Founding Fellow—Clarence P. Idyll

Founding Fellow—Clarence P. Idyll

Founding Fellow—Clarence P. Idyll

Founding Fellow


Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 12.55.23 AMClarence Purvis Idyll was born in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, on February 10, 1916, and was raised in Vancouver, B.C. He graduated from high school when the Great Depression was at its deepest, but his mother was determined that he would get the education that she had missed. His family moved close enough to the University of British Columbia in Vancouver for him to get there by bus, and he was launched on a long career as a student.

A biologist in British Columbia at that time had the best chance of making a living as an entomologist or a fishery biologist. When he got a summer job in a research fish hatchery on Vancouver Island, run by the Fisheries Research Board of Canada, that did it. He received his B.A. degree with first-class honors in zoology from the University of British Columbia in 1938, and he continued his studies there until he received his M.A. degree in zoology in 1940. The Depression was still being felt, and the prospect of a job in science did not appear promising, so during the second year of his graduate work he also took Teacher's Training and emerged with a certificate to teach high school.

Upon completion of his master’s degree, he was hired to teach mathematics and physical education by the Superintendent of Schools, who later became his father-in-law. He found teaching difficult, and decided that there must be easier ways to make a living. From 1941 to 1948, he worked intermittently for the International Pacific Salmon Fisheries Commission while pursuing graduate studies at the School of Fisheries of the University of Washington, from which he eventually earned his Ph.D. degree in 1951.

In 1948, while still enrolled in graduate studies at the University of Washington, he joined the University of Miami staff as a research associate in fisheries for the Florida State Board of Conservation and various foreign governments. Soon thereafter, he was invited to join the faculty of the newly-created Department of Marine Sciences at the University of Miami, now known as the Rosenstiel

School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, in Coral Gables, Florida, as an Assistant Professor of Fisheries Science. Most of Dr. Idyll’s professional life was spent at the University of Miami. When he arrived at the University, he was the only faculty member of the Department of Fisheries, and he was given the exciting challenge of creating a southeastern school of fisheries science that would be the warm-water equivalent of the acknowledged leader in the field, the College of Fisheries (formerly the School of Fisheries) at the University of Washington, from which he had graduated. He was promoted to Associate Professor in 1953 and to Professor in 1956.

The total enrollment in the first course he taught consisted of one student, who later became the Director of the U.S. Bureau of Commercial Fisheries. Many of his students, American and foreign, went on to become scientists and teachers—in some cases heads of research groups and professors and deans of schools of fisheries around the world. He was named Outstanding Teacher of the Year in 1969. The research carried out in his department was chiefly on spiny lobsters, mullet, and shrimp. To a considerable extent, this research was supported by the state of Florida and U.S. government contracts and foundation and private grants. The National Geographic Society pr provided research grants over many years, and its support made it possible for the University to pioneer in the adaptation of Japanese research on shrimp farming. The University of Miami was one of the first universities to participate in the National Sea Grant Program and the first to have an aquaculture project supported by that program. In that project, shrimp were successfully raised from eggs to adults. By 1971, when he left the University of Miami, the Department of Fisheries consisted of 12 to 15 teaching and research faculty members.

While at the University of Miami, Dr. Idyll was involved in many activities, including consultations for the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN), the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP), the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. National Parks Service, and the government of British Honduras. He also served on the editorial boards of several scientific journals.

In 1971, Dr. Idyll joined the professional staff of FAO, in Rome, Italy. Over the years he had become a dedicated believer in the value of open communication among nations, including that engendered by such institutions as the United Nations. FAO was the first specialized agency created after the United Nations was organized, and has as its mission the promotion of food production, particularly in developing countries. His work during the three years he was at FAO included a mix of scientific, political, and social problems. There were satisfactions in seeing some fishery development and management projects succeed, but there were sometimes disappointing failures, sometimes because of the inadequacy of the experts provided by FAO, but more often because of the inability of the host country to provide the promised and essential backup of local staff and materials resources or because of incompetence or dishonesty in the governments of the host country.

Dr. Idyll left FAO in 1974 to accept a position with NOAA in Washington, D.C., where he became the Study Director of the Senate Ocean Policy Study and later became the Chief of the Division of Fisheries Development and Services in the Office of International Fisheries, with responsibility for liaison concerning cooperative fishery activities between the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service, international organizations, including FAO and other UN agencies, and foreign countries. He retired from the U.S. government in 1984.

After retirement, he increased the amount of consulting that he did for FAO, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the UNDP, the Technical Advisory Committee of the Consultative Group on Agriculture Research, and other groups.

He received the Conservation Award from the Florida Wildlife Federation in 1967. He was a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Fisheries Society, the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, and the American Institute of Biological Sciences, and was a Founding Fellow of the American Institute of Fishery Research Biologists.

In addition to numerous scientific papers, Dr. Idyll published three books, Abyss: the Deep Sea and the Creatures that Live in It, Thomas Y. Crowell Company, New York (1964); The Sea against Hunger, Thomas Y. Crowell Company, New York (1970), and Exploring the Ocean World: a History of Oceanography (Thomas Y. Crowell Company, New York, 1969), all of which went through more than one edition or printing. (He was the sole author of the first two, and editor and contributor to the third.) In addition, he had many articles published in major magazines, including Scientific American, Science Digest, and the National Geographic. He was fond of classical music and travel, both foreign and domestic, and he became an accomplished photographer, with some of his photographs published in books and major magazines.

He always said that there were three great forces that dominated his life: the sea, internationalism, and luck. His almost accidental choice of his professional field led him to interesting and satisfying work, and to worldwide contacts and experiences. Fisheries science is lucky that he chose that profession.

In 1989 he and his wife, Marion, moved to Asbury Methodist Village in Gaithersburg, Maryland, where he served as the Dean of the Keese School of Continuing Studies, was the Chairman of the Coordinating Council for Asbury Village (CCAV), was one of three persons who organized the Partnership Action Council (PAC) and wrote the original paper that created the PAC—a partnership between residents and administration, and served on the executive committee of the PACs while he chaired CCAV. His wife of almost 60 years, Marion, died in 2000. Dr. Idyll died in Gaithersburg on June 3, 2007, at the age of 91.

To read about all the Founding Fellows, click on this PDF. 



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