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Frederick Bayer, 85; biologist studied corals in deep sea

WASHINGTON - Frederick "Ted" Bayer, 85, an emeritus curator at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History and a deep-sea biologist who specialized in the study and classification of soft corals, died Oct. 2 at the Washington Home hospice. He had congestive heart failure.

Mr. Bayer worked for the museum from 1947 to 1961 and again from 1975 to 1996. In the interim, he was a professor at the University of Miami's marine science school and participated in deep-sea collecting expeditions in the Caribbean and off western Africa.

He wrote scholarly books and more than 130 papers on the natural history and taxonomy (the scientific classification of plants and animals) of soft corals, among them octocorals such as sea fans and sea whips. He described more than 170 new species, 40 new genera, and three new families, according to a Smithsonian colleague, Stephen Cairns.

Emperor Hirohito of Japan, who also was a marine biologist, named one of his hydroids Hydractinia bayeri in Mr. Bayer's honor, Cairns said. On a state visit to Washington in 1975, Hirohito had received from Mr. Bayer a valuable snail shell the size of a hat.

Frederick Merkle Bayer was born in Asbury Park, N.J., and raised in southern Florida, where he became an amateur naturalist and a collector of seashells.

During World War II, he served in the Army Air Forces in the Pacific as a photographic technician. In his spare time, he collected and drew shells, fish, and butterflies.

A graduate of the University of Miami, he received a master's degree in taxonomy from George Washington University in 1954 and a doctorate in taxonomy from the same school in 1958.

After arriving at the National Museum of Natural History, he was sent to Bikini Atoll to survey the marine fauna two years after the nuclear testing at that island. He also spent many months doing field work in Micronesia.

As a bio-illustrator, he designed and painted 14 scientifically accurate underwater scenes used for a set of Haitian postage stamps in 1973, Cairns said.

From 1972 to 1995, Mr. Bayer was a member of the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature, the body that adjudicates disputes about zoological classification.

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