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1 October 2000 IN MEMORIAM: LARS VON HAARTMAN, 1919–1998
Martti Soikkeli
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Professor Baron Lars Arvid Axel von Haartman passed away in Helsinki on 28 October 1998 in his 80th year. He was born on 24 March 1919 (exactly 60 years after the publication of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species) at the family manor Lempisaari in Askainen, 32 km west of Turku, Finland. His ancestors belonged to the Swedish-speaking Finnish nobility; in the middle of the 19th century, his great-grandfather, Lars Gabriel von Haartman, was the most influential person in Finland and the Finnish counselor at the Russian court. Lars A.A. von Haartman, or LvH as he was called by friends and colleagues in Finland, became a Corresponding Fellow of the AOU in 1954 and an Honorary Fellow in 1963.

As a student, LvH was influenced by Margaret Morse Nice's studies on the Song Sparrow, published first in German in 1933 and 1934, and then by David Lack's studies on the behavior of the European Robin in 1939 and 1940. In 1941, LvH began his lifelong studies of color-banded Pied Flycatchers breeding at his estate. In his first detailed study (Acta Zoologica Fennica 56:1–104, 1949), LvH stated (in German): “To study the biology of a bird species three things, I think, are necessary: a telescope, colour bands, and diligence.” He also worked on many other bird species and especially on general problems such as biology of coastal birds (doctoral thesis in 1945), adaptations to hole nesting (Evolution 11:339–347, 1957), clutch size and polygamy, territoriality, bird migration, population dynamics (Avian Biology 1:391–459, 1971), and changes in the Finnish avifauna. LvH was eager to gather details of birds' lives, but he also had an exceptional ability to see the central features and factors, to synthesize. He started a nest-card project in Finland in the early 1950s, ran it for decades, and sorted and analyzed tens of thousands of nest cards by hand! As a result, he published “The Nesting Habits of Finnish Birds. I. Passeriformes” (Commentationes Biologicae Societas Scientiarum Fennica 32:1–187, 1969). The same material was also used in a new handbook “The Birds of the North I-II 1963 to 1972” (in Finnish), for which LvH wrote the chapters titled “Breeding” and “Behavior.”

LvH became a Professor of Zoology at the University of Helsinki in 1968. From 1963 to 1969, he was chairman of the Finnish Ornithological Society, and from 1972 to 1976, he was Editor-in-Chief of Ornis Fennica. He was Secretary-General of the 12th International Ornithological Congress held in Helsinki in 1958, Vice-President of the 17th Congress in Berlin in 1978, and President of the 18th Congress in Moscow in 1982, therein serving as an important connection between Eastern and Western ornithologists. An issue of Ornis Fennica (no. 56[2–3], 1979) was dedicated to him to celebrate his 60th birthday and provides additional information about his work.

As a polyglot (besides his native Swedish, he was fluent in Finnish, English, and German and knew some French) and cultured person, LvH was Finnish ornithology's best ambassador. He had a wonderful dry British sense of humor and often included subtle offhanded comments in his lectures and conversations that were much appreciated by those who were listening.

Not only was LvH the leading star of Finnish ornithology for decades, but he resembled bright Jupiter in his own nocturnal charcoal drawing entitled “Way to Lempisaari, Jupiter.” His other passionate interests were literature and art. A many-faceted personality, artist, art connoisseur, art critic, painter and drawer, essayist, poet, and bibliophile, LvH could equally well have become a writer or a professor in art or the history of literature. He published four collections of poetry, two of which have been translated into English. The last collection (1990) was named In Memoriam. Below is a poem entitled “Autumn's Joy” from the collection Black Sails (Svarta segel, 1969), which was translated from Swedish by Doris Huestis Speirs in 1976:

“Strange is the joy of autumn,—

a marine-blue wind, a birch's

nerve-fine branch in light. The eye smiles

but the song of the heart is smoke.”

Martti Soikkeli "IN MEMORIAM: LARS VON HAARTMAN, 1919–1998," The Auk 117(4), 1029-1030, (1 October 2000).[1029:IMLVH]2.0.CO;2
Published: 1 October 2000
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