Moore, J. Percy (John Percy), 1869-

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John Percy Moore (1869-1965) was a university professor and world recognized authority on leeches. He was educated at the University of Pennsylvania, B.S., 1892, and Ph.D., 1896. His teaching career began in 1890, when he was appointed Assistant Instructor of Zoology at the University of Pennsylvania. He was promoted to Instructor in 1892, Assistant Professor in 1907, and Professor in 1912. In 1939 he became Emeritus Professor. Moore was also an Assistant Curator and Corresponding Secretary for the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia from 1902 to 1939 and a member of the Board of Trustees from 1938 to 1957. In 1957 he was made an Honorary Life Trustee of the Academy. Moore's primary zoological interest was the study of leeches and their biological control. He conducted field research in India during 1930-1931 to study the life history of Indian land leeches. His association with the United States National Museum (USNM) began in the early 1900s when he started identifying specimens in the Museum's leech collection. In recognition of his work he was appointed Honorary Collaborator in the Division of Marine Invertebrates, USNM, in 1930. On his death in 1965, Moore's collection of leeches was donated to the USNM.

Smithsonian Institution Archives Field Book Project: Person : Description : rid_371_pid_EACP368

John Percy Moore (1869-1965) was a Professor of Zoology at the University of Pennsylvania from 1912 to 1939, an Assistant Curator at the Academy of Natural Sciences from 1902 to 1938, and held several positions between 1920 and 1956 at the Ludwick Institute, which offered free lectures and courses in the natural sciences. He was also a world recognized authority on leeches. During his career, Moore named six genera, 229 species, five subspecies and four varieties of polychaetous annelids, or segmented worms (Loi 1980).

J. Percy Moore was born in 1869 in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. His father worked as a salesman who specialized in safes and bank vaults. His family moved several times when he was a child and in 1876, they moved to Philadelphia, living “in various places including a spot at the edge of the city where Nature was close and inviting,” (American Philosophical Society, page 192). His exposure to nature increased his interest in science and, as a child, he collected live specimens of insects, bird skins and eggs, some of which he was allowed to keep in his home for observation.

Around the age of eleven, Moore first met the eminent scientist, Joseph Leidy (1823-1891) at the Wagner Free Institute of Science while attending one of Leidy's lectures on Zoology. In recalling his subsequent and ongoing relationship with Leidy, Moore stated, "it was my supreme good fortune to be associated with Dr. Leidy in the general relation of student to teacher from 1880 to his death in 1891," (Moore, 1960).

Moore's involvement with the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia began when he was a young man. While a student at the Central High School in Philadelphia one of his teachers introduced him to the librarian of the Academy. Moore stated, ". . . Dr. Jacob Holt, Prof. of Natural History and Physiology, introduced me to Dr. [Edward James] Nolan, the Secretary and Librarian [of the Academy], and I was given the privilege of using the library and a free card of admission to the museum. From that time I attended the Tuesday evening meetings of the Academy (as an invited visitor)," (Moore, 1960).

After earning his A.B. degree in 1886, Moore went on to study at the University of Pennsylvania, earning his BS in 1892 and his Ph.D. in 1896. While Moore was an undergraduate student in the School of Biology at the University of Pennsylvania, Joseph Leidy, his old friend, served as director. Moore’s association with the University of Pennsylvania soon became more than student and he served as Assistant Instructor from 1890 to 1892, Instructor from 1892 to 1907, Assistant Professor from 1907 to 1912, Professor from 1912 to 1939, and Professor Emeritus in 1939.

He shared his knowledge with many through his teaching at the Hahnemann Medical College from 1896 to 1898 and at the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, Massachusetts from 1901 to 1902. He also worked for the United States National Museum, Smithsonian Institution as an Honorary Research Associate in Marine Invertebrates.

Moore's older brother H. Frank Moore served as the Deputy Commissioner of Fisheries at the Bureau of Fisheries, and Moore worked there, on as-needed basis, as Scientific Assistant from 1890 to 1919. His work for the Bureau of Fisheries included the study of mackerel propagation and the use of fishes for control of mosquitoes in northern fresh waters of the United States.

Moore worked at the Academy of Natural Sciences, serving in a variety of capacities, from 1902 to 1957. He worked as Assistant Curator from 1902 to 1938, Corresponding Secretary from 1902 to 1940, and Trustee from 1940 to 1957, and was eventually made an Honorary Life Trustee. He also served on the Library Committee, as chairman for many years; the Committee on Publications from 1923 to 1936; and the Council. Moore was a Research Associate of the Department of Mollusks and Honorary Associate and later, Honorary Research Fellow of the Department of Mollusks and other Invertebrates. As a Trustee, Moore served on special committees where he worked on the Edward Drinker Cope memorial bust, the Joseph Leidy statue that stands outside of the Academy building, and Joseph Leidy's biography.

Moore was repeatedly approached by colleagues to write Joseph Leidy's biography and he always declined. However, he was actively involved in the project as a collaborator and editor. Joseph Leidy's grandnephew, Philip Leidy, commissioned Charles S. Dolley of the Wistar Institute and a former associate of Joseph Leidy in the School of Biology at the University of Pennsylvania, to write a full length biography on Joseph Leidy. Dolley was approached because, according to Edwin G. Conklin (1863-1952), former President of the American Philosophical Society, ". . . he [Dolley] was really an adopted son of Joseph Leidy living in the Leidy home and thoroughly capable of presenting the personal side of Leidy" (Conklin 1951). The expectation was that Dolley would produce a draft and Moore would act as editor. However, Dolley died in 1948, and the whereabouts of his notes for the book remain unknown. Upon Dolley's death, Conklin, Moore and Philip P. Calvert acted as an informal advisory committee for Leidy's biography. In 1951, at Conklin's suggestion, George Howard Parker (1864-1955) was asked to write Leidy's biography and told that he would have to start from scratch. Parker did not make known that he was in ill health and had great difficulty completing the biography. Parker produced a draft, but died in 1955 before the project was complete. David Henry Wenrich (1885-1968) took up the project in 1956 and produced a significant amount of research on the biography of Leidy. Wenrich died in 1968 before any of his materials were published. A biography on Leidy by Leonard Warren, Joseph Leidy : the Last Man who Knew Everything, was published in 1998.

In addition to his responsibilities at the Academy, Moore worked at the Ludwick Institute. The Ludwick Institute was first organized in 1799, offering free educational courses to underpriviliged children. Around 1890, the growing public education system in Philadelphia supplanted a need for the Ludwick Institute’s free services, and in 1895, it became affiliated with the Academy of Natural Sciences. The Academy continued to offer free lectures sponsored by the Ludwick Institute. The lectures focused on the natural sciences and research conducted at the Academy. Moore acted as manager of the Ludwick Institute from 1920 to 1956, and served as Vice President from 1928 to 1942 and as President from 1942 to 1956. He also lectured at the Academy under the sponsorship of the Ludwick Institute.

Moore authored approximately one hundred publications during his career. The majority had to do with leeches, but others dealt with polychaete worms and oligochaetes. Moore wrote brief biographies on notable figures such as Samuel George Morton, William Maclure, Philip P. Calvert and others. He also co-authored a book on Hirundinea with W. D. Harding which was published in 1927. In addition, he was involved in Biological Abstracts and Journal of Morphology .

Moore was known as “a leading American authority on the annelid worms, especially the leeches. No narrow specialist, however, he was conversant with the whole of zoology and broadly interested in biology in general” (American Philosophical Society, page 191). Indeed, his other interests included invertebrates, birds, reptiles, amphibians, eggs, sponges, salamanders and fish. He also researched and lectured on evolution and heredity. His interests resulted in travel around the country and he spent the academic year of 1930 to 1931 in India studying land leeches.

Moore was a member of several professional societies. He was a member of the American Philosophical Society starting in 1918, and he served on their Committee on the Library from 1941 to 1952. He was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a member of the American Society of Naturalists, the American Society of Zoologists, the American Society of Parasitologists, the Ecological Society of America, the Society of Limnology and Oceanography, the Society for the Study of Evolution, the Society of Systematic Zoology, and the Societe de Zoologie.

In 1892, Moore married Kathleen Carter who was a fellow student at the University of Pennsylvania. Kathleen earned a Certificate in Biology in 1890, a Bachelor of Science from Barnard in 1892 and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1895. Together, they had four children. Kathleen died in 1920. Moore died on March 1, 1965, survived by one daughter, Dr. Elinor Moore Irvin, a PhD in Physiological Chemistry. Moore was described as “a delightful companion, well-informed, relatively calm, friendly, and with a keen sense of humor,” (American Philosophical Society, page 196).

Works Cited:

American Philosophical Society. Yearbook of the American Philosophical Society, 1965.

Unpublished letter. (1951). From Edwin G. Conklin to George H. Parker.

Loi, Tran-Ngoc. (1980) "Catalogue of the Types of Polychaete Species Erected by J. Percy Moore." Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia . 132:121-149.

Unpublished letter. (1948). From J. Percy Moore to Dr. Frank Raw.

Unpublished manuscript. (1960). Moore, J. Percy. Leidy Memorial.

Phillips, Venia T. and Maurice E. Phillips. (1963). Guide to the Manuscript Collections in the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia . Philadelphia: Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia.

Smithsonian Institution Archives. Historical note for J. Percy (John Percy) Moore Papers, 1888-1965 and undated, Record Unit 7265.

From the guide to the J. Percy Moore papers, 1847-1963, (Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf J. Percy Moore papers, 1847-1963 Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia. corporateBody
associatedWith American Philosophical Society. corporateBody
associatedWith Cope, Edward Drinker, 1840-1897 person
associatedWith Hyrtl, Joseph, 1811-1894 person
associatedWith Leidy, Joseph, 1823-1891 person
associatedWith Ludwick Institute (Philadelphia, Pa.). corporateBody
associatedWith Maclure, William, 1763-1840 person
associatedWith Marine Biological Laboratory (Woods Hole, Mass.). corporateBody
associatedWith Morton, Samuel George, 1799-1851 person
associatedWith Philadelphia Metropolitan Library Council. corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Bureau of Fisheries. corporateBody
associatedWith United States National Museum. corporateBody
associatedWith University of Pennsylvania. corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
Philadelphia (Pa.)


Birth 1869

Death 1965



Ark ID: w6gs1mnf

SNAC ID: 52552396