Philip Humphrey


A celebration of life service for Philip Strong Humphrey, 83, will be held 2 p.m. Monday, November 16, 2009, at Plymouth Congregational Church. Inurnment will be in Pioneer Cemetery.  Mr. Humphrey died Friday, November 13, 2009, at Brandon Woods at Alvamar.

He was born February 26, 1926, in Hibbing, MN the son of Watts Sherman and Katharine Strong Humphrey.  His family moved to Litchfield, CT when he was a young child and he graduated from The Forman School in Litchfield. 

Mr. Humphrey served in the United States Army Air Corps in World War II.  He graduated from Amherst College in 1949 and received an M.S. and Ph.D. in ornithology from the University of Michigan in 1955.  Mr. Humphrey was an Assistant Professor of Ornithology and Curator of Birds at the Peabody Museum at Yale University from 1957 to 1962.   He received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1960-61 to study the birds of Argentina.  In 1962, he went to the Smithsonian Institution and served as Curator of Ornithology and then Curator of Vertebrate Zoology until 1967. In the 1960s, with support from the Rockefeller Foundation, he worked on the ecology of birds and epidemiology of arthropod borne viruses in the rainforests around Belem, Brazil.
In 1967, he was appointed Director of the Museum of Natural History and Professor of Zoology at the University of Kansas.  He served in that position for 28 years until his retirement in 1995.  During his tenure at the KU Natural History Museum, he started the summer programs for children that have been well attended by many children.  While at KU, he continued to do field work in Argentina and in 1981 he discovered a new species of steamer duck

His publications include The Birds of Tierra del Fuego and various publications in the field of ornithology.  He was also co-editor of The Darwin Reader. He was a member of the American Association of Museums, Sigma XI, a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a fellow of the American Ornithologists Union, and served on the boards of the National Audubon Society and the World Wildlife Fund.  He was a member of Plymouth Congregational Church, Rotary Club, Douglas County Historical Society and served on several local boards.  He was an avid fly fisherman and enjoyed tying flies and making fly rods.  He enjoyed many fly fishing trips to various parts of the world.  He especially enjoyed fly fishing in Montana and Wyoming.  He also loved playing the piano.

He married Mary Louise Countryman on January 1, 1946.  He is survived by his wife of sixty-three years. 

Other survivors include a daughter, Margaret Humphrey, Ashland, OR; a son, Dr. Stephen Humphrey and his wife, Susan, Santa Elena, Costa Rica; two brothers, Watts S. and wife, Barbara, Sarasota, FL, and William M. and wife, Ruth, Auckland, New Zealand; a sister Dorothy Bedell and husband, Peter, Wyndmoor, PA; two stepsisters Anne Swain and husband, Adrian, Sarasota, FL, and Patricia Smith and husband, Wally, Pittsburgh, PA; a stepbrother Peter Rowley and wife, Terez, New York City, NY;  three grandchildren, Katharine George, Jonathan Humphrey, and Kyle Humphrey, and four great-grandchildren.  He is also survived by many nieces and nephews. 

Memorial contributions may be made in his name to the Philip and Mary Louise Humphrey Scholarship Fund at the KU Endowment Association or Heart of America Hospice and sent in care of Warren-McElwain Mortuary.

Online condolences may be sent to subject:  Humphrey.

3 Condolences

  1. Andy Hemenway on November 26, 2010 at 12:00 am

    I saw your father’s in memoriam note in the most recent Amherst alumni magazine. I had forgotten (if I ever knew) that he was an Amherst grad, as were both my father and I. Please pass my condolences on to your mom.
    I recently crashed a reunion of the North Branford High School classes of 1965-66 (I didn’t attend the school, but what the heck), and brought along a sixth grade class picture…you are in it. If you cruise the inside passage up to Alaska sometime in the next few years (before I retire and move south!), look me up in Juneau. I’ll look for you when I get to Costa Rica. It’s on my list of winter getaways.
    Best regards. I have very warm memories of our childhood times together, from browsing the bird drawers at Peabody to collecting salamanders in the woods behind your house, and lots more.

  2. Barbara Lovelace on August 23, 2013 at 4:06 pm

    Hi, Mary Lou and family. My reply is very late, but I wanted to tell you how very much I admired and respected Phil. He was my boss at the Smithsonian in the 1960s, and I loved both his scholarly ability and great sense of humor. You may remember I was in touch with you in 2009 while he was still alive and sent a letter and pictures. He was one of the finest men I have ever known. May he rest in peace.
    Barbara Beck Lovelace

  3. Jeff on March 7, 2019 at 9:26 am

    I went fly fishing with Philip and enjoyed being with him. I left KU in 1993 and just found out that he had passed today. He was a very interesting man and I will miss him. Old school type of a guy. A real gentleman.

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