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Carl Akeley: Legacy

Selected resources on renowned taxidermist, sculptor, and conservationist Carl Ethan Akeley.

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The Legacy of Carl Akeley (May 19, 1864 – November 18, 1926)

Carl Akeley, considered the father of modern taxidermy, was not only a taxidermist, but also a naturalist, sculptor, writer and inventor. Over his long career he worked for several different museums, including the Field Museum from 1896 to 1909 as Chief Taxidermist. He made a total of five expeditions to Africa to capture its beauty and bring back specimens for display. His famous piece, the Fighting African Elephants, is still on display in Stanley Field Hall. A man of vision, Akeley’s dream was to “give a dignity and fineness to taxidermy which should lead men of great genius to be attracted to it.”   (Continue reading here from The Field Museum''s website for more about Akeley's early years.)   

 In 1925 Akeley was instrumental in convincing King Albert I of Belgium to establish Virunga National Park, the first wildlife sanctuary in Africa. A year later, on an expedition in the Congo, Akeley contracted a fever and died. He was buried only a couple miles away from where he encountered his first gorilla in 1921.     


Carl Akeley and the Leopard

© The Field Museum, CSZ5974c. Carl Akeley with bandaged arm and dead leopard that he killed with his bare hands, 1 August 1896.