Tso-hsin Cheng (郑作新 also transcribed as Zheng Zuoxin) (18 November 1906 – 27 June 1998) was a Chinese ornithologist known for his seminal work on the birds of China and mentoring a generation of researchers. Educated in the United States, he chose to stay in China after the Second World War though many of his academic colleagues moved to Taiwan. He was severely punished during the Cultural Revolution despite being a member of the Communist Party.
Cheng was born in Fujian in November 18, 1906 and grew up with an interest in the local birds. His mother died of tuberculosis when he was very young and he was taken care of mostly by his grandmother. His father was one of the few Chinese with a higher education and knew English. His father taught him to speak English. As a young boy he was weak and his father encouraged the boy to take up sports. Cheng hiked in the mountains, played tennis and even became a champion 100 m sprinter. His early naturalist interests were in the nature of culinary objects. He collected fish, wild fruit and vegetables which his grandmother cooked. He went to the high school at Fuzhou and sought admission to the Fujian Christian University at the age of 15 which required him to undergo a special test. The English professor of biology there asked the applicants about which vegetable had the highest vitamins and he was the only one to come up with the answer as tomato. Tomatoes were then unheard of in China but Cheng had read about them, leading to his being admitted. He graduated in 1926 after seven semesters after which he wished to move to the United States.
An uncle who was a doctor in Fuzhou funded Cheng's travel and he chose the University of Michigan as a cousin studied there. He studied under Peter Olas Okkelberg and received a doctorate in 1930 for his thesis on "The Germ Cell history of Rana cantabrigensis Baird". He also received a Sigma Xi golden Key award. While in the US he had visited the natural history museum of the university and encountered a golden pheasant specimen. He wondered why all the species in China in recent times were described by non-Chinese. He also knew of 3000 year old classical Chinese literature which had described one-hundred bird species. He chose to return to China and rejected offers to work in the United States.
Returning to China in 1930 he joined the Fujian Christian University and later founded the China Zoological Society and headed the department of biology at Fuzhou. In 1938 his university moved to Shao-wu due to the threat of the Japanese invasion. He moved to the US in April 1945 to work on Chinese ornithology, examining specimens in museums and universities across America. He returned to Fuzhou in September 1946. In 1947 he was forced to move to Nanjing due to civil war between Maoists and the Kuomintang. In 1948 many university staff fled to Taiwan and Cheng also considered it. He however asked around and was told that the communist party needed scientists. He then remained and joined the Communist Party. In 1950 he moved to Beijing and became a curator of birds at the Academia Sinica and founded the Peking Natural History Museum in 1951. He was the first director of the scientific publications office. He translated Joachim Steinbacher's book on bird migration and ornithology into Chinese. From 1955 to 1957 he worked along with Soviet and East German ornithologists in expeditions and studies in southern Yunnan and northeastern China.
In 1958 Cheng's work in China was interrupted by a campaign to eradicate sparrows (along with mice, flies and mosquitoes). Cheng was, for ecological reasons, against the campaign from the start but it was only in 1959 that he could influence a decision against the killing of sparrows. He travelled to East Germany in May 1957 and worked with Erwin Stresemann examining specimens from the Chinese region. He was also able to meet other ornithologists like L A Portenko, Charles Vaurie, and Gunther Niethammer in meetings that Stresemann called as the "Atlantic Pacific Conference". He was however not allowed to attend evening parties at Stresemann's home in West Berlin due to instructions from the Chinese embassy in East Germany. Cheng was made a foreign correspondent of the German Ornithologists' Society through the nomination of Stresemann. Cheng returned to China with stays in Leningrad and Moscow. Returning to China he was faced by Mao's Cultural Revolution.
Scientific work came to a halt and a slogan was that "the more knowledge you possess, the more you are a revolutionary". Cheng was declared a criminal as he had opposed Chairman Mao's campaign against sparrows. He was told that "birds are public animals of capitalism" and had to wear a badge that read "reactionary" and made to undergo an examination of his supposed ornithological training apart from being forced to sweep the corridors and clean toilets. The test was given by a committee and he was asked to identify a bird made up of parts from multiple species.After failing the "test", his salary was reduced to a bare minimum. In August 1966 he was kept in isolation in a cowshed for six months and his house was searched by Red Guards who confiscated all his belongings including a typewriter that he valued the most. The Academia Sinica was occupied by the Red Guards from 1967 until 1968 when Mao ordered their removal. Peace returned only in the 1970s and his work on the birds of China was sent for publication after having been rejected once earlier. It was published in 1978, but dated as 1976, and he was forced to include a long quotation from Mao, who had since died. After Mao's death, Cheng was invited to an international symposium of the World Pheasant Association in November 1978. He also spent two months in England during which time he met Sir Peter Scott and G.V.T.Matthews. He served as a professor at the Beijing Normal University and in 1987 he and his colleagues published a Synopsis of the Avifauna of China. He also edited the Fauna Sinica, Aves volumes from 1970 to 1980. He worked on bird conservation and worked on international collaboration for the protection of migratory species.
Cheng met Chen Jia-jang (Lydia) while playing tennis and married her in 1942. In 1992 the couple celebrated their golden anniversary with Cheng gifting the golden key from Michigan to his wife and receiving in turn a gift of a golden pencil.
Cheng died from a heart attack in 1998. Several species have been named in his honour including Cheng's jird (Meriones chengi) Wang, 1964. Pamela Rasmussen named the Sichuan bush warbler (Locustella chengi) discovered in 2015 after Professor Cheng.
Ernst Walter Mayr was one of the 20th century's leading evolutionary biologists. He was also a renowned taxonomist, tropical explorer, ornithologist, philosopher of biology, and historian of science. His work contributed to the conceptual revolution that led to the modern evolutionary synthesis of Mendelian genetics, systematics, and Darwinian evolution, and to the development of the biological species concept.
Ornithology is a branch of zoology that concerns the "methodological study and consequent knowledge of birds with all that relates to them." Several aspects of ornithology differ from related disciplines, due partly to the high visibility and the aesthetic appeal of birds. It has also been an area with a large contribution made by amateurs in terms of time, resources, and financial support. Studies on birds have helped develop key concepts in biology including evolution, behaviour and ecology such as the definition of species, the process of speciation, instinct, learning, ecological niches, guilds, island biogeography, phylogeography, and conservation.
The grass warblers are small passerine birds belonging to the genus Locustella. Formerly placed in the paraphyletic "Old World warbler" assemblage, they are now considered the northernmost representatives of a largely Gondwanan family, the Locustellidae.
John Cassin was an American ornithologist from Pennsylvania. He worked as curator and Vice President at the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences and focused on the systemic classification of the Academy's extensive collection of birds. He was one of the founders of the Delaware County Institute of Science and published several books describing 194 new species of birds. Five species of North American birds, a cicada and a mineral are named in his honor.
Margaret Morse Nice was an American ornithologist, ethologist, and child psychologist who made an extensive study of the life history of the song sparrow and was author of Studies in the Life History of the Song Sparrow (1937). She observed and recorded hierarchies in chicken about three decades ahead of Thorleif Schjelderup-Ebbe who coined the term "pecking order". After her marriage, she made observations on language learning in her children and wrote numerous research papers.
Erwin Friedrich Theodor Stresemann was a German naturalist and ornithologist. Stresemann was an ornithologist of extensive breadth who compiled one of the first and most comprehensive accounts of avian biology of its time as part of the Handbuch der Zoologie. In the process of his studies on birds, he also produced one of the most extensive historical accounts on the development of the science of ornithology. He influenced numerous ornithologists around him and oversaw the development of ornithology in Germany as editor of the Journal für Ornithologie. He also took an interest in poetry, philosophy and linguistics. He published a monograph on the Paulohi language based on studies made during his ornithological expedition to the Indonesian island.
Sálim Moizuddin Abdul Ali was an Indian ornithologist and naturalist. Sometimes referred to as the "Birdman of India", Salim Ali was the first Indian to conduct systematic bird surveys across India and wrote several bird books that popularized ornithology in India. He became a key figure behind the Bombay Natural History Society after 1947 and used his personal influence to garner government support for the organisation, create the Bharatpur bird sanctuary and prevent the destruction of what is now the Silent Valley National Park.
The grey-capped greenfinch or Oriental greenfinch is a small passerine bird in the finch family Fringillidae that breeds in broadleaf and conifer woodlands of the East Palearctic.
The Four Pests campaign, was one of the first actions taken in the Great Leap Forward in China from 1958 to 1962. The four pests to be eliminated were rats, flies, mosquitoes, and sparrows. The extermination of sparrows is also known as the smash sparrows campaign or eliminate sparrows campaign, which resulted in severe ecological imbalance, being one of the causes of the Great Chinese Famine. In 1960, the campaign against sparrows was ended and redirected to bed bugs.
Frank Bennington Gill is an American ornithologist with worldwide research interests and birding experience. He is perhaps best known as the author of the textbook Ornithology, the leading textbook in the field.
Charles Johnson Maynard was an American naturalist and ornithologist born in Newton, Massachusetts. He was a collector, a taxidermist, and an expert on the vocal organs of birds. In addition to birds, he also studied mollusks, moss, gravestones and insects. He lived in the house at 459 Crafts Street in Newton, Massachusetts, built in 1897 and included in the National Register of Historic Places in 1996 as the Charles Maynard House. The Charles Johnson Maynard Award is given out by the Newton Conservators, Inc.
Cheng's jird is a species of rodent in the family Muridae. It was named in honour of the Chinese zoologist Professor Tso-hsin Cheng. It is found only in the Turpan Depression of eastern Xinjiang, China.
Wilhelm Meise was a German ornithologist. He studied at the University of Berlin from 1924 to 1928, where he did his Ph.D. dissertation on the distribution of the carrion crow and the hooded crow, and hybridization between them under the supervision of Professor Erwin Stresemann, (1889–1972).. He also analysed taxonomic and historic relationships between the house sparrow and the Spanish sparrow in particular the status of the "Italian sparrow". He was curator of vertebrates at the Museum of Natural History in Dresden from 1929 until World War II.
Viktor von Tschusi zu Schmidhoffen was an Austrian ornithologist.
Per Johan Alström is a Swedish Professor of ornithology. He researches in taxonomy, systematics, and evolution, with birds in Asia as a specialty. Alström works at the Department of Ecology and Genetics at Uppsala University and at the Swedish Species Information Centre at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala. He has previously worked as e.g. Curator of Ornithology at the Swedish Museum of Natural History, and been a guest researcher at the Percy Fitzpatrick Institute of African Ornithology, University of Cape Town and a Visiting Professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing. He is chairman of the Scientific Committee of the Swedish Taxonomy Initiative and the Committee for Swedish Animal Names and Swedish focal point for the Global Taxonomy Initiative under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Deputy Editor-in-Chief of the international ornithological journal Avian Research.
The Sichuan bush warbler lives primarily in the thick brush and on tea plantations in five mountainous provinces of central China. It is a relatively small bird with a weight of 10 grams and an average length of 13 cm. Unlike its congener the russet bush warbler, which is found in the same mountains and also in the Himalayas, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Indonesia, the Sichuan bush warbler prefers elevations below 7,500 feet. The two species shared a common ancestor about 850,000 years ago. They are distinguished by plumage and sonogram terminology – their songs. Locustella chengi emits a long buzz, followed by a shorter click, often repeated in series, and the song is in a lower frequency than its genetic cousin.
The year 2015 in birding and ornithology.
Joachim Steinbacher was a German ornithologist and curator at the Senckenberg-Museum in Frankfurt. He was a writer of both scientific and popular books on birds and served as editor of the avicultural periodical Gefiederte Welt.
Luis Felipe Baptista was an American ornithologist of Portuguese–Chinese descent born in Hong Kong. He was considered an international expert on bioacoustics, animal behavior and avian systematics.
Jali Makawa was a Mozambique-born bird expert who assisted the British ornithologist C.W. "Con" Benson. He also worked with other ornithologists and collectors in east Africa including Melvin Traylor, Arthur Loveridge, Charles Sibley, and Michael Irwin. Makawa was famed for his observational skills, ability to identify novel species, mimic bird calls, collect, and prepare specimens. Several subspecies and a species of bird that he collected have been named after him.