Edward Thorpe Boardman (1904-1988)
Scientist, educator, and museum director, Edward Thorpe Boardman was born in New York City on July 23, 1904. His early life was spent in Argentina, where his father worked as an engineer supervising the construction of tunnels. Boardman enjoyed researching and exploring the outdoors, where he undertook hands-on studies of plants, insects, and all manner of living things. He studied biology at Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio before earning two degrees in entomology from the University of Florida. In 1933 he received a Ph.D. in parasitology from the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health, working with the State Department of Conservation to study parasitic infestations.
Before World War II, Boardman worked as Curator of Aquatic Biology at the Cranbrook Institute of Science in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. He soon became the Institute’s resident zoologist, assisting teachers with science projects at three schools on campus: Cranbrook School for Boys, Kingswood School for Girls, and Brookside Elementary School. Boardman imparted his love for science to his young students, founding a children’s garden, planning field trips, and giving lectures on aquarium maintenance and the use of microscopes. He also led special trips to quarries, ponds, swamps, and forests, providing hands-on instruction in geology, birdwatching, animal tracks, and aquatic life. His own research during this time included a study of aquatic insects in Michigan lakes and a manual of birds found in southern Michigan.
Boardman took a leave of absence from Cranbrook in early 1943 to serve with the U.S. Army Sanitary Corps in Austria. The following year, he was transferred to the Civil Affairs Center in Shrivenham, England, where he underwent extensive training in German. In September 1944 he was assigned to the European Civil Affairs Division (ECAD) as a Monuments Officer alongside Monuments Men Maj. Gilbert Doane and Capt. Walter J. Huchthausen. Boardman was highly valued by the MFAA for his proficiency in German.
Following his return to the United States in February 1946, Boardman briefly returned to the Cranbrook Institute of Science before resigning to become Assistant Director of the Rochester Museum of Arts and Sciences (today, the Rochester Museum & Science Center). One of his roles at the museum was to plan, collect specimens for, and assemble a series of dioramas exhibiting wildlife typical to the region. Boardman also improved relations between the museum and the Rochester Academy of Science by working closely with the Academy’s botany, ornithology, and entomology departments and serving terms as the Academy’s President and Councilor during the 1950s. He retired in 1965.
In addition to his duties as a museum administrator, Boardman served as President of the Detroit Tropical Fish Society, Collaborator at the Museum of Zoology at the University of Michigan, President of the Michigan Audubon Society, and a member of the Boroughs Audubon Nature Club. In 1960 he developed The Big Cypress Center in Naples, Florida, a museum showcasing examples of marine, plant, and animal life common to South Florida. Today, the Center is part of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, twenty-one acres of protected land devoted to preserving the natural habitat of Florida’s indigenous wildlife.
Edward Boardman died in Rochester, New York on January 14, 1988.
Photo courtesy of the Cranbrook Archives.