E. W. Gudger, Waynesville Fish Scientist

Gudger after catching a Hammerhead Shark off Beaufort, circa 1906. Image from the American Museum of Natural History.On August 10, 1866, acclaimed fish biologist Eugene Willis Gudger was born in Waynesville. His ancestors were some of the earliest settlers west of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Gudger’s interest in natural history began as a boy, when a family friend gave him a subscription to St. Nicholas magazine and a copy of Jacob Abbott’s book Land and Water. After attending Emory and Henry College and the University of Nashville, he earned his Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins.

Gudger first visited the ocean at the age of 36, when he went to Beaufort to work at the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries laboratory. He quickly fell in love with the sea, and devoted his life to studying fish and disseminating his accumulated knowledge. He was considered the foremost authority on several species at the time.

In addition to authoring more than 300 articles, Gudger edited a number of important works including the Biography of Fishes for the American Museum of Natural History in New York. He served that institution as an associate curator of fishes between 1934 and 1938, retiring as honorary associate in ichthyology, a specialty in biology devoted to the study of fish.

Three years before his death, Gudger returned to his hometown. He is buried in Waynesville’s Green Hill Cemetery, and his headstone is inscribed “Teacher ~ Ichthyologist.”’

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