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THE USES OF ECCENTRICITY: THE MAKING OF SALIM ALI

Madhav Gadgil

Salim Moizuddin Abdul Ali (1896–1987) was indisputably the greatest biologist of twentieth-century India. His meticulous observations of the bird life of the country spanned most of the century, for the earliest of these was recorded in 1906 when he was all of 10 years old. It read:

The cock sparrow perched on the nail near the entrance to the hole while the female sat inside on the eggs. I ambushed them from behind a stabled carriage and shot the male. In a very short while the female acquired another male also, sat ‘on guard’ on the nail outside. I shot this male also, and again in no time the female had yet another male in attendance. In the next seven days I shot eight male ...

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