San Diego Natural History Museum--Your Nature ConnectionHistory of the Museum

Laurence Markham Huey (1892 - 1963)

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"Huey’s appointment was indeed fortunate for the Museum. Despite his lack of training, he was a born naturalist and was able to amass the nation’s most significant collections of birds and mammals from southern California (particularly the Imperial Valley) and northern Baja California. These remain the cornerstone of our holdings.

Huey also wrote over 200 scientific papers and named many new forms of birds and mammals. It was largely his efforts that firmly established the museum’s eminence in systematic zoology. Huey also built many of the storage cases still in use [Ed. even today, 2003!] in mammalogy, ornithology, and malacology, and he collected the birds for the Identification Species of San Diego County Birds, toward which Ellen B. Scripps contributed $2000…."

–Joseph R. Jehl, Jr., Curator of Birds and Mammals. "A Brief History of the Department of Birds and Mammals," 18 December 1975.

Huey started out as Curator of Vertebrates, a post held first by Frank Stephens, then by A.W. Anthony, before coming to him. In 1927, his title was changed to Curator of Birds and Mammals, a description which remains to this day.

Huey on truck with skunk
Huey and skunk specimen

During Huey's tenure, publications in Transactions of the San Diego Society of Natural History were increasing, and therefore the Museum's national reputation also grew. With donations from other naturalists and acquisitions from Huey’s own expeditions and collecting trips, by 1934, the Museum’s bird collection was the 19th largest in the U.S. In 1948, "recognizing its enhanced reputation in science," the Museum, for the first time, sent Huey as Curator to a national scientific meeting (Jehl, 1975).

Huey continued to enjoy his work till his retirement in 1961—"Now, with a balanced ration of field work collecting specimens, the care of a growing collection of Birds and Mammals with the study necessary to classify them, for a vocation, and photographing as an avocation–well it’s worth all the arduous tasks life has presented," he wrote.

George Lindsay (Museum director), on the occasion of Huey's retirement in 1961:

"Huey’s contributions to our museum are tremendous... He is responsible for our outstanding collection of birds and mammals, which number more than 50,000 specimens, and the quality of which is superior to any similar collection I know.
     He is the authority on the birds and mammals of Baja California. He pioneered field work there.
     He has an almost intuitive ability to analyze complex problems of species development. He carried the burden of our research program almost alone for many years. He has made a great contribution to the world’s knowledge about our area."

–San Diego Evening Tribune, 25 October, 1961.