Richard Archbold

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Richard Archbold

Birthdate: (69)
Death: August 1, 1976 (69)
Immediate Family:

Son of John Foster Archbold and May Archbold
Brother of John Dana Archbold; Adrian Archbold and Frances May Archbold Hufty

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About Richard Archbold

Richard Archbold (April 9, 1907 – August 1, 1976) was an American zoologist, explorer, and philanthropist. He was independently wealthy, being the grandson of the capitalist John Dustin Archbold. He was educated at private schools and later attended classes at Columbia University though he never graduated. He used his share of his family's wealth first to sponsor a series of biological expeditions to New Guinea for the American Museum of Natural History, and later to establish, maintain and endow a biological research station in Florida. In 1929 Archbold joined the ranks of members of the Explorers Club in New York.

Madagascar expedition

In 1928 Archbold was invited to participate in a Franco-British-American zoological expedition to Madagascar (1929-1931), led by Jean Delacour, on which he was responsible for mammal collecting. The American component of this expedition was funded by his father, John F. Archbold, with the proviso that his son be included. It was on this expedition that Archbold first met Austin L. Rand, the expedition ornithologist, who became a long-term research collaborator and life-long friend. It was also during the course of this expedition that he learnt of the death of his father.

New Guinea expeditions

In the 1930s, inspired and encouraged by Ernst Mayr, Archbold financed (and personally led the first three of) a series of major biological expeditions to New Guinea. In these expeditions the principal zoologist (and often co-leader) was Austin Rand, and the principal botanist Leonard Brass:

1933-34 Expedition

The first Archbold expedition to New Guinea took place in south-eastern New Guinea, covering an altitude range from sea-level to alpine tundra. This used conventional equipment, pack animals and human carriers. Logistical problems and limitations started Archbold thinking about the use of aircraft for future expeditions, as well as radio for communications.

1936-37 Expedition

The second Archbold expedition to New Guinea took place from February 1936 to January 1937 in southern New Guinea, chiefly at and near Daru, along the Fly and Palmer Rivers and in the Wassi Kussa area. The expedition used radio as well as a Fairchild 91 amphibian flying boat; however, the loss of the plane at anchor at Port Moresby during a tropical storm limited the amount of work done.

1938-39 Expedition

The third and most ambitious Archbold expedition to New Guinea took place from April 1938 to May 1939 in Netherlands New Guinea, concentrating on the north slope of the Snow Mountains, from Mt Wilhelmina to the Idenburg River (a tributary of the Mamberamo River), making collections at altitudes from near sea-level to over 4,000 m at the upper limit of vegetation.

Piloted by Russell R. Rogers, the expedition used a PBY-2 Catalina flying boat (named Guba II), that could land on suitable lakes and rivers, to provide supplies to the expedition as well as performing other duties such as aerial reconnaissance and photography. It was through an aerial reconnaissance flight early in the expedition that the discovery was made, on 23 June 1938, of the hitherto unknown, though densely populated, Baliem Valley, home to the Dani people.

Pioneer flight over the Indian Ocean

Towards the conclusion of the expedition in 1939, with Archbold intending to return to the USA across the Pacific, he was contacted by Captain P.G. Taylor, representing Australian interests which, with war impending, wanted to determine the practicality of an air route from Australia to Europe over the Indian Ocean and via Africa rather than Asia. It appeared that Guba II was the only suitable aircraft for the job at short notice. As Archbold was amenable to the project, his plane was effectively chartered for the crossing by the Australian government (which paid for fuel and other provisions used during the flight) and his flying crew augmented by Taylor as navigator.

The intended flight path across the Indian Ocean was from Port Hedland, Western Australia to the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Diego Garcia, the Seychelles and Mombasa, Kenya. Apart from the initial leg of the flight, when the plane was forced, after leaving Port Hedland, to detour via Batavia (now Jakarta) because of bad weather, the flight was made without major problems. In Mombasa Taylor left the crew to return to Australia and Archbold continued the flight westwards, landing in New York in July 1939.

Archbold Biological Station

With the outbreak of war in the Pacific, the series of expeditions to New Guinea came to a halt, and in 1941 Archbold established the Archbold Biological Station at Lake Placid, Florida, where he lived the rest of his life. There were four further Archbold-financed expeditions to New Guinea after the war, but Archbold did not personally participate in them.

Further reading

Archbold, R.; & Rand, A.L. (1935). Summary of the 1933-1934 Papuan Expedition. Results of the Archbold Expeditions. No.7. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 68 (8): 527-579.

Rand, Austin L. (1940). Summary of the 1936-1937 New Guinea Expedition. Results of the Archbold Expeditions. No.29. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 77 (7): 341-380.

Archbold, R.; Rand, A.L.; & Brass, L.J. (1942). Summary of the 1938-1939 New Guinea Expedition. Results of the Archbold Expeditions. No.41. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 79 (3): 197-288.

Morse, R. (2000). Richard Archbold and the Archbold Biological Station. University Press of Florida: Gainesville. ISBN 0-8130-1761-0

Rand, A.L. (1977). Obituary: Richard Archbold, 1907-1976. Auk 94: 186-187.

  • obituary was in the New York TImes, Tuesday, August 3rd 1976
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Richard Archbold's Timeline

April 9, 1907
August 1, 1976
Age 69