Biology & Natural History

Nice, Margaret Morse | Research is a Passion with Me

  • First edition, first printing of the autobiography of ornithologist Margaret Morse Nice (1883-1974), who was credited by Konrad Lorenz with “founding the science of ethology” (Ogilvie p. 939). A beautiful copy, uncommon in such nice condition.

    Despite early setbacks — a father who disapproved of careers for women and the abandonment her doctorate after marriage — Nice successfully pursued her interest in ornithology. Prompted by a proposal to expand Oklahoma hunting season, she began studying the nesting habits of mourning doves, and was soon publishing articles on many local species. Together with her husband, Nice published the first comprehensive survey of the birds of Oklahoma. After moving to Ohio she became interested in song sparrows, and “an invention of hers made it possible to recognize individual birds in the field. Although other ornithologists marked birds with numbered leg bands to study migration patterns of populations, Nice used colored celluloid bands to identify individual birds in the field” and so study their behaviour (Ogilvie, pp. 939-940). As Konrad Lorenz writes in the introduction to this volume, the resulting paper was “a major break-through in the methods of studying animal behaviour... the first long-term field investigation of the individual life of any free-living wild animal”.

    The paper received international acclaim, and Nice made strong contacts with European researchers. She worked with Lorenz during trips overseas in the 1930s, reviewed European papers, and translated foreign research for American publications. Nice was horrified by conditions on the Continent following the Second World War, and organised relief efforts from American ornithologists. She was also active in environmental causes, and worked to prevent the development of important natural sites such as Dinosaur National Monument and the Whichita National Wildlife Refuge.

  • ...Forward by Konrad Lorenz. Toronto: The Margaret Morse Nice Ornithological Club and Consolidated Amethyst Communications Inc., 1979.

    Octavo. Original brown cloth blocked and white and black. With the dust jacket. Portrait frontispiece, illustrated title with a bird design matching that of the jacket and cloth, headpiece to each chapter, illustrations throughout the text. A superb, fresh copy in the jacket with minor rubbing at the extremities and a small pen impression to the lower panel.