Paul Bartsch and the Molluscs

Paul Bartsch

Paul Bartsch

On August 14, 1871American malacologist and carcinologist Paul Bartsch was born, Bartsch was an authority on molluscs, but had broad interests in natural history including plants and birds. He was named the last of those belonging to the “Descriptive Age of Malacology.

During his school years, Paul Bartsch founded a natural history club at his home. It is believed that he further collected birds and prpared skins which he displayed in a self made museum at home. Bartsch attended the University of Iowa where he graduated with a M.Sc. in 1899 and he received his doctorate degree in 1905.

Paul Bartsch was invited by William H. Dall to become his assistant at the Smothsonian Institution’s Division of Mollusks. A few years later, he started teaching zoology at the Columbian University where he was given the professor title. In 1945, he retired with the rank of professor emeritus. Already in 1901, Bartsch started teaching histology at the  Medical School of Howard University where he also became the director of the histology laboratory. Later on, Paul Bartsch became Director of the Physiology Laboratory and Lecturer in Medical Zoology.

Bartsch first began researching molluscs when he became Dall’s assistant. He first started cataloging the exhibit of the Smithsonian Institution together with Charles Simpson. In 1901, he published his first malacological paper, entitled “A New Californian Bittium”. One year later, he was able to publish his first work as a sole author: “A New Rissoina from California”. During the next five years, Bartsch was able to publish twelve scientific papers on land and freshwater shells.

Paul Bartsch took part in an exhibition in Philippine waters and the China Seas collecting specimens of marine and non-marine snails. It is believed that more than 87.000 specimens were cataloged. In 1909, he published together with Dall a monography on the West American Pyramidellidae and in the next years Bartsch published further papers on the matter.

During the next years, Bartsch took part in further expeditions, including an expedition to the Bahamas and Cuban waters. In 1916, he was asked to study shipworms by the U.S. Navy and Bartsch was able to suggest several novel procedures against these clams in his paper “Report on the Marine Boring Mollusks in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba”. Bartsch continued traveling to the Florida Keys, the Bahamas, Cuba, as well as the West Indies and he collected more than a half million mollusks, marine invertebrates, fish, birds and reptiles.

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