Posted: Nov 15 2010

 Abbott, Robert Tucker, Known as R. Tucker Abbott

Robert Tucker Abbott (September 28, 1919 – November 3, 1995) was an American conchologist and malacologist. He was the author of more than 30 books on malacology, which were translated into many languages.

Abbott was one of the most prominent conchologists of the 20th century. He brought conchology to the public with his works, including most notably: American Seashells, 1974, Seashells of the World, 1962, and The Kingdom of the Seashell, 1972. He was an active member of the American Malacological Union and Conchologists of America.


Tucker Abbott was born in Watertown, Massachusetts. His interest in seashells began early; he collected them as a boy and started a museum with a friend in his basement. After having spent part of his youth in Montreal, he went to Harvard University and became a student of William (Bill) James Clench (1897–1984). In 1941, they started the journal Johnsonia, which specialized in western Atlantic molluscs. He graduated in 1942.

During World War II, Abbott was first a Navy bomber pilot, and later worked for the Medical Research Unit doing research on schistosomiasis. He documented the life cycle of the schistosome in the Oncomelania, a small brown freshwater snail, which he studied in the rice fields of the Yangtze valley.

He married Mary M. Sisler on February 18, 1946. She was also a malacologist.

After World War II, Abbott worked at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution (1944–1954) as Assistant Curator and Associate Curator of the Department of Mollusks. During this time, he earned his Master's and Ph.D. at George Washington University and wrote the first edition of American Seashells.

He then went to the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia (1954–1969). He was chair of the Department of Mollusks, and held the Pilsbry Chair of Malacology. During that time he went on a number of shelling expeditions to the Indo-Pacific region. He also started his own journal, "Indo-Pacific Mollusca". He also was an active editor on "The Nautilus"

In 1969, Abbott accepted the DuPont Chair of Malacology at the Delaware Museum of Natural History. He also headed the Department of Mollusks, and was Assistant Director. In 1971 he became editor-in-chief of "The Nautilus".

Abbott was the Founding Director of The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum on Sanibel Island. He died from pulmonary disease in 1995, two weeks before the museum opened. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.