Jean Baptiste de Lamarck, famous for the failure of his proposed evolutionary mechanisms, only supported organic evolution as a concept for having had Paris's National Museum of Natural History at his disposal. While his theories ultimately failed, he was among the first well-known academics to support the theory of organic evolution, an act which had tangibly influenced thinkers in England, including Charles Darwin.
Walter Rothschild drove the cataloguing of life in some of the Earth's most remote places through the task of filling a museum, one that would become the largest zoological collection ever assembled by a private individual. Now split up, much of this collection — including 280,000 bird specimens — is still driving discovery at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH).
This collection of 280,000 was fundamental to the success of Ernst Mayr. Mayr was ornithologist who spent much of his career as a curator and biogeographer at AMNH, describing 26 new species himself and cataloging many more in three detailed volumes ("New Species of Birds Described from 1938 to 1941
," "New species of birds described from 1941 to 1955
," & "New species of birds described from 1956 to 1965
"). He would later go on to be an architect of the synthesis between genetics and evolutionary theory, along with developing the Biological Species Concept
, modernizing avian systematics, popularizing evolutionary theory, and publishing 25 books and more than 300 publications. One must wonder what Mayr would have been without the American Museum of Natural History.