Herbert R. Axelrod died earlier this month. If you read the Wikipedia article, you might get the idea that he was a businessman who eventually got in trouble with the law. He had a criminal conviction and was accused of being a swindler. He seemed to have let a lot of people, including his friends, down. There are accusations of academic fraud. That stuff may be all true.
I never met the man, nor did I have any direct contact with him.
Yet he had a profound impact on my life. A very positive impact.
His books about keeping tropical fishes ignited a strong passion in me. He obviously had that passion himself. He started a magazine called Tropical Fish Hobbyist and had a publishing company for books about fish and other subjects, including other pet books.
Here are a couple of books from my collection–large, coffee table type books. He was the author of one, but the publisher of both. He authored number of fish books, and his publishing company allowed for the publication of a whole lot of other books that would not otherwise have been published.
He encouraged people who kept fish to feed them live foods. So I learned about mosquito larva, daphnia, chironomid larvae, leeches, snails, and other things present in the buckets of water I would collect for the fish.
Tropical Fish Hobbyist magazine was not about keeping pets. It was about fish, where they were found and the adventures surrounding looking for them. It was about biological diversity. It was about how the fish lived and reproduced. It was about the passion of fish-keeping and understanding nature.
These pages from The Fascination of Breeding Aquarium Fish were about the beauty of the fish, as well as the biology.
I subscribed to Tropical Fish Hobbyist for many decades. I quit sometime after he sold it, when the passion no longer seemed to be present.
When I went to college, I majored in biology, largely because of the passion for the subject inspired by Herbert Axelrod. When I took up photography, I started with fish. Most of the pictures I took were with film so I can’t show them here, but here is one I scanned that I am kind of proud of:
So thank you, Herbert Axelrod, for igniting my passion for the study of life. Rest in Peace.