Finding Aids to Personal Papers and Special Collections in the Smithsonian Institution Archives
Record Unit 7175
Peters, James Arthur, 1922-1972
James A. Peters Papers, and Records of the Division of Reptiles and Amphibians, 1927-1973 (Papers), 1927-1966 (Records)
James A. Peters was born in Durant, Iowa on July 13, 1922. He developed an interest in herpetology as a teenager, which culminated in the acquisition of three academic degrees from the University of Michigan (B.S., 1948; M.A., 1950; Ph.D., 1952). While at the University of Michigan he served as a research assistant in the Museum of Zoology (1946-1952) and as a teaching assistant for the Department of Zoology (1952). After receiving his Ph.D., Peters joined the staff of Brown University (1952-1958), advancing from instructor to assistant professor. During the summer of 1956 he was a research associate at Stanford University. From 1958 to 1959 Peters was a Fulbright Lecturer at the Universidad Centrale de Ecuador; he was a visiting professor at Southern Illinois University for the summer of 1959 and accepted an associate professorship at San Fernando Valley State College (SFVSC) in the fall of that year. Peters advanced to full professor at SFVSC, remaining there until February 1964 when he accepted the position of associate curator in the Division of Reptiles and Amphibians of the United States National Museum. He assumed the title "supervisor and curator" of the Division in FY 1967, a title he held until FY 1971. He was named curator, Division of Reptiles and Amphibians in FY 1971 and held that position until his death on December 18, 1972.
James A. Peters' professional responsibilities included membership in many scientific societies. He attended his first meeting of the American Society of Icthyologists and Herpetologists (ASIH) in 1939. He later served on the Board of Governors and various committees. He also served as ASIH secretary (1960-1966); vice-president (1967); and president (1970). He also held advisory or elected positions with the Society of Systematic Zoology, the Southern California Academy of Sciences, the Society for the Study of Evolution, and the Biological Society of Washington. Within the Smithsonian Peters continued his professional responsibilities by service on the Zoo Research Advisory Committee (National Zoological Park), the Planning Committee for Summer Seminar in Systematics, the Steering Committee for the First International Congress of Systematic Zoology, the International Congress of Systematic and Evolutionary Biology, the Reptile Group of the Survival Service Commission of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the American Alligator Council, and the Rare and Endangered Species Committee of the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife. In 1965 he inaugurated the Smithsonian Herpetological Information Services, which distributed informative material deemed useful to herpetologists but unsuitable for publication, e.g., bibliographies, indices, etc.
The herpetology and zoogeography of Latin America became main subjects of interest for Peters after he did field work on the Mexican Plateau in 1949 and in Michoacan in 1950. His concentration on Ecuador was largely due to the wide scope of biogeographical faunal comparisons available in the Andes Mountains. While completing his doctoral work on the snakes of the subfamily Dipsadinae, he embarked in 1952 upon a long-term research project on the herpetology of Ecuador that resulted in twenty-one published papers. The culmination of his Latin American work was the two-volume Catalogue of the Neotropical Squamata co-authored with Braulio Orjas-Miranda and Roberto Donoso-Barrios (1970). Over 100 scientific publications are attributed to James A. Peters, including two books, Classic Papers in Genetics (ed., 1959) and Dictionary of Herpetology (1964). He described seventeen new species or subspecies and had five taxa, four Neotropical amphibians and reptiles, and one snake named for him.
The computer analysis of biogeographic data greatly enhanced Peters' study of the systematics and ecology of reptiles and amphibians. An effective use of this technique was the gathering of comparative cardiac physiology of Ecuadorian snakes and lizards using data obtained from an electrocardiograph. Identification of specimens was another field adaptable to the use of computer technology. In this area of interest Peters developed computer programs that facilitated the identification process by searching on a larger constellation of characters than had previously been employed. Eleven papers were published from 1968 to 1973 on the subject of computer usage. He also founded the newsletter MUDPIE (Museum and University Data Program and Information Exchange) which contained information about computer programs, references, grants, meetings, and related news.
These papers include both personal and professional correspondence and documents relating to Peters' academic and curatorial careers. Also included are files of the Division of Reptiles and Amphibians maintained by Peters' predecessor, Doris Mable Cochran (1898-1968). Correspondents include Jorge W. Abalos, M. Acosta-Solis, Kraig Kerr Adler, Villy Aellen, E. Ross Allen, American Institute of Biological Sciences, American Medical Association, American Museum of Natural History, American Society of Icthyologists and Herpetologists, Steven C. Anderson, Attilio Arillo, Ralph W. Axtell, James P. Bacon, Jr., Gladys C. Banks, Benjamin Harrison Banta, Avelino Barrio, J. C. Battersby, Nina Battersby, Pauline Becker, William Beebe, Beitrage Zur Neotropischen Fauna, Ronald E. Beltz, Paul A. Benson, Frederick Henry Berry, Bio Instrumentation Advisory Council, Sherman Chauncey Bishop, Richard Eliot Blackwelder, Frieda Cobb Blanchard, Ellen Gillespie Block, Charles Mitchell Bogert, James Erwin Bohlke, Werner C. A. Bokermann, Donald D. Brand, Ronald A. Brandon, Bayard Holmes Brattstrom, British Herpetological Society, Donald G. Broadley, L. D. Brongersma, Garnett Ryland Brooks, Jr., John Langdon Brooks, Bryce Cardigan Brown, Frederick Martin Brown, Brown University, Walter Creighton Brown, Maria Buchinger, W. Leslie Burger, A. C. J. Burgers, Charles Earle Burt, William Henry Burt, Robert A. Burton, R. Bruce Bury, Fred Ray Cagle, Canadian Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Society, Luis F. Capurro, Dennis S. Carlson, Nan V. Carson, Center for Tropical Studies, University of Michigan, Herman Burleigh Chase, The Chicago Herpetological Society, William M. Clay, Doris Mable Cochran, Nathan Wolf Cohen, Roger Conant, John M. Condit, Congreso Latinamericano de Zoologia, Joseph F. Copp, Robert Copping, Raymond B. Cowles, David Crane, John Davis, Paul E. P. Deraniyagala, Philip H. Derse, Michael W. Dix, James R. Dixon, Roberto Donoso-Barrios (Ref.), Armando Dugand, Roy Frederick Dulin, Jr., Ann Dunham, Emmet Reid Dunn, Delbert G. Easton, Richard A. Edgren, Jr., Lloyd C. Emmons, Francis Cope Evans, Lee C. Finneran, Harvey Irvin Fisher, Henry Sheldon Fitch, Alvin Godfrey Flury, William I. Follett, Keith E. Friedel, John W. Funkhouser, Jose M. Gallardo, Sidney Roland Galler, Carl Gans, Joseph Francis Gennaro, Jr., Howard Kay Gloyd, Coleman Jett Goin, Stanley W. Gorham, Joseph B. Gorman, Chapman Grant, Arthur Merwin Greenhall, Arnold B. Grobman, Eugene Raymond Hall, Rogers D. Hamilton, William John Hamilton, Jr., Garry P. Harned, Francis Harper, Ernest William Hartung, Norman Edouard Hartweg, Werner George Heim, Herpetologists' League, William Atwood Hilton, Richard L. Hoffman, Alphonse Richard Hoge, Theodore Huntington Hubbell, Carl Leavitt Hubbs, Richard G. Hubler, Don Hunsaker II, Victor H. Hutchinson, Robert F. Inger, Instituto Butantan, Instituto Panamericano de Geografia e Historia, International Association For Systematic Zoology, International Biological Programme, International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature, International Congress of Systematic and Evolutionary Biology, International Herpetology Society, International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, Hernando de Irmay, David Lee Jameson, Rolf A. Jensen, Junior Herpetological Society, Brahma S. Kaushiva, Hugh Lawrence Keegan, Laurence Monroe Klauber, Robert Elroy Kuntz, Ernest Albert Lachner, Abdem Ramon Lancini, David A. Langebartel, Carlos M. Larrea, Ronald Lawson, David S. Lee, Donald L. Lehmann, Roberto Levi-Castillo, Alan E. Leviton, Lizard Ecology Symposium, Long Island Herpetological Society, Richard Biggar Loomis, Francis X. Lueth, Douglas MacGregor, Thomas J. McIntyre, Rogers McVaugh, Beni Charan Mahendra, M. Maldonado-Koerdell, Guillermo Mann, Romeo John Mansueti, Paul Schultz Martin, Kevin W. Marx, The Maryland Herpetological Society, Ernst Mayr, Giles W. Mead, John Stephen Mecham, Daniel Merriman, Robert Rush Miller, Eunice Thomas Miner, Francis J. Mitchell, Erna Mohr, John Alexander Moore, George Sprague Myers, National Geographic Society, Walter Ludwig Necker, Wilfred T. Neill, Morris Graham Netting, New York Herpetological Society, Norman Dennis Newell, Clifford Raymond Noll, Jr., Kenneth Stafford Norris, The Ohio Herpetological Society, James Arthur Oliver, The Orange County Herpetological Society, Gustavo Orces, Braulio Orejas-Miranda (Ref.), Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (Paris), Organization of American States, Lourdes G. Ortega, Juan Jose Parodiz, Georges Pasteur, Dennis R. Paulson, Raymond Andrew Paynter, Jr., James A. Peters, Philadelphia Herpetological Society, David Pimentel, Richard A. Pimentel, Ivo Poglayen-Neuwall, Friedrich Polz, Clifford Hillhouse Pope, Primer Congreso Sudamericano de Zoologia, George B. Rabb, A. Stanley Rand, Neil Dwight Richmond, William J. Riemer, Philip C. Ritterbush, Robert Maar Roecker, Alfred S. Romer, Douglas Anthon Rossman, Barry Rothman, Norma Rothman, Janis A. Roze, Rodolfo Ruibal, Findlay Ewing Russell, Richard W. Russell, Jay M. Savage, Scandinavian Herpetological Society, Herbert Schifter, Karl Patterson Schmidt, Waldo Lasalle Schmitt, Albert Schwartz, Frederick A. Shannon, Charles E. Shaw, Hurst Hugh Shoemaker, R. K. Shrivastava, Charles Gald Sibley, Allan J. Sloan, Paul Slud (Ref.), Hobart Muir Smith, Philip W. Smith, Richard Craine Snyder, Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles, Society for the Study of Evolution, Society of Systematic Zoology, Paul Soderberg, The Southern California Academy of Sciences, Southwestern Herpetologists Society, James Juan Spillett, Leonhard Stejneger, Othmar Stemmler, Terry B. Stevenson, William H. Stickel, Laurence Cooper Stuart, Bogdan Sturgen, The Systematics Association, Michael J. Takos, James R. Tamsitt, Wilmer W. Tanner, Aaron M. Taub, Edward H. Taylor, The Tennessee Herpetological Society, E. Titschack, Enrico Tortonese, Robert G. Tuck, Jr., Frederick Brown Turner, Michael J. Tyler, Emil K. Urban, Thomas Marshall Uzzell, Jose Valencia, Stefan Vancea, Paulo Emilio Vanzolini, Jaime D. Villa, Virginia Herpetological Society, John Visser, Zdenek Vogel, Harold K. Voris, Helmuth O. Wagner, David Burton Wake, Charles Frederic Walker, Warren Franklin Walker, Jr., Harlan D. Walley, The Washington Biologists' Field Club, Inc., Robert G. Webb, William Weber (Ref.), John E. Werler, Heinz Wermuth, Yehudah L. Werner, Dawn Xavier Weston, Jr., Kenneth L. Williams, Richard Willnow, James Walter Wilson, Larry David Wilson, Gaston-Francois de Witte, Allyn L. Wood, Lindsay W. Wood, Albert Hazen Wright (Ref.), John W. Wright, David Zaid, William Zipperer, The Zoological Society of London, George R. Zug, Richard George Zweifel.
This collection is indexed under the following access terms. These are links to collections with related topics, persons or places.
- Peters, James Arthur, 1922-1972
- National Museum of Natural History (U.S.). Division of Reptiles and Amphibians
- University of Michigan
- Brown University
- Universidad Centrale de Ecuador
- Southern Illinois University (System)
- San Fernando Valley State College
- United States National Museum
- American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists
- Smithsonian herpetological information services
Physical Characteristics of Materials in the Collection
- Picture postcards
- Field notes
- Floor plans
- Black-and-white photographs
- Black-and-white negatives
- Black-and-white transparencies
- Color photographs
- Color transparencies
- Lantern slides
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 7175, James A. Peters Papers, and Records of the Division of Reptiles and Amphibians