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The Wall of the Dead:

A Illustrated Memorial to Fallen Naturalists

Based on work by Richard Conniff

Samphire, Ben (1978-2009), a British doctoral student, was shot and killed instantly, age 31, while searching for a rare monkey in coastal Ecuador, apparently by a landowner who mistook him for a thief.

San Miguel, Michael (1939-2010), birder and conservationist, died, age 70, when he fell down a cliff, while conducting an owl survey in the San Gabriel Mountains. Remembered here, by another great California ornithologist, Kimball Garrett.

Sánchez Velázquez, Tomás (1954-2007), a rare plant and fern specialist in the Canary Islands (who produced excellent line drawings of his study subjects), died suddenly, age 53, of an unknown illness.

Sankaran, Ravi (1963- 2009) ornithologist, field biologist and director of the Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology & Natural History, died, age 45, of a heart attack.  His work on the Indian edible-nest Swiftlet provided crucial insights for conservation of this species and he was deeply involved in developing community-based conservation efforts, including sustainable harvesting of these birds’ nests.

Saunders, Hamish (1976-2003), an oceanographer, drowned, age 26, after being swept off the remote island of Branca Rock, in southeastern Australia, by waves that reached him at 45 meters above sea level. He was a member of a team of four studying the Pedra Branca skink.

Sazonov,Yuri Igorevich (1950-2002), Russian ichthyologist, died, age 51 of severe cold contracted when he continued to work at his laboratory at the Zoological Museum of the University of Moscow during roof repairs being performed during the winter.

Schibli, Leo (1958-2004) of SERBO in Oaxaca involved with scores of botanical field trips to survey the flora of Oaxaca and consequently discovered several new species of plants including cycads and orchids, died of a heart attack, age of 46.

Schlagintweit, Adolf (1829–1857), one of five German brothers who became naturalists and explorers, beheaded as a spy, age 28, in Kashgar. Check out this recent account of his death.

Schmidt, Daniel Rein (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.

Schmidt, Karl Patterson (1890-1957), herpetologist in Chicago, died, age 67 of a boomslang bite, after making detailed notes on his developing symptoms.   Gregory C. Meyer writes that a death scene in the B-movie classic “The Killer Shrews” was based on the incident.

Schopf, Tom (1940-1984), a specialist in marine fossils and founder of the journal Paleobiology, died of a heart attack, age 44, on a field trip in Texas.

Schweigger, August Friedrich(1783–1821), German naturalist, age 38, mur­dered by his guide on a research trip in Sicily.

Seegmiller, Richard (Rick) F.  (1951-1983), Ph.D. candidate at the University of Arizona’s School of Renewable Natural Resources, studying desert bighorn sheep, died, age 32,  in a small plane crash in the Harquahala Mountains when he was radiotracking  collared sheep.

Sellow, Friedrich (1789-1831), who gathered important materials in Brazil, most especially as a botanist and zoologist.  He drowned, age 42, crossing a river in Brazil during the conduct of his work, leaving rich collections at Berlin and Vienna

Seetzen, Ulrich. J.(1767–1811), German explorer and naturalist specializing in snakes and frogs, traveled in the Middle East disguised as a beggar. Accused of stealing cultural treasures, he was poisoned to death, age 44, apparently on the order of an Imam in what is now Yemen.

Serna, Marco Antonio (1936 – 1991),  Colombian naturalist and ornithologist, was looking to collect specimens of the hard-to-catch Little Tinamou in the Magdalena and Cauca valleys of Colombia, when he died, age 55, of a heart attack.  Here’s a Spanish-language narration of the incident.

Shannon, Frederick A. (1921–1965), American physician and herpetologist, died, age 44, from the bite of a Mojave rattlesnake that he was attempting to catch. A brush lizard is named in his honor Urosaurus graciosus shannoni.

Shaw, Frederick John Freshwater  (1885-1936) British botanist and director of the Imperial Agricultural Research Institute, India, died of heat stroke, age 51, on a trip to Agra.

Sherpa, Mingma (1955-2006), a member of the Janajati ethnic group, warden of the national park which contains Mount Everest, closely involved with conservation around Annapurna, killed, age 51, in a helicopter crash that took the lives of 24 people, many of them World Wildlife Fund conservationists, in eastern Nepal.

Shoshani, Jeheskel ‘Hezy’ (19??-2008), an expert in proboscidean (elephant) biology and conservation, killed, age unknown,  by a bomb explosion on a minibus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Sidner, Ronnie (1950-2014), mammalogist, conservationist, and tireless advocate for bats, died, age 64, last August in an automobile accident on her way home after leading a bat field trip for the Southwest Wings Birding Festival.

Silberglied, Robert (1946-1982),  entomologist, field biologist at Harvard and at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in residence at Barro Colorado Island, Panama, specialized in matching larvae to adult tropical butterflies by raising them up; died, age 36, in the Air Florida accident in Washington DC.

Silliman, James R. (195?-1983), ornithologist and ecologist, graduate of the University of Arizona,  best known for his ornithological work in Nicaragua, killed, age unknown, in a car accident in Leon, Nicaragua.

Simenson, Brant Marcus (1965-2002), an American birdwatcher living in Pakistan, died, age 37, by falling into a ravine near the village of Qardigali in the Himalayas north of Islamabad while searching for the Western Tragopan, a species of pheasant.

Simons, Perry Oveitt (1869‒1901), an American who collected reptiles and amphibians in Peru (c.1900), and birds in Bolivia (1901), was murdered, age 32, by his guide when crossing the Andes. Seven birds, four reptiles, two amphibians, and a mammal are named after him.

Simpson, James Jenkins  (1881-1936) was a British zoologist who served tours with the British East India company in Burma, with the Nyassa Company in East Africa, and with an Entomological Research Committee in West Africa, before moving to Turkey to serve in Department of Oceanography and Marine Biological Research. He was traveling from Greece on the ship Kyrenia when he was found missing from his cabin and presumed drowned, age 55.

Skiles, Wes (1958-2010) pioneering underwater cinematographer, still photographer and conservationist, worked with National Geographic and scientific research teams to explore caves and their hidden marine life, drowned, age 52, on assignment off the coast of Florida.

Skinner, George Ure (1804-1867), a British exporter in Guatemala, who turned plant collector with enormous enthusiasm, specializing in orchids.  He died of dysentery, age 63, in Panama. Uroskinnera and Cattleya skinneri are two plants, of many, which have been dedicated to him.

Slowinski, Joseph (1962–2001), herpetologist, age 38, in northern Burma, snakebite.

Smith, Christen (1785-1816), a Norwegian botanist, died, age 30, probably of yellow fever, while serving aboard HMS Congo on its exploration of the Congo River. His collections on that voyage included 250 unknown plant species.

Smith, David (19tk-1991) botanist for the Missouri Botanical Gardens, had nearly completed an amazing flora of the eastern Andes when he died, age 40, from a leg infection picked up on a field expedition

Smith, Herbert H. (1851-1919) was an American naturalist and writer who, together with his wife Daisy, collected widely in South America and the Caribbean.   He was deaf and while collecting snails along the railway in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, in March 1919, he was struck and killed, age 68, by a train.  The spot on the University of Alabama was later known as Smith’s Crossing.

L.S. Smith

Smith, Lindsay S. (1917-1970), Australian botanist, best known for his work on rainforest trees, particularly in New Guinea during World War II, collapsed and died, age 52,on the slopes of Mount Barney in Queensland, while preparing  a list of its plant life.

Smithwick, Richard P. (1887–1909), American ornithologist, smothered to death while digging his way into a soft bank to raid a Belted Kingfisher nest, found “with his feet only projecting through the sand,” age 22, in Virginia.

Snelling, Roy R. (1934-2008), hymenopterist, died, age 74, in Kenya on an ant collecting trip.

Snetsinger, Phoebe (1931-1999), birder famous for having seen 8400 species, most after she was diagnosed with melanoma in 1981.  She was an heiress of the Leo Burnett advertising fortune and used her wealth traveling and making field notes that have proved important in mapping species and subspecies distributions.  She died in a car accident in Madagascar, age 68, leaving four children who are now bird researchers.

Soto Arenas, Miguel Ángel (1963-2009), murdered by an unknown assailant at his home in Torreón, Coahuila, Mexico, specialized in ecology and taxonomy of orchids.

Stalker, Wilfred (1879–1910), British collector of natural history specimens in Southeast Asia, drowned, age 31, on the British Ornithological Union’s 1909 expedition to New Guinea.

Bill Stanley

Bill Stanley

Stanley, Bill (1957-2015), head of the mammal collection at the Field Museum in Chicago, died of a heart attack, age 58, while running traplines for rare species in Ethiopia.  He had once remarked that he would never retire: “I’m going to do this until the day I die,” and a colleague noted that he died doing what he loved best.

Steller, Georg Wilhelm (1709-1746), pioneering botanist and zoologist in Russia and Alaska,  namesake to the Steller’s Jay, and many other species in the Northern Pacific region, died, age 37, from scurvy or fever in Siberia.

Stokes, William(?–1873), “sailor boy” on HMS Challenger, killed, age unknown, when block from oceanographers’ dredge tore loose and hit him.

Stoliczka, Ferdinand (1838–1874), Czech paleontologist and naturalist, age 36, of altitude sickness while crossing the Himalayas in Ladakh, in India.

Collected by Strange

Paradise parrot, collected by Strange

Strange, Frederick (1826 – 1854), born in Norfolk, England, became a natural history collector in Australia, for the ornithologist John Gould, among others. He participated in an 1839 exploration north of the Murray River, “during which the entire party nearly perished, being compelled to bleed their horses to quench their thirst, on account of the entire want of water.” On his final expedition in 1854, his party landed on South Percy Island, where resident aborigines attacked and speared Strange, age 28, and three others. After a trial in Brisbane, a half-dozen of the aborigines met their deaths by hanging. Several plant group now bear Strange’s name.

Suhm, Rudolf von Willemoes(1847–1875), German, the youngest of the “Scientifics,” dubbed “the baron” by crew of HMS Challenger, age 28, of erysipelas, an acute streptococcus infection.

Swain, Ralph B. (1912–1953), entomologist, ornithologist, botanist, age 41, murdered by bandits in Mexico.

Swammerdam, Johann (1637–1680), Dutch naturalist, studied medicine and anatomy in Leiden, known for his work on the anatomy of insects, first to describe the phases of insect life, first to describe red blood cells, but later renounced science for religion, died, age 43, of malaria.

Swynnerton, Charles Francis Massey (1877-1938), was an English-born naturalist noted for his contributions to tsetse fly research, who died, age, 60, in Mjari, Tanzania, when his Dehavilland Leopard Moth airplane crashed as he was on route to England to receive an award for his work.

Suraud, Jean-Patrick (1977-2012), who worked on conservation of West African giraffes and other species, died in an ultralight crash in South Africa, age 35.