In Memoriam: Walter Bock

Walter J. Bock (20 Nov. 1933—27 Jan. 2022) was a prominent and well-known presence at American, European, and international conferences in ornithology and evolutionary biology and an appreciated and respected colleague and mentor to established and aspiring ornithologists. At the time of his death, Walter Bock was a Professor emeritus in the Dept. of Biological Sciences at Columbia University and a Research Associate at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City; a Corresponding Member of the British Ornithologists’ Union and the Senckenberg Naturforschende Gesellschaft; a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Ornithologists’ Union, the Zoological Society, Kolkata (India), and the International Ornithologists’ Union (IOU); and an Honorary Member of the Deutsche Ornithologen-Gesellschaft.

Walter Bock was a recipient of the Elliot Coues Award of the American Ornithologists’ Union. After having earned his Ph.D. from Harvard University titled “The palatine process of the premaxilla in the Passeres” under his advisor Professor Ernst Mayr, he spent two years as a post-doctoral fellow at the Anatomisches Institut der Universität in Frankfurt am Main with Professor Dietrich Starck. It was during this time that his lifelong friendships and collaborations with colleagues in Europe were established. His research and over 300 publications influenced diverse scientific areas, such as biomechanics and functional morphology, systematics and nomenclature, ecomorphology, evolution, and philosophy and history of science. Walter Bock devoted much time and energy in service to build and promote international ornithology as Permanent Secretary (1978-1998) of the International Ornithological Committee (the precursor organization of the IOU) and President of the 23rd International Ornithological Congress in Beijing in 2002. An extensive obituary will be published later.

Tax-deductible donations in honor of Walter Bock may be made at

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