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Sherman A. Minton Jr.

By Jim Horton

Sherman Anthony Minton Jr. (24 February 1919 – 15 June 1999) was an American physician, herpetologist and toxicologist, who conducted the earliest detailed modern studies of amphibians and reptiles in Pakistan. He was a leading expert on sea snakes, snake bites, and venom properties. He has been dubbed, “The Father of Modern Indiana and Pakistani Herpetology.

Sherman grew up in New Albany Indiana and quickly developed an interest in herpetology. We went to Indiana University and earned a degree in zoology. He went on to Michigan to study herpetology and then, Indiana University School of Medicine. He accepted a position at the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at IU School of Medicine. There, he remained on staff until retiring in 1984. His father, Sherman Minton Sr. was a Senator and later, an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. The Sherman Minton Bridge linking Indiana to Kentucky is named in his honor.

Dr. Minton Jr. was a lifelong Indiana resident and world-renowned herpetologist. His work took him across the globe. Here in Indiana, we are familiar with his field guide, Amphibians and Reptiles of Indiana. This book to this day, is the most comprehensive reference to our native herps. The first book, three decades in the making, was published in 1972 and a revised second edition was released in 2001. Unfortunately, due to his passing, Sherman Minton wasn’t able to see this guide come to fruition.

The 1962 manual, Poisonous Snakes of the World, was issued by the Office of Naval Intelligence for use in training amphibious forces. It was later revised but Minton and published again in 1968. Handbook to Middle East Amphibians and Reptiles (1992) was coauthored by Alan E. Leviton, Steven C. Anderson, Kraig Adler, and Sherman Minton Jr. This book was written with an urgency due to the lack of a comprehensive guide to the herps of the region. It was to be used for troops and ancillary civilian groups serving in the area of military operations for herpetological identification during “Desert Storm” or the Gulf War.

He published more than 150 papers and books. Two popular books of note are Giant Reptiles (1973) and Venomous Reptiles (1969). Both were co-authored by his wife, Madge Rutherford Minton. Other books of note are Venom Diseases (1974), A Contribution to the Herpetology of West Pakistan (1966), and Life, Love, and Reptiles (an autobiography) 2001.

Dr. Minton was a member of the Board of Governors of the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists. He served as president of the International Society of Toxicology and of the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles. Sherman Joined the Naval Reserve in 1941. While on the ship, the USS Brooks, he survived being hit by a kamikaze Japanese Zero aircraft.

He and his life-long assistant, Madge, traveled the world. The two collected data on herps, worked with sea snakes in the South Pacific, treated people in Central America with tropical diseases. The two lived in Pakistan for four years with their three daughters.

In his later years, after retirement, he gave presentations at conferences and symposia around the United States. Locally, he frequented Hoosier Herpetological Society meetings and other HHS events. He was given a lifetime membership by the HHS board. We were thrilled to have this well respected, modest, herpetological giant in our midst.

Life, love, and reptiles. An autobiography of Sherman A. Minton, Jr., M.D.


Handbook to Middle East Amphibians and Reptiles (1992)

Life, Love, and Reptiles, An Autobiography (2001)


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