SIA RU009560, Oral history interview with George C. Wheeler 1920s, 1989

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Summary

Title:
Oral history interview with George C. Wheeler 1920s, 1989
Dates:
1989, 1920s, 1989, 1900-1950
Notes:
George Carlos Wheeler (1897-1991), an entomologist, specialized in the morphology and taxonomy of ants. He received the A.B. from the Rice Institute in Texas in 1918 and the M.S. in 1920 and Ph.D. in 1921 from Harvard University. From 1921 to 1926 he taught zoology at Syracuse University. He joined the faculty of the University of North Dakota in 1926 and remained there until his retirement in 1967. He was then named University Emeritus Professor of Biology and was also named a research associate of the Desert Research Institute of the University of Nevada
Wheeler was encouraged to visit the tropics by his advisor, William Morton Wheeler. Thus he spent the summer of 1924 studying ants on Barro Colorado Island in the Panama Canal. The Barro Colorado Research Station was established in 1923 as a reserve for scientific study in the tropics. The Smithsonian assumed responsibility for its management in 1946, and in 1966 it was renamed the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
Summary:
Wheeler was interviewed by Joel B. Hagen, a Smithsonian Postdoctoral Fellow, about his education and mentors at the Rice Institute and Harvard University, his career at the University of North Dakota, research on ants, and his reminiscences of Barro Colorado Island in 1924. The collection also contains Wheeler's 2 volume scrapbook with reminiscences, clippings, and photographs from his time on Barro Colorado Island
Topics:
Entomology, Tropical biology
Subjects:
Wheeler, George C (George Carlos) 1897-1991, Wheeler, William Morton 1865-1937, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Canal Zone Biological Area Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute Barro Colorado Island, Canal Zone Biological Area Barro Colorado Island, Harvard University, Rice Institute (Texas), University of North Dakota, United States Canal Zone Biological Area, Barro Colorado Island
Place:
Panama
Form/Genre:
Interviews, Collection descriptions, Audiotapes, Oral history, Photographs, Scrapbooks
Local Number:
SIA RU009560
Physical Description:
1 audiotape (Reference copies). 2 digital .mp3 files (Reference copies)

Finding Aids to Oral Histories in the Smithsonian Institution Archives

Record Unit 9560

Wheeler, George C, (George Carlos), 1897- interviewee

George C. Wheeler Interview, 1989

Repository: Smithsonian Institution Archives, Washington, D.C. Contact us at osiaref@si.edu.
Creator: Wheeler, George C, (George Carlos), 1897- interviewee
Title: George C. Wheeler Interview
Dates: 1989
Quantity: copies).
Collection: Record Unit 9560
Language of Materials: English

Historical Note

George Carlos Wheeler (1897-1991) was an entomologist specializing in the morphology and taxonomy of ants, especially ant larvae. He received the A. B. from the Rice Institute in Texas in 1918, working under Julian Sorell Huxley and Hermann J. Muller. He continued his education at the Bussey Institution of Harvard University, studying entomology under William Morton Wheeler and Charles Thomas Brues. He received the M. S. in 1920 and the Ph.D. in 1921. From 1921 to 1926 he was an instructor and Assistant Professor of zoology at Syracuse University. In 1926, he joined the faculty of the University of North Dakota and remained there for the rest of his career, as Professor of biology from 1926 to 1965, Head of the Department of Biology from 1926 to 1963, and University Professor from 1965 to 1967. After his retirement in 1967, he was appointed University Emeritus Professor of Biology of the University of North Dakota, as well as a Research Associate of the Desert Research Institute of the University of Nevada.

Wheeler was encouraged to visit the Tropics by his advisor, William Morton Wheeler. Thus he spent the summer of 1924 studying ants at the Barro Colorado Island research station in the Panama Canal. During his long career, Wheeler concentrated his research on the morphology and taxonomy of ant larvae and on the ants of North Dakota and the desert. With his wife, Jeanette Norris Wheeler, he published numerous descriptions and monographs, including The Ants of North Dakota in 1963, The Ants of Deep Canyon in 1973, and The Ants of Nevada in 1986.

The Canal Zone Biological Area (CZBA) was established in 1923 on Barro Colorado Island in the Panama Canal as a reserve for scientific study of the tropics. Originally designed as a consortium of universities and government agencies by Thomas Barbour, William Morton Wheeler, James Zetek, and others, CZBA was transferred to the Smithsonian Institution in 1946 and in 1966 was renamed the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.

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Introduction

The Oral History Project is part of the Smithsonian Institution Archives. The purpose of the project is to conduct interviews with current and retired members of the Smithsonian staff who have made significant contributions, administrative and scholarly, to the Institution. The project's goal is to supplement the published record and manuscript collections in the Archives, focusing on the history of the Institution and contributions to the increase and diffusion of knowledge made by its scholars.

Wheeler was interviewed for the Oral History Collection because of his early visit to Barro Colorado Island shortly after creation of the research station and his friendship with many of the scientists who worked there. Additional information about the Canal Zone Biological Area can be found in the Records Relating to the Canal Zone Biological Area, Office of the Secretary, 1912-1965, and the Canal Zone Biological Area, Records, 1918-1964, also housed in Smithsonian Archives. The Oral History Project also has other audio and videotaped interviews on the history of the research station.

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Descriptive Entry

The George Carlos Wheeler Interview was conducted for Smithsonian Archives on 7 June 1989 by Joel B. Hagen, a Smithsonian postdoctoral fellow, as part of his research on the history of the Canal Zone Biological Area. The interview discusses Wheeler's education at the Rice Institute and Bussey Institution of Harvard University and his career as a professor of biology at the University of North Dakota, but focuses on his visit to the CZBA in 1924, shortly after it was founded. Wheeler reminisces about Barro Colorado Island and its denizens, including Nathan Banks, Graham Bell Fairchild, William Morton Wheeler, and James Zetek, and reads from his journal of his visit to the island. The interview consists of 1.0 hour of tape, 17 pages of transcript, and occupies 0.07 linear meters of shelf space.

The George Carlos Wheeler Interview transcript and recording may not be used or reproduced without the permission of his heirs or assigns.

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Use Restriction

Restricted. For information about use of this interview, contact SIHistory@si.edu.

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Preferred Citation

Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9560, Wheeler, George C, (George Carlos), 1897- interviewee, George C. Wheeler Interview

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Container List

Box 1

Transcript of Interview

Interview 1: 7 June 1989

Box 1 of 1
Covers his education, career, and visit to BCI, c. 1918-1989, including:
studies at Rice Institute under Julian Sorell Huxley and Hermann J. Muller;
studies at the Bussey Institution of Harvard University with William Morton Wheeler and Charles Thomas Brues;
teaching career at the University of North Dakota;
research on ants and ant larvae;
visit to the Barro Colorado Island research station in 1924, including reminiscences of Nathan Banks, Frederick Burgess, Graham Bell Fairchild, Ignacio Molino, Francisco Vitola, and James Zetek.
Transcript, pp. 1 - 17, of audiotape recording, 1.0 hour.

Audio Recordings of Interview

Interview 1: 7 June 1989

Box 1 of 1
Total Recording Time: 1.0 hour
Original Master: 1 audiocassette tape
Preservation Master: 3 7" reel-to-reel analog audiotapes, 2 digital .wav files
Reference Copies: 1 audiocassette tape, 2 .mp3 files

Using the Archives' Collections

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