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The Wall of the Dead:

A Illustrated Memorial to Fallen Naturalists

Based on work by Richard Conniff

Raalten, Gerrit van (1797–1829), Dutch artist with naturalists in Java, sur­vived a rhino attack but succumbed, age 32, to fever.

Raddi, Giuseppe(1770–1829), Italian botanist, herpetologist in Brazil, age 59, of dysentery at Rhodes, during an expedition to the Nile.

Rafiński, Jan (1943-2003), naturalist, evolutionary biologist and herpetologist, died, age 60, of a heart attack during field work on a newt hybrid zone in the Magurski National Park, in southern Poland.

Raim, Arlo (1943-2010), a legendary birder for the Illinois Natural History Survey, hit by train and killed, age 67, while monitoring the effect of increased train traffic on cardinals in a DuPage County forest preserve.  “He was a bit eccentric,” said a co-worker, “but a very kind and committed person to nature and to understanding nature.”

Ramsay, Malcolm (1949-2000), an evolutionary ecologist and naturalist,  died in a helicopter crash, age 51, in the Canadian High Arctic while returning from a day spent tracking and tagging polar bears.

Rankin, Peter (1956-1979), a young Australian herpetologist, died, age 23, of unknown causes, while collecting reptiles in New Caledonia, shortly after his graduation from Macquarie University.

Rawlinson, Peter (1943-1991), an Australian herpetologist who described several new species of reptiles, he was also a vigorous environmental campaigner. He died, age 48, from heat exhaustion while engaged in fieldwork on the island of Anak Krakatau, Indonesia. The Peter Rawlinson Conservation Award, named in his honor, now acknowledges outstanding contributions to conservation in Australia. Two skinks are also named for him: Ctenotus rawlinsoni (Ingram 1979) and Pseudemoia rawlinsoni (Hutchinson and Donnellan 1988).

Reimer, Daryl (19??-1992), prominent Queensland seabird scientist who disappeared at sea, age unknown, in the Gulf of Carpentaria, Australia, while surveying remote seabird islands.

Richmond, Thomas (17??-1769), a black servant and specimen collector for botanist Joseph Banks aboard Capt. Cook’s HMS Endeavour, he was frozen to death, age unknown, on Banks’s ill-considered collecting expedition in Tierra del Fuego.

Ricketts, Edward F. (1897-1948), marine biologist, author of  Between Pacific Tides, killed, age 50, by a train at an intersection in Monterey, California.

Riley, Charles Valentine (1843-1895), one of the greatest North American entomologists, “the father of biological control,” died in a bicycle accident, age 52.

Roberts, J. Austin (1883‒1948) was the most prominent ornithologist in southern Africa during the first half of the twentieth century. In four decades working at the Transvaal Museum, he amassed 30,000 bird skins and 9,000 mammal specimens there.  He died, age 65, in a traffic accident in the Transkei region. Roberts is best remembered for his Birds of South Africa (1940), a landmark publication in African ornithology which has developed in size and authority with repeated posthumous editions.  His Mammals or South Africa (1951) was published posthumously.  The Austin Roberts Bird Sanctuary was established in his hometown, Pretoria (1958).



Robeyst, Jana (1989-2016), a scientist doing research for the Wildlife Conservation Society on forest elephants at Mbeli Bai, Nouabale-Ndoki National Park, Republic of the Congo, died, age 26, after she was charged by an elephant while she was working with a team of fellow conservationists there.

Robinson, Charles Budd (1871-1913), a botanist, murdered, age 42, “in self-defense” by people who mistook him for a ghoul intent on decapitating people, while collecting plants on Ambon in what is now eastern Indonesia.  (The ghoul defense may sound unlikely.  But other European explorers–Wallace, Du Chaillu, Cuming–also reported that terrified locals sometimes mistook them for ghosts on account of their unnaturally pale skin.  The tendency of naturalists to work late into the night preserving specimens–cadavers–by candlelight may have compounded this impression of ghoulishness.  The one jarring detail is that Ambon had been comfortably tolerating the habits of naturalists since Rumphius arrived there in the 1650s.)  A biographical note is at p. 191 here.

Rodríguez De la Fuente, Félix (1928-1980), celebrated Spanish broadcaster and naturalist, died, age 52,  in a plane crash on assignment in Alaska.

Roepstorff, Frederik Adolph de (1842 – 1883), entomologist, ornithologist and anthropologist, shot dead, age 41, in the Andaman Islands

Rogers, Erick Joseph (1982-2005), a Texas A&M field technician, was working on a study of the crabs eaten by whooping cranes at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, when his boat drifted away from the research site. Rogers attempted to swim for it, but in the 48 degree Fahrenheit water, he soon lost control and drowned, age 23.

Roos, Karl (?-1942), Swiss entomologist working with Gérard Défago on DDT.  Both died, ages unknown, in an unexplained car crash near Heidelberg, Germany. The Swiss chemical company Geigy, which would eventually sell DDT to both sides in the war, had apparently sent them on a clandestine mission to inform the Nazi government of their research.  The Germans hoped to use DDT against the potato beetle, which they apparently feared the Allies would employ as a weapon of biological warfare.  One theory is that the visiting Swiss scientists learned something that day about Germany’s own plans for biological warfare.

Root, Joan (1936-2006), conservationist and activist on Kenya’s Lake Naivasha, murdered at her home there, age 69, by four men armed with AK-47s; the crime remains unsolved.

Rose, Michael (1972-2000) , post-doctoral researcher and ecologist at the University of California at Davis, drowned, age 27, with three others, when their small boat was caught in a storm during an expedition on the Sea of Cortez.

Ross, Ian (1958-2003), wildlife biologist, died  age 44, in a light aircraft accident, with his pilot, Jonathan Edgar Burchell, while radio tracking lions for the Laikipia Predator Project near Nanyuki, Kenya.

Rowley, J. Stuart (1907-1968), ornithologist and vertebrate specimen collector for various museums wrote an account of breeding birds of the Sierra Madre del Sur, Oaxaca, Mexico, and died there, age 61, either in an accidental fall from a cliff or by murder.

Ruschi, Augusto (1915-86), renowned naturalist at Brazil’s National Museum, died from the cumulated effects of malaria, hepatitis, schistosomiasis and, after years of harrowing agony, fatal poisoning, at age 71, from contact with a Dendrobates toad. Throughout his active years, Ruschi fiercely denounced corrupt officials who allowed eco-vandalism in the Amazon.

Ruspoli, Prince  Eugenio (1866-1893), Italian explorer, gave his name to one of world’s most beautiful and rare birds, the Ethiopian endemic Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco, whose first specimen was found in the prince’s hunting bag after he was trampled to death, age 27, by an angry elephant.