THAYER, John Eliot

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John Eliot Thayer
Old Settlers Burial Yard, Lancaster, MA

THAYER, John Eliot (1862-1933) and his brother Bayard Thayer were twins. John Thayer was graduated from Harvard University in 1885. He was an amateur ornithologist. He became interested in ornithology in the mid 1890s, building up a collection which he housed in a museum in the main street of Lancaster.

Thayer used his wealth to sponsor various natural history expeditions, and in 1906 he sent Wilmot W. Brown, H. W. Marsden and Ignacio Oroso to Guadalupe Island in Mexico to collect specimens for two months—May 1-June 28, 1906. Here, Brown discovered that the island was uninhabited, and that the natural vegetation was being destroyed by thousands of goats, to the detriment of the native wildlife. The native Guadalupe Storm-petrel was being predated by introduced cats, as was the Guadalupe Flicker. Both birds became extinct shortly afterwards. Thayer and Outram Bangs wrote an article in The Condor to draw attention to the situation.

In 1913 Thayer and other Harvard graduates sponsored an expedition to Alaska and Siberia, with Joseph S. Dixon and Winthrop Sprague Brooks as zoological collectors. A gull collected by Brooks on this trip was named Larus thayeri in Thayer's honor.

John Eliot Thayer became ill in 1928, and donated his collection of 28,000 skins and 15,000 eggs and nests to Harvard University. These included the first clutches ever collected of Spoon-billed Sandpiper and Surfbird. Thayer died at age 71. He is buried in Old Settlers Burial Yard, Lancaster, Massachusetts.

After Thayer's death Harvard received his collection of 3,500 mounted birds.

John Thayer = [1886] Evelyn Duncan (Forbes)

  • 1. John Eliot Thayer (1887-1966)
  • 2. Evelyn Thayer [Burr] (1888-1980)
  • 3. Natalie Thayer [Hemenway] (1894-1975)
  • 4. Duncan Forbes Thayer (1900-1957)

Thayer collected on:

Isla Guadalupe
Isla Guadalupe John E. Thayer UCM March 28, 1906 UCM-13328 Diomedea nigripes Birds
Isla Guadalupe Wilmot W. Brown & John E. Thayer UCM June 28, 1906 UCM-3584 Diomedea nigripes Birds