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Off to the Congo


Six years after boarding a steamer for Africa as an eighteen-year-old college freshman, James Paul Chapin, 24, returned to New York City. He brought with him 54 tons of specimens, artifacts, field notes and drawings. (Lang was delayed because he was a German national and the expedition had the misfortune to return to the "civilized world" smack in the middle of World War I.) Chapin wrote the four-volume Birds of the Belgian Congo, which earned him his PhD, and continued working at the Museum as a curator (and eventually the department chair) in the Ornithology Department until shortly before his death in 1964. During his 53 years at the AMNH, he made voluminous contributions to our knowledge of the natural world, not only in the Congo, to which he returned in the 1930's, but also in New Guinea and other parts of the South Pacific.

"Then I saw the Congo, creeping through the black Cutting through the jungle with a golden track" -- Vachel Lindsay, The Congo, published 1915