An archival selection of materials celebrating the centennial of the birth of Eugene Odum, the father of modern ecology, will be on view at the UGA Special Collections Libraries through December.
A UGA Professor of biology from 1940 until 2002, there are many monuments around the state to Odum, including the UGA Institute of Ecology, named for him in 2007. An inscription on a bust of Odum at the Ecology building quotes him, “The Ecosystem is greater than the sum of its parts…”
“Dr. Odum’s life and contributions were certainly greater than this small selection of materials,” said Steven Brown, who co-curated the exhibit.
Odum also established the Savannah River Ecology Lab and the Marine Institute on Sapelo Island.
The exhibit cases are filled with photos from his time as a child with his parents, sister and brother, Howard, with whom he worked closely. Photographs taken by Odum while a graduate student offer an interesting glimpse into late 1930s field work.
One case is dedicated to a research trip the Odum brothers took to Eniwetok Atoll, funded by the Atomic Energy Commission to study the effects of radiation on ecological systems. A tourist book annotated by the brothers to send to their parents provide insight into their enjoyment of their work, which ultimately was awarded the Ecological Society of America’s Mercer Prize in 1956. Another case documents a celebration held in Odum’s honor when he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1970. And yet another is filled with awards, including the prestigious Crafoord Prize, given by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
Photos often show Odum with a camera in hand and his collection indicates he took joy in the art of photography as well as its documentary value. Odum’s wife, Martha, was frequently by her husband’s side, painting the landscapes her husband studied. In 2000, Martha Odum selected 73 of her finest landscapes, which were published by the Georgia Museum of Art, annotated with Eugene Odum’s ecological observations and memories.