The starting point (1915)

Louis Agassiz Fuertes' self portrait
Louis Agassiz Fuertes’ self-portrait

The earliest efforts to document avian behavior at Cornell were typified by the superb paintings of birds by Louis Agassiz Fuertes; these works captivated both scientists and private citizens alike. Agassiz’s friend and Cornell colleague, Arthur Augustus Allen, held a similar desire to understand and document the complex lives of birds, but he embraced new technological advances as faster and more comprehensive mechanisms to record his observations.

“Doc” Allen, as he was affectionately known, completed his Ph.D. on Red-winged Blackbird ecology and behavior in 1911, and promptly began teaching ornithology courses at Cornell. In 1915, he became the first Assistant Professor of Ornithology in the United States. Doc Allen was a superb avian naturalist who played a pivotal role in the development of North American ornithology.

Arthur Augustus Allen
Arthur Augustus Allen

Doc Allen’s was also an excellent mentor, and many of his undergraduate and graduate students became professional ornithologists who shaped the evolving discipline into a modern science both nationally and worldwide.