Robert Cushman Murphy

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Robert Cushman Murphy

Autographed Book Inscription - 1947

Autographed Inscription on the title page of his book Logbook for Grace, dated March 1947, to prominent radio interviewer Mary Margaret McBride; in full:

“Greasy luck, every day of the v’yage!”

An ancient whaleman’s wish for Mary Margaret McBride.

/s/ Robert Cushman Murphy
March 1947

Robert Cushman Murphy (1887-1973) was an American ornithologist and former Lamont curator of birds for the American Museum of Natural History. Through the years he published nearly 600 articles in scientific journals and in popular magazines, including Natural History, National Geographic, and Scientific Monthly. In 1947 he published an account of his 1912 whaling voyage as Logbook for Grace, derived from his original diary and letters to his wife. Well written, it primarily represents Murphy’s acceptance of the already declining whaling industry and his own enthusiasm for gathering information on subantarctic birds and mammals. In A Dead Whale or a Stove Boat (1967) he presented photographs of whaling that he had taken and developed during the 1912 trip.

Murphy was an early conservationist who concentrated his continuing efforts on Long Island, New York, where he and his family lived for many years. He was the first president of the Long Island chapter of the Nature Conservancy, which obtained natural habitat locally for preservation, and he was an adviser on the Fire Island National Seashore. His book on the region, Fish Shape Paumanok: Nature and Man on Long Island, was published in 1964. Having become well aware of the decline in whale populations through the years, he also participated in efforts to save them.

After his retirement to his home in Old Field, New York in 1957 he, along with other citizens of Long Island including Archibald Roosevelt, unsuccessfully sued to stop the spraying of DDT arguing that it was damaging the wildlife. Before he died, one of the local junior high schools in the Three Village Central School District was named in his honor: Robert Cushman Murphy Junior High School.


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