biologist from the University of Kiel in Germany, killed, age 24, with a large group of others in a terrorist attack in Djibouti while waiting to board a three-month expedition of the German research vessel Meteor in the Indian Ocean.

Bassignani, Filippo (1967?-2006), Italian zoologist and lover of travel, large mammals, and the conservation of nature, died age 39, on a trip to Mozambique, after being charged by an elephant that had been wounded by poachers.

Batty, Joseph H. (1850–1906), taxidermist and specimen hunter who had endured plague, drought, and other hardships while collecting for more than three years for the American Museum of Natural History.  He had recently accused of fraudulent practices, when he was “killed instantly by the accidental discharge of his gun,” age 55, in Mexico.

Beaulieu, Ryan (1987-2005) pioneered the banding and research program for rosy finches in New Mexico’s Sandia Mountains, killed, age 18, in an automobile accident while on a birding trip.

Bečvář, Stanislav (1938-1997), Czech entomologist, shot dead, age 59, by soldiers in Laos while collecting beetles.  Here’s a detailed account of the incident.  His son of the same name, also an entomologist, was seriously wounded in the attack but survived and continues to do field work.

Berlandier, Jean Louis  (1805–1851) was a French botanist, who worked as a collector in Mexico. He drowned, age 46, while trying to cross the San Fernando River. A reptile, an amphibian, two mammals and a bird are named after him.

Bergman, Robert D., (1942-1974), ornithologist, was studying waterfowl and wetland relationships in advance of development of the oil fields of Alaska’s North Slope. He died, age 31, when his plane went down in an extreme windstorm over the Gulf of Alaska. The aircraft was never found despite 750 hours of searches.

Bernstein, Heinrich Agathon (1828–1865), German physician and collector of birds and mammals, age 36, on the island of Batanta off New Guinea, cause unknown.

Bevins, John (1955-1990), bear researcher, disappeared, age 34, during a polar bear monitoring flight over the Arctic Ocean 240 miles northwest of Point Barrow, Alaska.

Biermann, Adolph(1839–1880), curator of the Calcutta Botanical Garden, sur­vived attack by tiger while walking in garden but succumbed a year later, age 41, to cholera.

Birtwell, Francis J. (18??-1901), an ornithologist from Boston, was strangled to death by his climbing rope, age ??, as his bride looked on, while he was attempting to collect a bird nest on the Rio Pecos in New Mexico. The couple, married a month earlier, were on their honeymoon. Olivia Birtwell subsequently published her husband’s notes from the trip in The Auk.

Black, George (1916-1957), a U.S.-born botanist and explorer of the Amazon,  drowned during an expedition.

Boerlage, Jacob Gijsbert (1849–1900), Dutch botanist on his 51st birthday, on a botanical expedition to the Moluccas to identify plants described by Rumphius, cause unknown.

Böhm, Richard (1854-1884), a German zoologist and former student of Ernst Haeckel, traveled extensively in East Africa, where he died, age 30, of a fever. Three mammals and five birds are named after him.

Boie, Heinrich (1794–1827), German ornithologist, age 33, of “gall fever,” in Java, one of a long succession of naturalists to die in the service of the Dutch Natural History Commission to the East Indies.

Boll, Jacob (1828 – 1880), a Swiss naturalist who collected for Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology and later for paleontologist Edward D. Cope of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia. He died, age 52, in his camp along the Pease River in the Texas Permian redbeds, ostensibly of septicemia. But according to another source, Boll was “bitten by a snake and having no means of reaching medical aid in a hurry the excessive heat and long exposure caused blood poisoning which ended in speedy death.” Cope attributed Boll’s death to “his indifference to his personal comfort while exploring the Permian beds at my instance.”

Bossuyt, Francis J. (1970-2000), University of California at Davis animal behaviorist, disappeared while bathing in the lake at Cocha Cashua Biological Station in Peru, age 30.  Colleagues found only his shoes and towel on the dock; he was possibly taken by a caiman.  Bossuyt’s father, an engineer, had died four years earlier in the TWA flight 800 crash.

Bowman, David (1838–1868), Scottish plant collector, robbed of his speci­mens in Colombia and said to have died of “mortification,” but more likely from dysentery, age 30, in Bogota.

Brodský, Otakar (1940- 1986), Czech coleopterist, died of a heart attack, age 45, while collecting Cleridae beetles in a rainforest in Vietnam.  He was reportedly seated under a tree with his collecting equipment in his hands, and his colleagues didn't immediately realize he was dead.

Brown, Kirsty M. (1974-2003), marine biologist with the British Antarctic Survey, drowned, age 29, when attacked while snorkeling and dragged 200 feet underwater by a leopard seal.

Brun, Einar (1936-1976) noted Norwegian seabird ecologist, aquaculture pioneer, and echinoderm specialist at the University of Tromso, died at age 40 in a small plane crash during inclement weather in northern Norway, while returning from marine bird surveys.

Brunete, José (17??-1787), one of the two botanical artists on the Spanish Expedición Botánica of 1777-1788 to South America. He died from a fall from his burro, age unknown, in Pasco, Peru.

Buchalla, Marco (1959-1987), marine biologist from the University of Kiel in Germany, killed, age 28, with a large group of others in a terrorist attack in Djibouti while waiting to board a three-month expedition of the German research vessel Meteor in the Indian Ocean.

Budden, Keith Clifford  (1930-1950) was an Australian herpetologist who set out to collect a live specimen of the highly venomous and aggressive Taipan snake, Oxyuranus scutellatus. He caught it in his bare hands. As he was trying to put it in a bag, it slipped from his grasp and bit him. He died the next day, but that snake was among the first Taipan specimens caught alive. It was used in the search for an antivenom.

Buddingh, Johan Adriaan (1840–1870), Dutch civil servant and amateur collector for the Leiden Museum, age 30, in Batavia (Jakarta), Java, cause unknown.

Bupathy, Subramanian (1961-2014), herpetologist and head of conservation biology at India’s Sálim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History, died, age 53, after a fall and a 13-hour ordeal being carried down to help, with a bamboo spike in his left eye. Madhusudan Katti, a colleague, commented, “He went out in action, in the field surveying for reptiles, just across the Agasthyamalai mountain in whose rain shadow I spent my formative years chasing leaf warblers. Never thought about the risks of simple slip down a slope. Just unbelievable that Bhupathy lost his life in such a horribly random fashion. He’s survived by his wife and two teenaged children.”

Burchell, Jonathan Edward (1973-2003), American bush pilot for the Laikipia Predator Project , died  age 30, in a light aircraft accident, while radio tracking lions near Nanyuki, Kenya.

Bussing, William A. (1933-2014) celebrated fish researcher, died in November 2014, age 81 following an automobile accident in Costa Rica.