Mearns, Edgar Alexander, 1856-1916

Usage Conditions Apply
The Smithsonian Institution Archives welcomes personal and educational use of its collections unless otherwise noted. For commercial uses, please contact

Narrow Your Results


Filter Your Results

Smithsonian Secretaries Information

Close Browse records and papers of the Smithsonian Secretaries, from 1846 until today. Pre-set filters help narrow searches by individuals who have held that office.

Expeditions Information

Close Browse records and papers documenting scientific and collecting expeditions either affiliated with the Smithsonian, or with which Smithsonian researchers participated. Pre-set filters help narrow searches by geographic regions predominantly represented in expedition records.

Professional Societies Information

Close Browse records of professional societies closely associated with the Smithsonian, that focus on areas of scientific research and museum studies. Pre-set filters help narrow searches by major topics and disciplines.

Biographical History

Edgar Alexander Mearns (1856-1916) was an army surgeon and field naturalist. He developed an early interest in natural history, studying the flora and fauna around his home in Highland Falls, New York. Mearns was educated at Donald Highland Institute, Highland Falls, and in 1881 graduated from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of New York. In 1883, he was commissioned assistant surgeon in the Medical Corps of the Army and assigned to duty at Fort Verde, Arizona. He was transferred to Fort Snelling, Minnesota, in 1888. In 1891, Mearns was assigned to serve as medical officer with the United States-Mexican International Boundary Survey. From 1892 to 1894, Mearns explored the boundary line from El Paso, Texas, to San Clemente Island and collected 30,000 specimens of flora and fauna which were deposited in the United States National Museum (USNM). From 1894 to 1903, Mearns continued his natural history investigations while stationed at Fort Myer, Virginia; Fort Clark, Texas; Fort Adams, Rhode Island; and Fort Yellowstone. He also conducted field research in the Catskill Mountains and Florida during this period. Between 1903 and 1907, Mearns served two separate tours of duty in the Philippine Islands. While in the Philippines he made natural history collections and participated in expeditions to the three highest mountains in the islands, Mount Apo, Grand Malindang, and Mount Halcon. After returning to the United States, Mearns served at Fort Totten, New York, until his retirement from the Army on January 1, 1909. Later in that year, he was invited by Theodore Roosevelt to accompany the Smithsonian-Roosevelt African Expedition as naturalist. From 1909 to 1910, Mearns explored parts of British East Africa from Mount Kenia to the White Nile. Mearns' last expedition was in 1911, when he served as a naturalist with the Childs Frick Expedition to Africa. Mearns' primary biological interests were ornithology and mammalogy. He was a founding member of the American Ornithologists Union and in 1909 was appointed honorary associate in zoology of the USNM.

Related entities

  • Mearns, Louis di Zerega: Son and collecting companion
  • United States and Mexican Boundary Survey (1848-1855): Expedition in which Mearns participated

Birth Date


Death Date



  • Military officers
  • Zoology
  • Naturalists


Personal name


  • Military officers
  • Naturalists
  • Zoologists