Stanley B. Mulaik was born September 30 1902, in Pittsburgh,
Pennsylvania. He was a son of immigrant parents from Lithuania. They
had come to America to escape the oppressive laws of the Russians
who then occupied their country. Stan's father would have been
drafted into the Russian army for a period of 25 years if he had
stayed there. Stan's mother had done something that was against the
law in her native country -- she had secretly learned to read in
Lithuanian. She greatly prized education, and evidently passed this
on to her son. Stan would walk several miles each day in order to
get to school. The family lived near Pittsburgh, in the little town
of McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania. They kept a cow and raised much of
their own food. Stan's father Jurgis (George) worked 12 hour shifts
for the railroad.
Stan attended McKees Rocks High School, where he was active in sports. He was interested in football, wrestling, and bicycle racing. He was on his high school football team (which won the Tri-State Championship that year). He was a professional bicycle racer for awhile, being good enough at it to win prize money in several races. He also worked at jobs in a railroad roundhouse, in a rivet mill, and as a bicycle mechanic.
In the fall of 1922, he heard of a job opening for a teacher in a small town east of Pittsburgh. He rode his bicycle to the interview with the school board. He was hired, and became the only teacher in a one-room rural school, teaching all grades. This was a "problem" school which had lost four previous teachers, each after only a few weeks on the job, but Stan was able to keep order by demonstrating that he was not a man to be intimidated. He practiced his one-handed pushups during recess (not many people are able to accomplish even one of these), and once he bent an iron bar as the tough older boys looked on. Soon the trouble makers stopped coming around.
Stan taught elementary school in other Pennsylvania towns during the next few years, until he had enough money saved up to go back to college. He enrolled in Slippery Rock Teacher's College, where he graduated in 1928 with a B.S. in Science Education. After graduation, he taught high school science for a couple of years at Ridgeway, Pennsylvania, a very well-equipped public school in a wealthy school district.
In 1930 he was admitted to the natural history program at Cornell University. There he earned his Master's Degree in Nature Study in 1931 under E. L. Palmer, who was at that time the leading exponent of the teaching of natural history, rather than "elementary school science". Palmer thought that the average student would benefit much more from gaining an awareness and understanding of his everyday natural and physical environment, rather than studying abstract sciences taught mostly out of text books, or with preserved specimens in laboratories. Palmer had developed a broad range of materials and techniques for teaching about living things and their relationships with each other and with the physical environment. Stan absorbed this, and became an ardent follower of the method.
After Stan finished his master's degree in 1931, he married Dorothea (Dodie) DeMuth, whom he had met the previous year at a camp for training scout leaders. He didn't yet have a permanent job, but he and Dodie both had summer jobs working at youth camps. Before the next school year began, they had heard about a teaching opportunity at a junior high school in Texas, where Dodie's sister lived. They drove to Texas to apply for the position. Until he was accepted and a regular income started to come in, Stan gave slide lectures around the area.
He was hired at Edinburg junior high school as Supervisor of Nature Study. He also taught classes in Nature education at the local Junior College. The family lived in Edinburg until 1939. In the summers, however, they loved to work in the youth camps. Stan worked as Director of Nature Study at several camps in both the eastern and the western states.
Another way Stan and Dodie earned extra cash was by collecting specimens for the American Museum of Natural History, being paid a few cents for each specimen. One of his most successful collecting techniques was to go out at night with a head lamp, and watch for reflections of the lamp light in the eyes of spiders, frogs, and other creatures. He could then sneak up and capture them. The notorious (but seldom seen) Brown Recluse Spider (Loxasceles reclusa) was first collected by Stan. Dodie and Stan each had several species of arthropods named for them.
Beginning in the fall of 1936, Stan carried on a correspondence about his collection of arthropods with Dr. Ralph V. Chamberlin, head of the Zoology Department at the University of Utah. This led to his being granted a fellowship to teach at the U. of U. and to do the taxonomic work on the collection. He had a very impressive collection of spiders, myriopods, scorpions and other arthropods (especially arachnids), some of which were new to science at that time. In September 1939, the Mulaik family moved to Salt Lake City and Stan began work on his doctor's degree. Utah became their home for the rest of Stan and Dodie's professional careers, and well into their active retirement years.
When Stan presented his doctoral dissertation to the faculty, it was found to be a very significant work. It described many new species and genera of isopods. It exploded the then current belief that isopods had been introduced into the New World by Europeans, for many of the species he discovered in Mexico were unknown in the Old World. His work provided taxonomic evidence in support of the Continental Drift Theory. This theory is accepted today, but was discounted at that time. After getting his doctoral degree, Stan was given an appointment as an assistant professor. He taught courses in nature study, conservation, and the teaching of biology, as well as museum techniques, and arthropod anatomy. In 1960, he was given tenure and promotion to associate professor.
Stan's courses on nature study and the teaching of biology became very popular among teachers returning for continuing education in the summers. In 1954, after a special summer Conservation Education workshop, he and many of his students from that workshop banded together and founded the Utah Nature Study Society. Stan was elected its first president. In time, this became one of the largest nature study societies in the United States.
Stan had also been active in the American Nature Study Society since the 1930's. He had been a member of their Board of Directors, an editor of their journal, and their President. He was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and was a Director of the nationwide Conservation Education Association from 1954 to 1957. He was also active nationally in the National Association of Biology Teachers. But his main interest became the Utah Nature Study Society. He felt that he was having an important impact on Utah by the effort he was spending with teachers, showing them how to use nature study in their classrooms. He was concerned with helping teachers show their pupils how interesting and valuable the world is, and how dependent we all are upon maintaining the balance of nature, particularly in Utah's fragile environment.
After retirement, in the 1970's, Stan and Dodie became involved with the National Wildlife Federation. They crossed and recrossed the United States several times each summer in order to attend the Conservation Summits held at various localities in the country. In 1981 Stan and Dodie received the coveted "Connie Award" from the National Wildlife Federation for their contributions to the Conservation Summits in leading people on Nature Creeps. They continued their visits to the summits for just a few more years. In the mid 1980's they gave up these arduous trips. But they still attended most of the monthly U.N.S.S. events, where they shared their knowledge and enthusiasm with their followers. In July 1992, they led their last nature creep for members of the U.N.S.S., around the grounds of the Natural History Museum at the University of Utah.
Stan died at the home of his son in Stone Mountain, Georgia, on March 17, 1995. Dodie survived him by a little over a year.
by Sandra Bray