Dr. E. A. Birge

Larry Jahn ’63

During my undergraduate days, I worked as a classics announcer on WLHA, the dorm radio station from the Kronshage basement. One of my cohorts was Ed Birge, grandson of E.A. Birge, the famous limnologist. How many years was Dr. Birge at UW and for what research is he most remembered?

Abe

Considered a founder of North American limnology, Edward Ashael Birge was known for his descriptive and comparative studies of inland freshwaters — in this case, largely conducted on Lake Mendota. Birge was completing his PhD at Harvard University when he was hired as a UW-Madison instructor of natural history in 1875. At Wisconsin, he became known as a scientist and administrator, taking turns as dean, director of the Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey, acting president of the university from 1900 to 1903 and as president from 1918 to 1925. Birge retired from the administration in 1925 but continued his limnological research with his longtime collaborator Chancey Juday until the early 1940s. A century after their efforts began, the UW’s Center for Limnology was established in 1982 and today, Lake Mendota is often called the most studied lake in the world.