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The Wall of the Dead:

A Illustrated Memorial to Fallen Naturalists

Based on work by Richard Conniff

Macklot, Heinrich(1799–1832), naturalist, was so enraged when insurgents burned down his house, with all of his collections, that he organized a revenge attack and was speared to death, age 33, in Java.

Maconochie, John R. (1941–1984), Australian botanist who died in a motor vehicle accident, age 43, while consulting in Oman.

Maehr, David (1956-2008) ) conservation biologist at the University of Kentucky died, age 52, in a plane crash whole tracking radio collared black bears in Lake Placid, Florida.

Magraner, Jordi (1959-2002), Spanish zoologist, quit his position at the  National Museum of Natural History in Paris to undertake independent research into the Barmanu, a hominid-like creature thought by local people to inhabit the remote Chitral Mountains of northwestern Pakistan.  He was living among the  marginalized Kalash people, who considered him their protector, and he ignored warnings by Pakistani officials to leave the area when the instability following the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan spilled over to this area.  He was murdered, age 43, along with his 12-year old assistant, by two of his former Afghan assistants, who slit his throat for reasons that remain unclear.  He was buried by the Kalash in the local town of Bumburet.

Maldonado, Juan Black (1946-1996), Ecuadorean naturalist and conservationist, died, age 50, of skin cancer, said to have been brought on by the combination of his pale-skinned Irish heritage and a lifetime of fieldwork in the sun in the Galapagos, the high altitudes of Volcano Antisana, and elsewhere.

Maness, Scott Jay (1948-1981), reptile biologist with the Peace Corps and then with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, for whom he was working at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in Florida when a lightning strike caused a wildfire there.   He was working with crew member Beau Sauselein using a tractor and a fireplow to cut a fireline when the wind shifted, driving the fire toward them.  As they attempted to move away, the tractor got caught on a stump.  They tried to flee on foot but the thick palmetto grass blocked them and they were burned to death in the blaze.  Maness was 32, Sauselein was 33.

Marchessaux, Didier (1957-1988), pioneer in research on the endangered Mediterranean monk seal, responsible for creating the Cap Blanc Reserve in Mauritania, died, age 31, when his car drove over a land mine in the Western Sahara.

Markgraf, Georg(1610–1644), German physician and naturalist celebrated for his work on a Dutch West Indies expedition to Brazil, but died, age 34, probably of malaria, in Angola(?).  There is a detailed account of his life, though with an emphasis on astronomy here.

Marsh, Clive (1951-2000), field biologist instrumental in establishing the Tana River Primate Reserve in Kenya and the Danum Valley Conservation Area in Sabah, age 49, from an encephalitis-related illness acquired during field work in Laos.

Martin, Shannon (1978-2001), a University of Kansas graduate student collecting fern specimens, stabbed to death in Costa Rica, age 23.

Martínez, Antonio (1922-1993), South America’s premier beetle researcher, died, age 71, with his wife in a car accident in Bolivia, while on an insect collecting trip.

Maskey, Tirtha (1948-2006), one of the world’s leading experts on crocodiles and rhinoceroses, who had also discovered a new frog species, killed, age 58, in a helicopter crash that  took the lives of 24 people, many of them World Wildlife Fund conservationists, in eastern Nepal.


Matapi and Franco, 2014

Matapí, Daniel (19??-2014), an indigenous leader who worked with the Amazon Conservation Team-Colombia to identify isolated tribes and protect their habitat, died when the Piper PA-31 Navajo crashed after takeoff from Araracuara in the department of Caquetá.

Maxwell-Lefroy, Harold (1877–1925). British entomologist in India and a professor of entomology at the Imperial College in South Kensington, London, died, age 48, from the effects of a lethal gas with which he was experimenting for use as an insecticide.

McKay, Charles Leslie (1855-1883), Wisconsin-born naturalist who collected in Alaska for the Smithsonian’s Spencer Fullerton Baird.  McKay discovered McKay’s Bunting in 1882.  He died the following year, age 28, in suspicious circumstances on a solo canoe  trip.  His body was never recovered.

Meneses, Elias (19??-1979), botanist, about age 50, of malaria contracted in Pando Department (Bolivia) while collecting tree specimens.

Menkens, George (1957-1990), bear researcher, disappeared, age 33, during a polar bear monitoring flight over the Arctic Ocean 240 miles northwest of Point Barrow, Alaska.

Mertens, Robert (1894-1975), herpetologist, specialized in lizards, particularly island and tropical species, namesake of Mertensian mimicry, a rare form in which a deadly species mimics a less dangerous one, died, age 81, of a twig snake bite.

Messier,  Jeanne (1966-1993),  a UC-San Diego graduate biology student, she lived in a cabin infestedwith rodents while studying birds at California’s Valentine Ecological Reserve, died, age 27, ofhantavirus.



Metallinou, Margarita (1986-2015), was a Villanova University researcher specializing in desert-dwelling reptiles. She was working in Zambia’s Kafue National Park, when an elephant trampled her to death, age 29.  On seeing the elephant charging, she screamed and alerted colleagues, who managed to escape injury.


Meyer, Frank N. (1875–1918), American plant explorer, made four expedi­tions to China. Heading homeward down the Yangtze River at a time of political turmoil, he disappeared, age 43, from his ship and his body was recovered a week later.

Michaud, Luigi (1973?-2014), a University of Messina research fellow seeking new antibiotics for cystic fibrosis, he died, age 40, in a diving accident in Antarctica while collecting marine bacteria.

Michaux, Andre (1746-1802) French botanist, wrote the first book on  trees of North America, also explored in England, France, and Persia, lost notes and specimens in an 1801 shipwreck off Holland, and died the following year in Madagascar, age 56, of tropical fever.

Miller, Waldron DeWitt (1879-1929), ornithologist at the American Museum of Natural History,  killed in a motorcycle accident just before completing a full account of the birds of Nicaragua.  See this note for the series of tragedies that afflicted the course of ornithology in Nicaragua.

Miyata, Ken (1951-1983) an expert on diversity in lizards who traveled frequently in South America, but fell victim to his passion for fly-fishing.  He drowned, age 32, while angling alone on the Big Horn River in Wyoming.

Monteiro, Luis R. (1962-1999), a leading seabird expert from the University of the Azores, died in the crash of an inter-island flight while pursuing his research, age 37.  Monteiro’s storm-petrel (Oceanodroma monteiroi) is named in his memory.

Moorcroft, William(1765–1825), British veterinary surgeon and plant-collector in Tibet and Kashmir, also reputed to be a secret agent, age 60, murdered in Afghanistan.

Mora, Jairo (1987-2013), a marine turtle conservationist, age 26, he was kidnapped while patrolling leatherback turtle nesting sites on a beach in Limon, Costa Rica.  His kidnappers, who were apparently raiding nests to sell the eggs, tied up the four volunteers working with Mora.  Then they took him away, tied his hands behind his back, beat him,  dragged him behind his vehicle, and finally shot him in the head.

Mosauer, Walter (1905-1937) Austrian-born zoologist at the University of California at Los Angeles, died, age 32, of blood poisoning–septicemia–on a field trip to study reptiles in Mexico.

Mulotwa, Emile Masumbuko (1962-2011), researcher at the University of Kisangani, Democratic Republic of Congo, specialist of the Congo Peacock (Afropavo congensis), aged 48, died in a hospital in Kinshasa, where he was taken to be treated after the Hewa Bora Airways plane crash in Kisangani.


Muncus-Nagy, Mihai (1978-2012), a Romanian conservationist, he volunteered to work protecting native species on New Zealand’s remote Raoul Island, where he vanished, age 33, in an apparent drowning.

Mys, Benoit (1960-1989), a Belgian Phd student, was doing fieldwork for his PhD thesis on the zoogeography of the skink fauna of northern Papua New Guinea, when he was killed, age 28, in a vehicle accident on the north coast highway.  An expedition in his footsteps is planned for spring of 2014, to find some of the new snake species he discovered.