William L. Brown
Memorial Digital Library

An Online Database of Ant Taxonomic Literature

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W.L. Brown Jr. with E.O. Wilson
Bill Brown (left) and E.O. Wilson (right) in Montreal, August 1956. Photo annotation by Wilson: "WLB is doing the talking, as usual." (Photo courtesy of E.O. Wilson)

William L. Brown, Jr. (June 1, 1922 to March 30, 1997), was one of the great ant biologists of the 20th century. His first scientific paper, published in 1943, described a new ant species, Monomorium viride, which he discovered in one of his many boyhood treks through the New Jersey Pine Barrens. In the years that followed, Bill produced 273 scientific publications, 223 of which were about ants. A premier naturalist, Bill Brown was arguably the most well-traveled field biologist of the twentieth century. During his career he assembled extraordinarily important collections from North and South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, Papua New Guinea, the South Pacific, the Malay archipelago, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, and the Caribbean. Bill's research transformed the fields of ant systematics and taxonomy, and significantly influenced evolutionary and systematic theory.

W.L. Brown Jr.Chromosomes

Bill Brown and his chromosomes, ca. 1985. (Photo courtesy of Doris Brown)

Bill strongly believed in the efficient dissemination of scientific information, and he was quick to adopt any technological innovation that promised to advance this goal. In 1961, for example, he proposed an "International Taxonomic Register" that would streamline the publication of species descriptions, and in 1964 he began editing and publishing the Pilot Register of Zoology, by which descriptions of new species were issued to libraries and researchers on index cards that could be variously sorted by running metal rods through different punched holes. When computerized databasing supplanted punch-card technology, Bill quickly embraced it.

During his long career, Bill assembled an exceptionally comprehensive collection of ant taxonomic literature. He clearly valued this collection for its information content rather than for its "collectible" value, encouraging photocopying and sharing duplicates with students and colleagues. In 1997, Doris and Creighton Brown, Bill's wife and son, donated Bill's reprint collection to the Smithsonian and it became the core resource for the William L. Brown, Jr., Digital Library, which is intended to make the primary literature of ant taxonomy available to anyone with access to the internet. This online Library will continue to grow. We encourage users to check back frequently for newly added publications, and we encourage scientists to contribute pdf files of their papers to the Library. Our goal is nothing less than to make all of the ant taxonomic literature available online, constrained only by copyright law and the desires of individual authors and publishers.

Bill Brown

The William L. Brown, Jr., Digital Library was produced by Ted Schultz , Donat Agosti , Norman Johnson , and Jeffrey Sosa-Calvo .

In memory of W.L. Brown, Jr., his wife Doris Brown has established an endowment for training Latin American students in tropical ecology. Contact: O.T.S. William L. Brown Fellowship, P.O. Box 90630, Durham, NC 27708-0630.

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The website and database is maintained by Ted Schultz and Dan Kjar.