Dr. Walter Bock is pictured reading at his desk.
Emeritus Professor of Evolutionary Biology
(212) 865-8246
Short Research Description: 

General Evolution Theory, Organismic Biology 

Full Research Description: 

Organisms are the result of evolutionary history and continue to survive because of the way they interact as individuals with the demands placed on them by their external environment. My research lies in the general area of organismal and evolutionary biology, with special emphasis on functional and evolutionary morphology of the skeletomuscular system. In particular, most of my research deals with the feeding apparatus of birds. I have chosen this area because the feeding apparatus is essential to the survival of individual organisms, because great diversity exists in the feeding apparatus of birds, and because the subject is sufficiently complex to permit insights into the questions of integrated morphological systems without being overwhelmed by details. Theskeletomuscular system is analyzed using a series of mechanical approaches, including free body analysis. Special care is taken to look at all levels of organization from the fiber level to that of the whole feeding apparatus, using both reductionistic and integrative approaches. 

My evolutionary studies center on the questions of biological adaptation and major evolutionary change. Most of this work is theory development. It has been essential to include ideas from the philosophy of science, as, for example, types of explanations. Some of the work deals with particular evolutionary events such as the origin of flight in birds, including the origin of avian flight. These evolutionary studies also include systematics based on comparative morphological analyses. Most of these taxonomic studies are on higher categorical levels, namely families of birds. However, I am also involved in compiling a second edition of a list of avian species of the world that necessitates an understanding of species taxonomy and the many problems of geographical variations. 


  • BIOL W3002y - Introduction to Animal Structure and Function
  • HPSC W3201y - Philosophy & History of Evolutionary Biology
  • HPSC W3208y - Introduction to Evolutionary Biology

Curriculum Vitae


Representative Publications: 

Representative Publications

  • Bock, W.J. And M.. Lein, eds. (2005) Editor (with M. Ross Lein) Ernst Mayr at 100. Ornithological Monographs,58; vii+109 pp, including a DVD “A taped interview with Ernst Mayr. [with: Ernst Mayr at 100 –A life inside and outside of Ornithology. Pp 2-16.]
  • Bock, W. J. (2004) Presidential Address: Three centuries of international ornithology. Proc. 23rd International Ornithological Congress. Acta Zoologica Sinica, 50(6): 779-855
  • Bock, W.J. (2004) Explanations in systematics. Pp. 49-56. In Williams, D.M. and Forey, P.L. (eds) Milestones in Systematics. London: Systematics Association Special Volume Series 67. CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida.
  • Bock, W.J. (2002) The role of the external environment in evolutionary theory. Pp. 63-80, In, Schmitt, M. (ed. Synecology and Evolution ‑ Gerd von Wahlert's Approach to Evolutionary Biology. Bonner zoologische Monographien vol. 50. 216 pp., Zoologisches Forschungsinstitut und Museum Alexander Koenig, Bonn .
  • Mayr, E. and Bock, W.J. (2002) Classifications and Other Ordering Systems. Zeitschrift zool. Syst. Evolut-forsch. 40 :1-25.
  • Bock, W.J. (1994) Ernst Mayr, naturalist: His contributions to systematics and evolution. Biology and Philosophy, 9:267‑327.
  • Bock, W.J. (1994) Nomenclatural history of avian family‑group names and their synonyms. Bulletin American Museum of Natural History, 222:1‑281.
  • Bock, W.J. (1991) Explanations in Konstruktionsmorphologie and evolutionary morphology. Pp. 9 ‑ 29. In, N. Schmidt‑Kitter & K. Vogel, ed. Constructional morphology and evolution. Springer Verlag, Heidelberg.
  • Szalay, F. and W.J. Bock, (1991) Evolutionary theory and systematics: Relationships between process and patterns. Zeitschrift zool. Syst. Evolut‑forsch. 29:1‑39. (w/ Fred Szalay).
  • Bock, W.J. (1986) Species concepts, speciation, and macroevolution. Pp. 31‑57. In, K. Iwatsuki, P.H. Raven and W.J. Bock, eds., "Modern Aspects of Species." Univ. Tokyo Press, Tokyo, xvii + 240 pp.
  • Bock, W.J. (1979) The synthetic explanation of macroevolutionary change ‑‑ a reductionist approach. Bulletin Carnegie Museum, 13:20‑69.

Business Office

Department of Biological Sciences
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Columbia University
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Academic Office

Department of Biological Sciences
600 Fairchild Center
Mail Code 2402
Columbia University
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[email protected]
212 854-4581