Harold B. Hitchcock: 1903-1995

Photograph by Thomas A. Griffiths

Thomas A. Griffiths
Department of Biology, Illinois Wesleyan University, Bloomington, IL 61702-2900

Reprinted from Bat Research News, Vol. 36: Nos. 2 & 3 (Summer and Fall 1995) with permission. Copyright. All rights reserved.

Harold B. Hitchcock, one of the early pioneers in this country in the study of bat migration, homing, and longevity, died on September 13, 1995 at his home in Middlebury, Vermont.  Hal was born on June 23, 1903 in Hartford, Connecticut, the son of Alfred Marshall Hitchcock and Harriet (Thompson) Hitchcock.  He attended the Hartford public schools, Phillips Exeter Academy, and Williams College.  After his undergraduate education was completed, he worked for five years at an insurance company in New York City.  Deciding that biology interested him more than insurance, Hal attended Harvard University and graduated from there with a Ph. D. in 1938.  While at Harvard, Hal met and struck up a friendship with a promising young undergraduate student from Barnstable, Massachusetts who had a strong interest in bats (among many other things):  Donald R. Griffin.

Hal taught at the University of Western Ontario from 1939 to 1943, first as an Instructor and later as an Assistant Professor of Zoology.  During those years, Hal was active in the Canadian Conservation Association, several ornithological societies, and he served in the Canadian Officers Training Corps.  It was also during those years that Hal had the great good sense to court and ultimately marry Martine Cutter, originally of Winchester, Massachusetts.  They were married on February 20, 1942, and later had three delightful daughters: Susan, Harriet, and Martha.  Martine, all three daughters, and four grandchildren survive Hal.  [Editor's Note:  Martine died on December 6, 1997.]

In 1943, Hal joined the faculty of Middlebury College, where he spent most of his career.  He rose rapidly through the academic ranks, eventually becoming Chair of the Biology Department and retiring in 1968 as the Albert Mead Professor of Biology.  Formal retirement apparently did not suit Hal, as he immediately accepted visiting professorships at Boston University in the summer of 1968, at Norwich University in the fall of 1968, and at the University of Hawaii in the spring of 1969.  In 1969, the President of Bates College in Lewiston, Maine had a problem.  He could not find a suitable person to chair the Bates Biology Department.  President Thomas Hedley Reynolds had known Hal when both were at Middlebury, and he asked Hal if he would come out of retirement "temporarily" to head the department until a permanent Chair could be found.  In 1969, Hal was named Charles Dana Professor of Biology and Chair of the Bates College Biology Department, a position he held until 1972.  In the May 1971 Short Term, Hal offered a course on bat banding to six Bates undergraduates, one of them being me.  The experience certainly changed my life.  We spent six weeks roaming the roads of Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and parts of Canada collecting bats from houses, churches, caves and mines.  Along the way, we met and worked with a (younger) M. Brock Fenton, who introduced us not only to bats of southeastern Canada, but also to some wonderful Hungarian cuisine, and some lyrically-memorable campfire songs. 

Hal studied newts, mice, blackbirds, and crabs at various times in his career, but his two particular interests were the homing behavior of racing pigeons and the migration and homing of bats.  He produced a number of important early papers on bat migration, some co-authored with other "giants" of mid-Twentieth Century bat research (see below).  In support of his research, Hal received grants from the American Philosophical Society, the National Science Foundation, and the American Academy of Arts and Science.  He was named a Fulbright Fellow and traveled to the Max Planck Institute in Germany in 1954.  He held memberships in the American Society of Zoologists, the American Society of Mammalogists, the American Ornithologists Union, the National Speleological Society, the Nature Conservancy, and in our own informal group, the North American bat research society.  Following his retirement at Bates College, Hal retained his interest in bats and continued to study them for many more years.  He was instrumental in protecting the hibernaculum at Mt. Aeolus in southern Vermont by persuading the Nature Conservancy to buy the land around the cave.  He also became very interested in reported sightings of panthers in Vermont and Maine, and he devoted considerable time and energy to collecting evidence proving that native panthers still inhabited the forests of New England. 

In 1986, the North American Symposium on Bat Research (NASBR) awarded Hal its highest honor at the 19th Annual NASBR meeting held in Amherst, Massachusetts.  Hal joined a roster of distinguished scientists (including his long-time friend Don Griffin) who have been awarded the Gerrit S. Miller Jr. Award. I know that the award meant a great deal to Hal, as it did to two of his former students in attendance: Dorothy C. Dunning and me.  Hal touched many people's lives, invariably for the better.  We remember him with admiration, appreciation, and affection, and we miss him a great deal.

Publications by Harold B. Hitchcock

Davis, W. H., and H. B. Hitchcock. 1964. Notes on sex ratios of hibernating bats. Journal of Mammalogy, 45: 475-476.

Davis, W. H., and H. B. Hitchcock. 1965. Biology and migration of the bat, Myotis  lucifugus, in New England. Journal of Mammalogy, 46: 296-313.

Davis, W. H., and H. B. Hitchcock. 1994. A new longevity record for Myotis  lucifugus. Bat Research News, 35: 61.

Girard, K. F., H. B. Hitchcock, G. Edsall, and R. A. MacCready. 1965. Rabies in bats in southern New England. New England Journal of Medicine, 272: 75-80.

Griffin, D. R., and H. B. Hitchcock. 1965. Probably 24-year longevity records for Myotis  lucifugus. Journal of Mammalogy, 46: 332.

Hitchcock, H. B. 1939. The behavior of adult amphibian skin cultured in vivo and in vitro. Journal of Experimental Zoology, 81: 299-331.

Hitchcock, H. B. 1939. Notes on the newt, Triturus  viridescens. Herpetologica, 1: 149-150.

Hitchcock, H. B. 1940. Keeping track of bats. Canadian Field-Naturalist, 54: 55-56.

Hitchcock, H. B. 1941. Myotis  subulatus  leibii  and other bats hibernating in Ontario and Quebec. Canadian Field-Naturalist, 55: 46.

Hitchcock, H. B. 1941. The coloration and color changes of the gulf-weed crab, Planes  minutus. Biological Bulletin, 80: 26-30.

Hitchcock, H. B. 1941. A device for opening small bird bands. Bird Banding, 12: 73-74.

Hitchcock, H. B. 1943. Peromyscus  maniculatus  bairdii  and Sorex  palustris  hydrobadistes  in the lower peninsula of Michigan. Journal of Mammalogy, 24: 402-403.

Hitchcock, H. B. 1943. Hoary bat, Lasiurus  cinereus, at Southampton Island, N.W.T. Canadian Field-Naturalist, 57: 86.

Hitchcock, H. B. 1943. Yellow-headed blackbird and golden eagle in Middlesex County, Ontario. Canadian Field-Naturalist, 57: 88.

Hitchcock, H. B. 1943. Banding as an aid in studying the activities of the little brown bat, Myotis  lucifugus  lucifugus. Michigan Academy of Science, Arts, and Letters, Papers, 29: 277-279.

Hitchcock, H. B. 1945. Recoveries of banded chimney swifts. Canadian Field-Naturalist, 59: 148-149.

Hitchcock, H. B. 1945. Myotis  subulatus  leibii  in Ontario. Journal of Mammalogy, 26: 433.

Hitchcock, H. B. 1949. Hibernation of bats in southeastern Ontario and adjacent Quebec. Canadian Field-Naturalist, 63: 47-59.

Hitchcock, H. B. 1949. Myotis  lucifugus  lucifugus  mistaken for Myotis  keenii  septentrionalis. Canadian Field-Naturalist, 63: 208.

Hitchcock, H. B. 1949. Caves in eastern Canada. Bulletin of the National Speleological Society, Nov. 1949: 60-63.

Hitchcock, H. B. 1950. Sex ratios in hibernating bats. National Speleological Society, Bulletin No. 12, pp. 26-28.

Hitchcock, H. B. 1950. Aerial observations of homing pigeons. Anatomical Record, 108: 83-84.

Hitchcock, H. B. 1952. Airplane observations of homing pigeons. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 96: 270-289.

Hitchcock, H. B. 1953. How do they find their way home? Animal Kingdom, 56: 9-14.

Hitchcock, H. B. 1954. Felled tree kills beaver (Castor  canadensis). Journal of Mammalogy, 35: 452.

Hitchcock, H. B. 1955. A summer colony of the least bat, Myotis  subulatus  leibii (Audubon and Bachman). Canadian Field-Naturalist, 69: 31.

Hitchcock, H. B. 1955. Homing flights and orientation of pigeons. The Auk, 72: 355-373.

Hitchcock, H. B. 1957. The use of bird bands on bats. Journal of Mammalogy, 38: 402-405.

Hitchcock, H. B. 1960. Bat-banding in the United States. The Ring, 2: 277-280.

Hitchcock, H. B. 1962. Bat Caves. Vermont Life, 17: 26-33.

Hitchcock, H. B. 1963. An unintended bat trap. Journal of Mammalogy, 44: 577-578.

Hitchcock, H. B. 1965. Twenty-three years of bat banding in Ontario and Quebec. Canadian Field-Naturalist, 79: 4-14.

Hitchcock, H. B. 1967. Hibernation in Vermont. Vermonter, Jan.-Feb., pp. 11-13.

Hitchcock, H. B. 1968. Bats. 5 pp. in R. Duhamel, Ed. Hinterland Who's Who. Queen's Printer, Ottawa.

Hitchcock, H. B. 1974. Reflections of a batman. Massachusetts Wildlife, 25: 8-13.

Hitchcock, H. B. 1986. Panther in Vermont? Vermont Natural History, 1986:

Hitchcock, H. B., and R. Keen. 1980. Possible geographical influence on survival by sex in Myotis  lucifugus. Pp. 129-133 in D. E. Wilson and A. L. Gardner, eds. Proceedings Fifth International Bat Research Conference, Texas Tech Press, Lubbock, 434 pp.

Hitchcock, H. B., R. Keen, and A. Kurta. 1984. Survival rates of Myotis  leibii  and Eptesicus  fuscus  in southeastern Ontario. Journal of Mammalogy, 65: 126-130.

Hitchcock, H. B., and K. Reynolds. 1940. Pipistrellus hibernating in Ontario. Canadian Field-Naturalist, 54: 89.

Hitchcock, H. B., and K. Reynolds. 1942. Homing experiments with the little brown bat, Myotis  lucifugus  lucifugus (LeConte). Journal of Mammalogy, 23: 258-267.

Keen, R., and H. B. Hitchcock. 1980. Survival and longevity of the little brown bat (Myotis  lucifugus) in southeastern Ontario. Journal of Mammalogy, 61: 1-7.

Sommers, L. A., W. H. Davis, and H. B. Hitchcock. 1993. Longevity records for Myotis  lucifugus. Bat Research News, 34: 3.

Reprinted from Bat Research News, Vol. 36: Nos. 2 & 3 (Summer and Fall 1995) with permission.

Web page by Margaret Griffiths, Publisher/Managing Editor, Bat Research News. Copyright 2006. All rights reserved.

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