Ellis, Richard 1938-
Ellis, Richard 1938-
Born April 2, 1938, in New York, NY; son of Robert Butler and Sylvia Ellis; married Anne Kneeland (a photographer), September 25, 1963 (divorced); children: Elizabeth Tiffany, Timothy Kneeland. Education: University of Pennsylvania, B.A., 1959.
Home—17 E. 16th St., New York, NY 10003. Office—American Museum of Natural History, Division of Paleontology, Central Park West at 79th St., New York, NY 10024-5192. Agent—Steve Wasserman, Kneerim & Williams at Fish & Richardson P.C., 153 E. 53rd St., New York, NY 10022-4611.
Artist and marine biologist. Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA, exhibit designer, 1962-64; Philadelphia Zoological Gardens and Aquarama, Philadelphia, freelance designer, 1962-64; American Museum of Natural History, New York, NY, worked in exhibition department, 1964-65, field associate, c. 2005—; Museum Planning, Inc., New York, NY, consultant in museum design, 1965-72; painter, writer, and illustrator, 1972—. Member of U.S. delegation to International Whaling Commission, 1980 and 1981; member of board of trustees, Rare Animal Relief Effort. Exhibitions: South Street Seaport, New Bedford Whaling Museum, Newark Museum, Museo del Mare (Genoa, Italy), Mystic Seaport, Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, and American Museum of Natural History. Military service: U.S. Army, 1959-61.
Society of Animal Artists (vice-president), American Cetacean Society (member of board of directors), Society of Vertebrate Paleontologists, American Society of Mammalogists, Authors Guild, New York Academy of Sciences, Explorers Club.
The Book of Sharks, Grosset (New York, NY), 1976.
The Book of Whales, Knopf (New York, NY), 1980.
Dolphins and Porpoises, Knopf (New York, NY), 1982.
(With John E. McCosker) Great White Shark, photographs by Al Giddings and others, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1991.
Men and Whales, Knopf (New York, NY), 1991.
Marine Mammals: American Cetacean Society Sea Guide, American Cetacean Society (San Pedro, CA), 1991.
Physty: The True Story of a Young Whale's Rescue, Courage Books (Philadelphia, PA), 1993.
Monsters of the Sea, Knopf (New York, NY), 1994.
Deep Atlantic: Life, Death, and Exploration in the Abyss, Knopf (New York, NY), 1996.
Imagining Atlantis, Knopf (New York, NY), 1998.
The Search for the Giant Squid, Lyons Press (New York, NY), 1998.
Encyclopedia of the Sea, Knopf (New York, NY), 2000.
Aquagenesis: The Origin and Evolution of Life in the Sea, Viking, 2001.
The Empty Ocean: Plundering the World's Marine Life, Island Press/Shearwater Books (Washington, DC), 2003.
No Turning Back: The Life and Death of Animal Species, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2004.
Singing Whales and Flying Squid: The Discovery of Marine Life, Lyons Press (Guilford, CT), 2005.
Tiger Bone and Rhino Horn: The Destruction of Wildlife for Traditional Chinese Medicine, Island Press/Shearwater Books, (Washington, DC), 2006.
Contributor of articles and illustrations to periodicals, including American Artist, Science Digest, Scientific American, New York, Audubon, Oceans, Science/80, Explorers Journal, and National Wildlife. Author of column in Sport Diver.
Author and artist Richard Ellis is a specialist in marine natural history. In 1978 he completed a thirty-five-foot whale mural for the Denver Museum of Natural History, and he subsequently created a major series of paintings of whales and dolphins for the National Geographic Society. His research has taken him to Baja California, Quebec, Newfoundland, Hawaii, Bermuda, Puget Sound, Nantucket, southern California, Patagonia, and Japan. His paintings of whales have been employed successfully in campaigns to name four whales as state mammals: the sperm whale in Connecticut, the gray whale in California, the humpback in Hawaii, and the right whale in Massachusetts. His books have dealt with topics ranging from marine mammals to sea exploration to the mythical "lost continent" of Atlantis.
Discussing one of Ellis's early publications, The Book of Whales, Bayard Webster reported in the New York Times: "Mr. Ellis is an artist, and the superb reproductions of his paintings and drawings show whales as man can rarely see them. And, when such art is combined with enlightening nonpolemic prose about how whales are born, live and die, the uniqueness of their niche in nature becomes obvious." Washington Post critic Colman McCarthy also admired the book, calling it "a thorough, well written and finely illustrated account of the creatures described by Melville as living in the ‘unshored, harborless immensities’ of the deep." "For the general reader," McCarthy continued, "Ellis is the careful educator who wants to share his joy that ‘we are now caught up in a period of whale consciousness, as conservation groups the world over campaign to protect great whales … we are on the threshold of an understanding of some of the world's most interesting creatures. But the secrets of cetaceans are not readily revealed, and we approach some species as if they were created to be captured and trained for our amusement.’"
In Monsters of the Sea, Ellis examines the folklore that has developed concerning inhabitants of the deep. He explains that some imaginary creatures are based on real ones: the mermaid on the manatee, the sea serpent on the oarfish. He offers accounts of alleged sightings of sea monsters and discusses their treatment in literature and film. A Publishers Weekly contributor dubbed Monsters of the Sea "a superb account," while Booklist reviewer Donna Seaman pronounced it a "thoroughly enjoyable and extensively researched study" and found that "as Ellis debunks the myths, the actual facts … [emerge] as plenty wonderful and enticingly bizarre in their own right."
Ellis is also in debunking mode in Imagining Atlantis, in which he picked apart the claims that such a continent really existed. The legend of Atlantis and its destruction began with a story by Plato; since then, those who have embellished the tale through the centuries range from Sir Francis Bacon to psychic Edgar Cayce, while some scientists and historians have seen a possible basis for the legend in such natural disasters as an ancient volcanic explosion on the Aegean island of Thera. A contributor to Publishers Weekly commented that Ellis makes a believable case that Atlantis was "a utopian fable adapted by successive cultures to suit their needs," calling the book "gracefully written" and "authoritative."
Facts, not fables, are at the center of Deep Atlantic: Life, Death, and Exploration in the Abyss, which offers a history of deep-sea exploration from Alexander the Great's era to the present, as well as a detailed description of the ocean floor and the plants and animals found there. A Publishers Weekly contributor praised the work as "an illuminating introduction to Earth's last frontier." Booklist critic Donna Seaman noted that Ellis's chronicle is enhanced by his "unabashed sense of wonder." Ellis, she declared, is "both historian and poet of the ocean."
In Aquagenesis: The Origin and Evolution of Life in the Sea Ellis openly acknowledges that much of what scientists know about sea life is based on conjecture.
Nevertheless, he forges ahead to discuss what is known about fossilized, ancient sea creatures and theories about why some creatures, such as turtles and dolphins, left the sea only to later return. Judith B. Barnett, writing in Library Journal, declared Aquagenesis "fascinating and scientifically rigorous."
Ellis addresses modern fishing and hunting techniques that are threatening ocean life in The Empty Ocean: Plundering the World's Marine Life. Illustrated by Ellis, the book includes a discussion of the numerous factors that have led to the growing threat to ocean life, from economic to biological. Barnett, writing again in Library Journal, noted that the author presents his story with "elegant prose and finely detailed line drawings." In No Turning Back: The Life and Death of Animal Species the author delves into the extinction of both land and sea life and discusses such contributing factors as climate change and disease. A Publishers Weekly contributor called the book "a home run on information." Leaving the oceans for the shores, Tiger Bone and Rhino Horn: The Destruction of Wildlife for Traditional Chinese Medicine has a similar conservation message. It focuses on the illegal poaching and trading of animal body parts typically used in traditional Chinese medicine. A Sci-Tech Book News contributor noted that the Ellis "makes a persuasive case for immediate action."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Scientist, November-December, 2005, Amos Esty, review of Tiger Bone and Rhino Horn: The Destruction of Wildlife for Traditional Chinese Medicine, p. 572.
Booklist, November 1, 1994, Donna Seaman, review of Monsters of the Sea, p. 466; October 15, 1996, Donna Seaman, review of Deep Atlantic: Life, Death, and Exploration in the Abyss, p. 389; July, 2004, Gilbert Taylor, review of No Turning Back: The Life and Death of Animal Species, p. 1807.
Journal of International Wildlife Law & Policy, September-December, 2004, Peter H. Flournoy, review of The Empty Ocean: Plundering the World's Marine Life, p. 233.
Library Journal, September 15, 2001, Judith B. Barnett, review of Aquagenesis: The Origin and Evolution of Life in the Sea, p. 107; January, 2002, review of Aquagenesis, p. 49; April 15, 2003, Judith B. Barnett, review of The Empty Ocean, p. 119; July, 2004, Alvin Hutchinson, review of No Turning Back, p. 113.
New York Times, November 4, 1980, Bayard Webster, review of The Book of Whales.
Publishers Weekly, October 17, 1994, review of Monsters of the Sea, p. 74; September 9, 1996, review of Deep Atlantic, p. 75; May 25, 1998, review of Imagining Atlantis, p. 71; August 2, 2004, review of No Turning Back, p. 65.
Sci-Tech Book News, March, 2006, reviews of Singing Whales and Flying Squid: The Discovery of Marine Life and Tiger Bone and Rhino Horn.
Washington Post, June 1, 1981, Colman McCarthy, review of The Book of Whales.
American Museum of Natural History, Division of Paleontology Web site,http://paleo.amnh.org/about/ (October 6, 2006), staff profile of Richard Ellis.
American Scientist Online,http://www.americanscientist.org/ (October 6, 2006), review of Tiger Bone and Rhino Horn.