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Little-Known Brooklyn Residents: Dr. Ida Mellen

Jun 8, 2010 3:02 PM | 0 comments

In the first half of the 20th century, Brooklyn was home to one of the world's most respected authorities on the ailments of fish. Dr. Ida Mellen, lived most of her life in the borough of Brooklyn, working for many years as chief aquarist and ichthyologist at the New York Aquarium.

Dr. Ida Mellen

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported that during Dr. Mellen's time at the New York Aquarium, she "nursed penguins with bronchitis, turtles with tumors, and alligators with fungused snouts." Her scientific research caused intense excitement within the marine science world, when she discovered a rare type of parasite that was eating the eyes of tropical fish. This parasite was subsequently named in her honor as epibdella mellini.

The New York Aquarium

After twelve years at the New York Aquarium, Ida Mellen resigned with no explanation, and turned her attention away from marine life, to other interests within the natural sciences -- cats, pigs and rooftop gardening -- spending the rest of her years writing numerous books and articles on these subjects. She was a prolific researcher and writer, and gave herself a personal goal to fill a scrapbook with 300 of her published articles. Her scrapbooks and personal papers can be found over at the New York Public Library.

Later in life, Dr. Mellen became "interested in bipeds too", writing about the needs of senior citizens and promoting the introduction of pensions for aging scholars. She wrote the majority of her books and articles from her residence at 547 East 4th St., surrounded by her rooftop garden paradise.

Ida Mellen tending plants in her private conservatory