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Leading American men of science, 




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LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 



llBiograpliies! of ILeafiing ^mertcansf 

Edited by W. P. Tkent 



LEADING AMERICAN 
MEN OF SCIENCE 



EDITED BY 

DAVID STARR JORDAN 

President of Stanford University 



WITH SEVENTEEN PORTRAITS 




NEW YORK 

HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY 
1910 



Copyright, 1910, 

BY 

HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY 



Published October, 1910 



T. MOREY t SON' 
ELECTROTYPERS 4" PRINTERS, GkEENPIELD, MASS. 



CONTENTS ' 

PAGE 

EDITOR'S PREFACE 3 

BENJAMIN THOMPSON, COUNT RUMFORD, Physicist [1753- 

1814] 9 

By Edwin E. Slosson 

ALEXANDER WILSON, Ornithologist [1766-1813] 51 

By Wither Stone 

JOHN JAMES AUDUBON, Ornithologist [1780-1851] 71 

By Wither Stone 

BENJAMIN SILLIMAN, Chemist [i 779-1864] 89 

By Daniel Coit Oilman 

JOSEPH HENRY, Physicist [1797-1878] 119 

By Simon Newcomb 

LOUIS AGASSIZ, Zoologist [1807-1873] U7 

By Charles Frederick Holder 

JEFFRIES WYMAN, Anatomist [1814-1874] 171 

By BuxT G. Wilder 

ASA GRAY, Botanist [1810-1888] 211 

By John M. Coulter 

JAMES DWIGHT DANA, Geologist [1813-1895] 233 

By William North Rjce 

SPENCER FULLERTON BAIRD, Geologist [1823-1887] ... 269 
By Charles Frederick Holder 

OTHNIEL CHARLES MARSH, Paleontologist [1831-1899] ... 283 
By George Bird Grinnell 

EDWARD DRINKER COPE, Paleontologist [1840-1897] ... 313 
By Marcus Benjamin 

JOSIAH WILLARD GIBBS, Physicist [1839-1903] 341 

By Edwin E. Slosson 



VI CONTENTS 

PAGE 

SIMON NEWCOMB, Astronomer [i83S-i9og] 363 

By Marcus Benjamin 

GEORGE BROWN GOODE, Zoologist [1851-1896] 391 

By David Staer Jordan 

HENRY AUGUSTUS ROWLAND, Physicist [1848-1901] . . . 40S 

By Ira Remsen 

WILLIAM KEITH BROOKS, Zoologist [1848-1908] 427 

By E. A. Andrews 



PORTRAITS 

FACING PAGE 

Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford, Frontispiece Title 

Alexander Wilson Si 

John James Audubon 71 

BenjaAiin Silliman 89 

Joseph Henry 119 

Louis Agassiz 147 

Jeffries Wyman 171 

Asa Gray 211 

James Dwight Dana 233 

Spencer Fullerton Bajrd 269 

Othniel Charles Marsh 283 

Edward Drinker Cope , 313 

JOSIAH WiLLARD GlBBS 341 

SmoN Newcomb 363 

George Brown Goode 39^ 

Henry Augustus Rowland 40S 

William Keith Brooks 427 



VII 



LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 



EDITOR'S PREFACE 

At the death of Simon Newcomb, it was stated in one of our 
journals that he had left "a record wholly blameless and wholly 
salutary, whose work added to the only permanent wealth of na- 
tions." In this view is found the key-note of the present volume. 
In the extension and coordination of human experience, in the 
widening of the boundaries of knowledge and in the attainment of 
greater exactness in the details, is found the only permanent 
wealth of nations. All this constitutes the subject-matter of science, 
and in science we find the basis for the development of the finest 
of fine arts, that of human conduct. As we understand better the 
imiverse around us, our relations to others and to ourselves, the 
behavior of our race becomes rationalized. It becomes possible 
for us to keep ourselves clean, and to make ourselves open-minded, 
friendly and God-fearing. In the achievements of science, there- 
fore, we may properly find the only permanent wealth of nations. 
It is the only wealth which is superior to fire and flood, the only 
wealth beyond the reach of entanglements of political intrigue, or 
the wanton ravages of war. 

To the men who have widened the boundaries of human knowl- 
edge, we owe a debt which we can repay only by a friendly r2mem- 
brance of the work these men have done. We owe them our 
gratitude for their successes, and their mistakes call on us only for 
our sympathy. No one knows their struggles or their achievements 
so well as those who have followed them over the same paths. 

In this fact the present volume finds its reason for being. Mr. 
Henry Holt, whom we may without offense call "our beloved 
publisher," first planned this book. It was his desire that it 
should contain short and sympathetic biographies of fifteen leaders 
in American science, each one written by a man in some degree 

3 



4 EDITOR'S PREFACE 

known as a disciple. The subjects of these sketches should all be 
chosen from the list of those no longer living. While no one can 
say which of all these is greatest, the fifteen should be chosen from 
among the great. Benjamin Franklin, whose name comes to the 
front at the first, was omitted, as his biography was already pro- 
vided for in another volume in the same series. Simon Newcomb 
and William Keith Brooks, men with undisputed place in the 
first rank, were added, as they passed from earth while the vol- 
ume was nearing completion. 

At the request of Mr. Holt, the present writer, as a labor of love, 
undertook the compilation of these records. He is responsible 
for the choice of subjects, and for the choice of authors, but the 
pressure of work forced him to stop at that point, and to place 
the editorial work in the more competent hands of Dr. Edwin E. 
Slosson, with whom all fiurther responsibility in this volume rests. 

But before laying down his pen, a few general considerations 
rise to his attention. 

This volume constitutes a part of the scientific record of the 
republic for a hundred years. It is the history of struggles in a 
new country, without great libraries, great museums or great uni- 
versities. It represents self-help and self-reliance to a greater de- 
gree than would be shown in a parallel volume in any other land. 
It shows the rise of observation and of knowledge derived from 
travel, before that arising from experiment, or that deduced by 
analytical reasoning. It shows the early charm of "the land where 
nature is rich, while tools and appliances are few, while of tradi- 
tions there are none." With this, no doubt, is associated the charm 
of loveableness, characteristic of so many of these men, who 
studied nature because they loved her. With all this, too, theirs 
were uneventful lives, as we measure life in the stress of modern 
industrial development. Leaving aside Benjamin Thompson, 
whose history was wholly unique, nothing startling happened to 
any one of them. None of them gained or lost great wealth. 
None of them was elected to the Senate; none of them led embat- 
tled hosts to victory, and none took part in any form of public 
melodrama which would make his name known in the theaters 



EDITOR'S PREFACE 5 

or on the streets. Agassiz, always picturesque and always in- 
tensely alive, could not be said to have had a commonplace ca- 
reer, for everything in life was to him a marvel. The wonderful 
was ever close to his open-eyed enthusiasm, and the fresh-laid egg 
of a snapping turtle recalled the whole succession in a world of 
eternal life. Another picturesque figure was Audubon, artist and 
gentleman, in his velvet hunting coat sketching the birds of the 
American wilderness. 

But the rest lived quietly and worked quietly and saw truth. 
Theirs were happy lives, for the most part very happy, and their 
record is the register of "the permanent wealth" of our nation. 

Another feature we may note in these men is their willingness 
for public service. The justification of science, is, after all, the 
help it can give men towards better ordered lives. It was the dream 
of Professor Baird that there should arise in Washington a great 
body or bureau of cooperative science, that in this democracy 
there should be maintained a body of wise men, keen-eyed men 
who should accomplish by working together what none of them 
could do separately, and the result of their combined efforts should 
be always at the service of the bureaus of administration. Thus 
from the Smithsonian Institution, Henry, Baird, Goode, Langley, 
arose the National Museum, the Fish Commission; and in similar 
fashion arose the Marine Hospital Service, the Bureau of Forestry, 
and the other bureaus of investigation in the Department of Agri- 
culture. But Baird was not alone in giving his great powers freely 
to the public service. Many other have recognized the fact that 
pure science and applied science are not different in nature or 
function, and often science is strengthened and dignified when it 
is tested by placing it in action. 

In going over the hves of these men, we notice that for the most 
part each one followed his natural bent in devoting himself to 
science. Love of his work, the pulsation of personal enthusiasm, 
is perhaps the greatest single asset a man of science can have. 
Nothing but love of the work could lead a man to take up a scien- 
tific career in the pioneer days of the republic, and these days have 
not yet passed. Men without enthusiasm can be trained to see, 



6 EDITOR'S PREFACE 

to record and to think, but the fine glow of the missionary spirit 
is not with these. 

And this fine glow enabled many of these men to become great 
teachers. To be a great teacher is in part a matter of tempera- 
ment, though that power may lie with a silent and reserved man, 
like Brooks, as well as with the eloquent and visibly sympathetic 
ways of Agassiz. Some few, though teachers, lacked the teach- 
ing spirit; Gibbs for example was a lonely thinker, unknown to 
students and colleagues, the author of books no one in his genera- 
tion was ready to read. 

The crowning privilege of the great teacher lies in the heredity 
of his inspiration, his power to found a school of greatness among 
younger men who have caught his enthusiasm and his methods. 
Such series are well recognized in American science. I once heard 
Agassiz say: "I lived for four years under Dr. Dollinger's roof, 
and my scientific training goes back to him and to him alone." 
The descendants of Agassiz are well traceable in American sci- 
ence. There is scarcely a worker in biology and geology of the 
older generation who was not in some degree at some time a pupil 
of Agassiz. It is now nearly forty years since Agassiz died, and 
the youngest of those of us who knew him are now coming also 
to the age of sixty, the age when a man is set in his ways and can 
learn nothing new. 

In his Autobiography, Darwin, who never spared himself, 
deplores the fact that with increasing knowledge (and a long period 
of nervous invalidism) his mind had suffered a partial atrophy, 
and his interest in literature, even the best, had largely failed him. 
From this unfortunate fact, frankly expressed, the lesson has been 
drawn wearisomely that one should shun too much devotion to 
science, under penalty of esthetic and spiritual barrenness. It 
IS clear from the frequent references in these biographies to artistic 
taste and skill, that Darwin's experience was individual, and doubt- 
less m some degree pathological. These men for the most part 
found science a source of mental freshening. They lost no human 
mterest which they had ever possessed. In witness of this fact 
we see another of our great men of science, ShaJer, a life-long boy' 



EDITOR'S PREFACE 7 

writing off-hand Elizabethan drama, of a degree of merit not 
surpassed by any who have written the like since the days of the 
great dramatists themselves. 

We find again in the well-ordered lives of most of these men of 
real greatness, no warrant for the notion that the "superman" will 
rise superior to the canons of common morality and common 
decency. They loved their wives, they cherished their families, 
they never figured in problem plays. The one or two exceptions 
which the acute historian may discover only serve to emphasize 
the rule that with sound brains go sound morals. 

To compare these men with a like number of like men in Eng- 
land, Germany or France, would be a problem too difficult to be 
treated here. We are accustomed to hearing our real greatness 
underrated, while the petty incidents of new world life have been 
subjects of much cheap boasting. In brief, I believe that these 
names deserve to stand with the highest in their generation, and 
that no nation could require a better record than theirs. Germany 
has more men of scientific eminence for her population. England 
has fewer. But the greatest of England are in no way less than 
the greatest of Germany. Social conditions and legal require- 
ments drive students of all grades and of all professions in Ger- 
many to the Universities. The fees of many doctors call strong 
men to the University, when such men in England or in America 
would be occupied in other ways. German professors supported 
by fees may teach or study as they like. Once chosen to a profes- 
sorship the rest depends on their choice. American professors 
paid directly for teaching, largely with public funds, and never 
by the fees of their students, must perforce teach. As our universi- 
ties are organized, half gymnasium, half university, the ideal of 
research can be present with but few of them; actual achievement 
in investigation with still fewer. Yet, taking the field at large, I 
cannot sympathize with those who find little to praise in American 
science. In the fields cultivated in the closet and the library, 
Germany is preeminent, for she has many closets and many libra- 
ries. In the fields which carry men into the open— topograph- 
ical geology; paleontology; geographical distribution; faunology; 



8 EDITOR'S PREFACE 

taxonomy, Germany has some of the greatest of names, but her 
great names are few beside those of the United States. If our 
besetting sin is lacli of intensity, as befits the breadth and length 
of our continent, that of Germany is myopia, as befits a man 
whose universe is limited to the field of his microscope. There 
are many reasons which call the German from business life to the 
University, and many reasons why science is the well-paid agent 
of manufacture. With us there are many reasons which call a 
man away from the classroom, and the intervals between classes 
still constitute our period for research. 

Yet for all these deficiencies we shall find our remedies, and 
these remedies in time will be potent. The roll of our scientific 
men to-day shows a worthy succession to the long line from Rum- 
ford to Brooks. With all defects in American education, there is 
no falling off in ability nor in enthusiasm, nor in facility for con- 
tact with things as they are. We may be therefore confident that 
the volume of this series, which shall cover the twentieth instead 
of the nineteenth century, will show great names, great achieve- 
ments and great personalities, worthy to rank with the best of 
these, our fathers in science, and such names, too, in ever increas- 
ing numbers, even as proportioned to our wealth and our popula- 
tion. 

David Starr Jordan. 



BENJAMIN THOMPSON, COUNT 
RUMFORD 

PHYSICIST 

1753-1814 

By Edwin E. Slosson 

The life of a scholar is apt to be a quiet one, externally devoid 
of dramatic incidents and sudden changes of fortune, but there is 
material enough to satisfy a writer of historical romances in the 
life of the poor New England boy who became, in England, cav- 
alry colonel, Under Secretary of State and Sir Benjamin Thomp- 
son; in Bavaria, Count Rumford of the Holy Roman Empire, 
Privy Councilor, Minister of War, Chief of Police and Chamber- 
Iain to the Elector Palatine; in Paris, husband of afemme savante 
of a French Salon; and who died alone and friendless in the city 
where he had been honored by Napoleon while living, and was 
eulogized by Cuvier when dead. The name of the New England 
town which persecuted him as a traitor he made knovm and hon- 
ored throughout the world; he left his fortune to the country he 
fought. England owes to him the Royal Institution, as we owe 
our similar Smithsonian Institution to an Englishman. In Mu- 
nich he had a monument erected in his honor while yet alive 
for his philanthropic work, and was lampooned by the press of 
London for doing the same work there. As an intellectual free 
lance he did service in as many different realms of science as he 
did military service in different countries. He laid the first foun- 
dation of the greatest generalization the human mind has yet con- 
ceived, the law of the conservation of energy, and he explained 
the construction of coffee-pots. He was in action and thought a 
paradoxical philosopher. 

9 



lO LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

Benjamin Thompson was born March 25, 1753, at Woburn, 
Mass., in the farmhouse of his grandfather Ebenezer Thompson. 
The house is still standing, preserved as a museum by the Rum- 
ford Historical Association. He was a descendant of James 
Thompson who came to New England with Governor Winthrop 
in 1630, and was one of the first settlers of Woburn. 

A few months after his birth his father died at the age of 26, 
thus leaving him to the care of his mother and grandfather. Just 
three years after the birth of Benjamin his mother married Josiah 
Pierce, Jr., of Woburn, who received from his guardian an allow- 
ance of two shillings and fivepence per week until the boy was seven 
years old. To the apparent misfortune of thus being deprived at 
an early age of both paternal care and patrimony he owed his 
European career. As he said in later years to his friend, Professor 
Pictet of Geneva: 

"If the death of my father had not, contrary to the order of na- 
ture, preceded that of my grandfather who gave all his property 
to my uncle, his second son, I should have lived and died an Amer- 
ican husbandman. It was a circumstance purely accidental, 
which, while I was an infant, decided my destiny in attracting 
my attention to the object of science. The father of one of my 
companions, a very respectable minister, and, besides, very en- 
lightened (by name Barnard), gave me his friendship, and of his 
own prompting, undertook to instruct me. He taught me algebra, 
geometry, astronomy and even the higher mathematics. Before 
the age of fourteen, I had made sufficient progress in this class of 
studies to be able, without his aid and even without his knowledge, 
to calculate and trace correctly the elements of a solar eclipse. 
We observed it together, and my computation was correct within 
four seconds. I shall never forget the intense pleasure which this 
success afforded me, nor the pfaises which it drew from him. I 
had been destined for trade, but after a short trial, my thirst for 
knowledge became inextinguishable, and I would not apply my- 
self to anything but my favorite objects of study." 

This accoi^nt of his early education confirms the legends of his 
birthplace that the young Benjamin Thompson was somewhat 
indifferent to the routine duties of the farm and the shop and in- 
clined to devote a larger proportion of his time to scientific experi. 



BENJAMIN THOMPSON, COUNT RUMFORD ii 

ments and diversions in mathematics than his guardians and 
employers thought proper in an apprentice. But in spite of the 
variety of his pursuits, he seems to have done his work well and 
to have made good use of what schooling he could get. His 
teacher at Woburn was John Fowle, a graduate of Harvard Col- 
lege in 1747. 

In the year 1766 he was apprenticed to John Appleton of 
Salem, an importer of British goods and retailer of general mer- 
chandise. It was here he was brought under the influence of the 
Rev. Thomas Barnard, minister of the First Church of Salem, and 
a man of unusual scholarship and ability. Thompson's accounts 
and letters at this time show him to be accurate, orderly and skil- 
ful in the use of the pen. He engraved a book-plate for himself 
with a very elaborate heraldic device combining, in the common 
symbolism of the day, an all-seeing eye, a ship, books, square and 
compass, sword and a couchant lion. His friend Baldwin writes 
of him: 

"He employed as much of his time, as he could by any means 
steal from the duties of his station, to amuse himself with study 
and little, ingenious, mechanical recreations, and would be more 
frequently found with a penknife, file and gimlet under the coun- 
ter, than with his pen and account books in the counting room." 

Benjamin Thompson was no exception to the old saying that 
no man ever became a great physicist who did not attempt to 
invent a machine for perpetual motion in his youth, for he walked 
one night from Salem to Woburn to show Baldwin a contrivance 
of wheels and levers which he thought would solve the problem 
of perpetual motion. 

While he was at Salem the news of the repeal of the Stamp Act 
was received, but young Thompson took less interest in its effect 
upon the importation business in which he was engaged than he 
did in the opportunity of making some chemical experiments 
with materials furnished at the expense of the public. But in 
grinding together the ingredients of the powder for his home- 
made rockets, the mixture exploded, severely burning his face 
and breast and temporarily destroying his sight. This accident 



12 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

did not discourage him, for throughout his life he retained an 
interest in explosives to which, both in England and Bavaria, he 
devoted much attention. His letters to his most intimate friend, 
Loammi Baldwin, afterwards colonel in the Revolutionary Army 
and engineer of the Middlesex Canal, indicate the extent and 
diversity of his scientific curiosity. 

WoBUEN, Aug. 14, 1769. 
"Mr. Loammi Baldwin, 

"Sir: Please to give me Direction of the Rays of Light from a 
Luminous Body to an Opake and the Reflection from the Opake 
Body to another equally Dense and Opake; viz. the Direction of 
the Rays of the Luminous Body to that of the Opake and the di- 
rection of rays by reflection to the other Opake Body. 

"Yours, etc., 

"BENjAMnsf Thompson. 

"N. B.— From the Sun to the Earth Reflected to the Moon at 
an angle of 40 degrees." 

In 1769 Thompson was apprenticed as clerk to Hopestill Capen, 
a dry goods dealer in Boston, but his employer having entered 
into the boycott of British goods, he had litde to do and in a few 
months returned to his house in Woburn where "he was received 
by his acquaintances with unwelcome pity, as an unfortunate 
young man, who could not fix his mind on any regular employ- 
ment, and would never be able to support himself, or afford any 
consolation to his friends." 

His stay in Boston, although short, was utilized in acquiring 
some of the accomplishments which afterwards proved of so much 
use to him in the courts of Europe. He took lessons in French 
every evening, except Sunday, practiced drawing and engraving, 
played on the violin, rehearsed plays and exercised with the back 
sword. At the Boston Massacre, March 5, 1770, he is said to have 
been in the midst of the crowd, sword in hand, eager for an attack 
upon the British troops which a few years later he was to lead 
against his own countrymen. 

Freed from imprisonment in the shop, Thompson, now seven- 
teen, spent the next two years in the study of medicine and natural 



BENJAMIN THOMPSON. COUNT RUMFORD 13 

phUosophy, and in teaching school ai Wilmington and Bradford. 
The program of daily duties that he drew up for himself is so 
characteristic of the methodical and industrious disposition of 
his whole life as to be worth quoting; 

"From eleven to six, Sleep. Get up at six o'clock and wash my 
hands and face. From six to eight, exercise one half and study 
one half. From eight till ten, Breakfast, attend Prayers, etc. 
From ten to twelve, Study all the time. From twelve to one. Dine, 
etc. From one to four, study constantly. From four to five. Re- 
lieve my mind by some diversion or Exercise. From five till Bed- 
time, follow what my inclination leads me to; whether it be to go 
abroad, or stay at home and read either Anatomy, Physic or 
Chemistry, or any other book I want to Peruse." 

He later obtained by the influence of some Boston friends the 
privilege of attending the lectures of Professor Winthrop on 
experimental philosophy at Harvard College, and every day he 
and his friend Baldwin walked eight miles from' Woburn to Cam- 
bridge, and on their return repeated the experiments in mechanics 
and electricity with apparatus of their own construction. That 
the two boys were not so completely absorbed in abstract science 
as to be oblivious to the attractions of the road is proved by their 
discovery on a hUlside farm in Medford of an apple-tree bearing 
fruit of superior quality, which was afterwards cultivated by 
Colonel Baldwin, introduced by Count Rumford into Europe and 
is still known as the "Baldwin apple." 

How much Count Rumford appreciated the help he got from 
Harvard College is shown by his bequeathing to that institution 
the reversion of his whole estate, to found a professorship "to 
teach the utility of the physical and mathematical sciences for the 
improvement of the useful arts, and for the extension of the in- 
dustry, prosperity, happiness and well being of Society." Dr. 
Jacob Bigelow was first elected to the Rumford Professorship in 
1816. His successors have been Daniel Treadwell, Eben Hors- 
ford, Walcott Gibbs, and John Trowbridge. 

The Rumford Fund for the support of this professorship now 
amounts to $56,368.73. 



14 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

Thompson's third attempt at school teaching resulted in a 
decided change of fortune, for he was called to a town which was 
to give him a name, a wife and a fortune, the town now known as 
Concord, New Hampshire, but which had been incorporated in 
1733 as Rumford, Essex County, Massachusetts. Here again we 
may, with advantage, quote his own words as reported by Pictet: 

"I was then launched at the right time upon a world whichwas 
almost strange to me, and I was obliged to form the habit of 
thinking and acting for myself and of depending on myself for a 
livelihood. My ideas were not yet fixed; one project succeeded 
another and perhaps I should have acquired a habit of indecision 
and inconstancy, perhaps I should have been poor and unhappy 
all my life, if a woman had not loved me — if she had not given me 
a subsistence; a home and an independent fortune. I married, 
or rather was married at the age of nineteen. I espoused the 
widow of a Col. Rolfe, daughter of the Rev. Mr. Walker, a highly 
respectable minister and one of the first settlers of Rumford." 

Sarah Walker had married at the age of thirty Colonel Benja- 
min Rolfe, twice her age, one of the richest and most important 
men of the country, who had died two years later, leaving her with 
one son, afterwards Colonel Paul Rolfe. Since she was some 
thirteen years older than Benjamin Thompson, and so far above 
the penniless school teacher in social position, it is probable that, 
as he intimates, she took the initiative in the affair and exercised 
the privilege of a princess towards a lover of low degree. She 
took him to Boston before their marriage in the chaise. of the late 
husband (noted in Concord history as the first carriage brought 
into the place) and gave him an opportunity of indulging for the 
first time his fondness for fine clothes, for his outfit included a 
scarlet coat. They drove back through the villlage of Woburn, 
and stopping at his mother's door, she came out and exclaimed: 
"Why, Ben, my child, how could you go and spend your whole 
winter's wages in this way?" 

Their wedding tour was taken in the fall of 1772 to Portsmouth 
near which was a grand military review of the Second Provincial 
Regiment of New Hampshire. Thompson's fine appearance on 
horseback as one of the spectators attracted the attention of 



BENJAMIN THOMPSON, COUNT RUMFORD 15 

Governor Wentworth. His wife introduced him to the governor, 
and he made such a favorable impression by his readiness in 
conversation and wide information that he was soon after ap- 
pointed a major in the regiment. Nothing could have been more 
suited to Thompson's ambitions, but it brought misfortune upon 
him in two ways; it offended the other officers that a youth of 
nineteen, without military experience, should have been thus 
placed over them, and the marked favor shown him by the gover- 
nor caused him to be suspected by the patriots as a tool of the 
Royalists. It was in fact this spite and suspicion that drove him 
from America. 

Young Thompson entered into his new role of landed proprietor 
with his usual zeal and energy, introducing new seeds imported 
from London, and taking an active part in the politics and develop- 
ment of the colony. He broached a scheme for the survey of the 
White Mountains to Governor Wentworth who not only approved 
it, but offered to accompany the expedition in person. But it 
was never carried out, for already more serious affairs were on 
foot. Thompson's growing popularity with the governor, and his 
own undeniably aristocratic tendencies combined to render him 
a suspect by the ardent patriots of the vicinity. In the summer 
of 1774 he was summoned before the patriotic committee to an- 
swer to the charge of "being unfriendly to the cause of liberty," 
the chief complaint being that he was in correspondence with 
General Gage in Boston and had returned to him four deserters. 
He made a satisfactory explanation of his conduct and sentiments 
and was discharged, but the suspicions were not removed from 
the minds of his enemies, and since formal and semi-legal pro- 
ceedings had failed, they resorted to violence. One November 
night a mob surrounded the Rolfe mansion and demanded Major 
Thompson, but he, receiving an intimation of the attack and know- 
ing the impossibility of proving his innocence to an impassioned 
mob, had borrowed a horse and $20 from his brother-in-law and 
escaped to Woburn. He wrote to the Rev. Walker, his father-in- 
law, that he "never did, nor, let my treatment be what it will, 
ever will do any action that may have the most distant tendency to 



l6 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

injure the true interests of this my native country." It is quite 
conceivable, however, that his definition of "true interests" may 
have differed even at this time, from that of the ardent bands of 
Tory-hunters then scouring the country. 

On May i6, 1775, he was again arrested "upon suspicion of 
being inimical to the liberties of this country" and was kept in 
prison for two weeks, when he was formally acquitted by the 
"Committee of Correspondence for the Town of Woburn" with 
the verdict that they "do not find that the said Thompson in any 
one instance has shown a Disposition unfriendly to American 
Liberty, but that his general behavior has evinced the direct 
contrary." 

He tried to get an appointment m the Continental Army and 
secured an interview with Washington, but the New Hampshire 
ofiBcers over whom he had been promoted exerted too powerful 
an influence against him. Nevertheless, during his stay at Wo- 
burn he made himself as useful as he was allowed to in the organi- 
zation of the army. In company with Major Baldwin he inspected 
the fortifications on Bunker Hill and he spent some time drilling 
the troops and designing uniforms. 

But finding it impossible to secure a position in the American 
army, and equally impossible, at least for one of his adventurous 
disposition, to remain neutral and idle in such stirring times, he 
decided to seek in the British army the military career he coveted 
and, nearly a year after he had been driven from his home in 
Concord, he left Woburn for Boston. Here he was received with 
a welcome from the British very strongly in contrast to the cold- 
ness of his countrymen, and, in spite of his youth and inexperi- 
ence, he soon rose into the confidence of the authorities. Upon 
the evacuation of Boston he was sent to England to convey the 
news, and so severed his connection with his native land. He 
never saw his wife again; the daughter whom he left as an infant 
twice visited him in Europe when a grown woman. 

His early biographers put themselves to much trouble to ex- 
plain and apologize for his action in thus siding with the enemies 
of his country, but now, when the descendants of the Loyalists 



BENJAMIN THOMPSON, COUNT RUMFORD 17 

show no less pride in their ancestry than the Sons of the Revolu- 
tion, we can see the situation in fairer perspective, and, although 
we may disapprove of his decision and regret the loss to America 
of another Franklin, we must realize that it was fortunate both 
for Thompson and the world that his peculiar genius found in 
Europe a field for its development that America could not have af- 
forded. 

On leaving America he wrote to his father-in-law, the Rev, 
Walker of Concord: 

"Though I foresee and realize the distress, poverty and wretch- 
edness that must unavoidably attend my Pilgrimage in unknown 
lands, destitute of fortune, friends, and acquaintances, yet all 
these evils appear to me more tolerable than the treatment which 
I met with from the hands of mine ungrateful countrymen." 

If this really represents Benjamin Thompson's anticipations 
on going to England, it cannot be said that he displayed his usual 
foresight, for he rapidly rose to a position of wealth, power and 
esteem there. The government was suffering severely from lack 
of information on conditions in America. Sir George Germain, 
the Colonial Secretary of State, in their first interview recognized 
the knowledge and ability of this young man of twenty-three, and 
gave him a place in the Colonial Office, admitting him as a mem- 
ber of his own household. 

Science was never to Thompson a mental divertisement, but 
was always intimately associated with his daily duties. Since he 
was now engaged in improving the military efficiency of the army, 
he devoted his attention to the study of the action of gunpowder, 
"to determine the most advantageous situation for the vent in 
fire-arms, and to measure the velocities of bullets and the recoil 
under various circumstances. I had hopes, also, of being able to 
find out the velocity of the inflammation of gunpowder, and to 
measure its force more accurately than had hitherto been done." 

He persistently attacked by every means in his power the prob- 
lems of explosives which Nobel, Abel, Berthelot, and Kellner have 
in recent years more successfully studied, chiefly along the lines 
indicated by him and, in part, using his apparatus. He laid the 



1 8 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

foundation of the science of interior ballistics by an attempt to 
measure the explosive force of the gases produced by the explo- 
sion of gunpowder, inventing a machine which has ever since 
been known as "the Rumford Apparatus." This consisted of a 
small steel mortar mounted vertically upon a bed of solid masonry. 
The i inch bore was closed by a steel hemisphere upon which 
weights were placed and these increased until they were no longer 
lifted by the force of the gunpowder exploded. To avoid loss of 
energy by the escape of gases through the vent, the powder was 
ignited by applying a red-hot iron ball to the lower end. He 
gradually increased the charge of powder, until an 8,000 pound 
cannon had to be used as a weight to counterbalance the force of 
the explosion, and then the barrel of the apparatus burst into 
halves. His numerical results were too high, but it was almost a 
century before better figures were obtained. 

Rumford's earlier experiments in England were mostly directed 
to the problems of external ballistics, especially to the determina- 
tion of the velocity of the projectile under different charges and 
kinds of powders and methods of firing. For this purpose he first 
made use of the ballistic pendulum invented by Robins. The 
bullet was fired into a wooden target backed with iron and sus- 
pended so as to swing back freely when struck. By measuring 
the chord of the arc of its swing and knowing its weight and that 
of the bullet, the velocity of the bullet could be calculated. 

Rumford improved upon this by measuring the momentum of 
the gun as well as the equal momentum of the bullet by suspend- 
ing the gun itself as a pendulum by two cords. This not only 
gave another series of figures as a check to the former, but it was 
more accurate, because the movement of a large mass at low 
velocity can be more easily measured than of a small mass at high 
velocity. 

In his later experiments in Munich he discarded the pendulum 
target and measured the velocity of the ball solely by the recoil 
of the gun, experimenting with brass cannon as large as twelve- 
pounders, in a building which he had erected for the purpose. 
He was never content with laboratory experiments, and to con- 



BENJAMIN THOMPSON, COUNT RUMFORD 19 

tinue his investigations on gunpowder, he volunteered to go on a 
cruise of the British fleet under Sir Charles Hardy, in 1779. As 
no enemy was encountered, he persuaded his friends among the 
captains "to make a number of experiments, and particularly by 
firing a greater number of bullets at once from their heavy guns 
than had ever been done before, and observing the distances at 
which they fell in the sea . . . which gave me much new light 
relative to the action of fired gunpowder." 

On this cruise also he devised a simpler and more systematic 
code of marine signals than that in use. Another result of this 
three months' cruise was the plan of a swift copper-sheathed frigate. 

When, on account of overwork, his health failed and he went to 
Bath to recuperate, he made a series of experiments on cohesion. 
These experiments introduced him to Sir Joseph Banks, President 
of the Royal Society, with whom he was afterwards associated in 
founding the Royal Institution, and in 1779 he was elected a 
Fellow of the Royal Society. 

Thompson rose rapidly in the Colonial Oflace, where he became 
Secretary for Georgia, inspector of all the clothing sent to America, 
and Under Secretary of State. About the time of the fall of his 
patron. Lord Germain, on account of the surrender of Cornwallis, 
he returned to a military career, and was made Lieutenant-Colonel 
of the King's American Dragoons, a regiment of cavalry which he 
was to recruit on Long Island. His ship, however, was driven by 
storms to Charleston, South Carolina, where he reorganized the 
remains of the royal army under Colonel Leslie, and conducted 
a successful cavalry raid against Marion's Brigade. 

In the spring he arrived at Long Island, and by August i, 1782, 
he got the King's American Dragoons in shape to be inspected in 
their camp about three miles east of Flushing by Prince William 
Henry, Duke of Clarence, the third son of the King, and after- 
wards King William the Fourth. The royal cause was, however, 
hopeless, and the troops under Colonel Thompson did nothing 
during the year but exasperate the patriots among whom they, 
were quartered. The inhabitants of Long Island preserved for 
more than one generation the memory of their depredations, 



20 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

especially the destruction of a church and burying-ground in the 
construction of a fort near Huntington, where the tombstones were 
used for ovens and stamped the bread with their inscriptions. 

Upon his return to England after the disbandment of the 
British forces, Thompson was made Colonel on half-pay for life, 
but there was no chance to make use of his military talents in 
the British service. Accordingly he determined to seek his fortune 
elsewhere and September 17, 1783, embarked at Dover for the 
continent. Upon the same boat happened to be Henry Laurens, 
a former President of the American Congress, recently released 
from the Tower, and the historian Gibbon who in his letters com- 
plains that the three spirited horses of "Mr. Secretary, Colonel, 
Admiral, Philosopher Thompson," added to the distress of the 
Channel passage. 

He intended to go to Vienna to volunteer in the Austrian army 
against the Turks, but a curious chance- diverted him to Bavaria 
where he spent much of his life and rose to the highest attain- 
able position. Here again, as in New Hampshire, he owed the 
beginning of his good fortune to his handsome appearance on 
horseback at a military parade. At Strasburg, Prince Maximilian 
of Deux-Ponts, afterwards Elector and King of Bavaria, but 
then major-general in the French service, while reviewing the 
troops noticed among the spectators an officer in a foreign uni- 
form, mounted on a fine English horse, and spoke to him. When 
Thompson told him that he came from serving in the American 
war, the Prince replied that some of the French officers in his 
suite must have fought against him, pointing to the French of- 
ficers who had been in the American Army at Yorktown. Be- 
coming interested in his conversation, the Prince invited Colonel 
Thompson to dine with him and to meet his late foes. At the table 
maps were produced and they discussed the campaign until late, 
and the talk was resumed on the following day. The Prince was 
so taken with him that he gave him a cordial letter to his uncle, 
the Elector Palatine, Reigning Duke of Bavaria. He spent five 
days in Munich with the Elector who offered him such induce- 
ments to establish himself in Bavaria that, after visiting Vienna 



BENJAMIN THOMPSON, COUNT RUMFORD 21 

and finding that there was to be no war against the Turks, he 
returned to England to get the permission necessary for a British 
officer to enter a foreign service. George the Third not only 
granted this, but also conferred upon him the honor of knighthood 
on February 23, 1784. 

Karl Theodor, Elector Palatine, had, by succeeding to Bavaria, 
become the greatest prince in Germany, except the Emperor 
and the King of Prussia. Sir Benjamin Thompson entered his 
service as general aide-de-camp and colonel of a calvary regi- 
ment. He was assigned a palace in Munich with a mOitary staff 
and servants. 

For eleven years he served the Elector in a great variety of 
capacities, military and civil, and carried on scientific work in 
lines suggested by his occupations. Honors, titles and decorations 
to which he was not indifferent, he received in abundance from 
rulers and academies of science. The laws of Bavaria did not 
permit a foreigner to receive one of the orders of that country, but, 
at the request of the Elector, the King of Poland in 1786 conferred 
upon him the Order of St. Stanislaus. Two years later he was 
made major-general and Privy Councilor and Minister of War 
of Bavaria. In 1791 the Elector made him a Count of the Holy 
Roman Empire with the Order of the White Eagle. He chose as 
his new name, Rumford, from the New Hampshire town which he 
had entered as a poor schoolmaster and left as a political refugee. 

The city of Munich was not ungrateful for what Count Rum- 
ford did there. While he was in England the people erected a 
monument in his honor in the park still known as "the English 
Garden," which he had reclaimed from a waste hunting-ground 
and made into a public pleasure resort. The inscription reads: 

"To Him who rooted out the most scandalous of public evils, 
Idleness and Mendicity; who gave to the poor help, occupation 
and morals, and to the youth of the Fatherland so many schools 
of culture. Go, Passer-by, try to emulate him in thought and 
deed, and us in gratitude." 

A bronze statue of Count Rumford was erected in Munich by 
King Maximilian II and a replica of it costing $7,500 has been 



22 LEADING AMERICAN M.t.N w suin-XN^^j:. 

placed in his birthplace, Woburn, Mass, bearing an inscription 
by President Eliot of Harvard. 

Rumford found the Bavarian army most deficient in the two 
arms in which he was especially interested, cavalry and artillery, 
and he set himself to remedy the former by establishing a veteri- 
nary school and introducing improved breeds of horses; and to 
develope the artillery service he buUt a foundry at Munich where 
guns were constructed according to his designs, based upon care- 
ful experimentation. He adopted the method of casting both brass 
and iron cannon solid and boring them afterwards, and it was while 
superintending this operation that he made the observations 
which led to his greatest discoveries, that heat is not a material 
substance but a mode of motion, and that there is a definite 
quantitative relation between mechanical work and heat. The 
"Inquiry Concerning the Source of the Heat which is Generated 
by Friction" is one of the shortest of his scientific papers, but it 
would be hard to match it in all scientific literature for originality 
of conception, importance of matter, completeness of experimen- 
tal demonstration and clearness of expression. TyndaU quotes 
it in his Heat as a Mode of Motion with the remark: "Rumford 
in this memoir annihilates the material theory of heat. Nothing 
more powerful on the subject has since been written." 

The dominant theory of the time was that heat was a fluid sub- 
stance, which was called caloric, held in the pores of bodies and 
squeezed out like water from a sponge, when they were hammered 
or rubbed. Rumford was led to question this by observing the 
large amount of heat continuously generated by friction in the 
boring of his cannon. If, he reasoned, heat is a substance that 
has been squeezed out of the metal, then the powder produced by 
the boring must have less heat in it than the original solid metal, 
and therefore would require more heat to raise it to a given tem- 
perature. Accordingly, he tested the specific heat of a piece of 
the gun-metal and an equal weight of the borings with his calo- 
rimeter, and found that equal amounts of heat raised them to the 
same temperature. This experiment was not absolutely conclu- 
sive, for it still could be argued that, although their thermal ca- 



BENJAMIN THOMPSON, COUNT RUMFORD 23 

pacity was the same at the same temperature, they might have 
possessed different quantities of heat. 

Rumford's next step was to determine how much heat was pro- 
duced by a certain amount of friction. If he had been content 
with mere qualitative results, the world would have had to wait 
longer for the law of the conservation of energy, but he had the 
passion of the true scientist to express everything possible in defi- 
nite figures, even if it was nothing more than the cost of pea-soup 
or the loss of heat from a tea-kettle. 

The apparatus he used for the determination of this most 
important constant of nature, the relation of heat to work, was a 
brass six-pounder mounted for boring. Into the short cylinder 
of metal left on the end of the cannon in the process of casting a 
hole 3.7 inches in diameter was bored to a depth of 7.2 inches. 
Against the bottom of the hole a blunt iron borer was held by a 
pressure of 10,000 pounds and the gun was turned on its axis by 
horse-power. A thermometer, wrapped in flannel, thrust into the 
hole rose to 130 °F. after 960 revolutions. The weight of the dust 
produced by the borer was found to be only 833 grains Troy, yet 
according to the caloric theory this small amount of metal must 
have had enough heat squeezed out of it to raise the 113 pounds 
of gun-metal 70 °F. ! 

Next he fitted a box containing i8| pounds of water around 
the cylinder, and in two hours and a half the water boiled. 

"It would be difficult to describe the surprise and astonishment 
expressed in the countenances of the bystanders, on seeing so 
large a quantity of cold water heated, and actually made to boil 
without any fire. Though there was, in fact, nothing that could 
justly be considered as surprising in this event, yet I acknowledge 
fairly that it afforded me a degree of childish pleasure, which, 
were I ambitious of the reputation of a grave philosopher, 1 ought 
most certainly rather to hide than to discover." 

He then determined by experiment how much heat was given 
off in burning wax candles, and calculated that it would require 
4.8 ounces of wax to heat the water and the metal to the same 
extent. 



24 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

"From the result of these computations it appears, that the 
quantity of heat produced equably, or in a continual stream (if I 
may use that expression) by the friction" in this experiment was 
greater than that produced by the continuous burning of nine 
wax candles each f inches in diameter. 

Finally Rumford takes the great step of connecting the heat 
and mechanical work, by calculating the power used in turning 
the borer and producing the heat by friction. The relation be- 
tween these two forces of energy, or the dynamical equivalent of 
heat, he determined as 847 foot-pounds, that is, the work done by 
raising one pound weight 847 feet will, if converted into heat, 
raise the temperature of one pound of water one degree Fahren- 
heit. Considering when it was done, and the crudity of the appara- 
tus, this is an astonishingly accurate result, for it is only about 
10% above the figure now accepted, 779. Forty-two years elapsed 
before it was more accurately determined by Joule as 772 foot- 
pounds. It is now called the joule, although it might well bear 
the name of the rumford instead. 

As an example of the way Count Rumford sums up his evidence 
and draws from his experiments a clear and logical conclusion, 
the closing paragraphs of this historic paper are here given. It 
will be noted that his language is so simple and direct that the 
most unscientific reader can follow his demonstration of the new 
theory. 

"By meditating on the results of all these experiments we are 
naturally brought to that great question which has so often been 
the subject of speculation among philosophers ; namely, — What is 
Heat? Is there any such thing as an igneous fluid? Is there 
anything that can with propriety be called caloric ? 

"We have seen that a very considerable quantity of Heat may 
be excited by the friction of two metallic surfaces, and given off in 
a constant stream or flux in all directions without interruption or 
intermission, and without any signs of diminution or exhaustion. 

"From whence came the Heat which was continually given ofE 
in this manner in the foregoing experiments? Was it furnished 
by the small particles of metal detached from the larger solid 
masses on their being rubbed together? This, as we have already 
seen, could not possibly have been the case. 



BENJAMIN THOMPSON, COUNT RUMFORD 25 

"Was it furnished by the air? This could not have been the 
case; for, in three of the experiments, the machinery being kept 
immersed in water, the access of the air of the atmosphere was 
completely prevented. 

"Was it furnished by the water which surrounded the ma- 
chinery? That this could not have been the case is evident: first, 
because this water was continually receiving Heat from the ma- 
chinery and could not at the same time be giving to and receiving 
Heat from the same body; and, secondly, because there was no 
chemical decomposition of any part of this water. Had any such 
decomposition taken place (which, indeed, could not reasonably 
have been expected), one of its component elastic fluids (most 
probably inflammable air) [hydrogen] must at tbe same time have 
been set at liberty, and, in making its escape into the atmosphere, 
would have been detected; but, though I frequently examined the 
water to see if any air-bubbles rose up through it, and had even 
made preparations to examine them, if any should appear, I 
could perceive none; nor was there any sign of decomposition of 
any kind whatever, or other chemical process, going on in the 
water. 

"Is it possible that the Heat could have been supplied by means 
of the iron bar to the end of which the blunt steel borer was fixed ? 
or by the small neck of gun-metal by which the hollow cylinder was 
united to the cannon? These suppositions appear more improb- 
able even than either of those before mentioned; for Heat was 
continually going oS, or out of the machinery by both these pas- 
sages, during the whole time the experiment lasted. 

"And, in reasoning on this subject, we must not forget to con- 
sider that most remarkable circumstance, that the source of the 
Heat generated by friction, in these experiments, appeared evi- 
dently to be inexhaustible. 

"It is hardly necessary to add, that anything which any insu- 
lated body, or system of bodies, can continue to furnish without 
limitation, cannot possibly be a material substance; and it appears 
to me to be extremely difficult, if not quite impossible, to form 
any distinct idea of anything capable of being excited and com- 
municated in the manner the Heat was excited and communi- 
cated in these experiments, except it be motion." 

One more surprising instance of scientific insight this brief 
paper contains. He not only connects heat, light, chemical action 
and mechanical movement together as capable of being converted 
into one another, but boldly extends the generalization to animal 



26 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

life. Since the horse turned the cannon, the strength of a horse 
can be made to produce heat without lire, light, combustion or 
chemical decomposition, and this heat, he characteristically sug- 
gests, " could be used to cook victual if desired." But this method 
of producing heat would be disadvantageous, "for more Heat 
might be obtained by using the fodder necessary for the support 
of a horse as fuel." The complete demonstration of this sugges- 
tion that an animal can be considered simply as one form of heat 
engine was only given within the last few years by Professor 
Atwater, by his experiments with a calorimeter large enough for 
a man to live in. 

Count Rumford possessed in a high degree the combination 
which, unfortunately for the world, is somewhat rare, of executive 
ability and love of science. Whatever practical work he was 
engaged in, he at once sought to determine its philosophic princi- 
ples, and, these discovered, to apply them to the task at hand. 
His mind turned with marvelous rapidity from the formulation 
of a natural law to its application to daily life, and vice versa. 
Almost all his published papers show this peculiarity. They 
usually begin by telling of some trivial incident or accident which 
directed his attention to the want of information on the subject, 
then he describes his experiments, quantitative as far as possible, 
and gives the theory to which they led him, closing the paper 
with a long and varied hst of speculative deductions and possible 
applications. We may take up any of his essays on heat with the 
expectation of finding in it somewhere a reference to the needs of 
the poor, a proof of the beneficence of the Creator and directions 
for cooking soup, and we shall not be disappointed. His scientific 
papers make, therefore, very lively reading, even for unscientific 
readers, on account of their wealth of topics and allusions, their 
clear style and their portrayal of the personal characteristics of 
an interesting man. He would be a very dull person and extremely 
limited in his tastes who could turn over the pages of the four 
volumes of his work, published by the American Academy of 
Arts and Science, without soon finding something that would at- 
tract his attention and give him helpful ideas. 



BENJAMIN THOMPSON, COUNT RUMFORD 27 

Because the occupations and experiences of Count Rumford's 
life were remarkably varied, and his mind was incessantly engaged 
in philosophic thought concerning them, his name is found among 
the founders of an astonishingly large number of branches of 
pure applied science. No one can write the history of the develop- 
ment of our knowledge of heat, light, radiation, convection, cohe- 
sion, ballistics, cooking, fireplaces, buildings, clothing, traction, 
bathing, hospitals, barracks, glaciers, meteorology, conservation of 
energy, gravitation, theory of colors, or lamps, without mention- 
ing Count Rumford. 

The popularity which Count Rumford's essays obtained was 
in part due to their literary style. They are clear, logical and 
direct, although in places too rhetorical for modern taste. He is 
careful to give the exact figures and observations on which he 
bases his conclusions, so his results can be checked and recalcu- 
lated by using the more accurate figures that have been obtained 
since. 

A good experiment accurately described never loses its value 
by lapse of time. Count Rumford's own opinion as to the im- 
portance of literary style in scientific work is given in these words: 

"Too much pains cannot be taken by those who write books 
to render their ideas clear, and their language concise and easy 
to be understood. Hours spent by an author in saving minutes 
and even seconds to his readers, is time well employed." 

Count Rumford could have found no situation better suited to 
his talents and tastes than this in Bavaria. Here he could play 
his favorite role of benevolent despot to his heart's content. The 
army was corrupt and inefl5cient; the country was poor, wasted 
by war and neglect, the cities swarmed with beggars; schools were 
lacking; there were more convents than factories, and industry 
was not in high repute. It is remarkable that so bigoted a ruler 
as the Elector Karl Theodor should have placed such confidence 
and power in the hands of an avowed Protestant and a scien- 
tist, and that so conservative a community should have allowed a 
foreigner to carry out radical reforms requiring the cooperation 



28 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

and good-will of large numbers of people, but Rumford had in a 
marked degree the happy faculty of winning the confidence of 
both superiors and subordinates. Reformers with both zeal and 
tact, such as he possessed, are not common in any field of endeavor. 

Rumford's first work with the army was to rid it of "graft." 
The officers sold outfits to the recruits on credit, and ran them 
each year deeper in debt, for the allowance for food and clothing 
was insufficient, while the resulting bickering and bargaining 
between officer and soldier were destructive of discipline. 

Rumford's first criticism was that the officer had too much to 
do with his men. An officer should not be at once commandant, 
trustee and merchant in his company. Next, that "it is not only 
unwise but also in a certain sense cruel to put honest men in a 
position in which their passions can be excited by opportunity 
and example." He saw, too, that the soldiers kept in idleness in 
barracks degenerated, and when they were quartered in farmers' 
houses they were such a terror to the country that the people paid 
them to stay away. The soldier despised the citizen, and the 
citizen hated the soldier. 

To obviate this, Rumford determined to make the soldier a 
citizen and to put him in a condition where he would contribute 
to the wealth and welfare of the country instead of being a drain 
upon it. 

To do this. Count Rumford increased the pay and privileges 
of the soldiers, improved the quarters, and cut out from their 
drill all obsolete and dispensable portions. Schools were estab- 
lished in all the regiments for instructing the soldiers and their 
children in reading, writing and arithmetic, and all books and 
materials were furnished gratis. With his characteristic economy, 
he provided that the paper used in the schools should be after- 
wards made into cartridges, so it cost nothing. The soldiers were 
employed in such public works as draining marshes, building 
dykes and making roads; the military bands, that he introduced, 
playing for them while they worked. Military gardens were pro- 
vided, and each soldier on enlistment was given a plot of ground, 
to remain in his possession as long as he cultivated it and kept it 



BENJAMIN THOMPSON, COUNT RUMFORD 29 

free from weeds; seeds and garden utensils being furnished free. 
Rumford justifies this on the ground that skill in the use of the 
shovel for intrenching can be obtained by digging in the garden. 
They were permitted to sell the products, and received pay for all 
their work. Rumford's military gardens anticipated our Agri- 
cultural Experiment Stations, for by means of them he introduced 
new varieties of crops throughout the country. When a soldier 
went home on a furlough, he took with him a collection of garden 
seeds and a few potatoes, and in this way Rumford did for Bavaria 
what Parmentier did for France. 

Idleness and waste were the two great evils against which Count 
Rumford fought all his life. A beggar and a lazy soldier were his 
especial detestations. Having put the soldiers at productive work, 
Rumford next attacked the problem of poverty, led not so much, 
perhaps, from sentimental love of his fellow-men as by his innate 
hatred of waste, whether of time or property. A very large pro- 
portion of the population of Bavaria at that time was given to 
begging. Even along the highways in the country almost every 
person one met on foot held out his hand for alms, and in the 
cities professional beggars invaded the churches and houses, and 
besieged the people in the street, exposing loathsome sores, and 
exciting sympathy by means of maimed and ill-used children. 
Each beggar had his particular beat or district, and vacancies 
were eagerly sought for and fought for. Out of a population of 
60,000 in Munich, Rumford found 2,600 beggars and indigent 
persons. This mendicancy and the lying, stealing, vice and abuse 
of children resulting from it Rumford laid to the injudicious dis- 
pensation of alms, due to a false ideal of charity. Instead of 
punishment or moral suasion he recommended the improvement 
of conditions, first, by providing food and employment for every- 
man, woman and child. Only when this is done can the penalties 
against vagrancy be enforced. 

Accordingly, he began by establishing a House of Industry in 
Munich, and, then, by the aid of soldiers "rounded up" all the 
beggars in the city, and brought them to the large and handsome • 
building provided for them. Here they were given such work as 



30 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

they could do, for which they received a warm dinner and pay- 
ment. Everything possible was done for their comfort and con- 
venience. The workrooms were well ventilated and lighted, and 
pains were taken to give the edifice an air of elegance as well as of 
neatness and cleanliness. In the passage leading to the paved 
court was an inscription in letters of gold upon a black ground 
"No alms will be received here." Count Rumford gives his theory 
of philanthropy in the following words: 

"When precepts fail, habits may sometimes be successful. To 
make vicious and abandoned people happy, it has generally been 
supposed, first, to make them virtuous. But why not reverse this 
order! Why not make them first happy, and then virtuous! If 
happiness and virtue be inseparable, the end will be as certainly 
obtained by the one method as by the other; and it is most un- 
doubtedly much easier to contribute to the happiness and com- 
fort of persons in a state of poverty and misery than by admoni- 
tions and punishment to reform their morals." 

The House of Industry was chiefly devoted to the manufacture 
of clothing for the array and for sale; from the cording and spin- 
ning of flax, hemp, cotton and wool to the finished garment; and 
work of a sort suited to his capacity was found for every one, from 
the aged and infirm to the youngest. 

Especial attention was given to training the children in habits 
of industry. Even with them Rumford carried out his plan of 
avoiding the use of force. Every child was given his dinner and 
his three kreutzers a day, whether he worked or not, but the chil- 
dren who refused to work were compelled to sit on a bench and 
watch their companions working, until they cried for something 
to do. Then they were given light spinning-wheels, and promoted 
and publicly rewarded as they became more skilful. Twice a day 
they attended school in the same building. 

The financial success of the House of Industry was largely due 
to the system of keeping accounts devised by Rumford, very 
much like those now in use in modern manufactories. "Lead us 
not into temptation" was a verse of Scripture the inspiration of 
which he never doubted, and he was strongly of the opinion that 



BENJAMIN THOMPSON, COUNT RUMFORD 31 

the best way to keep men honest was to give them no chance to be 
dishonest. Every piece of yarn transferred from one room to 
another, every loaf of stale bread collected from the bakers had 
to be duly recorded on printed blanks. In his recommendations 
for all charitable work he emphatically insists upon strict book- 
keeping and publicity of accounts. All cases of relief were to be 
listed alphabetically. 

In his plans for systematic, impersonal, non-patronizing and 
business-like assistance to self-support. Count Rumford antici- 
pated the organized charities of a hundred years later, but in the 
tact with which he secured the cooperation of the whole com- 
munity, including the authorities of army, church and state, 
prominent citizens of the middle classes, and the poor themselves, 
he has had, unfortunately, few imitators. In five years he practi- 
cally aboUshed beggary in Bavaria, and converted many of the 
former mendicants into industrious and self-respecting people. 
He took less pride in his decorations and titles than in telling that 
when he was dangerously sick in Munich, he was awakened by 
hearing the confused noise of the prayers of a multitude of people 
who were passing in the street, and was told that it was the poor 
of Mimich who were going to the church to put up public prayers 
for him, "a private person, a stranger, a Protestant." 

Rumford was able to carry out his plan of providing free dinners 
to all who needed them by turning his inventive genius to the 
subject of cooking, and making the first scientific study of cheap 
and nutritious diet and the economical management of heat. His 
specialty was a rich soup made of peas and barley, into which he 
afterwards introduced potatoes, surreptitiously, because of the 
popular prejudice against them. The secret of its preparation 
lay in cooking for over four hours at a low temperature, and by 
his skilful contrivances in the kitchen three women did the cook- 
ing for a thousand persons. A pound and a half of soup, with 
seven ounces of rye bread cost only one cent. He shows what a 
great loss of heat occurs in cooking by the ordinary methods, which 
unfortunately are still in use. In particular he objected to rapid 
boiling which, as he says, cannot raise the temperature above the 



32 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

boiling-point, but uses more than five times as much heat as is 
necessary to heat the same quantity of water from the freezing- 
point, and at the same time destroys the taste by carrying off the 
volatile flavors. His cooking was done in closed vessels, covered 
with wood or some other non-conducting material, to prevent the 
radiation of heat, in fact constructed on the same principle as the 
calorimeter he employed for scientific research. All these lessons 
Mr. Edward Atkinson and others have been vainly trying to teach 
us in recent years. The ' ' fireless cooker " now coming into use is a 
belated application of Rumford's idea. 

To obviate the great waste of heat in roasting on a spit before 
an open fire, he invented the sheet iron oven known as the "Rum- 
ford roaster." A dripping-pan filled with water prevented the 
decomposition of the fat by the high temperature, and the flues 
were arranged so that a blast of hot air could be passed over the 
meat to brown it when it was cooked. 

In 1795, after eleven years in Munich, Rumford returned to 
England for the purpose of publishing his essays on heat and its 
utilization, and on public institutions for the poor. He was then 
at the height of his renown as scientist and philanthropist, and 
was everywhere received with great honor. In England and Ire- 
land he assisted in the establishment of soup-kitchens and work- 
houses, and introduced into public institutions his system of heat- 
ing and cooking by steam. Models of his fireplaces, stoves and 
cooking utensils were placed on exhibition for workmen to copy, 
for he always refused to take out patents on his inventions. He 
writes that at this time he "had not less than five hundred smok- 
ing chimneys on my hands" in public and private buildings, 
many of them chronic and thought incurable. The great waste 
of heat in the old-fashioned fireplace shocked his economical 
nature, and he studied the scientific principles involved, in order 
to check the excessive consumption of fuel, increase the radiation 
in the room, and prevent loss of fuel in the smoke. He proved 
the best possible proportions for the chimney recess of the open 
fireplace to be that the width of the back should equal the depth 
from front to back and that the width of the front should be 



BENJAMIN THOMPSON, COUNT RUMFORD ^3 

three times the width of the back, a rule which is followed to this 
day. By making the angle of the sides of the fireplace 45°, the 
greatest possible amount of heat was reflected into the room. He 
recommended the use of fire-clay instead of metal and of clay fire- 
balls to insure complete combustion and increase the radiating 
surface. Refuse coal-dust was made into briquettes. His chief 
improvement consisted in the reduction of the size of the chimney 
throat and in rounding off the edge of the chimney breast. Since 
a room is warmed from the walls, and not by radiant heat passing 
through the air, this work involved a study of the radiating power 
of different surfaces and materials, and proceeding from the fact 
smoke is pushed up, not drawn up the chimney, he was led to 
make extensive investigations in the theory of ventilation. 

As it was hopeless to make the open fireplace an economical 
heater, he turned his attention to the construction of cooking 
ranges and to the utilization of waste heat of smoke and steam. 
In the Bavarian House of Industry he passed the smoke from the 
cooking ranges through copper pipes in a wooden cask, and used 
it for cooking his pea-soup. From his experience he calculated 
that the private kitchen expends ten times as much fuel as the 
public kitchen. 

The progress of the century since then has been along the lines 
indicated by Rumford. The range has been instituted for the 
fireplace, closed and jacketed vessels are employed for cooking, 
steam-pipes are used for heating buildings, and the utilization of 
waste heat has become a factor of recognized importance in fac- 
tory management. The first range built in this country in con- 
formity with Rumford's principle was constructed under the di- 
rection of Professor John Kemp of Columbia College in 1798. 

The question of suitable covering for steam-pipes used for 
heating rooms required for its solution a knowledge of radiation 
from different surfaces, and in this field Rumford did some ex- 
cellent original work. In these experiments he used two cylindri- 
cal vessels of thin sheet brass filled with warm water and covered 
with whatever coating or covering he wished to test. To deter- 
mine which radiated heat the faster, he constructed a "thermo- 



34 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

scope" or differential thermometer, consisting of a closed glass 
tube with the bulbs at each end turned up. In the middle was a 
drop of colored alcohol which moved in one direction or the other 
when the bulbs were unequally heated. When he held a cylinder 
filled with warm water and blackened on the bottom over one 
bulb, and a cylinder with water at the same temperature and 
bright on the bottom over the other, the drop of alcohol moved 
instantly away from the blackened surface, showing that it emitted 
heat more rapidly at the same temperature. By moving the cyl- 
inder back and forth until the drop remained at rest, their relative 
distances gave data for calculating their relative radiating power. 
All metals, he found, gave off heat at the same rate, and he asks: 
"Does not this afford a strong presumption that heat is in all 
cases excited and communicated by means of radiations, or 
undulations, as I should rather choose to call them?" 

His theory of heat is so clearly expressed and anticipates in 
so many respects our modern ideas, that it is worth quoting as an 
example of the use of the scientific imagination. 

"No reasonable objection against this hypothesis (of the in- 
cessant motions of the constituent particles of all bodies) founded 
on a supposition that there is not room sufficient for these motions, 
can be advanced; for we have abundant reason to conclude that 
if there be in fact any indivisible solid particles of matter (which, 
however, is very problematical) these particles must be so ex- 
tremely small, compared to the spaces they occupy, that there 
must be ample room for all kinds of motion among them. 

"And whatever the nature or directions of these internal mo- 
tions may be, among the constituent particles of a solid body, as 
long as these constituent particles, in their motions, do not break 
loose from the systems to which they belong (and to which they 
are attached by gravitation) and run wild in the vast void by 
which each system is bounded (which, as long as the known laws 
of nature exist, is no doubt impossible) the form or external ap- 
pearance of a solid cannot be sensibly changed by them. 

"But if the motions of the constituent particles of any solid 
body be either increased or diminished, in consequence of the 
actions or radiations of other distant bodies, this event could not 
happen without producing some visible change in the solid body. 

"If the motions of its constituent particles were diminished by 



BENJAMIN THOMPSON, COUNT RUMFORD 35 

these radiations, it seems reasonable to conclude that their elon- 
gations would become less, and consequently that the volume of 
the body would be contracted; but if the motions of these particles 
were increased, we might conclude, a priori, that the volume of 
the body would be expanded. 

"We have not sufl&cient data to enable us to form distinct ideas 
of the nature of the change which takes place when a solid body is 
melted; but as fusion is occasioned by heat, that is to say, by an 
augmentation (from without) of that action which occasions ex- 
pansion, if expansion be occasioned by an increase of the motions 
of the constituent particles of the body, it is, no doubt, a certain 
additional increase of those motions which causes the form of the 
body to be changed, and from a solid to become a fluid substance. 

"As long as the constituent particles of a solid body which are 
at the surface of that body do not, in their motions, pass by each 
other, the body must necessarily retain its form or shape, however 
rapid those motions or vibrations may be; but as soon as the mo- 
tion of these particles is so augmented that they can no longer be 
restrained or retained within these limits, the regular distribution 
of the particles which they required in crystallization is gradually 
destroyed, and the particles so detached from the solid mass form 
new and independent systems, and become a liquid substance. 

"Whatever may be the figures of the orbits which the particles 
of a liquid describe, the mean distances of those particles from 
each other remain nearly the same as when they constituted a 
solid, as appears by the small change of specific gravity which 
takes place when a solid is melted and becomes a liquid; and on 
a supposition that their motions are regulated by the same laws 
which regulate the solar system, it is evident that the additional 
motion they must necessarily acquire, in order to their taking the 
fluid form, cannot be lost, but must continue to reside in the liquid, 
and must again make its appearance when the Hquid changes its 
form and becomes a solid. 

"It is well known that a certain quantity of heat is required to 
melt a solid, which quantity disappears or remains latent in the 
liquid produced in that process, and that the same quantity of 
heat reappears when this liquid is congealed and becomes a solid 
body." 

From this disquisition on molecular physics he at once draws 
the practical conclusion that a saucepan ought to be smoked on 
the bottom and bright on the sides in order to absorb and retain 
the greatest amount of heat. Stoves ought not be polished, but 



36 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

are better rusted. Steam-pipes used for heating rooms should be 
painted or covered with paper. 

He then considers the question of why negroes are black and 
arctic animals white, and goes so far in these speculations as to 
lose sight of his own experiments which proved that color made 
no practical difference in the radiation and absorption of heat. 

"All I will venture to say on the subject is, that were I called 
to inhabit a very hot country, nothing should prevent me from 
making the experiment of blackening my skin, or at least wearing 
a black shirt in the shade and especially at night, in order to find 
out, if by those means, I could not continue to make myself more 
comfortable." 

Nothing in fact did prevent him, not the criticisms of his friends, 
the remonstrances of his wife or the jeers of the street gamins, 
from wearing a complete suit of white clothes from hat to shoes, 
on Paris streets as a demonstration of their superiority over black 
clothing. 

Rumford says he considers his researches on clothing "by far 
the most fortunate and the most important I ever made," because 
they contribute to health and comfort of life. With this practical 
object in view, he devoted many years to experiments on the propa- 
gations of heat through solids, liquids and gases, and attained 
very clear ideas of the three ways in which heat travels, by direct 
radiation, by conduction from particle to particle, and by convec- 
tion or currents of heated particles. These experiments were 
made by thermometers with the bulb sealed into the center of a 
large glass bulb. The space between the outer bulb and the ther- 
mometer of two of these instruments being filled with the sub- 
stances to be compared, they were taken from boiling water and 
plunged into ice-cold water or vice versa, and the rate of change 
of the thermometer noted. In this way he determined that moist 
air is a better conductor of heat than dry. Thus he explains 
"why the thermometer is not always a just measure of the ap- 
parent or sensible heat of the atmosphere," and why colds prevail 
during autumnal rains and spring thaws, and why it is so danger- 
ous to sleep in damp beds and live in damp houses, and he takes 



BENJAMIN THOMPSON, COUNT RUMFORD 37 

occasion, as usual, to pay a few compliments to Divine Providence 
for so arranging it that cold air shall contain less moisture than 
warm. 

He exhausted the air from the space surrounding the ther- 
mometer in one of these double-walled apparatus by fastening 
the bulb on the upper end of a barometer tube, and discovered 
that through such a Torricellian vacuum heat passes with greater 
difficulty than through the air. It was by means of this double- 
walled vacuum apparatus, silvered on the internal surfaces as 
recommended by Rumford, to prevent the radiation of heat, that 
Professor Dewar a hundred years later was enabled to experiment 
with liquified air and hydrogen in the Royal Institution which 
Rumford founded. Bottles, jacketed with a vacuum as Rumford 
suggested, are now in use to provide automobilists with hot and 
cold drinks. 

In the same way he tested the relative conductivity for heat of 
a layer of fur, wool, sUk, cotton, linen and many other substances, 
and found that heat does not pass from particle to particle of the 
air (conduction), but by currents (convection), and that such 
fibrous bodies as cloth and fur are poor conductors of heat, be- 
cause the air in their interstices is prevented from circulating. 
Recent researches on adsorption have proved that he was right 
in the importance he attached to the "cast" or layer of air which 
is held so firmly to the smrface of the fibers that it is very difficult 
to remove. He applies the principle he had discovered in the 
explanation of why bears and wolves have thicker fur on their 
backs than on their bellies, and how the snow protects the ground. 

By exposing dry cloths, fur and down on china plates in a damp 
cellar and then reweighing them, he determined the quality of 
moisture they absorbed from the atmosphere, and, finding that 
wool absorbed most, he determined to wear flannel next to the 
skin in aU seasons and climates; a deduction of doubtful validity. 

The important researches he conducted on convection owed 
their origin to the fact that he was brought up in "the Great Pie 
Belt." Like other New England boys he was much struck with 
the length of time it took for an apple-pie to get cool enough to eat. 



38 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

"and I never burnt my mouth with them, or saw others meet with 
the same misfortune, without endeavoring, but in vain, to find 
out some way of accounting in a satisfactory manner for this 
surprising phenomenon." 

Having in later life burnt his mouth, this time on a spoonful of 
thick rice soup with which he was feeding himself while watching 
an experiment, he determined to settle the question. Accordingly 
he made some apple-sauce, and filling with it the Jacket of his 
double-walled thermometer, he found that it required twice as 
many seconds to cool as when the jacket was filled with water. 
Next he evaporated the apple-sauce, dried the fiber and found 
that apple-sauce was 98 per cent water. So small an amount of 
solid matter could not interfere with the transmission of heat 
through the water, except by hindering the circulation of the water. 
He deduces from this that the reason why animals and plants do 
not more easily freeze during the winter is because sap and animal 
fluids are thick and viscid, and also are prevented from circulating 
freely by the cell walls. By heating a glass cylinder (test-tube) 
containing a powder suspended in water, he was able to see the 
warm currents ascending on one side and the cold currents de- 
scending on the other, and to demonstrate that heat is not con- 
ducted in liquids equally in all directions as it is in solids, but by 
rising currents due to the expansion of the liquid by heat. He 
found to his surprise that he was able to boil water in the upper 
part of the tube while holding the lower part in his hand, and that 
a cake of ice fastened at the bottom of the tube filled with, boiling 
water required hours to melt, while one at the top melted in a few 
minutes. From these and many similar experiments he was led 
to the conclusions that air, water and all fluids are non-conductors 
of heat, and that heat cannot be propagated downwards in liq- 
uids as long as they continue to be condensed by cold. 

He shows that life on this globe would be impossible if it were 
not for the fact that water by cooling from about 40° F. to 32° F. 
expands instead of contracts, for if ice were heavier than water it 
would sink to the bottom, and all lakes would be frozen solid and 
not melted during the summer. 



BENJAMIN THOMPSON, COUNT RUMFORD 39 

"It does not appear to me that there is anything which human 
sagacity can fathom within the wide-extended bounds of the vis- 
ible creation which affords a more striking or more palpable proof 
of the wisdom of the Creator, and of the special care he has taken 
in the general arrangement of the universe to preserve life, than 
this wonderful contrivance," 

that water forms the only exception to the universal law that all 
bodies are condensed by cold. 

"If, among barbarous nations, the fear of a -God and the prac- 
tice of religious duties tend to soften savage dispositions and to 
prepare the mind for all those sweet enjoyments which result from 
peace, order, industry, and friendly intercourse, a belief in the ex- 
istence of a Supreme Intelligence, who rules and governs the uni- 
verse with wisdom and goodness, is not less essential to the hap- 
piness of those who, by cultivating their mental powers, have 
learned to know how little can be known." 

This sentence, from its style and mode of thought, its uncon- 
scious arrogance and ostentatious modesty, is so characteristic of 
its age that it could be dated with considerable certainty, even if 
found on a loose leaf. The more thorough study of the nature of 
the last hundred years has shown that the conception of the 
"Great Architect of the Universe" given in the natural theology 
of that day must be either abandoned as inadequate or enlarged 
to a more comprehensive ideal of creative wisdom. Rumford is, 
of course, wrong in thinking that water is the only exception to 
the general rule that heat expands and cold contracts. Bismuth, 
cast-iron, type-metal and most alloys expand on solidifying, and 
this also is of benefit to mankind, for without this property it 
would be impossible to make good castings. 

During the year Rumford spent in England he gave $5,000 to 
the Royal Society of London, and a like sum to the American 
Academy of Arts and Sciences, the interest to be given every two 
years as a premium to the person who made the most important 
discovery or useful improvement on heat or light, "as shall tend 
most to promote the good of mankind." The Rumford Medal of 
the Royal Society has been regularly awarded every two years to 



40 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

the most distinguished scientists of Europe and America, beginning 
in 1802 with Rumford himself. The American Academy, on the 
contrary, found the plan "absolutely impracticable" and, for 
forty-three years during which very great progress was made in 
the knowledge of light and heat, and especially in such practical 
applications as improved stoves and lamps which Rumford espe- 
cially favored, no award was made. The fund by 1829 had grown 
so large that the courts were called upon to allow the money to 
be expended for the promotion of science in other ways, such as 
lectures, books and apparatus. Count Rumford seems to have 
changed his mind as to the value of this method of promoting the 
advancement of science, for when he founded the Royal Institu- 
tion a few years later he expressly prohibited all premiums and 
rewards. The Rumford Fund of the American Academy now 
amounts to $58,722, and gives an annual income of more than 
half the original gift, which is expended for the furtherance of 
researches in heat and light. 

Before leaving England in 1797 Count Rumford was joined by 
his daughter whom he had left an infant in America twenty-two 
years before. His wife had died five years before at the age of 
fifty-two. Many of the letters of his daughter are printed in 
Ellis's Life of Count Rumford, and give an interesting picture of 
society at the Bavarian court as seen by the New England girl, 
as well as a self-revelation of the transformation of Sally Thomp- 
son into Sarah, Countess of Rumford. She expected to find her 
father dark in complexion, for her childish impressions had been 
formed from the only portrait her mother had of him, a silhouette 
profile. Her mother had told her that he had "carroty" hair, 
whereas she found it "a very pretty color." He had bright blue 
eyes and a sweet smile. Dr. Young of the Royal Institution says, 
"in person he was above middle size, of a dignified and pleasing 
expression of countenance and a mildness in his manner and tone 
of voice." In disposition, however, he was authoritative and 
dictatorial. Always a brilliant conversationalist, he was inclined 
in his later years to monopolize the table talk, and he made him- 
self unpopular by promptly correcting, from his wide experience 



BENJAMIN THOMPSON, COUNT RUMFORD 41 

and remarkable memory, any misstatements of detail made by a 
member of the company. He spoke English, French, German, 
Spanish and Italian fluently, and published scientific papers in 
the three first-named languages. He was punctilious in etiquette, 
nice in dress and fond of titles and decorations. Throughout his 
life he was unduly popular with the ladies. 

. In early life he practiced music and he sketched his own inven- 
tions, but had no taste for painting, sculpture or poetry. He took 
pleasure in landscape gardening, but knew nothing of botany. 
His favorite games were billiards and chess, but he rarely played 
the latter because his feet became like ice. He was very abste- 
mious in eating, partly from theory, partly on account of his poor 
health. He never drank anything but water. 

In spite of a tendency toward display and a liking for elegance 
in housing and habit, he was very careful in his expenditures and 
strict in his accounts. He allowed no object to remain out of place 
after he had used it, and he was never late to an appointment. 
Cuvier in his exilogy says he worshiped "order as a sort of subor- 
dinate deity, regulator of this lower world." "He permitted him- 
self nothing superfluous, not a step, not a word; and he intrepreted 
the word 'superfluous' in its strictest sense." 

Count Rumford on his return to Munich with his daughter 
after a year in England found himself placed in a position of great 
responsibility and difliculty. By the defection of Prussia the 
burden of resistance to the victorious armies of the French repub- 
lic had been thrown upon the Austrians who were unable to 
make a stand against the advance of Moreau. A week after his 
arrival the Elector fled from Munich and took refuge in Saxony, 
leaving Count Rimiford at the head of the Council of Regency. 
After their defeat at Friedberg, the Austrians under Latour 
retreated to Munich, closely followed by the French, and de- 
manded admittance to the city. This Rumford refused to grant, 
and when General Moreau arrived with the French army, he also 
kept them out of the city by the promise of supplies and the 
withdrawal of the Bavarian contingent. Since Count Rumford 
was now m command of the Bavarian troops crowded into the 



42 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

city and camped in the public places, he improved the opportu- 
nity to introduce regimental cooking stoves made of sheet copper 
and fire-brick, similar to those now used in military campaigns. 

When Moreau retreated the Elector returned, and Rumford 
was rewarded for his services in this emergency by being placed 
at the head of the Department of General Police, and soon after 
by being appointed Minister Plenipotentiary from Bavaria to 
Great Britain. He thus left Munich for London, but the British 
Government held that it was altogether impossible to receive as 
the representative of a foreign Power, even of so close an ally as 
Bavaria, one who was a British subject, a former member of the 
State Department and still on the pay-roll of the British army. 

He was unwilling to return to Bavaria where his patron, the 
Elector Palatine, Karl Theodor, on account of his age (75) and 
weakness of character was no longer able to protect him against 
the intrigues and envy of the Bavarian officers, and where the 
unsettled state of the country was not favorable to scientific 
pursuits. He decided therefore to remain in England in an un- 
official capacity, and purchased a villa in Brompton Row, Knights- 
bridge, near London, which he fitted up in accordance with his 
own ideas of ventilation and heating. Double walls and windows 
prevented the escape of heat, and the space between the glass 
partitions was filled with plants; the decorations were harmoni- 
ously arranged according to Newton's theory of complementary 
colors; folding beds economized space, and the cooking was done 
in the dining-room, without annoyance from odor or heat. 

At this time Count Rumford contemplated a visit to America, 
and even proposed to purchase an estate near Cambridge and settle 
down in his native country. In spite of his active service in the 
British army, he had retained the friendship and esteem of Colonel 
Baldwin and other prominent men in the United States. He had 
been elected honorary member of the American Academy of 
Arts and Sciences and of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 
and his Essays, published in this country, had made him well 
known. He now transmitted to the President of the United 
States through Rufus King, American Minister to England, his 



BENJAMIN THOMPSON, COUNT RUMFORD 43 

plans for an American Military Academy like the one he had 
founded in Bavaria, and a model of a field-piece of his own inven- 
tion. This resulted in an offer from the War Department, author- 
ized by President John Adams, of appointment as Superintendent 
of the American Military Academy about to be established, and 
also as Inspector-General of the Artillery of the United States, 
with suitable rank and emoluments. 

But at the time this offer was received Rumford was too much 
engrossed with a new project in England to accept it. For two 
years, except when he was sick, he worked night and day with all 
his energy to found "a public institution for diffusing the knowl- 
edge and facilitating the general introduction of useful mechanical 
inventions and improvements, and for teaching, by courses of 
philosophical lectures and experiments, the application of science 
to the common purposes of life." 

The Royal Institution remains the chief monument to the mem- 
ory of Rumford, for thanks to his excellent plan and organiza- 
tion, and to the men of unusual ability who have occupied posi- 
tions in it, there have emanated from it many of the most impor- 
tant discoveries in science of the past century, and it has done 
more for the advancement of knowledge than the old and richly 
endowed universities of Oxford and Cambridge. 

Count Rumford succeeded in interesting all classes, from court- 
iers to mechanics, in his project. He secured a very large number 
of "proprietors" at fifty guineas or more, and annual subscribers 
at three guineas, including many nobles, prelates, members of 
Parliament, ladies and scientific men, and in 1800 the Institution 
received the royal approval. 

A suitable building was constructed, containing a lecture 
theater, a museum of models and inventions, a chemical laboratory, 
a library and a conversation room, an experimental kitchen, a 
printing plant for publishing the Journal, and workshops for 
making apparatus. Board and lodging were to be provided for 
some twenty young men to study mechanics, and apprentices 
were to be admitted free to the gallery of the lecture room. 
Rumford, always on his guard against "graft," made elaborate 



44 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

rules against any rewards or prizes for inventions made in the 
Institution, and against any exercise of favoritism by the authori- 
ties. 

In some respects the Royal Institution departed from Rumford's 
intentions as soon as he relinquished his somewhat despotic con- 
trol. He obviously had in mind a sort of technological school and 
laboratory for inventing useful appliances, and testing them for 
the benefit of the public according to the idea thus expressed in his 
Prospectus: 

"It is an undoubtable truth that the successive improvements 
in the condition of man, from a state of ignorance and barbarism 
to that of the highest cultivation and refinement, are usually ef- 
fected by the aid of machinery in procuring the necessaries, the 
comforts and the elegancies of life; and that the preeminence of 
any people in civilization is, and ought ever to be, estimated by 
the state of industry and mechanical improvement among them." 

When Rumford left England the instruction in mechanics was 
quietly dropped, because it was thought that teaching science to 
the lower classes had a dangerous political tendency. The stone 
staircase leading to the mechanics' gallery was torn down, the 
culinary contrivances and the models were put away, and the 
workmen discharged. For a time the Royal Institution seemed 
likely to degenerate into a mere fashionable lecture course for 
"a number of silly women and dilettante philosophers." 

The Royal Institution owes its survival and success to the fact 
that it has always contained one or two determined investigators, 
and that they were given a free hand. Rumford rightly prided 
himself on his choice of Humphry Davy, then twenty-three years 
old, as assistant lecturer in chemistry, at a salary of $500 a year, 
room, coals and candles and a folding bed from the model room 
being provided for his accommodation. Five years later in the 
laboratory of the Royal Institution, Davy decomposed the fixed 
alkalies by the electric current, and obtained from them the new 
metals, sodium and potassium. Faraday, then twenty-one, at- 
tended four lectures of Sir Humphry Davy, wrote out his notes, 
illustrated them by sketches of the apparatus, and sent them in to 



BENJAMIN THOMPSON, COUNT RUMFORD 45 

the lecturer, in this way securing a position in the Royal Institu- 
tion, where he discovered that a current of electricity could be 
generated by passing a wire in front of a magnet, which is the 
essential principle of all our dynamos and motors. The Royal 
Institution also gave to Dalton, Tyndall and Dewar the opportu- 
nity to carry on their researches. Dr. Thomas Young, the dis- 
coverer of the wave theory of Hght, was chosen by Rumford for 
the lecturer on physics. If, then, the Royal Institution has failed 
to carry out some of Rumford's plans for applied science, the 
discoveries which have been made in the field in which he was 
equally interested have resulted in greater benefits to mankind 
than even his imagination could conceive. Were he living now, 
he would not find reason to deplore, as he often did, the conserva- 
tism of manufacturers and the delay in the application of scientific 
discoveries to practical purposes, although he might still argue, 
as he used to do, that the promotion of invention by commerical 
and selfish motives is wasteful and unsystematic. 

Although Count Rumford's genius eminendy fitted him for plan- 
ning and promoting the establishment of such institutions, his 
temperament was not such as to enable him to work well as one 
of a number of managers who all regarded themselves entitled to 
as much consideration and authority as himself. His dictatorial 
manner and fondness for having his own way caused some friction 
in the conduct of affairs. His health was poor, and his sensitive 
nature was excessively irritated by the savage attacks of the 
reviewers and satirists of the time upon his scientific and philan- 
thropic work. The Royal Institution was ridiculed as an attempt 
to make science fashionable, and his efforts in behalf of the poor 
were attacked on two different grounds, by the radicals as an 
attempt to squeeze down the poor to a lower standard of life by 
feeding them on such stuff as Indian corn and potatoes; and, on 
the other hand, by aristocrats, because it was dangerous to society 
to instil into the minds of the lower classes ideas above their sta- 
tion. It was thought to be a degradation of science to apply it to 
such ignoble purposes as stoves and pots. Peter Pindar, for ex- 
ample, writes: 



46 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

"Knight of the dish-clout, whereso'er I walk, 
I hear thee, Rumford, all the kitchen talk: 
Note of melodious cadence on my ear, 
Loud echoes, 'Rumford' here and 'Rumford' there. 
Lo! every parlor, drawingroom, I see, 
Boasts of thy stoves, and talks of naught but thee." 

After two years in his quiet villa in Brompton Row his visits 
to the continent became longer and more frequent, as he looked 
about for a new field of activity. Besides his offer from America, 
he had an invitation from the Czar of Russia to enter his service, 
and the new Elector of Bavaria, afterwards made king by Napo- 
leon, showed him some favor and increased his pension. But 
Paris drew him the strongest, chiefly by two attractions. Napoleon 
and Madame Lavoisier. At a meeting of the French Institute in 
1801 he sat near the First Consul, while Volta read his paper on 
his galvanic pile, which was discussed by Napoleon with great 
clearness and force. When Rumford was presented to him, 
Napoleon said he knew him by reputation, and that the French 
nation had adopted some of his inventions. Immediately after 
this interview he received an invitation to dine with Napoleon, as 
the only stranger present. Rumford was later elected a member of 
the French Institute, on the same date as Jefferson, President of 
the United States, and he contributed to it many important papers. 

He had become intimately acquainted with Madame Lavoisier 
while traveling in Switzerland, and, since she was handsome, 
rich, clever in conversation and interested in science, he had rea- 
son to suppose that she would make a desirable wife. She was 
the daughter of Mr. Paulze, a contractor of the finances under the 
old regime. At fourteen she had been married to the chemist- 
Lavoisier, then twice her age, and she assisted him in the labora- 
tory, in translating and in drawing the illustrations for his great 
Traite de Chiniie. When the Revolution broke out Lavoisier was 
arrested at the instigation of Marat, whose essay on fire he had 
contemptuously criticized. When brought before the revolutionary 
tribunal in 1793 Lavoisier begged for a few more days of life, in 
order to see the outcome of a chemical experiment on which he 



BENJAMIN THOMPSON, COUNT RUMFORD 47 

was engaged, but Coffinhal, vice-president of the tribunal, de- 
clared that " the Republic has no use for savants," and so he was 
guillotined. 

Count Rumford was married to Madame Lavoisier in 1805, 
and set up a handsome establishment in the center of Paris. But 
neither party found the other agreeable to live with, as they were 
both too independent and differed decidedly in their tastes. 
Madame Rumford was fond of lavish entertainments and elabo- 
rate dinners, while the Count ate little and drank less, and de- 
tested idle conversation. Probably De Candolle's analysis of 
their temperaments will say aU that it is necessary about their 
marital unhappiness. 

" Rumford was cold, calm, obstinate, egotistic, prodigiously oc- 
cupied with the material element of life and the very smallest in- 
ventions of detail. He wanted his chimneys, lamps, coffee-pots, 
windows, made after a certain pattern, and he contradicted his 
wife a thousand times a day about the household management. 
Madame Rumford was a woman of resolute wilful character. 
Her spirit was high, her soul strong and her character masculine." 

And one scene from their married life narrated in the Count's 
own words in a letter to his daughter Sarah will be sufficient to 
explain why they separated: 

"A large party had been invited I neither liked nor approved of, 
and invited for the sole purpose of vexing me. Our house being 
in the center of the garden, walled around, with iron gates, I put 
on my hat, walked down to the porter's lodge and gave him or- 
ders, on his peril, not to let anyone in. Besides, I took away the 
keys. Madame came down, and when the company arrived she 
talked with them, — she on one side, they on the other of the high 
brick wall. After that she goes and pours boiling water on some 
of my beautiful flowers!" 

Four years of such life were enough; they parted and lived 
happily ever after. Madame Lavoisier de Rumford kept her co- 
terie of distinguished people about her until the day of her death 
at the age of seventy-eight, when with her perished the last of the 
eighteenth century salons. Count Rumford retired to a villa in 



48 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

Auteuil, a suburb of Paris, where he spent the remaining five 
years of his life in peace and quiet, dividing his time between 
his laboratory and his garden with its fifty varieties of roses, gradu- 
ally becoming more isolated from society, and retaining only few 
friends, among whom were Lagrange and Cuvier. His daughter 
Sarah joined him for a time, but was not with him when he died. 

His scientific researches in Paris were largely devoted to light, 
and in this field his discoveries were of great importance and 
practical value. In order to get the arithmetical results for which 
he always strove, it was necessary to find a method of measuring 
the relative intensity of different sources of light, and for this pur- 
pose he invented what is known as the Rumford photometer. In 
this the standard lamp and the one to be compared with it are so 
placed that the two shadows cast by an opaque rod upon a screen 
side by side are of equal intensity, then the relative brightness of 
the lights are inversely as the squares of their distances from the 
screen. He had an assistant move the lamps lest he should be led 
into the temptation to distort his observations in accordance with 
his theory. Since he found that the same weight of wax or oil 
burned under different conditions gave off very different amounts 
of light, he came to the conclusion that light cannot be of the 
chemical products of combustions, but was a wave motion in the 
ether due to the heating of solid particles in the flame. Finding 
how small was the light compared, with what might be obtained 
from the fuel, he experimented on wicks, air-holes, polyflame 
burners, chimneys, etc., until he had constructed fourteen differ- 
ent kinds of lamps. According to the Paris wits, one of these 
gave so powerful a light that a man carrying it in the street was 
so blinded by it that he could not find his way home, but wandered 
in the Bois de Boulogne all night. 

He anticipated the impressionist artists in the discovery of 
blue shadows, and, by a series of very skilful experiments, he 
showed that whenever shadows were cast by two lights of differ- 
ent colors, the shadows were of the complementary color, one real 
and the other imaginary. Each color called up in the mind its 
companion which, when combined with it, produced a pure white. 



BENJAMIN THOMPSON, COUNT RUMFORD 49 

He calls attention to the value of such studies for artists, house 
furnishers and "ladies choosing ribbons," and suggests enter- 
tainments of color harmonies, like musical concerts. Rumford 
also experimented on the chemical effects produced by light, such 
as the deposition of a film of metallic gold and silver on a ribbon 
or slip of ivory which had been dipped in a solution of their salts; 
a reaction which forms the basis of modern photography. 

His researches on heat and light were based upon determina- 
tions of the heat of combustion of the fuel used by means of an 
ingeniously devised calorimeter. In this the products of com- 
bustion are drawn through a worm immersed in a known quantity 
of water and the increase in the temperature of the water deter- 
mined by a thermometer immersed in it. By having the water 
at the beginning of the experiment about as much cooler than the 
room as it was warmer at the end, one of the chief sources of error, 
that of loss of heat to the air, was practically eliminated: a method 
still in use. With this apparatus, which has only recently been 
superseded by the bomb calorimeter using compressed oxygen, 
he determined with remarkable accuracy the heat of burning alco- 
hol, hydrogen, carbon and many kinds of wood, coal, oU and wax. 
From a determination of the heat of combustion of wood and of 
charcoal made from it, he deduced the fact that the gas lost in 
making charcoal is the most valuable part of the fuel. 

In looking over Count Rumford's papers after a hundred years 
of scientific work has been done in the fields where he was a 
pioneer, one is forcibly struck by his selection of what were the 
most important problems to be solved. This is shown, for ex- 
ample, in the interest he took in the inconspicuous phenomena 
of surface tension, and his study of the pellicle covering the sur- 
face of v/ater, which supports a globule of mercury as in a pocket, 
and gives footing to water-spiders. He clearly shows the impor- 
tance of this in movements of sap in the trees and of the fluids of 
the animals; a hne of investigation that Just now is proving ex- 
tremely fruitful in physics and physiology. 

While in Paris he experimented on the proper construction of 
wagon wheels, and invented a dynamometer by which the pull of 



50 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

the horse was registered by the needle of a spring-balance. Having 
ascertained in this way that broad tires reduced the traction 
power, he adopted them for his carriage notwithstanding the jeers 
of the street crowds. 

Count Rumford died in Auteuil August 21, i8 14, in his sixty- 
second year. Baron Cuvier, Permanent Secretary of the French 
Institute, and his intimate friend, pronounced the eulogy before 
the Institute, coupling his name with that of another recently 
deceased member, Parmentier, who introduced the potato into 
France. Both savants, he says, were defenders of the himian 
race against its two greatest enemies, hunger and cold; both 
these enemies are to be fought with the same weapon, the proper 
use of carbon compounds. The physicist who invents an econom- 
ical fireplace is as though he had added acres of wood; the botanist 
who brings a new edible plant virtually increases the arable land. 
In laboring for the poor, Count Rumford was rewarded by his 
greatest discoveries, so Fontenelle's remark could be applied 
to him that "he had taken the same road to Heaven and to the 
Academy." 



ALEXANDER WILSON 

ORNITHOLOGIST 

1766-1813 
By Wither Stone 

Alexander Wilson has been termed "the father of American 
Ornithology," and not without reason. He was not the pioneer 
writer upon American birds as Catesby, Forster and others pre- 
ceded him by many years, but to him we are indebted for the first 
comprehensive work on the birds of our country at large, and the 
first work which merited the title that he bestowed upon it, Amer- 
ican Ornithology. 

Wilson's Ornithology was not a scientific work so far as mat- 
ters of anatomy and taxonomy were concerned. Indeed, knowl- 
edge of these subjects was not very far advanced at that day 
and our author had given them little attention. His aim was to 
picture each bird as accurately as his skiU permitted both with 
brush and pen and to include in his text, backgrounds and side- 
lights upon its life and haunts drawn from his travels and rambles 
through wood and field. 

Love of nature always predominates over technique and this 
spirit of the Ornithology seems to have pervaded much of our 
subsequent ornithological literature to a great extent. Possibly 
the nature of the study is to some degree responsible, but this early 
work seems to have set a style which has been followed in the vol- 
umes that have succeeded it. 

WOson's character is in no small degree reflected in his work. 
He was not a scientific man in the modem sense, not a closet 
naturalist, but a poet who loved nature for herself and he took up 
the study of ornithology not as science but because the beauty of 
the birds and the melody of their songs appealed to him. 

SI 



52 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

He later recognized the importance of scientific accuracy and 
bibliographic research, but this came as a secondary result of the 
line of work upon which he had set out, and was not a primary 
interest with him. His Ornithology was born in the woods not in 
the museum or library. 

Wilson was doubtless acquainted with the birds of his native 
country and knew them by name just as he knew the thistle, the 
heather and the bracken, for upon landing in America one of 
his first comments was upon the strange birds and shrubs that 
surrounded him, but there is no evidence that he had any early 
inclination toward the study of birds except as they formed a part 
of nature which was ever dear to him. 

Every lover of nature seems to have within him more or less 
latent talent for art, poetry and natural history, and circumstances 
largely determine which of the three comes most prominently to 
the surface. In Wilson, poetry first filled his mind and became 
the aim of his life, but his talent in this direction was not suffi- 
ciently great to earn him conspicuous notoriety and it was as a 
chronicler of nature that he became famous though he did not 
enter upon this role until the last decade of his life. 

Alexander Wilson was born in the Seedhills of Paisley in 
Renfrewshire, Scodand, July 6, 1766, the son of Alexander Wilson 
and Mary McNab. The early death of his mother may have 
had some effect upon his after life as it is said that she intended 
that he should study for the ministry. However this may be his 
father and stepmother seem to have done as much for him as 
their poverty and the large size of their family permitted. He at- 
tended the Paisley grammar school and learned to read and write, 
but was compelled in later life to make up for many deficiencies 
which had they been supplied at the proper time would have aided 
him greatly in his life's work. 

While a small boy he was engaged for a short time, at least, as 
a cattle herd on the farm of Bakerfield, but when only thirteen 
years of age became apprenticed to his brother-in-law, William 
Duncan, to learn the "art of weaving" which was the occupation 
of nearly all of his friends and relatives. 



ALEXANDER WILSON 53 

Even at this time Wilson was writing verses and his mind was 
ever turning to the outdoor life which was dear to his heart and 
in comparison with which the loom was a sorry bondage. As 
the only visible means of earning a living he continued weaving 
until 1789 when he joined his brother-in-law in a tour of eastern 
Scodand as a peddler. This undertaking was prompted by his 
love of tramping and his restlessness under uncongenial confine- 
ment; not by any love or ability for trading, for that he did not 
possess. While gratifying his taste for outdoor life he was by no 
means benefited financially by the change. However, he gave 
full rein to his poetical ambition, and with his characteristic 
impetuosity he soon had visions of publishing his volume of verses 
and sharing in the notoriety that had just greeted the issue of 
Burns' first poems. Wilson was evidently acquainted with Burns 
as some of his verses show and entertained a very high opinion of 
him. To what extent Burns' success may have influenced him 
or his style is hard to say, but one of the best of Wilson's produc- 
tions published anonymously was attributed to the "plowman," 
doubtless to the author's great gratification. 

Wilson reached the height of his practical ambition in 1790 
when he published a volume of his poetical writings. It was, 
however, an indifferent production and failed to bring him the 
renown that he coveted. In 1792 he was back at the loom but 
as before despondent and unhappy and in sore straits financially. 
He continued to publish occasional poems in the local papers and 
now and then indulged in sarcastic verses on certain civil authori- 
ties and other self-important personages. This practice finally 
brought him face to face with libel charges, resulting in fines and 
imprisonment. 

Upon his release, consumed vnth bitterness and more despond- 
ent than ever he resolved to leave his native country and try his 
fortune in America. Accordingly, accompanied by his nephew, 
William Duncan, he sailed from Belfast on May 23, 1794, and 
reached the mouth of Delaware bay on the nth of July. 

Impatient to be once more ashore they landed at New Castie, 
Delaware, "happy as mortals could be" and went on foot to 



54 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

Wilmington and thence to Philadelphia through virgin forest 
most of the way, past log cabins, and occasional farms. "On 
the way," Wilson writes to his parents, "I did not observe one 
bird such as those in Scotland but all much richer in color . . . 
some red birds, several of which I shot for our curiosity." This 
quotation is worthy of note as it shows an early interest in birds 
and an appreciation of the difference in the avi-fauna of the two 
countries. At the same time we find no further mention of birds 
in his correspondence for many years. 

The two weavers found no opening for men of their trade in 
Philadelphia and seem to have been compelled to accept any kind 
of employment that was offered. Wilson, always of a delicate 
constitution and unfitted for hard labor, succeeded in securing a 
school first at Frankford and later at Milestown, a short distance 
north of the city. The requisites of the country schoolmaster 
were not very severe at this time, and as Wilson wrote a good hand 
and had always been a reader his education, in spite of early short- 
comings, was apparently fiilly equal to the calls made upon it. 
With the idea of advancing in this profession he seems to have 
been constantly endeavoring to improve himself in mathematics 
and other studies in which he recognized himself as deficient. 

His particular friend at this period of his life was Charles Orr, 
a writing master in Philadelphia and a man of studious nature 
with whom Wilson maintained an active correspondence. His 
letters of September, 1800, show that he had been forced to relin- 
quish his school on account of ill health, but at the earnest request 
of the trustees agreed to try it again. "I was attached to the chil- 
dren and to the people," he wrote, "and if they would allow me 
one week more to ramble about, I would once more engage, though 
I should die in their service. My request was immediately acceded 
to, and I am once more the dominie of Milestown school." Later 
he writes, "I have begun the old way again and have about thirty 
scholars. I study none and take my morning and evening ramble 
regularly. Do you spend any of your leisure hours with the 
puzzling chaps, algebra and trigonometry, etc., or are you wholly 
absorbed in the study of mechanics? You must write me particu- 



ALEXANDER WILSON 55 

larly. I think I shall take a ride 15 or 20 miles on Saturday. I 
find riding agrees better with me than any other exercise. I 
always feel cheerful after it, and can eat confoundedly. Have 
you made any new discoveries in the Heaven above, or the earth 
beneath, with your telescope or microscope?" 

At this time his nephew had moved to Ovid, Cayuga county, 
New York, where they had purchased a tract of land and begun 
to farm. Other members of his family came hither from Scotland 
and it seems to have been Wilson's intention to join them though 
he afterwards abandoned the idea. 

In 1801 Wilson left Milestown and obtained a school at Bloom- 
field, N. J., where he remained about a year. He seems to have 
had little trouble in securing positions. School-teachers, were, to 
be sure, scarce and salaries small, as he complained bitterly with 
respect to his Bloomfield engagement where the people "paid 
their minister 250 poimds a year for preaching twice a week and 
their teacher 40 dollars a quarter for the most spirit-sinking, 
laborious work, six, I may say twelve times weekly." 

Wilson, however, seems to have possessed tbe requisites of a 
teacher in no small degree; he was both a disciplinarian and an 
instructor and succeeded in his main object, that of imparting 
knowledge to his pupils. He also seems to have gained the respect 
and good-wiU of the people among whom he established himself 
so that they were loath to have him leave them. In describing 
his Bloomfield school he writes: "The schoolhouse in which I 
teach is situated at the extremity of a spacious level plain of sand 
thinly covered with grass. In the centre of this plain stands a 
newly erected stone meeting-house, 80 feet by 60, which forms a 
striking contrast with my sanctum sanctorum, which has been 
framed of logs some 100 years ago, and looks like an old sentry 
box. The scholars have been accustomed to great liberties by 
their former teacher. They used to put stones in his pocket, etc., 
etc. I was told that the people did not like to have their children 
punished, but I began with such a system of terror as soon estab- 
lished my authority most effectually. I succeed in teaching them 
to read and I care for none of their objections." 



56 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

Wilson became involved in a love affair while at Milestown, 
which did not end happily for him, and his sensitive nature ever 
subject to fits of despondency became more than ever affected 
during his stay at Bloomfield where he was surrounded by stran- 
gers. He proposed to his friend Orr that they open a school 
somewhere under their joint management; he even thought of 
turning his back upon his adopted country and returning to the 
shores of Caledonia, and meanwhile he consoled himself in his 
solitude with writing poems. 

In February, 1802, he moved again, this time to take charge of 
the school at Gray's Ferry just outside the city of Philadelphia. 
He had evidently not recovered from his despondency, as he writes, 
"I shall recommence that painful profession once more with the 
same gloomy sullen resignation that a prisoner re-enters his dun- 
geon or a malefactor mounts the scaffold ; fate urges him, necessity 
me. The present pedagogue is a noisy, outrageous fat old cap- 
tain of a ship, who has taught these ten years in different places. 
You may hear him bawling 300 yards off. The boys seem to 
pay as little regard to it as ducks to the rumbling of a stream 
under them. I shall have many difficulties to overcome in estab- 
lishing my own rules and authority. But perseverance over- 
cometh all things." 

Little did Wilson suspect that this last move would prove the 
turning-point of his life and raise him from oblivion to fame though 
not in the field in which he had always imagined that his genius 
lay. 

Amid the green fields and the budding woods of early spring he 
forgot his troubles and his spirits rose again with their charac- 
teristic impetuosity. Poetry as usual was his resource: "My harp 
is new strung," he writes, "and my soul glows with more ardour 
than ever to emulate those immortal bards who have gone before 
me ... my heart swells, my soul rises to an elevation I cannot 
express." 

But poetry was soon to take second place in his consideration. 

Close to Gray's Ferry lay the homestead of the Bartraras, a 
curious old stone mansion surrounded by the historic botanical 



ALEXANDER WILSON 57 

garden the pride of the famous old botanist, John Bartram. 
Here there were living at this time the two sons of the original 
proprietor, John and William Bartram. The latter, then a man, 
of sixty-one years of age, was a botanist of perhaps quite as much 
ability as his father, while he also possessed a hoard of knowledge 
on general natural history equalled by but few men of his time. 
He had traveled when a young man through Georgia, Carolina 
and Florida and published a report on his travels. Being ex- 
ceedingly modest, however, he never sought fame by further pub- 
lications, though he generously aided all who came to him for as- 
sistance and advice and shared with them his store of knowledge. 

Between Bartram and Wilson a close intimacy immediately 
sprang up, and the association with the venerable naturalist and 
the atmosphere which prevaded the botanic garden soon kindled 
into flame the latent interest in birds which up to that time had 
been dominated by the spirit of poetry. 

Ornithology was almost as much a hobby with Bartram as 
botany, and he had published in his Travels a list of the birds of 
eastern North America, consequently he gave every encourage- 
ment to the development of this taste in his young friend. 

The meagemess and inaccuracy of the literature of American 
ornithology, and the obvious need of science for the knowledge 
that he felt he could supply strongly appealed to Wilson, while 
the recreation from his confiaing school duties which the pursuit 
of this study would afford him, was an additional allurement. 

In 1803 he writes to a friend, "I have had many pursuits since 
I left Scotland . . and I am now about to make a collection of 
all our finest birds." 

The first essential in natural history research in those days was 
the preparation of drawings of the objects studied, and Wilson 
being by no means an artist bom set about the laborious task of 
learning to draw. Night after night he worked patiently with 
brush and pencil in his efforts to produce satisfactory pictures of 
the birds which he shot. Alexander Lawson, the engraver, gave 
him instruction and Miss Nancy Bartram, a niece of the naturalist, 
also helped him. Wilson never attained much artistic ability, 



58 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

but his sole object, the production of faithful bird portraits, he did 
accomplish and in a style superior to any work published up to 
that time and to many that came after. 

Some of his first efforts he sent to Bartram with the following 
explanation: "The duties of my profession will not admit me to 
apply to this study with the assiduity and perseverance I could 
wish. Chief part of what I do is sketched by candle-light, and for 
this I am obliged to sacrifice the pleasures of social life, and the 
agreeable moments which I might enjoy in company with you and 
your amiable friend. I shall be happy if what I have done merits 
your approbation." To Lawson he writes about this time, "Six 
days in one week I have no more time than just to swallow my 
meals and return to my Sanctum Sanctorum. Five days of the 
following week are occupied in the same routine of pedagoguing 
matters; and the other two are sacrificed to that itch for drawing, 
which I caught from your honorable self. I am most earnestly 
bent on pursuing my plan of making a collection of all the birds 
in this part of North America. Now I don't want you to throw 
cold water, as Shakespeare says, on this notion. Quixotic as it 
may appear. I have been so long accustomed to the building of 
airy castles and brain windmills, that it has become one of my 
earthly comforts, a sort of a rough bone, that amuses me when 
sated with the dull drudgery of life." 

Quoting again from his letters as the best record we have of his 
progress, we find him writing to Bartram in March, 1804: 

" I send for your amusement a few attempts at some of our in- 
digenous birds, hoping that your good nature will excuse their de- 
ficiencies, while you point them out to me. I am almost ashamed 
to send you these drawings, but I know your generous disposition 
will induce you to encourage one in whom you perceive a sincere 
and eager wish to do well. They were chiefly colored by candle 
light. 

"I have now got my collection of native birds considerably en- 
larged; and shall endeavour, if possible, to obtain all the smaller 
ones this summer. Be pleased to mark on the drawings, with a 
pencil, the name of each bird, as, except three or four, I do not 
know them. I shall be extremely obliged to you for every hint 



ALEXANDER WILSON 59 

that will assist me in this agreeable amusement. ... I declare 
that the face of an owl, and the back of a lark, have put me to a 
nonplus; and if Miss Nancy will be so obliging as to try her hand 
on the last mentioned, I will furnish her with one in good order, 
and will copy her drawing with the greatest pleasure; having 
spent almost a week on two different ones, and afterwards de- 
stroyed them both, and got nearly in the slough of despond." 

The next two years passed rapidly at Gray's Ferry. Wilson 
concentrated his attention upon the collecting and drawing of 
birds, while his leisure moments were spent in the company of his 
friend and adviser, for whom his love and esteem were constantly 
increasing. "I confess," he writes, "that I was always an enthu- 
siast in my admiration of the rural scenery of Nature; but since 
yom- example and encouragement have set me to attempt to imitate 
her productions, I see new beauties in every bird, plant, or flower 
I contemplate; and find my ideas of the incomprehensible First 
Cause still more exalted, the more minutely I examine His work." 
And again regarding some more drawings sent to Bartram, " Criti- 
cise these, my dear friend, without fear of offending me — this 
will instruct, but not discourage me. For there is not among all 
ouj naturalists one who knows so well what they are, and how 
they ought to be represented. In the mean time accept of my 
best wishes for your happiness — wishes as sincere as ever one hu- 
man being breathed for another. To your advice and encourag- 
ing encomiums I am indebted for these few specimens, and for all 
that will follow. They may yet tell posterity that I was honored 
with your friendship, and that to your inspiration they owe their 
existance." 

Meanwhile the school went on and the scholars became inter- 
ested in gratifying theu" master's tastes. "I have had live crows, 
hawks and owls, — oppossums, squirrels, snakes, and lizards," 
writes Wilson, "so that my room has sometimes reminded me of 
Noah's ark; but Noah had a wife in one corner of it, and in this 
particular our parallel does not altogether tally. I receive every 
subject of natural history that is brought to me and though they 
do not march into my ark from all quarters, as they did that of 



6o LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

our great ancestor, yet I find means, by the distribution of a few 
five-penny bits, to make them find the way fast enough. A boy, 
not long ago, brought me a large basket full of crows. I expect 
his next load will be bull-frogs, if I don't soon issue orders to the 
contrary." 

The winter of 1804-^5 was very severe and the suffering was 
great. Many scholars were unable to continue in attendance at 
Wilson's school-house and he was in such financial straits that he 
was forced to propose giving up his position. The trustees, how- 
ever, would not hear of it and immediately raised sufficient funds 
to retain his services. 

In October, 1804, Wilson took a journey mainly on foot to visit 
his nephew at Ovid, continuing to Niagara Falls and returning 
to Gray's Ferry in December. This trip inspired his last lengthy 
poem, which was separately published as The Foresters being in 
fact a narrative of the trip in verse. The varied scenery also 
stirred up the old spirit of restlessness, and he wrote to Bartram 
of the advisability of becoming a traveler "to commence some 
more extensive expedition, where scenes and subjects entirely new, 
and generally unknown, might reward my curiosity; and where 
perhaps my humble acquisitions might add something to the store 
of knowledge." He also asked how he might best acquire a 
knowledge of botany and mineralogy. 

Whatever Bartram's advice may have been Wilson seems to 
have continued his study of scientific literature with redoubled 
vigor. His letters at this time contain comments and criticisms 
on current publications which indicate a considerable breadth of 
knowledge, and early in the following year he was appointed 
assistant editor of Rees's New Cyclopaedia, then being published 
by Bradford and Company of Philadelphia. He received a "gen- 
erous salary" of $900 per year and was at last freed from the 
drudgery of his school, though for a time at least his work was 
more confining and necessitated his residence in the heart of the 
city which he thoroughly detested. 

Almost from the time Wilson set foot on American soil he be- 
came strongly attached to the country, and his letters to friends at 



ALEXANDER WILSON 6l 

home constantly boast of the resources and possibUities of the 
States. President Jefferson commanded his deep respect and 
admiration, especially on account of his scientific attainments, and 
to him he seems to have looked for some assistance in the prosecu- 
tion of his ornithological studies. He sent him with much diffi- 
dence drawings of two birds which he had secured on his journey 
to Niagara and received a very appreciative letter from the presi- 
dent. Encouraged by this Wilson wrote again just before receiv- 
ing his editorial appointment and applied for a position on the 
expedition then being fitted out by the government under Captain 
Nicolas Pike to explore the sources of the Arkansas River; no 
attention, however, was paid to his application. 

The idea of publishing the results of his bird studies seems to 
have taken definite shape in Wilson's mind toward the end of the 
year 1805, and he at that time was making attempts at etching 
on copper. Catesby for economy's sake etched his own plates, 
and Wilson being no better situated financially probably saw no 
other way to reproduce his drawing^. His first efforts which Ord 
tells us were plates one and two of the Ornithology were sent to 
Bartram on November 29, 1805, and January 4, 1806, the latter 
one accompanied by the following note: "Mr. Wilson's affectionate 
compliments to Mr. Bartram; and sends for his amusement and 
correction another proof of his Birds of the United States. The 
coloring being chiefly done last night, must soften criticism a little. 
Will be thankful for my friend's advice and correction." In the 
letter to President Jefferson above alluded to, he clearly states his 
purpose of publishing as he says, "Having been engaged, these 
several years, in collecting materials and finishing drawings from 
Nature, with the design of publishing a new Ornithology of the 
United States of America, so deficient are the works of Catesby, 
Edwards, and other Europeans, I have traversed the greater part 
of our northern and eastern districts; and have collected many 
birds undescribed by these naturalists. Upwards of one hundred 
drawings are completed, and two plates in folio already engraved." 

By April, 1807, the propectus was ready, and apparently dissat- 
isfied with his own efforts he had engaged Alexander Lawson to 



62 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

etch the plates. The remuneration could not have been great 
and the profits were lessened by the labor that was necessary to 
bring the plates up to the author's ideal. In fact Lawson told Ord 
that he found frequently his reward did not amount to more than 
fifty cents a day, but he was so anxious to encourage his friend 
that he made no complaint and his work was in a great measure 
a labor of love. In planning for the publication Wilson no doubt 
derived great benefits from his association with Bradford and 
Company and it was of course this house which was to issue the 
work. 

In the autumn of 1808, with a sample copy of volume one, he 
started upon a personal canvass of the country for the two-hundred 
and fifty subscribers which were considered necessary before the 
publication could be seriously prosecuted, the subscription price 
being $120. Travehng by stage and on foot he visited Princeton, 
New York, New Haven, Boston and Portland Maine, and re- 
turned by way of Dartmouth College and Albany, stopping at all 
the smaller towns on the way where possible subscribers might be 
found. 

His success was varied; scientific men of means subscribed as 
did many prominent citizens interested in the advancement of 
literature and science. Many others, however, while lavish in 
praise of his beautiful pictures were appalled at the price and 
still others seeined to totally lack appreciation of the merits of his 
work. Governor Tompkins of New York, afterwards Vice- 
President of the United States, said, "I would not give a hundred 
dollars for all the birds you intend to describe, even had I them 
alive." 

Such rebuffs must have been hard to bear, but Wilson had 
plenty of pluck and his letters home while avoiding any mention 
of his success are full of descriptions of the places he visited. 
Every spot of historic interest inspired him with respect. He vis- 
ited Bunker Hill with a feeling of veneration and was surprised 
that the people living in the vicinity did not seem to share it. 

Upon his return to Philadelphia Wilson set out almost immedi- 
ately upon a southern tour, visiting Washington, Charieston and 



ALEXANDER WILSON 63 

Savannah, in which latter city he succeeded in bringing the total 
of his subscription list up to the requisite two hundred and fifty; 
"having," to quote his own word?, "visited all the towns within 
one hundred miles of the Atlantic from Maine to Georgia and 
done as much for this bantling book of mine as ever author did 
for any progeny of his brain." His experience in the south was 
much like that in the north. "In Annapolis," he writes, " I passed 
my book through both Houses of the Legislature; the wise men 
of Maryland stared and gaped, from bench to bench ; but having 
never heard of such a thing as one hundred and twenty dollars 
for a book, the ayes for subscribing were none." 

In Charleston he found such " listlessness and want of energy" 
that he could get no one to draw him up a list of likely subscribers 
and "was obliged to walk the streets and pick out those houses, 
which, from their appearance indicated wealth and taste in the 
occupants, and introduce myself." However, his task was ac- 
complished, and flushed with success he embarked for Philadel- 
phia in March, 1809, ready to push the publication of his volumes 
with aU possible haste. 

Wilson's canvassing trips were profitable in other ways than the 
seciuing of subscribers. His scientific acquaintances had hitherto 
been mainly limited to Philadelphia or to such visitors as he 
met at Bartram's hospitable mansion. He knew Thomas Say, 
George Ord, Benjamin S. Barton, and the Peales, while he had 
met Michaux and Muhlenberg, the botanists. Now, however, in 
every town he sought out those interested in Natural History. As 
he himself put it: "Whatever may be the result of these matters, 
[subscriptions] I shall not sit down with folded hands. ... I am 
fixing correspondents in every corner of these northern regions, 
like so many pickets and outposts, so that scarcely a wren or tit 
shall be able to pass along, from New York to Canada, but I shall 
get intelligence of it. . . ." 

Notable among his new acquaintances was Abbott of Georgia, 
famous for his publication on the insects of his native state. With 
him he arranged for the forwarding of such southern birds as he 
was personally unable to secure as well as any that were in Abbott's 



64 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

estimation new to science. These Wilson agreed to pay for through 
his agent in Savannah. 

In January, 1810, the second volume of the Ornithology ap- 
peared, and shortly afterward Wilson started westward to explore 
the ornithological terra incognita that lay beyond the Alleghanies. 
He had for some years realized the necessity of exploring this 
country as he supposed there were many birds to be found there 
which never came east of the mountains. In 1805 he had ar- 
ranged such an excursion in company with Bartram, but the fail- 
ing health of the venerable botanist finally compelled him to re- 
linquish all thought of going, while Wilson, after failing to receive 
an appointment upon the government expedition, also abandoned 
the project as he realized that his finances would not warrant such 
an undertaking. Now, however, the expedition was imperative 
both on account of the probable scientific results and the possible 
subscribers to be obtained in the towns of the Ohio and Mis- 
sissippi Valleys. 

His route lay from Pittsburg down the Ohio, which he trav- 
ersed in a rowboat, as far as Louisville. There he sold his skiff 
to a man who wondered at its curious Indian (!) name "The Orni- 
thologist," and set out on foot to Lexington and Nashville. He 
visited the Mammoth Cave and sent to the editor of the Port- 
folio in Philadelphia letters containing a careful description of 
this and other interesting points that he passed on his journey. 

Before leaving Nashville he wrote to a friend, "Nine hundred 
mUes distant from you sits Wilson, the hunter of birds' nests and 
sparrows, just preparing to enter on a wilderness of 780 miles, — 
most of it in the territory of Indians,— a/owe, but in good spirits, 
and expecting to have every pocket crammed with skins of new 
and extraordinary birds before he reaches the City of New Or- 
leans." 

The territory of Mississippi through which Wilson traveled 
alone on horseback was then mainly populated by the semicivilized 
Indian tribes which were afterwards transported to the present 
Indian Territory and he met but few white men. The route was 
exceedingly difficult, being through dense forests and "most 



ALEXANDER WILSON 65 

execrable swamps." On the seventeenth day he reached Natchez 
and from there followed the Mississippi River to New Orleans. 

Here he secured a substantial addition to his subscription list 
and sailed for Philadelphia, well satisfied with his trip. He 
skirted but did not touch the peninsula of Florida, a land which 
had he but known it would have yielded him more novelties than 
that which he had just traversed. 

During the years 1811 and 1812 Wilson seems to have lived 
almost continuously at Bartram's, which was always such a con- 
genial home to him, and meanwhile the publication advanced 
rapidly. 

After the fifth volume was completed in 181 2 he went again to 
New England to visit his agents and look after his subscribers. 
Upon his return he devoted himself to the water birds which he 
had previously somewhat neglected and made a number of excur- 
sions across the state of New Jersey to Egg Harbor, then a great 
resort for sea birds of various kinds. Upon these trips he was 
accompanied by his friend Ord then about thirty years of age, 
afterwards president of the Academy of Natural Sciences of 
Philadelphia. 

About this time Wilson began to reap the rewards of his labors, — 
financial reward there was apparently none, since the expense 
so far had fully equalled the receipts, — but his merit was gaining 
recognition. 

He was elected a member of the American Society of Artists in 
181 2 and of the American Philosophical Society and the recently 
formed Academy of Natural Sciences in the following year. 

During the summer of 1813 owing to the difficulty of procuring 
colorists for the plates he attended personally to much of this 
work and overtaxed himself. His whole energy seems to have 
been directed toward the finishing of his work. In July he writes, 
"My eighth volume is now in the press and will be pubHshed in 
November. One more volume will complete the whole." His 
constitution, however, which had always demanded plenty of out- 
door exercise could not stand this constant application and when 
shortly after this he was stricken with an attack of dysentery, he 



66 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

lacked the requisite strength to resist the disease and after only a 
few days illness he died on August 23, 1813. 

The premature close of such a career was lamentable. With 
fame just within his grasp and possibOities of various kinds before 
him, it is difficult to say what Wilson would have accomplished 
had he been permitted to round out his life. 

His friend Ord completed the Ornithology from the fragments 
left by the author, probably as faithfully and as nearly in accord 
with Wilson's ideas as it could have been done, and later published 
several reprints. The revised editions and further populariza- 
tion of the work, and a work on North American mammals, all of 
which Wilson had in mind, could, however, be executed by no other 
hand. Furthermore the existence of an ornithologist of such pre- 
eminent ability must have exerted a decided influence upon the 
subsequent development of scientific work in America and it is 
impossible to say what effect his later work might have had upon 
the productions of those who succeeded him. 

The character of Alexander Wilson, the man, may be read in 
the outline of his life and the history of his work, but his friend 
Ord has given us a sketch of his personality: 

" Wilson was possessed of the nicest sense of honor. In all his 
dealings he was not only scrupulously just but highly generous. 
His veneration for truth was exemplary. His disposition was 
social and affectionate. His benevolence was extensive. He 
was remarkably temperate in eating and drinking, his love of 
study and retirement preserving him from the contaminating 
influence of the convivial circle. But as no one is perfect, 
Wilson in a small degree partook of the weakness of humanity. 
He was of the genus irritabile, and was obstinate in opinion. It 
ever gave him pleasure to acknowledge error, when the conviction 
resulted from his own judgment alone, but he could not endure 
to be told of his mistakes. Hence his associates had to be spar- 
ing of their criticisms, through a fear of forfeiting his friendship. 
With almost all his friends he had occasionally, arising from a 
collision of opinion, some slight misunderstanding, which was 
soon passed over, leaving no disagreeable impression. But an 
act of disrespect he could ill brook, and a wilful injury he would 
seldom forgive. 



ALEXANDER WILSON 67 

"In his person he was of a middle stature, of a thin habit 
of body; his cheek bones projected, and his eyes, though hollow, 
displayed considerable vivacity and intelligence; his complexion 
was saUow, his mein thoughtful; his features were coarse, and 
there was a dash of vulgarity in his physiognomy, which struck 
the observer at the first view, but which failed to impress one 
on acquaintance. His walk was quick when travelling, so much 
so that it was difficult for a companion to keep pace with him; 
but when in the forests, in pursuit of birds, he was deliberate 
and attentive — he was, as it were, all eyes and all ears. Such 
was Alexander Wilson." 

So far as we can learn no one dififered from the above estimate 
of the man except Audubon who charges him with failure to 
acknowledge information that he gave him and with publishing 
a copy of one of his drawings without credit. These claims were 
not made until after Wilson was dead and are so at variance with 
his character as depicted by others that they would seem scarcely 
worthy of notice were it not that so much has been made of them 
both by Audubon and his biographers. Audubon at several 
points in his ornithological writings makes sarcastic remarks 
about Wilson, and there is every reason to believe that he was 
much embittered at his failure to secure a publisher for his work 
in Philadelphia and New York owing to the field being filled by 
that of Wilson. His relations with Ord and other of Wilson's 
supporters, moreover, were not friendly, and these facts doubtless 
had much to do with his attacks. The meeting between the two 
ornithologists took place at Louisville in March, 1810, when Wilson 
was seeking birds and subscribers on his western tour. They were 
quite unknown to each other even by name or reputation. Audu- 
bon at the time was only thirty years of age and had no reputation 
except among his immediate friends. He had made a number of 
drawings of birds, but had no thought of publishing them. He 
accompanied Wilson upon a day's hunting during his stay in 
Louisville as Wilson himself states, but the latter doubtless never 
thought of crediting Audubon with such observations as they may 
have made, when in each other's company. As to the drawings, 
all that Wilson made on this part of his trip were lost, and there is 



68 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

absolutely no reason to doubt his statement that he secured the 
small-headed Flycatcher as he described, inasmuch as Ord im- 
mediately published the fact that he was with Wilson when he 
shot the bird and Lawson stated that he had the specimen before 
him when engraving Wilson's plates. Audubon's memory seems 
to have been at fault in this instance, and his hostility to Ord 
doubtless inspired this and other reflections on Wilson, as else- 
where he speaks of him with great kindness. 

Wilson entered upon the production of his Ornithology with 
no motive other than the desire to benefit science, and he expressed 
no expectations of great financial profit or sensational notoriety. 
He expended upon the work all the money that he had and was 
eventually compelled to resign his position as editor of the Encyclo- 
pedia so engrossing were the demands of his own publication. 
At the time the second volume was about ready for the press he 
wrote to Bartram: "I assure you my dear friend that this under- 
taking has involved me in many difficulties and expenses which I 
never dreamed of and I have never yet received one cent from it. I 
am therefore a volunteer in the cause of Natural History impelled 
by nobler views than those of money." In the preface to the 
fifth volume, too, he says: "The publication of an original work of 
this kind in this country has been attended with difl&culties, great, 
and it must be confessed sometimes discouraging to the author 
whose only reward hitherto has been the favorable opinion of 
his fellow citizens and the pleasure of the pursuit." There is no 
evidence that circumstances had altered at the time of his death, 
and though he speaks with satisfaction of the approval of his 
friends, his reward even in this Hne had scarcely begun to reach 
him when his labors were so suddenly terminated. 

In forming our estimate of the value to science of Wilson's 
work we naturally compare it with that of other ornithologists. 
Compared with his predecessors, his chief merit is originality. He 
had no model upon which to build his Ornithology and was indeed 
familiar with only the works of Catesby, Latham, Turton, Edwards 
and Bartram, and the obvious errors which pervade most of these 
drove him to rely only upon Nature herself for his facts. He broke 



ALEXANDER WILSON 69 

boldly away from all the fables and hearsay reports that fill the 
pages of the early writers and described only such birds as he had 
himself seen and such characteristics of habit as he was personally 
familiar with or which he had first hand from reliable observers. 

Thus relying wholly upon his own resources he produced a 
treatise which at once placed American Ornithology upon a firm 
basis, and upon the foundation thus laid each subsequent writer 
from Audubon and Nuttall on, has simply added his portion 
toward the completed structure. The first writer upon a fauna is 
in a different position from any of those who come after, and 
can hardly be fairly compared with them since they have all had 
his work as a guide. 

In the case of Alexander Wilson we find him most frequently 
compared with Audubon, since their works were of essentially 
the same compass. From an artistic standpoint Audubon's 
work is far superior; he was preeminently an artist, both by 
birth and education, while Wilson made no pretensions to art; 
but as a scientific work so far as the country covered by Wilson 
is concerned it added but little to Wilson's accounts, and this in 
spite of the fact that the latter's bird studies covered but ten 
years, while Audubon had devoted thirty years to the study 
before he began publication. Indeed, to the present day but 
twenty-three indigenous land birds from east of the Alleghanies 
and north of Florida have been added to Wilson's list. 

To give some idea of the rank of Wilson's work with the scien- 
tific publications of the time we may quote Baron Cuvier to the 
effect that "he has treated of American birds better than those of 
Europe have yet been treated." The impetus that such a work, 
produced in America, and by the support of American subscribers 
must have given to American science is hard to estimate, as is also 
the attention which it must have directed toward America as a 
country which not only possessed a rich fauna and flora but which 
gave promise of producing men thoroughly capable of making 
known its riches to the scientific world and among the van of this 
assemblage stands Alexander Wilson, a Scotchman by birth but 
an American in his interests and sympathies. 



JOHN JAMES AUDUBON 

ORNITHOLOGIST 

1780-1851 
By Wither Stone 

Probably no name is more nearly synonymous with the study 
of birds than that of Audubon, and no ornithologist is more widely 
known. In science and literature as well as in other fields noto- 
riety is due either to the personality of the man or to the work 
which he has accomplished, while in certain cases both contribute 
to his fame. Audubon is a striking example of this, and the aid 
that he gave to the development of American Ornithology rests 
quite as much upon his striking personality and the unique char- 
acter of his bird portraits as upon the actual scientific value of 
the labors that he performed. 

We cannot, therefore, form an estimate of his relative position 
in the world of science without a careful consideration of Audubon 
the man as well as of Audubon the ornithologist. 

Unfortunately no one who knew him well has given us a careful 
review of his life and character and consequently we are compelled 
to fall back upon an autobiography covering his early life, written 
for his children and upon his journals for the history of his later 
achievements. 

It seems somewhat characteristic of the man that he does not 
state when he was born and such mentions as he makes of his age 
are at variance, so that his granddaughter states in her sketch of 
his life "he may have been born anywhere between 1772 and 
1783 "; the usually accepted date is, however. May 5, 1780. 

His father, Jean Audubon, an admiral in the French navy, was a 
man of wide experience. He rose entirely through his own exer- 

71 



72 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

tions, having shipped on a fishing vessel at the age of twelve and 
later commanded trading vessels until entering the service of his 
country. He prospered, too, and finally became possessed of es- 
tates in France and Santo Domingo, besides a farm in Pennsyl- 
vania. On one of his excursions from his Santo Domingo estates 
to Louisiana, then a French territory, the elder Audubon married 
a lady of Spanish descent who became the mother of the ornitholo- 
gist. Returning to Santo Domingo soon after his birth, the mother 
perished in the negro uprising on the island while the father and 
infant son escaped and made their way back to France. In a few 
years the father was married again to Anne Moynette. 

Under the care of his stepmother young Audubon seems to 
have enjoyed every pleasure that youth could wish; she "was 
desirous," he writes, "that I should be brought up to live and die 
like a gentleman, thinking that fine clothes and filled pockets 
were the only requisites needful to attain this end. She therefore 
completely spoiled me, hid my faults, boasted to every one of my 
jTouthful merits and more than all frequently said in my presence 
that I was the handsomest boy in France. All my wishes and idle 
notions were at once gratified so far as actually to give me carte 
blanche at all the confectionary shops in the town and also of the 
village of Coneron when during the summer we lived, as it were, in 
the country." 

Audubon's father having himself suffered from lack of educa- 
tional advantages realized the importance of their cultivation on 
the part of his son whom he destined for the navy. School, how- 
ever, had no attractions for the boy. He says: "I studied drawing, 
geography, mathematics, fencing, etc., as well as music for which 
I had considerable talent. I had a good fencing master and a 
first rate teacher of the violin, mathematics was hard dull work, 
I thought; geography pleased me more. . . . My mother suffered 
me to do much as I pleased and it was not to be wondered at that 
instead of applying closely to my studies I preferred associating 
with boys of my own age and disposition who were more fond of 
going in search of birds' nests, fishing, or shooting, than of better 
studies." 



JOHN JAMES AUDUBON 73 

The mania for rambling about the country and collecting curiosi- 
ties seemed to increase, and upon the return of his father from a 
cruise abroad, Audubon was taken under his personal care. 
Studies now became more obligatory, but without any marked 
increase of interest upon his part or any lessening of his love of 
outdoor life. At this period of his life he states that he had made 
some drawings of French birds but apparently without any thought 
or interest in ornithology, and simply because they appealed to 
him as subjects upon which to exercise his artistic skill. 

When somewhat over seventeen years of age Audubon was sent 
to America to look after the Pennsylvania estate at MiU Grove on 
the Perkiomen not far from its juncture with the Schuylkill. His 
father it seems despaired of making a student of him or of inter- 
esting him in the career that he had planned for him and thinking 
h im old enough to enter seriously upon life intrusted him with 
the responsibility of his American property. 

Audubon experienced a severe attack of sickness upon reaching 
New York and after his recovery was temporarily the guest of his 
father's agent, Miers Fisher, a Philadelphia Quaker, whose tastes 
it may be imagined were totally different from those of the gay 
young Frenchman — in fact to quote Audubon "he was opposed 
to music of all description, as well as to dancing, could not bear 
me to carry a gim or fishing rod and indeed condoned most of my 
amusements." 

After a short period of restless toleration of his uncongenial 
surroxmdings Audubon was established as his own master on the 
Mill Grove estate. Here, surrounded by nature, he indulged to 
his heart's content all the pleasures that he so enjoyed. He de- 
scribes himself at this time as "extremely extravagant." " I had 
no vices," he says, "it is true, neither had I any high aims. I was 
ever fond of shooting, fishing and riding on horse-back; the raising 
of fowls of every sort was one of my hobbies, and to reach the maxi- 
mum of my desires in those different things filled every one of my 
thoughts. I was ridiculously fond of dress. To have seen me 
going shooting in black satin small clothes, or breeches, with 
silk stockings, and the finest rufHed shirt PhUadelphia could 



74 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

afford, was, as I now realize, an absurd spectacle but it was one of 
my many foibles and I cannot conceal it. I purchased the best 
horses in the country, and rode well, and felt proud of it; my guns 
and fishing tackle were equally good, always expensive and richly 
ornamented, often with silver. Indeed, though in America, I cut 
as many foolish pranks as a young dandy in Bond Street or Pic- 
cadilly." 

Audubon spent much of his time with brush and pencil and 
many of his drawings at Mill Grove were of birds, which con- 
tinued to attract his attention, although he had apparently no 
more scientific interest in them than when a boy in France, and it 
was their portraiture that chiefly concerned him. 

After a short time the elder Audubon sent over from France as 
a partner and partial guardian a man by the name of Da Costa 
who soon managed to get the control of afltairs at Mill Grove 
almost entirely into his own hands and proved to be such a rascal 
that Audubon was forced to seek the aid of friends in order to 
obtain passage to France, to inform his father of the true character 
of the man under whose authority he had been placed. Having 
secured the discharge of the objectionable guardian he remained 
for two years with his parents "in the very lap of comfort" shoot- 
ing and drawing zoological subjects, especially birds. A matter of 
much moment which was also settled during his visit to France 
was the approval of his proposed marriage to Miss Lucy Bakewell, 
the daughter of a neighbor at Mill Grove, to whom he had be- 
come deeply attached. 

Audubon returned to America in 1806 in company with Ferdi- 
nand Rozier whom his father had selected as his future business 
partner. 

A brief mercantile experience in the office of Miss Bakewell's 
uncle gave Audubon "some smattering of business" as he terms 
it, which his future father-in-law thought very important, if he 
contemplated the support of a wife, but which Audubon found 
very uncongenial. This over and impatient to seek his fortune 
he was married on April 8, 1808, and set out from Mill Grove 
accompanied by his wife and his business partner and provided 



JOHN JAMES AUDUBON 75 

with a stock of goods with which to establish a general store in 
the west. Louisville, Ky., was his o!)jective point, having been 
much impressed with the opportunities offered by the town when 
on a brief visit some two years before. 

The party journeyed across to Pittsburg and down the Ohio 
by boat and saw only success and prosperity for the future in 
that great country, the development of which was only just begin- 
ning. 

The business prospered, as Audubon says, "when I attended 
to it," "but birds were birds then as now and my thoughts were 
ever and anon turning toward them as the objects of my greatest 
delight. I shot, I drew, I looked on nature only ; my days were 
happy beyond human conception and beyond this I really cared 
not . . . and I could not bear to give the attention required by 
my business." 

While Rozier was content behind the counter Audubon made 
the necessary trips to New York and Philadelphia for fresh sup- 
plies of goods, and the varied scenery of river and mountain and 
the birds and other wild tenants of the forests of Ohio and Pennsyl- 
vania rendered these trips periods of constant delight. 

In 1810 longing for wilder surroundings the business was 
removed to Henderson, Ky., one hundred and twenty-five miles 
down the Ohio, and here it was the same old story; Rozier con- 
ducted the store and Audubon spent his time hunting and fishing 
and in this way gratified his tastes while he also contributed not a 
little to the support of the family. But business at Henderson 
was hot very prosperous and another move was made, this time 
to St. Genevieve, a French settlement on the Mississippi. Here 
Audubon became very discontented while Rozier was delighted, 
the people being congenial to him and the business prosperous. 
The outcome of it was that Audubon sold out all his interests to 
his partner on April 11, 1811, and journeyed back across the prairie 
to Henderson where he had left his wife and child, happy in his 
freedom from all business cares, and sanguine as he always was 
when the immediate future was provided for. 

Two incidents of this early business career deserve mention. 



76 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

While at Louisville in March, 1810, there walked into the store 
one day Alexander Wilson, then on a canvassing trip through the 
west. Audubon saw for the first time a volume of the American 
Ornithology and in return showed to Wilson his own drawings 
of birds. What were the feeUngs of the two men? who can tell? 
Wilson made very littie mention of the meeting in his diary, while 
Audubon years later made charges of plagiarism against Wilson 
which seem not to accord with the facts and make a disagreeable 
incident in the history of American ornithology. It would be 
interesting to know what part this chance interview with Wilson 
and the sight of his book played in the ultimate determination of 
Audubon to pubhsh his own drawings. Up to this time he cer- 
tainly seems to have entertained no such idea. 

An equally important incident, although it came to nothing, was 
Audubon's application for a position on the Lewis and Clark 
expedition. It is hard to suggest what influence the presence of 
a man of his attainments would have had upon the scientific 
results of this historic exploration. 

Besides Audubon's association with Rozier he was also a partner 
in the business of his brother-in-law, Thomas W. Bakewell, at 
New Orleans and about this time this venture failed, thus reducing 
Audubon's means materially. He now determined upon a journey 
back to Pennsylvania and traveled on horseback through Ten- 
nessee and Georgia and thence north to his old home. Here he 
found that his Mill Grove property had been sold by his father-in- 
law and upon receiving the sum that had been realized he returned 
to Henderson and again engaged in business. For the time he 
prospered, but he had no judgment in commerical affairs; new 
partners and new ventures were rapidly followed by new mis- 
fortunes and before long everything had to be relinquished to the 
creditors of the company and Audubon was left penniless. " With- 
out a dollar in the world," he says, "bereft of all revenues beyond 
my own personal talents and acquirements, I left my dear log 
house, my delightful garden and orchards, with that heaviest of 
burdens, a heavy heart, and turned my face toward Louisville. 
This was the saddest of all my journeys, — the only time in my 



JOHN JAMES AUDUBON 77 

life when the Wild Turkeys that so often crossed my path, and the 
thousands of lesser birds that enlivened the woods and the prairies 
all looked like enemies, and I turned my eyes from them, as if I 
could have wished that they had never existed." 

This financial calamity seems to mark the turning point in 
Audubon's career for although prosperity did not come to him for 
some years he was at once forced through necessity to make use 
of his real talents instead of engaging in business for which he had 
neither taste nor ability. He began to draw portraits in black 
chalk and succeeded so well that he soon gained great popularity 
and was enabled to settle in Louisville. 

One possession with which both Audubon and his wife were 
endowed and the value of which can hardly be estimated was a 
charming personality; everywhere they made friends, not merely 
acquaintances but friends who were only too glad to render them 
every assistance in their power, and in the period of adversity 
which came to them during the years 1818 and 1819, and at other 
times later on, they owed not a little to the generosity of their 
friends. 

The year 1818 found the family in Cincinnati where Audubon 
was engaged at the museum in stuffing birds, an occupation which 
he continued for only six months owing to the failure of the au- 
thorities to furnish him the promised remuneration. He now fell 
back upon his pencil and gave lessons in drawing, while he was 
actually forced to depend to some extent upon his gun to supply 
his table. 

A sedentary life had no attractions for Audubon and he could 
never remain long in one place without experiencing the restless 
desire to be again roaming the forest and sooner or later he suc- 
cumbed. So now after a couple of years he determined on a trip 
southward to New Orleans. His wife was established with kind 
friends in Cincinnati and was supporting herself in part by teach- 
ing. In such sympathy was she with his undertakings and with 
such confidence in his ultimate success in anything he attempted 
that she was ever willing to sacrifice personal comforts rather 
than prove an obstacle to his plans. 



78 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

As has already been stated, Audubon had always been interested 
in drawing birds. His early efforts represented the birds suspended 
as dead game, but later he depicted them in life-like attitudes. 
Ever since coming west he had been drawing every variety of 
bird that he came across and had accumulated quite a collection. 
Just when he conceived the idea of publishing these drawings it 
is hard to say; he himself states that it was not until he met Charles 
Bonaparte in Philadelphia in 1824, but there is reason to think 
that he had the publication in mind before this time. However 
this may be he made this trip to New Orleans primarily with the 
idea of adding to his collection the many new varieties of birds 
that he felt sure must exist in the swamps and cane-brakes of the 
south and in the state which was ever dear to him as his birthplace. 

Reaching New Orleans in the winter of 1820-21 he spent a 
whole year in rambling about the country and drawing the birds 
that he procured, while he supported himself by drawing portraits. 
The next year he was joined by his family and gave lessons in 
drawing while he and his wife filled positions as tutors both at 
New Orleans and Natchez. In this period, too, Audubon made 
his first attempt at painting in oUs, being instructed by a traveling 
portrait painter, one John Stein. 

In January, 1823, the family were forced to separate for a time, 
Mrs. Audubon going with her younger son John to live on the 
plantation of a Mrs. Percy at Bayou Sara where she was to act 
as governess to her small daughter. Audubon and his son Victor 
traveled about the country for a time with the artist Stein, support- 
ing themselves by painting portraits, but at the approach of winter 
estabhshed themselves at Shipping Port, Ky., where Victor entered 
the counting-house of his uncle Mr. Berthond. 

March, 1824, marks a critical point in Audubon's life. In this 
month he made a journey to Philadelphia taking with him his 
drawings of birds and there for the first time introduced them to 
the scientific world, and seriously discussed the possibility and 
best method of securing their publication. He could hardly have 
come to a less sympathetic community. Philadelphia had been 
Wilson's home and his memory was still fresh in the minds of the 



JOHN JAMES AUDUBON 79 

scientific men; a continuation and a new edition of his Ornithology 
were at that very time being published and it is not surprising 
that another aspirant to ornithological fame should be looked 
upon by many with rather small favor. Furthermore, the diffi- 
culties that Wilson had encountered in publishing his work were 
well known and the far greater size of Audubon's plates made 
their publication seem well-nigh impossible even to those who were 
entirely in sympathy with the undertaking. It is not surprising 
that Audubon, full of enthusiasm and lacking in experience, was 
much disheartened. But this visit in spite of its discouragements 
was of vast benefit to the artist-naturalist. He made the acquaint- 
ance of Charles Lucien Bonaparte, Edward Harris, Richard 
Harlan, George Ord, Charles A. LeSueur and other members 
of the Academy of Natxiral Sciences, several of whom became 
his close friends. Harris, especially, proved not only a friend but 
on many occasions a benefactor both to Audubon and to his wife. 
He was a wealthy and generous man and an ornithologist of no 
mean ability, and the admiration that he felt for Audubon and the 
unselfish interest in the successful outcome of his undertaking 
have seldom been paralleled. Ord on the contrary became one 
of Audubon's bitterest enemies. He had been the close friend 
of Alexander Wilson, and was at the time of Audubon's visit to 
Philadelphia publishing another edition of the American Ornithol- 
ogy, so that the prospect of a work so much more elaborate as 
Audubon's promised to be no doubt aroused his jealousy. At the 
same time Ord's criticism seems to have been sincere. We must 
remember, that Audubon was at this time in no sense a scientific 
man, but an artist with a strong love of nature and vdth a temper- 
ament derived perhaps from his French ancestry, which impressed 
his writings and perhaps his speech with a somewhat careless ex- 
aggeration of style that did not at aU appeal to Ord who was of 
the exact closet-naturalist type. Audubon loathed the science of 
the museums and his knowledge of birds was what he derived 
from close association with them in the forest. It is therefore 
little to be wondered that Ord while he may have conceded Audu- 
bon's artistic talents, resented his reception as an "ornithologist" 



8o LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

as the term was then understood. Indeed, John Cassin who was 
of much the same school as Ord says of Audubon upon meeting 
him many years later, "I do not particularly admire him, he is 
no naturalist, — positively not by nature, but an artist, no reason- 
able doubt of it! ' " 

It was in art circles that Audubon profited most during the five 
months that he remained in Philadelphia. He took lessons from 
Thomas Sully and saw much of Rembrandt Peale for both of 
whom he had a high regard. 

Passing on to New York he was much more enthusiastically 
received but got no more encouragement in the project that he 
had in view than he did in Philadelphia, and thoroughly convinced 
of the impossibility of pubhshing his plates in America, he deter- 
mined to abandon the attempt until his resources would permit 
of his going to Europe. 

Returning to Bayou Sara after a trip along the great lakes he 
set about painting and giving lessons in drawing, music and danc- 
ing and endeavored by every means in his power to raise money. 
His success was phenomenal and his wife contributing her savings 
to his fund, he was enabled to realize his hopes and sailed from 
New Orleans April 26, 1826, with his precious paintings. 

He spent just three years in England and Scotland and accom- 
plished much. His striking personality and the size and orginality 
of his bird paintings attracted wide attention. He exhibited them 
at various places and realized considerable profit from the admis- 
sion fees, while he sold a large number of oil paintings and so 
managed to support himself. After some difficulty he arranged 
for the engraving and coloring of the sample plates and secured 
enough subscribers to warrant the continuation of the work. 

Mr. Lizars of Edinburgh, the engraver of the plates for Selby's 
Brilish Birds engraved the first plates of Audubon's work, but the 
main portion of them was done by Havell of London. By the 
close of the year 1830, one hundred plates had been issued. They 
were elephant folio, about three by two and a half feet, large enough 
to allow of the presentation of all the birds natural size, and with 
> Letter to Spencer F. Baird. 



JOHN JAMES AUDUBON 8l 

each a branch or spray of some tree or plant. Five plates formed 
a "part" and there was no text save the name of the bird and 
plant. 

Audubon made friends everywhere as he had done in America 
and there was wide-spread interest in the success of his publica- 
tion as well as wonder at his undertaking such an enormous task. 

He says, "My success in Edinburgh borders on the miraculous. 
I am feted, feasted, elected honorary member of societies, making 
money by my exhibition and my paintings. It is Mr. Audubon 
here and Mr. Audubon there and I can only hope that Mr. Audu- 
bon will not be made a conceited fool at last." He met all the 
prominent scientific men of England and Scotland as well as many 
other celebrities, ''such as Sir Walter Scott and Sir Thomas Law- 
rence, while during a brief canvassing trip to France in 1828 he 
made the acquaintance of Cuvier, Geoffroy St.-Hilaire and many 
other savants as well as the Due d'Orl^ans. 

While admirers were plentiful, subscribers as usual were scarce; 
hard to get and harder still to keep, and the ornithologist was 
continually reduced to such straits that he was forced to paint 
pictures and sell them at the shops in order to meet the cost of his 
publication. 

Returning to America in the spring of 1829 he spent a year in 
collecting and painting such birds as he had not already procured, 
passing most of his time in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Upon 
the approach of winter he joined his wife in Louisiana and the 
following April sailed with her for England. 

He returned to America tvdce more during the publication of 
the work to procure additional material, one visit lasting from 
August, 1831, to April, 1834, and the other from July, 1836, to 
the following summer. 

During the first period he visited Florida, New Brunswick and 
Labrador and spent considerable time with his friend Rev. John 
Bachman at Charleston, S. C, whom he first met in October, 1831, 
and who later became related through the marriage of his daughters 
to Audubon's sons. 

On his second trip besides stopping with Bachman he visited 



82 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

the Gulf of Mexico in company with Edward Harris, cruising 
along the coast as far as Galveston, Texas. 

Victor Audubon was sent to England to superintend the publica- 
tion of the work during his father's absence in October, 1832, and 
under his direction it went steadily on. The letter press was 
begun in October, 1830, under the title of the Ornithological 
Biography and kept pace with the issue of the plates so that the 
two were finished at nearly the same time, the last volume of the 
letter press in 1839 and the last fascicle of plates, the eighty-sevench, 
on June 30, 1838. 

The great work completed, the family had no particular object 
in remaining longer in England and toward the close of 1839 they 
all returned to New York. While Audubon had most friendly 
feelings toward England and Scotland as it was there that the 
publication of his work was made possible, he nevertheless always 
looked upon America as his country and his home. 

The family at last in comfortable circumstances purchased an 
estate known now as Audubon Park, and included within the 
city limits of New York, but at that time far removed from the 
city and surrounded by woodland except where it stretched down 
to the sandy shore of the Hudson. Here Audubon and his wife, 
his sons ^ and their families lived together and carried on the pub- 
lication of the other works which bear the name of the great 
naturalist. Both sons inherited their father's artistic ability and 
upon them devolved a large part of the work. 

First there was published an octavo edition of the plates accom- 
panied by the original letter press but all arranged in systematic 
order. This was followed by the great work on the Quadrupeds 
of America which was prepared in conjunction wdth Bachman. 

Before the preparations for this work were fairly under way the 
old spirit of unrest which had characterized the whole life of the 
naturalist again made its appearance. It seemed as if he could 
not settle down, he longed to penetrate the wilds of the far west 
where his mind's eye saw endless new birds and quadrupeds. He 
had procured from John K. Townsend, a Philadelphian orni- 
1 Both had been left widowers and had married again. 



JOHN JAMES AUDUBON 83 

thologist who crossed the continent in 1834, many new birds which 
were figured in various volumes of his great work and he had al- 
ways longed to see for himself some of the feathered inhabitants of 
the wonderful country that stretched away beyond the Mississippi. 
So in 1843, overcoming the scruples of his friends and relatives 
who thought him too old for such an extended journey, he started 
via St. Louis and up the Missouri, on one of the American Fur 
Company's boats for Ft. Union on the eastern boundary of the 
present state of Montana. His friend Harris accompanied him 
and acted as general financial manager of the expedition. John 
G. Bell, the taxidermist, Isaac Sprague and Lewis Squires made 
up the party. 

Spencer F. Baird, afterward secretary of the Smithsonian 
Institution, but then a young man, had recently become acquainted 
with Audubon and was asked to accompany him but decided not 
to go. 

The expedition was eminently successful and many specimens 
of birds and quadrupeds were secured. 

In 1846, Audubon began to show signs of physical failure. Dr. 
Brewer says of him at this time, "The patriarch had greatly 
changed since I had last seen him. He wore his hair longer and 
it now hung down in locks of snowy whiteness on his shoulders. 
His once piercing gray eyes, though still bright, had already begun 
to fail him. He could no longer paint with his wonted accuracy, 
and had at last most reluctantly been forced to surrender to his 
sons the task of completing the illustrations to the Quadrupeds oj 
North America. Surrounded by his large family, including his 
devoted wife, his two sons with their wives and a troop of grand- 
children, his enjoyments of life seemed to leave him little to de- 
sire. ... A pleasanter scene, or a more interesting household it 
has never been the writer's good fortune to witness." 

His son John Woodhouse did the remaining plates of the Quad- 
rupeds, while Bachman wrote a large portion and edited all of the 
text of the work. 

By 1848, the mind of the ornithologist had failed. He experi- 
enced no period of invalidism, but during the next three years his 



84 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

strength gradually ebbed away until on January 27, 185 1, when 
surrounded by his family his eventful life came peacefully to an 
end. 

It will be seen that Audubon's contribution to science is practi- 
cally embodied in the Birds of America and the Ornithological 
Biography ; the Quadrupeds being only a joint production, with 
Bachman as the chief scientific contributor. Futhermore, the tv/o 
works, the former all plates, the latter all text, represent the two 
sides of the man or rather his two consuming interests. 

From the outset his main thought seems to have been the publi- 
cation of his paintings, the characterization of the new species 
being of secondary consideration. He tells us in his journal how 
Bonaparte looking over his drawings picked out the species that 
were new to science and penciled suitable names on them urging 
Audubon to publish them at once in some journal so that he 
should ensure credit for his discoveries, but the suggestion availed 
nothing and he says in another connection, "I do not claim any 
merit for these discoveries and should have liked as well that the 
objects of them had been previously known as this would have 
saved some unbelievers the trouble of searching for them in books 
and the disappointment of finding them actually new. I assure 
you that I should have less pleasure in presenting to the scientific 
world a new bird the knowledge of whose habits I do not possess, 
than in describing the habits of one long since discovered." 

Therefore to his mind the first task was the publication of the 
plates, the work of Audubon, the artist. These plates constitute 
as has been said the "greatest tribute ever paid by art to science." 
In their size they stand unique among natural history illustrations, 
while their style is striking, original and quite different from any- 
thing that had previously been produced, but in the desire for ac- 
tion, the birds are sometimes placed in what are certainly unusual 
if not as Dr. Coues has said, anatomically impossible attitudes. 

The biographies comprising the work of Audubon "the nat- 
uralist," are on the same plan as those of Wilson, but Audubon 
was a more fluent writer and seemed able to arouse the sympathy 
of his reader with the experiences that he relates, while the more 



JOHN JAMES AUDUBON 85 

or less irrelevant matter which he often incorporates into the biog- 
raphies as well as the "episodes," which are interpolated through 
the volumes add largely to their fascination. 

The relative merit of the texts of WUson and Audubon, so far 
as they portray the habits and life history of the birds will doubtless 
always be a matter of personal opinion. 

Audubon's far larger experience renders many of his sketches 
more exhaustive than Wilson's, while the far greater number of 
reliable correspondents which he was enabled to avail himself of 
tended to the same end. At the same time there are occasionally 
inconsistencies and evidences of handhng the subject with a sort 
of "poetic license," as well as a great deal of personal incident, 
which to some has appeared uncalled for. Some of Audubon's 
writings brought forth severe criticism, but usually from men who 
were so obviously his enemies that their charges carry less weight 
than they otherwise might. 

Preparing his manuscript as he did in the heart of a scientific 
community, Audubon had constantly impressed upon him the 
need of accuracy in the strictly technical parts of his work. 
When describing his travels and the habits of the birds that he en- 
countered he was full of enthusiasm, but for the technical portion 
he had an avowed dislike. Therefore he determined to secure 
some one who could attend to this portion of the biographies, 
and generally supervise his manuscripts. Negotiations with 
William Swanison failed of results because Swanison insisted 
upon being recognized as a coauthor, to which Audubon would 
not agree, and eventually William McGillivray, a Scotch orni- 
thologist, was engaged. Just how much of a hand McGillivray 
had in the work it is impossible to say, but he doubtless was 
quite a factor in the preparation of the technical descriptions 
and the Synopsis which was issued after the completion of the 
great work, and, as Elliot has said, whatever scientific value 
there is in Audubon's Biography is derived largely from Mc- 
Gillivray's cooperation. 

Compared with the works of his predecessors, Audubon differed, 
in including a much larger number of birds with which he was 



86 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

not personally familiar, thus making his work more nearly a 
complete treatise on the bird life of America than any which had 
preceded it. Wilson treated of two hundred and seventy-eight 
species, of which two hundred and sixty-five are now recognized, 
while Audubon treated in all five hundred and nine of which 
four hundred and seventy-three are recognized to-day as belong- 
ing to our fauna. Of those additional to Wilson ninety-three are 
water birds,^ and one hundred and seventeen land birds. Of the 
latter only forty-six came under his own observation, no less than 
fifty-one being furnished him by John K. Townsend, the first 
ornithologist to cross the continent to the shores of the Pacific. 

While honored with memberships in many scientific societies, 
Audubon took no part in their deliberations and felt himself out 
of place in such assemblages. He says of a meeting of the Royal 
Society of London: "The evening was spent at the Royal Society, 
where as at all Royal Societies, I heard a dull heavy lecture." 

As has already been said Audubon was popular with almost 
every one with whom he came in contact, interesting and vivacious 
in conversation, a talented musician and above all with every 
characteristic of the artist strongly marked. In person he was 
always strikingly handsome. In his early prime he says of himself, 
"I measured five feet ten and a half inches, was of a fair mien, 
and quite a handsome figure, large dark and rather sunken eyes, 
light colored eye-brows, aquiline nose, and a fine set of teeth ; hair, 
fine texture and luxuriant, divided and passing down behind each 
ear in luxuriant ringlets as far as the shoulders." 

He continued to wear his hair in this fashion after he reached 
Edinburgh, nor did he seem to mind the attention that he thus at- 
tracted. Mr. Joseph Coolidge who accompanied Audubon on his 
Labrador expedition in 1833, gives us a picture of the naturalist, as 
he knew him, "You had only to meet him to love him," he says, 
"and when you had conversed with him for a moment, you looked 

upon him as an old friend, rather than a stranger To this 

day I can see him, a magnificent gray haired man, childlike in his 
simplicity, kind-hearted, noble-souled, lover of nature and lover of 

1 Wilson never completed his work and the water birds are very deficient. 



JOHN JAMES AUDUBON 87 

youth, friend of humanity, and one whose religion was the golden 
rule." His kindness to young ornithologists is again attested by 
the letters and journal of Spencer F. Baird, who as a student in 
New York City, saw a great deal of the then venerable naturalist 
and received much kindly instruction and encouragement from 
him. 

While it has been his reputation as an artist and a student of the 
habits of birds, that has made the name of Audubon famous, there 
is one characteristic which we can trace through his whole eventful 
life, which was primarily responsible for his success and without 
which he would probably never have achieved notoriety. This 
was the indomitable courage and preseverance with which he 
carried out the gigantic publication that had early become estab- 
lished in his mind as his life-work. In spite of hardship, poverty 
and actual want he persevered until success crowned his efforts. 
And if, we see here and there exaggeration in his plates or if pas- 
sages in his writings seen to personify the subjects or to tend toward 
egotism, we must remember the character of the man, whose 
pencil was striving to present to us the action and life of the crea- 
tures he loved to watch ; whose pen could not describe their habits 
without telling us also of the feelings that arose within him as his 
mind reverted to the scenes of which he wrote, and who could not 
help looking upon them as fellow-beings. This was no museum 
savant but a painter-naturalist, who holds a distinct place in the 
history of Ornithology. 

And of his work we can truly say that no paintings have inspu-ed 
more men to follow on the path he trod, and no text on bird life 
has been read with more consuming interest. 



BENJAMIN SILLIMAN 

CHEMIST 

I 7 79-1864 

By Daniel Coit Oilman 

Benjamin Silliman, for fifty years a leader among the sci- 
entific men of the United States, has won the grateful remem- 
brance of his countrymen by important services in four distinct 
fields. 

He was an admirable teacher of undergraduates in Yale 
College, and was an efficient aid in building up every department 
of that famous institution during his long connection with it. 

He was a pioneer in providing advanced instruction for special 
students of science. 

By his lectures delivered in every part of the country, he 
contributed, in a large degree, to the promotion of a love of sci- 
ence and to the foundation of scientific institutions. 

He began and maintained, with much sacrifice, the American 
Journal 0} Science which has continued for nearly fourscore years 
and ten to be a leading repository of American science. 

An extended memoir of Professor Silliman, including extracts 
from his correspondence, was prepared and published soon after 
his death by one of his younger colleagues, Professor George P. 
Fisher. This work is so complete and is based on such trust- 
worthy papers, that very little, if anything, can be added to it. 
Moreover, the memoir is so readable that the present writer 
would not venture upon the preparation of this paper, were it 
not that younger generations, to whom "Professor Silliman" 
is a name and but little more, may read a short article while a 

89 



90 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

long biography might deter them. By the permission of Dr. 
Fisher, free use will be made of his material, for which this 
general acknowledgment is gratefully made. 

I have besides read over afresh the appreciation of Professor 
A. W. Wright, the affectionate estimate of President Dwight, and 
the six volumes of Silliman's Travels,— three on Europe as seen 
by him in 1805-06; two on Europe visited forty-five or six years 
later; and one on Canada in 1810. 

For the sake of a personal flavor, may I be allowed to add that 
during my college course I attended, with my classmates, his 
lectures on Geology, Mineralogy and Chemistry, and I had also 
the privilege of being a frequent and informal visitor in his house, 
where I learned to love and admire his noble qualities, as I 
enjoyed his fund of anecdotes regarding the men whom he had 
met and the events of which he had been a witness or in which 
he had taken part. Hearing Silliman and Kingsley, friends of 
half a century, cap each other's stories as they sat together in the 
parlor, after the tea-cups, is a delightful and ineffaceable memory. 

I remember him at that time, when he was not far from seventy 
years old, six feet in height, broad-shouldered, of elastic step, 
with thin, grayish well-trimmed hair and a smooth chin, never 
hurried and never worried, entirely self-possessed before an 
audience, successful in his demonstrations, graceful in his ges- 
tures, fluent and sometimes discursive in his speech, loving to 
hear or to tell appropriate anecdotes, welcomed everywhere in 
private or in public, a reverent worshiper in the college chapel, 
where in his turn he conducted prayers, never troubled by reli- 
gious doubts, an unquestioning believer. While his pecuniary 
resources could not be called afHuent, he was always able to live 
like a gentleman in constant unostentatious hospitality. Among 
college professors I have never known one who bore his self- 
conscious dignity with so much ease and affability, and who 
extended his courtesies so naturally and so acceptably to supe- 
riors, inferiors and equals. Among hoary headed men, I have 
never seen a finer example of conservatism without senility and 
of never failing enthusiasm, enriched by experience, always 



BENJAMIN SILLIMAN 91 

ready for progress, always welcoming new light, always encourag- 
fng the young and seconding their endeavors. 

The ancestry of this eminent man was of the best New England 
stock. His grandfather, Ebenezer (Yale, 1727), was a Judge of 
the Superior Court of Connecticut, and the proprietor of a large 
landed estate in Fairfield. His father. Gold Selleck Silliman, a 
successful lawyer, who had graduated at Yale in 1752, took an 
active part in the Revolutionary struggle, and acquired the rank 
of Brigadier-General in the Connecticut militia. He was en- 
gaged in the battles of Long Island, White Plains and Ridge- 
field, and was charged with the defense of southwestern Connect- 
icut from the incursions of the enemy. So active did he become 
that a special expedition was sent by Sir Henry Clinton for his 
arrest, which was effected at midnight. May 11, 1779, at his 
house on Holland Hill. After military imprisonment for a year. 
General Silliman was restored to his family. Soon after her 
husband's arrest, Mrs Silliman retreated, with her eldest child, 
to a retired settlement, not far away, then called North Stratford, 
and now Trumbull. Here Benjamin was born, August 8, 1779. 
When he was eleven years old, his father died, July 21, 1790, 
in the fifty-ninth year of his age. 

The mother traced her descent from John Alden and Priscilla 
MuUins, of the Mayflower Pilgrims, whose romantic story has 
been told by the poet Longfellow. She was the daughter of 
Rev. Joseph Fish, for fifty years a Congregational minister in 
North Stonington, Conn. Her death occurred in 18 18 when her 
son, at the age of forty years, had acquired distinction. 

Both parents were of unusual excellence, well born, but not 
in affluence, well placed, well connected, well educated, very 
patriotic and deeply religious. 

Until the death of the mother, the home of the Silliman family 
continued to be in that part of Fairfield known as Holland Hill, 
some two or three miles from the village. Upon the same lofty 
ridge, commanding a beautiful view over Long Island Sound and 
its adjacent coasts, is Greenfield Hill, where Timothy Dwight, 
afterwards President of Yale College, maintained an academy 



92 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

for the instruction of girls. There are charming glimpses of 
this rural life. By birth, education and choice, Benjamin and 
his elder brother. Gold Selleck, were country boys, and adopted 
the amusements and varieties of exercise which belong peculiarly 
to the country. Much company resorted to Holland Hill, and 
near by, the village of Fairfield was the home of many families 
of refinement and influence, as the names of Thaddeus Burr, 
Jonathan Sturges and Andrew Eliot suggest. Here a little later, 
dwelt Roger Minot Sherman. 

The first experience of Benjamin Silliman, away from the 
parental roof, began in New Haven, where he was admitted as 
a student of Yale College in the autumn of 1792, — then but 
thirteen years of age, the youngest of the class save one. He 
had been well fitted for his college course by the minister of 
Fairfield, Rev. Andrew Eliot, who had graduated at Harvard in 
1762. He was a thorough scholar who took delight in imparting 
to his few pupils a love of the classics, especially of Virgil, but 
unfortunately, his choice library had been consumed when Gen- 
eral Tryon burnt the town of Fairfield in 1779. 

Dr. Ezra Stiles was President of the college until 1795 when 
he was succeeded by Dr. Timothy Dwight. Silliman's remi- 
niscences of this period give amusing illustrations of the condi- 
tions under which students grew up at that time. 

After taking his degree, in the class of 1796, he had for the next 
few years the experience of many college graduates, — uncertainty 
as to his future. He spent some time with his mother, looking 
after her ailairs, taught school for a while in Wethersfield, and 
began the study of law at New Haven under the guidance of 
Simeon Baldwin, David Daggett and Charles Chauncey, and 
was duly admitted to the bar in 1802. While pursuing these 
studies, he held the office of tutor in Yale College, having received 
the appointment in 1799 when he had just reached the age of 
twenty years. An eye-witness,^ then a student, describes his 
initiation into the tutorial office thus: — I recall "a fair and 
portly young man, with thick and long hair, clubbed behind, 
I Rev. Noah Porter, D.D., of Farmington, Conn. 



BENJAMIN SILLIMAN 93 

(a la mode George Washington), following President D wight 
up the middle aisle for evening prayer, and taking his seat in a 
large square pew at the right of the pulpit. After prayers, a call 
from the President, Sedete omnes, brought us all upon our seats, 
when Silliman, at a sign from the President, rose and read a 
written formula declaring his assent to the Westminster Cate- 
chism and the Saybrook platform. So he was inducted into the 
tutorship." Three years later, in September, 1802, he became a 
member of the College church and from that time onward to the 
close of his life, there are many proofs of the sincerity of his 
Christian experience. 

The earliest indication of interest in science on the part of 
Silliman, appears to be an essay which he read before the Brothers 
in Unity at Yale when he was sixteen years old. It is a concise 
survey of the three kindoms of nature in their fundamental 
peculiarities! Occasionally, like other students, he turned to 
verse. His piece at graduation was a poetical sketch of the con- 
dition of European nations, contrasted with the lot of this country, 
and when he took his second degree, in 1799, he read a poem on 
"Columbia." 

Toward the close of his life. Professor Silliman wrote out from 
time to time his reminiscences, having chiefly in view (as his 
biographer. Dr. Fisher says), that department of instruction in 
Yale College with the origin and growth of which he was so 
closely connected, and as many of his early letters are also 
extant, I can give in his own phrases the story of the introduction 
of Chemistry into the curriculimi of Yale. 

For many years under Clap and Stiles, mathematics and natu- 
ral philosophy had been taught. Some apparatus had been 
collected and was sacredly guarded in a room always kept closed 
except when students or visitors were admitted to it. This 
apartment was in the old "South Middle," which stands in the 
present quadrangle fortunately saved as an honored relic of 
colonial times; "in the old college, second loft, north east corner, 
room No. 56," in Silliman's record. "There was an air of 
mystery about the room," says Silliman and "we entered it with 



94 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

awe, increasing to admiration after we had seen something of 
the apparatus and the experiments. There was an air-pump, 
an electrical machine of the cylinder form, a whirling table, a 
telescope of medium size, and some of smaller dimensions; a 
quadrant, a set of models, for illustrating the mechanical powers, 
a condensing fountain with jets d'eau, a theodolite, and a magic 
lantern — the wonder of Freshmen. These were the principal in- 
struments; they were of considerable value: they served to impart 
valuable information, and to enlarge the student's knowledge of 
the material world." 

The professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosphy at this 
time was Josiah Meigs, who afterwards won further distinction 
as President of the University of Georgia, and still later, as 
Professor of Experimental Philosophy in Columbian University, 
Washington. He was a man of great ability and belonged to 
a family, of which other members have won distinction, among 
them. Dr. Charles D. Meigs and General M. C. Meigs. His 
lectures at Yale, during seven years, were delivered from the 
pulpit of the College Chapel. To him, Silliman attributes his 
earliest impressions in respect to Chemistry. The lecturer had 
read Chaptal, Lavoisier and other French writers; from these he 
occasionally introduced, says his pupil, chemical facts and prin- 
ciples in common with those of Natural Philosophy. Thus, he 
continues, was created "in my youthful mind a vivid curiosity 
to know more of the science to which they appertained. Litde 
did I then imagine that Providence held this duty and pleasure 
in reserve for me." 

The turning-point in Siliiman's life occurred in 1801. He 
had been invited to take up his residence in Georgia, under 
favorable auspices, and while he was considering this proposal, 
he met President Dwight "one very warm morning in July," 
as he says, "under the shade of the grand trees in the street in 
front of the College buildings, when, after the usual salutations, 
he lingered, and conversation ensued. I felt it to be both a 
privilege and a duty to ask his advice." "I advise you not to 
go," was the reply of his chief, "for these reasons among others," 



BENJAMIN SILLIMAN 95 

He then proceeded to say that the College had resolved to estab- 
lish a professorship of Chemistry and Natural History. No 
American appeared qualified to discharge the duties of the ofl&ce 
and there were objections to calling a foreigner. The College 
had therefore decided to select one of its younger graduates and 
encourage him to prepare himself for the professorship. He then 
asked Silliman's consent to have his name presented for appoint- 
ment. The young lawyer was staggered by this suggestion, but 
after deliberation, he decided to accept the call. Thus began 
the career which continued for half a century and exerted a 
strong influence upon the progress of science throughout the 
United States. 

How shoixld the prospective Professor of Chemistry fit him- 
self for the post to which he was unexpectedly called? Where 
could he turn for instruction ? Whom could he consult ? Phila- 
delphia was then the principal seat of science in America; the 
influence of Franklin and Rittenhouse was still felt. The Med- 
ical School had already acquired distinction, and a course of 
lectures on Chemistry formed a part of its regular courses of 
instruction. Dr. James Woodhouse was the lecturer, in this 
subject. Some eclat was given to his instruction by the fact that 
he had just returned from London where he had been with Sir 
Humphry Davy. Silliman's picture of the situation is not 
altogether flattering. The lecture rooms were crowded, there 
was no assistant, the apparatus was humble, but the experiments 
were numerous and made a strong impression upon his pupil. 
Woodhouse seems to have been in advance of his time by ridi- 
culing the idea that the visitation of yellow fever was a visitation 
of God for the sins of the people. 

Among the companions of Silliman was Robert Hare, who had 
then perfected his invention of the oxyhydrogen blowpipe, and 
presented the instrument to the Chemical Society of Philadelphia. 
Silliman worked with Hare and made important suggestions 
for the improvement of this apparatus. Among the other men 
of science whom he saw were Dr. Benjamin Rush, Dr. Benjamin 
Smith Barton, Dr. Caspar Wistar and the illustrious Joseph 



96 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

Priestley, then living at Northumberland, and not infrequently 
seen at the hospitable table of Dr. Wistar. 

In his transits from New York to Philadelphia, Silliman 
often stopped in Princeton where he found an inspiring friend in 
Dr. Maclean whom he speaks of as his earliest master in Chemis- 
try. Although he did not have the opportunity to attend any 
lectures there, he calls Princeton his "first starting-point" in 
that science. The young chemist spent a second winter in 
Philadelphia when he continued to be intimate with Robert 
Hare, and in the spring returned to New Haven and began to 
write his lectures. Among the instructions from President 
Dwight, which Silliman received in Philadelphia was one request- 
ing him to pay some attention, if possible, before his return, to 
J' the analyzing of stones." "The President has received some 
of the basalts from the Giant's Causeway, and supposes that 
there is a stone in the neighborhood of this town of a similar 
nature; he wishes to ascertain the fact." 

In the following summer he delivered his first course of 
lectures upon Chemistry. He had prepared them with a great 
deal of care, and he afterwards pointed with pride to the names 
of distinguished men who were members of the class, — John 
C. Calhoun, Bishop Gadsden, John Pierpont, the poet, and many 
others. During his absence a subterranean lecture room had 
been fitted up for his laboratory, but so inconvenient was it, that 
the young chemist was obliged to get several members of the 
corporation into the gloomy cavern, fifteen or sixteen feet below 
the surface of the ground, before they could be persuaded to 
improve this faulty situation. In this deep-seated laboratory, 
Silliman worked during fifteen of the best years of his life and 
he has left particular accounts of the simple apparatus which 
he possessed. He was much encouraged by a remark of the 
great Dr. Priestley, namely, 

"that with Florence flasks (cleaned by sand and ashes) and plenty 
of glass tubes, vials, bottles, and corks, a tapering iron rod to be 
heated and used as a cork borer, and a few live coals with which 
to bend the tubes, a good variety of apparatus might be fitted up. 



BENJAMIN SILLIMAN 97 

Some gun-barrels also, he said, would be of much service; and I 
had brought from Philadelphia an old blacksmith's furnace, which 
served for the heating of the iron tubes. He said, moreover, that 
sand and bran (coarse Indian meal is better), with soap, would 
make the hands dean, and that there was no sin in dirt." 

Not long after the commencement of his duties, the College 
determined to spend $10,000 in the purchase of books and 
apparatus. Silliman was intrusted with this responsibility and 
at the end of March, 1805, sailed for Europe. He had given 
lectures during the winter at the rate of four in a week, in all 
"sixty lectures or more, including some notices of Mineralogy." 
Of his travels in England, Holland and Scotland, a very enter- 
taining narrative was published in 1810. Few books of the 
time had a wider circulation. Repeated editions were called 
for, and ten years after the original publication, the book was 
reissued with additions from the original manuscripts of the 
author. The introductions which the young man carried with 
him brought him into acquaintance with many of the most 
distinguished men of the day. Among others whom he seems to 
have seen familiarly, may be named Sir Joseph Banks, the Presi- 
dent of the Royal Society, Watt, the improver of the steam- 
engine, then a man of seventy years of age, Mr. Greville whose 
fine collection of minerals was subsequently added to the British 
Museum, Dr. Wollaston, the Secretary of the Royal Society, 
Mr. Cavendish, the distinguished chemist, Rennel the geographer, 
and many more. He saw something of the Clapham circle, 
particularly William Wilberf orce, Mr. Thornton and Lord Teign- 
mouth. Sir Humphry Davy, then about twenty-five years of 
age and "of an appearance more youthful than might have been 
expected from his years," was only in town for a day or two 
before Silliman's departure, but a brief visit to this great man 
made a strong impression upon the young American. 

After a short journey in Holland and Belgium, of which he 
has left extended accounts, Silliman proceeded to Edinburgh 
where he spent the winter of 1805-06. About thirty Americans, 
most of them from the South, were then enrolled as students, 



98 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

and two of them, afterwards known as the Rev. John Codman, 
D. D., of Boston, and Professor John Gorham, M. D., of Wash- 
ington, were his familiar companions. The reader will be 
disappointed if he turns to the Travels for an account of the 
condition of science or of the methods employed for its promotion. 
Two pages include all that he has here to say upon this subject, 
but the deficiencies are fully supplied by the reminiscences 
afterwards published by his biographer. 

The University of Edinburgh in its intellectual activity and 
in its renown then surpassed any other university in the English- 
speaking world. The records of its preeminence are abundant. 
For example, Russell's recent biography of Sidney Smith throws 
this sidelight upon the state of society not long before the arrival 
of Silliman. 

The University of Edinburgh was then in its days of glory. 
Dugald Stewart was Professor of Moral Philosophy; John Play- 
fair, of Mathematics; John Hill, of Humanity. The teaching was 
at once interesting and systematic, the intellectual atmosphere 
liberal and enterprising. English parents who cared seriously for 
mental and moral freeedom, such as the Duke of Somerset, the 
Duke of Bedford, and Lord Lansdowne, sent their sons to Edin- 
burgh instead of Oxford or Cambridge. The University was in 
close relations with the Bar, then adorned by the great names of 
Francis Jeffrey, Francis Horner, Henry Brougham, and Walter 
Scott. While Michael Beach was duly attending the professorial 
lectures, his tutor was not idle. From Dugald Stewart and 
Thomas Brown, he acquired the elements of Moral Philosophy. 
He gratified a lifelong fancy by attending the Clinical Lectures 
given by Dr. Gregory in the hospitals of Edinburgh, and studied 
Chemistry under Dr. Black. He amused himself with chemical 
experiments. 

"I mix'd 4 of Holland gin with 8 of olive oil, and stirr'd them 
well together. I then added 4 of nitric acid. A violent ebullition 
ensued. Nitrous ether, as I suppos'd, was generated, and in about 
four hours the oil became perfectly concrete, white and hard as 
tallow." 



BENJAMIN SILLIMAN 99 

The renown of Joseph Black, Professor of Chemistry, who had 
died in 1799, still shed its luster upon Auld Reekie. Many inter- 
esting stories are told of this great teacher. " Chemistry," he said, 
"is not yet a science. We are far from knowing first principles, 
and we should avoid everything that has the pretensions of a full 
system." Late in life, Silliman sometimes repeated the following 
anecdote (which is quoted by Miss Clerke from Ferguson), 
respecting the death of Professor Black: 

"Being at table with his usual fare, some bread, a few prunes, 
and a measured quantity of milk diluted with water, and having 
the cup in his hand when the last stroke of the pulse was to be 
given, he appeared to have set it down on his knees, which were 
joined together, and in the action expired without spilling a drop, 
as if an experiment had been purposely made to evince the fa- 
cility with which he departed." 

To Professor John Robison, the colleague of Black, Silliman 
had brought special introductions. Perhaps at Dr. Maclean's 
suggestion, Princeton had already conferred upon him an honor- 
ary degree. His death occurred before the letter could be pre- 
sented. It was therefore to the lectures of Professor Thomas 
Charles Hope, who had been a pupil of Lavoisier, that Silliman 
resorted. The art of lecturing was then developed to great per- 
fection, and although Dr. Hope gave no teaching in practical 
chemistry before 1823, he must have been an inspiring and bril- 
liant teacher, performing experiments in the presence of his class 
in the most skilful manner. His reception of the young American 
is thus decribed: 

"Dr. Hope was a polished gentleman, but a little stately and 
formal withal. After reading the letter of introduction, he turned 
to me and said, 'I perceive that I am addressing a brother Pro- 
fessor.' I bowed, a litde abashed; a very young man, as I still 
was (at the age of 26), thus to be recognized as the peer of a re- 
nowned veteran in science, the able successor, as he had been 
the associate, of the distinguished Dr. Black. He proceeded,— 
'Now sir, from long experience, I will give you one piece of ad- 
vice, — that is, never to attempt to give a lecture until you are en- 
tirely possessed of your subject, and never to venture on an ex- 



lOO 



LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 



periment of whose success you are doubtful.' I bowed respect- 
fully my assent, adding at the same time that I was happy to find 
that I had begun right, for I had hitherto endeavored to adopt 
the very course which he had presented, and which I should en- 
deavor still to follow. I thought I perceived that something in 
his manner indicated that he would have been quite as_ well 
pleased if I had not in some measure anticipated his experience. 
He proved himself a model professor, and fully entided to act as 
a mentor." 

In the expectation that a medical school would be established 
in New Haven, Silliman attended anatomical lectures in Phila- 
delphia, and he did likewise in Edinburgh. Dr. James Gregory 
was then chief of the Edinburgh Medical School, the leading 
consultant in medicine, and, like his colleague Hope, an admirable 
lecturer. To his courses Silliman was naturally attracted. "His 
lectures," says his pupil, "were very informal, although not imme- 
thodical; if they were written out, he made no use of notes, but 
began without exordium, and poured out the rich treasures of his 
ardent mind with such crowding rapidity of diction that it was not 
always easy to apprehend fully his thoughts, because we could 
not distinctly hear all his words. He had many historical and per- 
sonal anecdotes, some of which have remained with me during the 
fifty-two years that have passed since I heard them." 

Dr. John Murray, a private lecturer, not connected with the 
University, gave instruction to a company of thirty-five or forty 
persons in his own house, and in this less formal and more famil- 
iar mode of instruction, Silliman found a valuable accessory to the 
lectures of Dr. Hope. "Both united," he says, "gave a finish and 
completeness that was all I could desire to enable me to resume 
my course of instruction at home." 

Edinburgh was then the seat of a great scientific battle. Pro- 
fessor Robert Jameson had recently returned from Freiberg where 
he was fully imbued with the geological tenets of Werner respect- 
ing the agency of water in the phenomena of Geology. Dr. 
Murray was a zealous advocate of these Wernerian theories. Dr. 
Hope, on the other hand, defended what was called the philosophy 
of fire, — and the extended researches of Dr. Hutton. The discus- 



BENJAMIN SILLIMAN loi 

sions of these two men afiForded a rich entertainment to Silliman 
and a wide range of instruction, and his allusions to this igneous 
and aqueous controversy formed an interesting chapter in his sub- 
sequent American lectures. 

The teachers of Silliman were not the only men of mark whom 
he met. He describes an interview with Dugald Stewart, then the 
pride and ornament of Edinburgh. The conversation turned upon 
American literature, for which the philosopher showed but little 
appreciation. "When our poems were inquired for," says Silli- 
man, "it was evident that the distinguished men around me had 
not heard even the names of our poets,- Dwight, Trumbull, Barlow, 
Humphreys, and others." 

Sir David Brewster, Professor Leslie, the Earl of Buchan 
(Washington's correspondent), and Anderson, the editor of the 
British Poets, are among others whom he met, but with them his 
relations were but brief. 

I have given so much space to this Edinburgh chapter, chiefly 
because it shows the dawn of instruction in Chemistry, partly also 
because of the famous men referred to, and partly because of the 
influence exerted upon the young American professor. Looking 
back, toward the end of his life, Silliman acknowledges his debt to 
Edinbiurgh in these words: Upon its characteristics "I endeav- 
ored to form my professional character, to imitate what I saw and 
heard, and afterwards to introduce such improvements as I might 
be able to hit upon or invent. It is obvious that, had I rested con- 
tent with the Philadelphia standard, except what I learned from 
my early friend, Robert Hare, the chemistry of Yale College would 
have been comparatively an humble affair. In mineralogy, my 
opportunities at home had been very limited. As to geology, the 
science did not exist among us, except in the minds of a very few 
individuals, and instruction was not attainable in any public 
Jnatitution^ I In Edinburgh there were learned and eloquent 
geologists and lecturers, and ardent and successful explorers; and 
in that city the great geological conflict between the Wernerian 
and Huttonian schools elicited a high order of talent and rich 
resources both in theory and facts." 



I02 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

On his return, Silliman reached New Haven, Sunday, June i, 
1806, and went at once to evening prayers in the College Chapel. 
His days of tutelage were over and his career as a teacher began. 
He soon made a comparison between the geological features of 
New Haven and Edinburgh, and read a paper on this subjeci 
before the Connecticut Academy. In the autumn, his lectures 
began and they continued, practically without interruption, until 
his final release from official duties. 

During this long period, Silliman was identified with Yale Col- 
lege. No one in the faculty attracted more students, no one exerted 
greater influence beyond the college walls. His lectures were 
anticipated by successive classes with expectations of pleasure and 
profit which were never disappointed. In later years, ladies were 
regularly admitted. The lecturer was always punctual, prepared, 
fluent and entertaining. He was skilful in the demonstrations 
which he made before the class. After giving up the subterranean 
room already referred to, his instructions were given in the old 
dining-room of the College, 2 lecture room capable of holding 
more than a hundred persons, with accessory rooms for prepara- 
tions. Although this was called a laboratory, its construction and 
its uses were very different from those now found in well-organized 
colleges. Silliman was far from being a man of routine. He 
threw himself, heart and soul, into the varied interests of the Col- 
lege, and, from time to time, engaged in public affairs, as the fol- 
lowing narrative will show. It will be more impressive to avoid 
the chronological order in the treatment of his career, and to dis- 
cuss, under various headings, his manifold services. 

We begin with his characteristics as a teacher of undergraduates. 

During fifty years, three men, selected by President Dwight, 
were closely associated in the administration of Yale College. 
Jeremiah Day began as Professor of Mathematics and afterwards 
succeeded to the Presidency. James L. Kingsley, first a Professor 
of Ancient Languages and Ecclesiastical History, was relieved 
from these multiplex appointments, one after another, retaining 
until the close of his life, the professorship of Latin. Silliman 
began as Professor of Chemistry and Natural History, but Nat- 



BENJAMIN SILLIMAN 103 

ural History, if that term be regarded as including Zoology and 
Botany, never entered into his field of special study. Mineralogy 
and Geology were added to Chemistry for a time, and Pharmacy 
was specified in the catalogues of the Medical School. These 
three men, very different in their intellectual qualities, supple- 
mented the instruction of each other. Silliman was the attractive 
lecturer, the college orator, the man who came to the front on all 
academic occasions. Kingsley was the retired scholar, learned, 
accurate, ready, masterly as a critic, thorough as a teacher. Day, 
a wise and judicious administrator, in addition to the duties then 
commonly assigned to a college president, gave instruction in 
Moral Philosophy. 

Discriminating appreciations of these three men, with charac- 
teristic stories, are given in the Memories of Yale Life and Men, by 
the second President Dwight. He quotes from President Woolsey 
the saying that Silliman, among all the men who lived in New 
Haven during the century, was the most finished gentleman, not 
only in external demeanor, but in his character and soul. Dwight 
says that 

"His language and style, his wonderful facility of expression 
and clearness of statement, and the grace and force of the presen- 
tation of his thought were admirably fitted to arrest and hold the 
attention of his hearers at all times, as well as to impress upon their 
memory the facts and truths which he brought before them." 

Then he adds this amusing story, illustrating the genuine kindli- 
ness of the man: 

"I well remember one illustrative case, respecting which there 
had been long-continued deliberation, with the differences of 
views that were frequently manifest, and the minds of some of the 
gentlemen were convinced that disciplinary measures were essen- 
tial. The kindly professor was requested to give the first vote in 
the decision. He took the College Catalogue which was lying on 
the table near him, and opening it he said, 'What is the student's 
name, Mr. President?' 'Jones,' the President replied. 'Ah,' said 
he, after turning over the pages somewhat carefully, ' Jones of the 
Junior Class?' 'Yes,' was the reply. 'I notice that he is from 
Baltimore,' the professor answered; 'when I was lecturing in that 



I04 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

city, his father entertained me most hospitably at his house. I 
think I would treat the young man as leniendy as possible.' Jones 
was not the young man's name, though I have allowed myself 
to call him so. I do not recall what fate befel him as the result 
of the vote on that afternoon. I think it not unlikely that I voted 
on the unfavorable side. Very possibly, that side of the case was 
the right and reasonable one to take. But it was not a matter of 
infinite importance, and may well be forgotten after so long a 
time. There was, however, given to us, on that day, a vision for 
a moment of the kindly sentiment of a gracious gendeman, which 
remains with me at this hour, and which I think may, if remem- 
bered, have done more of good for all those to whom it was given, 
than any mistaken vote could have done of injury to the well- 
being of the academic community." 

No better proof can be given of Silliman's inspiring qualities as 
a teacher than to note on the catalogue of Yale graduates during 
the first half of the century, the names of those who became investi- 
gators and teachers. The most illustrious was James Dwight 
Dana, who came to Yale attracted by the fame of Silliman. Those 
who became jurists, divines, statesmen and men of affairs could al- 
ways be trusted, in their various vocations, to be the friends and 
promoters of science, and this too at a period when many educated 
persons regarded science as antagonistic to religion, and many 
more believed that attention to science would be prejudicial to 
the Humanities. 

As a colleague, Silliman was about as free from defects as a 
man can be. He was especially distinguished by that considera- 
tion for others which led him to appreciate and assist their en- 
deavors, to keep free from jealousy and rivalry, and to think much 
more of the general good than of personal preferment or the 
attainment of gratitude or recognition. He was not merely the 
occupant of a professor's chair, nor was he so absorbed by studies 
and duties that he was indifferent to the doings of his colleagues 
and the opportunities of his alma mater. 

In the establishment of a cabinet of minerals; the acquisition of 
the Trumbull gallery; the purchase of the Clark telescope; the 
foundation of the Medical School ; and the initiation of the Sheffield 
School of Science he is especially to be remembered. 



BENJAMIN SILLIMAN 105 

Among the treasures of the Peabody Museum in New Haven 
are the collections in mineralogy and geology, which were once in 
the foremost rank and are still among the most extensive and valu- 
able in this country. The contrast is very great between these 
well-filled cases and drawers, enriched by many contributions, se- 
cured by many able investigators, and the meager outfit provided 
for Silliman. He often told the story that, when he was desig- 
nated a professor, he put all the minerals belonging to the College 
in a candle box and took them to Philadelphia to be named by Dr. 
Adam Seybert. Some purchases were soon afterwards made, 
and at length an opportunity occurred which Silliman was quick 
to improve. Colonel George Gibbs, a lover of science, had re- 
turned from Europe and was resident in Newport, R. I., where 
he was often visited by the Yale professor. He had formed an 
extensive and valuable collection of minerals, — ten thousand or 
more specimens, — and Silliman persuaded him to place them on 
public exhibition in Yale College where they remained from 1810 
until 1825, attracting great attention. A subscription was then 
taken up for its purchase, and the collection became the prop- 
erty of the College. Many additions were subsequently secured 
from Robert Bakewell, William Macclure, Alexander Brongniart 
(of Paris), and G. A. Mantell. 

Fisher tells this characteristic story: 

■ "When Mr. Edward Everett came to New Haven to deliver his 
discourse upon Washington, he related in a short speech to the 
college students, an anecdote connected with the purchase of the 
Gibbs Cabinet. Understanding that this collection was offered 
for sale, Mr. Everett had suggested to several friends of Harvard 
that it might be secured for that institution. 'But,' said Mr. Ev- 
erett, 'they hung fire; and after the bargain was concluded by 
Mr. Silliman, I observed to him that I hoped the affair would 
give a useful lesson to our people against delay in such matters.' 
'You are welcome,' said Mr. Silliman with a smile, ' to any moral 
benefit to be derived from the matter; we, meanwhile, will get 
what good we can from the Cabinet.' " 

For many years the Trumbull gallery of paintings shared with 
the cabinet of minerals the interest of visitors to New Haven. 



lo6 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

Every stranger was expected to "go to prayers" in the College 
Chapel, and to visit these two collections. 

This is the story of the gallery. The famous painter, Colonel 
John Trumbull (a son of Jonathan Trumbull, known as Washing- 
ton's Brother Jonathan), and Silliman had long been friends, and 
Silliman had married the artist's niece. At the age of seventy- 
four years, this historical painter, — to whom the country is in- 
debted for priceless portraits of Washington and others of the 
earliest supporters of the Republic, — confided to Silliman his 
impecvmious circumstances, and referred to his pictures as his 
chief resource. He intimated his willingness to give them to 
Yale College in return for a competent annuity for the rest of his 
life. Silliman, with his quick responsiveness, caught at this 
remark, reported it at once in New Haven, and initiated the meas- 
ures by which a gallery was constructed, the pictures placed on 
the walls, and the annuity secured. Thus in 1830, the college 
secured these works which are now among the invaluable pos- 
sessions of the Yale School of the Fine Arts. 

With similar tact, Silliman procured from Sheldon Clark, a 
farmer living in a coimtry town near New Haven, the money 
requisite for purchasing a telescope, which for many years stood 
first and best among the astronomical instruments of this country. 
To Silliman also is credited the impulse given by the Connecticut 
Academy of Arts and Sciences to the proposal of a geological 
survey of the State which resulted in the reports of James G. 
Percival and Charles U. Shepard. 

At the beginning of the ninteeenth century. President Dwight 
had in mind the enlargement of the College, "which then passed 
not only in name but in spirit from the eighteenth to the nineteenth 
century." Silliman knew of this purpose, as we have seen, and 
was governed by it during his courses of study in Philadelphia 
and Edinburgh. Many years before. Dr. Stiles had drafted the 
plan of a university, particulariy describing law and medical 
lectures. It is needless to repeat here the annals which have 
lately been skilfully reproduced by Dr. W. H. Welch. ^ Finally 
1 See his historical address at New Haven, in 1901. 



BENJAMIN SILLIMAN 107 

in 1810, largely through the efforts of Dwight and Silliman, the 
medical institution of Yale College was created by the General 
Assembly. Silliman was regarded as already a professor in this 
institution. Four capital men constituted the first faculty, — med- 
ical teachers, says Dr. Welch, who could challenge comparison 
with any similar group in this country. One of them, Dr. Nathan 
Smith, shed undying glory upon the school. He was far ahead 
of his time, and his reputation had steadily increased as the medical 
profession has slowly caught up with him. 

Silliman's part in organizing the Sheffield School is less obvious, 
but at the critical moment, it was of great significance. He was 
an old man, asking to be released from active duties, but he served 
as a member of the important committee which, in 1846, recom- 
mended the establishment of a department of Philosophy and the 
Arts in Yale College. Out of this movement soon came the Scien- 
tific School, whose early days he watched and favored with more 
than paternal interest. A memorial, chiefly prepared by Silli- 
man, embodying the outline of a School of Science was presented 
in 1846 to the College Corporation, and he personally appeared 
before that august body to urge upon them the necessity of meet- 
ing the growing demands of the public in this direction. 

During most of his career, Silliman was accustomed to receive 
in his laboratory assistants and pupils, not a few of whom rose 
to eminence. I am not aware that any complete list of these aspir- 
ants is in existence, but in their teacher's reminiscences, references 
are made to some of the more distinguished. For nine years he 
had in his service a bright boy named Foot, who came to him a lad 
of twelve years old, and who ultimately rose to distinction as a 
surgeon in the U. S. Army. Then for years he had only hired 
men, house servants, — "some of them clumsy, heavy-handed 
men, from whom the glass vessels suffered not a little." After 
1821, genuine scholars were enlisted,— among them these whose 
names I bring together as an indication of the desire, in the early 
part of the last century, for special advanced instruction, so much 
in vogue in these later times. ' The story of Silliman's laboratory 

I These were among those who acted as his assistants or worked in his 



108 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

will, one of these days, make a good prelude to the history of uni- 
versity education in this country as distinguished from collegiate. 
The term "University Extension" did not come into vogue 
until long after the career of Silliman vi^as ended,— but many 
years previous, in the full maturity of his powers, he gave to 
public audiences long courses of lectures closely akin to those 
which he was accustomed to give in college. His dignified and 
courteous manners, fluent delivery, and well-chosen illustrations 
sustained the reputation which had he acquired as the father of 
American science. When his theme was chemistry, he per- 
formed experiments in the presence of his auditors which always 
interested and not seldom surprised them. When geology was 
his subject, the lecture room was hung with colored pictures of 
the flora and fauna of paleontological periods, with fiery por- 
trayals of volcanic fires, or with quieter but not less impressive 
views of the glaciers in Switzerland and the basaltic columns of 
Staffa. He never "posed" as a man of superior or mysterious 
learning, but he always spoke as an educated gentleman, eager 
to interest and instruct his hearers. Perhaps the most brilliant 
of these courses were those in which he inaugurated the lecture 
system of the Lowell Institute in Boston. In the winter of 
1839-40 he gave twenty-four lectures upon geology which were 
so popular that every lecture was repeated. He had a similar 
experience in the following winter, when his course in chemistry, 
including twenty-four lectures, was given to a second audience. 
In the next two winters, (1841-42 and 1842-43) he delivered two 
courses on chemistry, and they also were repeated. Professor 
J. P. Cooke, who followed Silliman many years later, declared 
that he was led, as a boy, by these lectures to devote himself to 
science. Hundreds of able lecturers have appeared on this fa- 
laboratory: Sherlock J. Andrews, William P. Blake, George T. Bowen, Wil- 
liam H. Brewer, George J. Brush, James D. Dana, Chester Dewey, Sereno E. 
Dwight, Amos Eaton, William C. Fowler, Robert Hare, Edward Hitchcock, 
Oliver P. Hubbard, T. Sterry Hunt, Edward H. Leffingwell, John P. Norton, 
Denison Olmsted, Charles H. Porter, Charles H. Rockwell, Charles U. 
Shepard, Benjamin Silliman, Jr., Benjamin D. Silliman, Mason C. Weld. 



BENJAMIN SILLIMAN 109 

mous platform, but only one has spoken so often, — Professor 
Louis Agassiz, — and he alone equalled Silliman in the presenta- 
tion of a scientific theme to a public audience. 

It appears that he began his career as a public lecturer as early 
as 183 1, when James Brewster of New Haven, a manufacturer 
of carriages, persuaded Silliman and his colleague Olmsted to 
give courses of lectures to mechanics and others who could not 
attend instruction in the day. It is said that this was the first 
time in our country when college professors went out to lecture to 
the people upon natural and mechanical science. In following 
years, we hear of this popular exponent of science in Hartford, 
Boston, Lowell, New York and Baltimore. Still later, he went 
to Mobile, New Orleans and Natchez. In 1852 he lectured 
before the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, and in 1855, 
when he was seventy-five years old, he acceded to a repeated 
request and lectured in St. Louis. 

Silliman regarded the Lowell lectures as the crowning success 
of his professional life and this was doubtless true of his appear- 
ance in public. His real distinction, however, did not rest on 
these transient victories, but on his career at home as a pro- 
■ fessor in Yale College and on his long service in maintaining the 
American Journal of Science. 

In these days when scientific periodicals are numerous, and 
when every branch of investigation has its special Journal, it 
requires some effort of the imagination to appreciate the state 
of things in the early part of the last century. Three learned 
societies, the American Academy in Boston, the American 
Philosophical Society in Philadelphia, and the Connecticut Acad- 
emy in New Haven, were engaged in the publication of memoirs. 
The American Journal of Mineralogy, edited by Dr. Archibald 
Bruce in 1810, died in early childhood at the age of one year. 
As Silliman was traversing Long Island Sound one day, in 181 7, 
he met Colonel George Gibbs who urged upon him the estab- 
ishment of a new journal of science, "that we might not only 
secure," he says, " the advantages already gained, but make 
advances of still more importance." After much consideration 



no LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

and mature advice, Silliman determined to make the attempt. 
Out of deference to Dr. Bruce, then in declining health, he asked 
his opinion of the project, which was given at once in favor of 
the effort, and moreover in approbation of the plan, which 
included the entire circle of the physical sciences and their 
applications. 

At the Yale Bicentennial Celebration in 1901 there were re- 
peated allusions to the value of this publication, and the words 
of one of the speakers on that occasion were these: 

"Benjamin Silliman showed great sagacity when he perceived, 
in 1818, the importance of publication, and established, of his 
own motion, on a plan that is still maintained, a repository of 
scientific papers, which through its long history has been recog- 
nized both in Europe and in the United States, as comprehensive 
and accurate; a just and sympathetic recorder of original work; 
a fair critic of domestic and foreign researches; and a constant 
promoter of experiment and observation. It is an unique history. 
For more than eighty years this journal has been edited and pub- 
lished by members of a single family, — three generations of them, 
— with unrequited sacrifices, unquestioned authority, unparalleled 
success. In the profit and loss account, it appears that the col- 
lege has never contributed to the financial support, but it has 
itself gained reputation from the fact that throughout the world 
of science, Silliman and Dana, successive editors, from volume i 
to volume 162, have been known as members of the Faculty of 
Yale. I am sure that no periodical, I am not sure that any acad- 
emy or university in the land, has had as strong an influence upon 
science as the American Journal of Science and Arts." 

Professor Joseph Henry has left on record an extended appreci- 
ation of the American Journal. Its establishment and mainte- 
nance, he says, 

"Under restricted pecuniary means, was an enterprise which 
involved an amount of thought and of labor for the expenditure 
of which the editor has well merited the gratitude not only of his 
own countrymen, but of the world. It has served not only to 
awaken a taste for science in this country by keeping its readers 
continually informed of the discoveries in science wherever it is 
cultivated; but above all, it has called into the field of original ob- 



BENJAMIN SILLIMAN III 

servation and research a corps of efficient laborers, and has fur- 
nished a ready means of presenting the results of their labors to 
the world, through a medium well suited to insure attention and 
to secure proper acknowledgment for originality and priority. 
Nor are the results which have been thus evoked few or unim- 
portant, since many of them relate to the objects and phenomena 
of a vast continent almost entirely unexplored, in which Nature 
has exhibited some of her operations on a scale of grandeur well 
calculated to correct the immature deductions from too limited a 
survey of similar appearances in the Old World. For conducting 
such a journal, Professor Silliman was admirably well qualified. 
He occupied a conspicuous position in one of the oldest and most 
respectable institutions of learning in this country; he was inti- 
mately acquainted vdth the literature of science; was a fluent, 
clear, and impressive writer, an accurate critic, and above all, a 
sage and impartial judge." 

For an estimate of the scientific work of this remarkable man, 
I have the pleasure of adding an appreciation by Professor A. 
W. Dwight, P. D., at one time Professor of Molecular Physics 
and Chemistry, and afterwards of Experimental Physics in 
Yale University. His official and personal relation to Silliman 
qualified him in an exceptional manner for this labor of love. 

"While it is doubtless true that Professor SUliman's reputation 
and influence were more largely due to his remarkable skill as a 
teacher, and to his brilliant courses of public lectures upon science, 
the fact should not be overlooked that he showed great activity 
as an investigator also. One of his earliest scientific publications 
was an account of the famous meteorite which fell in Weston, 
Conn., Dec. 14, 1807. In addition to the earlier reports of the 
fall published by him, which aroused great interest, and were 
widely copied, he made a chemical analysis of the meteorite, an 
account of which was communicated to the American Philosophi- 
cal Society, of Philadelphia, and published in its Transactions. 
It was subsequently republished in the Memoirs of the Connecti- 
cut Academy of Arts and Sciences, and was finally reprinted in 
the American Journal of Science. This account, which at oqce 
attracted attention in scientific circles, was deemed of such^ in- 
terest and importance that it was not only republished in various 
scientific journals, but was read aloud in the Philosophical So- 
ciety of London, and also in the French Academy. 



112 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

"Very early after entering upon his professorship he made 
many experiments with the blowpipe which had been invented, 
not long before, by his friend Professor Hare. This apparatus 
he gready improved by an arrangement for storing the two gases 
in separate recipients, and leading them to the burner by separate 
tubes, so that they were united only at the tip, thus securing for 
the first time entire safety from explosions. To him is also due 
the name compound blowpipe by which the instrument was gen- 
erally known. He continued the work of Hare upon the fusibility 
of various materials, and added to the list many substances which 
had hitherto been considered infusible. 

"For the more adequate illustration of the principles of elec- 
tricity he had caused to be constructed a powerful battery of many 
cells, then often called a deflagrator, by means of which he was 
enabled to exhibit the phenomena of the voltaic arc with unusual 
splendor and completeness. It was in the course of experiments 
with this apparatus that he observed the fusion and volatilization 
of carbon in the arc, and the transference of the carbon by the 
current, from the positive pole, where it left a crater-like cavity, 
to the negative pole, where it built up a kind of stalagmitic ac- 
cretion, considerably increasing the length of the pole. This re- 
sult aroused great interest, and, though questioned by some, was 
fully confirmed by Despretz and others who had repeated his ex- 
periments. When the work of Gay-Lussac in obtaining potas- 
sium from its hydrate was made known he successfully repeated 
the experiment, and was doubtless the first person in the United 
States to obtain the element in the metallic form. 

"These researches had met wide recognition and were esteemed 
as of great interest and permanent value. But though the most 
important, they constituted but a small proportion of his contribu- 
tions to science. Numerous articles upon scientific questions 
were published by him in the American Journal of Science and 
elsewhere. Of these the Catalogue of Scientific Memoirs, pub- 
lished by the Royal Society of London, enumerates by title 
rnore^ than sixty, and several more which were published by 
him in collaboration with others. Many of these contributions 
were republished abroad, some of them in several different jour- 
nals. 

"Among other professional labors, less strictly in the way of 
scientific research, but still of value as original investigations, may 
be mentioned a laborious exploration of the gold mines of Vir- 
ginia, a study of the coal formations of Pennsylvania, and a 
scientific examination of the culture and manufacture of sugar. 



BENJAMIN SILLIMAN 113 

The latter was undertaken by appointment of the United States 
Government, and his results were embodied in a voluminous re- 
port which was published by the Government. 

"These labors exhibit Professor Silhman as possessing the 
genuine instinct of discovery, the quick recognition of new and 
interesting facts, and enthusiasm in following them up to novel 
and important results. That his successes in other directions 
somewhat overshadowed them does not detract from their per- 
manent value, and it cannot be doubted that, but for the absorp- 
tion of his energies in his devotion to the duties of a laborious and 
responsible position, they would have had a much greater develop- 
ment." 

These sketches of the services of Silliman which entitle him 
to the grateful remembrance of his countrymen, will now be sup- 
plemented by some further data in respect to his life. 

In the autumn of 1819, in company vnth Mr. Daniel Wads- 
worth of Hartford, he made a journey to Quebec, and his narra- 
tive of previous travels in Europe having been most favorably 
received by the public, Silliman was naturally led to publish a 
similar account of his American experiences. This volume is 
entitled to a memorable place in Americana. It is full of 
allusions to the physical aspect of the country which was traveled, 
from Hartford to Albany, through Lake Champlain to Montreal, 
from Montreal to Quebec, and afterwards down the Connecticut 
River to Hartford. Historical incidents are constantly intro- 
duced, and comments upon the people whom he met. The pen- 
cil drawings of Mr. Wadsworth were reproduced for the illustra- 
tion of the book by an engraver, "a young man of twenty, almost 
entirely self-taught, whose talents were deserving of encourage- 
ment and who had been highly spoken of by the first historical 
painter in this country." The concluding remark of the author 
may excite a smile: 

" I have said very little of the public houses and accommoda- 
tions, on the journey. Should this be thought a deficiency, it is 
easily supplied; for, we found them, almost without exception, so 
comfortable, quiet, and agreeable, that we had neither occasion, 
nor inclination to find fault. Great civility, and a disposition to 



114 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

please their guests, were generally conspicuous at the inns; almost 
everywhere, when we wished it, we found a private parlour and 
a separate table, and rarely, did we hear any profane or course 
language, or observe any rude and boisterous deportment." 

During the second visit to Europe, just alluded to, Silliman 
had the opportunity of meeting face to face many of the men with 
whom, as editor of the American Journal of Science, he had cor- 
responded, and he was everywhere received with the considera- 
tion which was his due. His enthusiasm in looking for the first 
time upon Vesuvius and iEtna, and upon the glaciers of Switzer- 
land is charmingly recorded. It is hardly surpassed by the 
gratification which he had in the society of Sir Charles Lyell and 
Dr. Mantell in London, and in seeing Milne Edwards, Arago, 
Brongniart and Cordier in Paris, and in meeting Humboldt, 
Ritter, the Roses and other savants in Berlin. 

This man of science was an intense patriot. Born in the time 
of the Revolution, the son of a successful leader in the colonial 
forces, his earliest days made him familiar with the principles, 
the methods and the men who established our national govern- 
ment. He married into the Trumbull family preeminent not 
only in Connecticut, but throughout the colonies, for devotion 
to the cause of liberty, and many important papers came into 
his possession. He was closely associated during many years 
with Colonel Trumbull, the aide-de-camp of Washington. When 
New Haven was in danger of attack in the War of 1812, he was 
one of those who handled a spade in the construction of batteries 
upon the harbor side of the New Haven bar. From his earliest 
manhood he was keenly alive to the evils of slavery, although 
he did not on that account turn away from friendships with men 
in the South. As the crisis of the Civil War drew near, he was 
outspoken for the restriction of slavery, and his support of the 
Kansas defenders of freedom exposed him to much obloquy. 
During the war he was an earnest promoter of the Union, 
fearless and unfaltering. One incident during the Kansas ex- 
citement brought him great reproach from sympathizers with 
the South, — but he was undisturbed by the contumely cast 



BENJAMIN SILLIMAN 115 

upon him. The story is thus briefly told by Mr. Henry T. 
Blake: 

"In March, 1856, occurred the famous Kansas Rifle meeting 
in the North Church. It was begun as a semi-religious service 
held on a week-day evening to bid farewell to a band of citizens 
who were about going to Kansas as settlers in the interest of free- 
dom. Henry Ward Beecher addressed them, and there was not 
a thought of presenting them with arms, until it was sponta- 
neously suggested by that noble embodiment of every personal and 
civic virtue, Prof. Silliman senior. The rifles never did much 
damage directly to the Border Rufi&ans, but the fame of the event 
spread throughout the country. The hint was taken, and the ex- 
ample followed by every emigrant aid society which sent out its 
party thereafter, with the result that Kansas was saved, and formed 
an outpost of the utmost importance in the war for the Union." 

The domestic life of Silliman was exceptionally happy. He 
married in 1809 Harriet Trumbull, daughter of the second Gov- 
ernor Trumbull of Connecticut, and their house was the home of 
simple and refined hospitality where neighbors, students and kin- 
dred, as well as strangers of distinction from every part of this 
country and from Europe, were sure of a welcome. For more 
than fifty years he dwelt on Hillhouse Avenue, having, for a long 
period, his son Benjamin as his next door neighbor on the one 
side, and on the other, his son-in-law James D. Dana.^ After the 
death of Mrs. Silliman in 1850, he made a second visit to Europe 
in company with his son Professor Benjamin Silliman, Jr., and not 
long after his return, he married Mrs. Sarah McClellan Webb, 
(a relation of his first wife), of Woodstock, Conn., who survived 
him. 

When he reached the age of seventy years, Silliman tendered 
his resignation. Similar action was previously taken by President 
Day and subsequently by Kingsley, Woolsey and the younger 

> The daughters of Professor Silliman were married to John B. Church, 
Oliver P. Hubbard, James D. Dana and Edward W. Oilman. His son Ben- 
jamin was a professor in Yale College from 1846 until his death in 1885. 
Edward S. Dana, now editor of the American Journal of Science, is a grand- 
Son of the founder. 



U6 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

Dwight, so that the Psalmist's limit had almost become the usage 
of Yale College; although to this rule, there have been and there 
ought to be exceptions. In Silliman's case, the authorities re- 
quested him to recede from his purpose and he did so for a brief 
, period. His end came in New Haven, November 24, 1864, in his 
' eighty-sixth year, while his mental faculties were not impaired and 
his bodily strength scarcely abated. 

He was the recipient of many scientific and academic honors, 
though it was not customary to bestow them as freely in his days 
as it is in these times, and their enumeration seems trivial compared 
with the record of his work and the recognition bestowed upon 
him by distinguished men. Of more value than diplomas are the 
letters he received from his compeers at home and abroad. 

It is generally admitted that no one has ever been connected 
with Yale College entitled to greater affection and admiration 
than that bestowed on the one of its faculty who lived to be called 
the Nestor of American Science. Among the innumerable trib- 
utes to his memory, I will select these words of a man of rare 
abihty and discrimination, — Professor Jeffries Wyman, the com- 
parative anatomist, of Harvard University. 

"For Professor Silliman's life and character I have a feeling of 
deep reverence. This is greater than that towards any other per- 
son with whom I have come in contact in the relation of a teacher. 
I prize highly, very highly, what he taught me in science, and the 
direction he gave to my studies, all unconsciously to himself; but 
I have no words to express my admiration of the moral dignity of 
his character and its beneficent influence. After the lapse of a 
quarter of a century, I find myself often recurring to the teach- 
ings and example set before us during the seasons he passed in 
Boston.! His cordial greeting; his dignified, yet often joyous man- 
ner; his freedom from bigotry; his earnestness and devotion to the 
pursuits of knowledge; his readiness to impart his stores of learn- 
ing; his kindness of heart, and, above all, his great Christian ex- 
cellence, his peaceful and finished life, have made him to me a 
model man." 

Professor Fisher prefixed to his memoirs some lines of Cowper 
which were copied again by Dr. Dwight, and with a third repeti- 



BENJAMIN SILLIMAN 117 

tion of these appropriate words, I conclude my tribute to one of 
the best of men. 

"Peace to the memory of a man of worth, 
A man of letters, and of manners too! 
Of manners sweet as virtue always wears 
When gay good-nature dresses her in smiles. 
He graced a college, in which order yet 
Was sacred; and was honor'd, loved, and wept, 
By more than one conspicuous there." 




^^^i>-u^^i/L< 




JOSEPH HENRY 

PHYSICIST 

I 797-1878 
By Simon Newcomb 

The visitor to the great rotunda of the Congressional Library 
at Washington will see among the statues which surround it and 
illustrative of the history of thought one bearing the very simple 
name of Henry. The object of the present chapter is to present 
a brief sketch of the man whose memory is thus honored. 

Joseph Henry was the first American after Franklin to reach 
high eminence as an original investigator in physical science. He 
was bom in Albany, December 17, 1797. It should be remarked 
that there is some doubt whether the year was not 1799. But the 
writer has reason to believe the earlier date to be the correct one. 
Little more is known of his ancestors than that his grandparents 
were Scotch-Irish and landed in this country about the beginning 
of the Revolutionary War. Nothing was known of his father 
which would explain his having had such a son. His mother was 
a woman of great refinement, intelligence and strength of charac- 
ter, but of a delicate physical constitution. Like the mothers of 
many other great men, she was of deeply devotional character. 
She was a Presbyterian of the old-fashioned Scottish stamp and 
exacted from her children the strictest performance of religious 
duty. 

The educational advantages of young Joseph were no other 
than those commonly enjoyed by youth born in the same walk of 
life. At the age of seven years he left his paternal home and went 
to live with his grandmother at Galway, where he attended the 
district school for three years. At the age of ten he was placed in 

119 



I20 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

a store kept by a Mr. Broderick, and spent part of the day in 
business duties and part at school. This position he kept until 
the age of fifteen. During these early years his intellectual qual- 
ities were fully displayed, but in a direction totally different from 
that which they ultimately took. He was slender in person, not 
vigorous in health, with almost the delicate complexion and fea- 
tures of a girl. His favorite reading was not that of his school- 
books, nor did it indicate the future field of his activities. His 
great delight was books of romance. The lounging place of the 
young villagers of an evening was around the stove in Mr. Brod- 
erick's store. Here young Henry, although the slenderest of the 
group, was the central figure, retailing to those around him the 
stories which he had read, or which his imagination had suggested. 
He was of a highly imaginative turn of mind, and seemed to live 
in the ideal world of fairies. 

At the age of fifteen he returned to Albany, and, urged by his 
imaginative taste, joined a private dramatic company, of which he 
soon became the leading spirit. There was every prospect of his 
devoting himself to the stage when, at the age of sixteen, accident 
turned his mental activities into an entirely different direction. 
Being detained indoors by a slight indisposition, a friend loaned 
him a copy of Dr. Gregory's lectures on Experimental Philos- 
ophy, Astronomy, and Chemistry. He became intensely interested 
in the field of thought which this work opened to him. Here in 
the domain of nature were subjects of investigation more worthy 
of attention than anything in the ideal world in which his imagi- 
nation had hitherto roamed. He felt that there was an imagina- 
tion of the intellectual faculties as well as of the emotions and that 
the search after truth was even more attractive than the erection 
of fairy palaces. He determined to make the knowledge of the 
newly opened domain the great object of his life, without attempt- 
ing to confine himself to any narrow sphere. Mr. Boyd, noticing 
his great interest in the book, presented it to him; and it formed 
one of his cherished possessions as long as he lived. His appre- 
ciation of it was expressed in the following memorandum written 
upon the inside of the cover: 



JOSEPH HENRY 121 

"This book although by no means a profound work, has under 
Providence exerted a remarkable influence on my life. It acci- 
dentally fell into my hands when I was about sixteen years old, 
and was the first book I ever read with attention. It opened to 
me a new world of thought and enjoyment; invested things be- 
fore almost unnoticed, with the highest interest; fixed my mind 
on the study of nature; and caused me to resolve at the time of 
reading it, that I would immediately commence to devote my 
life to the acquisition of knowledge. 

"J. H." 

His mother's means were, however, too limited to permit of his 
constant attendance at a school. He began by taking evening 
lessons from two of the professors in the Albany Academy, his 
main subjects of study being geometry and mechanics. For a 
period he was teacher in a country school. He thus gained a small 
sum which enabled him to enter as a regular student at the Albany 
Academy where, however, his studies had again to be interrupted. 
After another brief absence he returned to his school, where he 
finished his studies when about eighteen years of age. His record 
was now so good that Dr. Romeyn Beck, the principal of the 
Academy, recommended him to the position of private tutor in the 
family of General Stephen Van Rensselaer, the patron, who was 
also oflScer of the first board of trustees of the Academy. He 
found this situation to be a very pleasant one, and was treated 
with great consideration by the family of Mr. Van Rensselaer. 
His duties required only his morning hours so that he could devote 
his entire afternoons to mathematical and physical studies. In 
the former he went so far as to read the Micanique Analytique of 
La Grange. 

The investigator never works at his best without the aid and 
encouragement of his fellow-men. This indispensable require- 
ment was afforded to the young scientist by the organization of the 
Albany Institute in 1824, of which the patron was the first Presi- 
dent. Henry at once became an active member of this society. 
His first paper was read October 30, 1824, on the Chemical and 
Mechanical Epcts of Steam. In this paper he gave the results 
of very ingenious experiments on the temperature of steam escap- 



122 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

ing from a boiler as measured by a thermometer under various 
circumstances. 

Placing the thermometer in steam-jet at a distance of four 
inches from the outlet, and then applying more and more heat to 
the water in the boiler, he found that the steam, instead of being 
hotter, actually grew cooler the hotter the fire was made. At 
the highest pressure the steam at a little greater distance would 
not scald the hand at all although it would scald it when the 
pressure was lower. The explanation was that the great expan- 
sion caused by the increased temperature of the steam when it 
first escaped produced a stronger cooling effect, which more 
than made up for the higher temperature. Carrying out the 
same idea of the production of cold by the rarefaction of air, 
he published the principles by which to-day ice is manufactured 
by the condensation and rarefaction of air. Half a pint of water 
was poured into a strong copper vessel of a globular form, and 
having a capacity of five gallons; a tube of one-fourth of an inch 
caliber, with a number of holes near the lower end, and a stop- 
cock attached to the other extremity, was firmly screwed into the 
neck of the vessel; the lower end dipped into the water, but a 
number of holes were above the surface of the liquid, so that a 
jet of air mingled with the water might be thrown from the foun- 
tain. The apparatus was then charged with condensed air, by 
means of a powerful condensing-pump, until the pressure was 
estimated at nine atmospheres. During the condensation the 
vessel became sensibly warm. After suffering the apparatus to 
cool down to the temperature of the room, the stop-cock was 
opened: the air rushed out with great violence, carrying with it a 
quantity of water, which was instantly converted into snow. 
After a few seconds, the tube became filled with ice, which almost 
entirely stopped the current of air. The neck of the vessel was 
then partially unscrewed, so as to allow the condensed air to 
rush out around the sides of the screw: in this state the tempera- 
ture of the whole interior atmosphere was so much reduced as to 
freeze the remaining water in the vessel. 

His delicate constitution now suffered so much from confine- 



JOSEPH HENRY 123 

ment and study that he accepted an invitation to go on a survey- 
ing expedition to the western part of the state. As a result of 
this expedition he published a topographical sketch of New 
York which appeared in the Transactions of the Albany In- 
stitute. It comprised a sketch of the physical geography of the 
state with especial reference to the newly inaugurated canal 
system. 

In this work his constitution was completely restored, and he 
returned home with a health and vigor which never failed him 
during the remainder of his long and arduous life. Soon after 
his return he was elected Professor of Mathematics in the Albany 
Academy. Here a new field was opened to him. It is one of 
the most curious features in the intellectual history of our country 
that, after producing such a man as Franklin, it found no succes- 
sor to him in the field of science for half a century after his 
scientific work was done. There had been without doubt plenty 
of professors of eminent attainments who amused themselves 
and instructed their pupils and the public by physical experi- 
ments. But in the department of electricity, that in which 
Franklin took so prominent a position, it may be doubted 
whether they enunciated a single generalization which will enter 
into the history of the sciences. This interregnum closes with 
the researches now commenced by Professor Henry. 

That these researches received the attention that they did and 
led to the author holding so high a place in the estimation of his 
fellow-men must be regarded as very creditable to the people of 
Albany at that time, at a period of our history when the question 
of supposed usefulness was apt to dominate all others. It was 
then seventy years since Franklin had drawn electricity from the 
clouds, and fifty years since Volta and Galvani had shown how an 
electric current could be produced by dropping metals into acid; 
and what effect such a current had on the legs of a frog. And 
yet, during these two generations, no one had any idea that these 
discoveries could ever be put to any practical use, except so far 
as the destructive agency of lightning could be annihilated by 
steel-pointed conductors. Under such conditions Henry might 



124 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

well have seemed to his fellows as a man who, though possessing 
great talents was ready to waste his time in investigating matters 
of no human interest. But instead of taking this view he received 
such encouragement and support that he was enabled to continue 
investigations into the laws of electricity, and to make new dis- 
coveries which have since proved to be of great practical impor- 
tance in the application of that agent. To give a clear idea of a 
few of these investigations we must recall some of the laws of 
electricity. 

Before Henry's time it was known that, when a wire was 
wrapped around a piece of iron, and an electric current passed 
through the wire, the iron instantly became a magnet, attract- 
ing every piece of iron in its neighborhood. If the iron was 
well annealed and soft, it lost its magnetism, and its attraction 
ceased the moment the current was interrupted. Every one 
who has seen the Morse telegraph at work knows it is by this 
property of the electric current that messages are transmitted. 
Henry's first experiments were devoted to showing how the 
power of a single battery to produce this effect could be enor- 
mously increased by passing more and more coils around the 
magnet. Carrying forward his experiments he made enormous 
magnets which held up weights greater than anyone had before 
supposed a magnet could ever do. With a battery having a 
single plate of zinc, of half a square foot of surface, he made a 
magnet lift a weight of 750 pounds, — more than thirty-five 
times its own weight. In connection with this experiment he 
showed the difference between the quantity of electricity and 
its projectile force, a distinction at the base of all modern appli- 
ances of electricity. 

At Albany in 1831-32 Henry showed for the first time how 
easily an electric telegraph could be constructed. He ran the 
wires of an electric circuit several miles in length around one of 
the upper rooms in the Albany Academy. An electric current 
was sent around this circuit from a small battery passing in its 
course through the coils of an electromagnet. A permanent 
magnet was swung between the poles of this electromagnet in 



JOSEPH HENRY 125 

such a way that, when the current was sent through the circuit, 
a bell was rung. In this way he demonstrated that it was pos- 
sible to send signals to a distance of many miles by means of 
an electric current. Acting on his avowed principle that when 
the scientific investigator had shown a practical result to be pos- 
sible, there would be plenty of inventors to put the discovery to 
practical uses, he himself never attempted to do more than to 
show how the telegraph could be put into operation. It was three 
years after this, in 1835, when Professor Morse continued these 
experiments with the view of devising a practical telegraph. 
Three years later he had perfected his alphabet of dots and 
dashes but did not succeed in securing the necessary public 
support for the telegraph until 1842. Professor Henry's gener- 
osity and public spirit is strikingly shown in a letter which he 
addressed to Professor Morse at this time. The following are 
the most important passages: 

"My dear Sir: 

"I am pleased to learn that you have again petitioned Congress 
in reference to your telegraph ; and I most sincerely hope you will 
succeed in convincing our representatives of the importance of 
the invention. . . . Science is now fully ripe for this application, 
and I have not the least doubt, if proper means be afforded, of the 
perfect success of the invention. The idea of transmitting in- 
telligence to a distance by means of the electrical action has been 
suggested by various persons, from the time of Franklin to the 
present but until within the last few years, or since the principal 
discoveries in electro-magnetism, all attempts to reduce it to prac- 
tice were necessarily unsuccessful. The mere suggestion however 
of a scheme of this kind, is a matter for which little credit can be 
claimed, since it is one which would naturally arise in the mind of 
almost any person familiar with the phenomena of electricity: 
but the bringing it forward at the proper moment when the de- 
velopments of science are able to furnish the means of certain 
success, and the devising a plan for carrying it into practical op- 
eration, are the grounds of a just claim to scientific reputation as 
well as to public patronage. About the same time with yourself. 
Professor Wheatstone of London, and Dr. Steinheil of Germany, 
proposed plans of the electro-magnetic telegraph; but these differ 
as much from yours as the nature of the common principle would 



126 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

well permit; and unless some essential improvements have lately 
been made in these European plans, I should prefer the one m- 
vented by yourself. 

"With my best wishes for your success, I remain with much 

esteem, 

"Yours truly, 

"Joseph Henry." 

It was two years after the date of this letter in May, 1844, that 
the first telegraphic message was transmitted from Washington 
to Baltimore. 

In 183 1 he made what was probably the first observation of a 
magnetic storm in this country. This term is applied to very 
small changes in the direction in which a magnet points, and 
in the force which the earth produces upon it, that occur from 
time to time. These disturbances of the magnetic needle are 
called "storms" because they behave much like a storm of 
wind in moving the magnet about. On the same evening in 
which the storm was first noticed a brilliant aurora commenced. 
It has since been found that unusual displays of the aurora are 
nearly always accompanied by magnetic storms. 

The next discovery of Henry was one in which, although it 
was quite original, he was anticipated in publication by Faraday. 
This was the production of magneto electricity. When it was 
known that electricity could make iron into a magnet in the way 
I have described, the idea naturally occtirred that, conversely, 
magnets might also produce electricity. EfiEorts to produce elec- 
tricity in this way were unavailing until Henry showed that the 
mere presence of a magnet was not sufficient, but that the magnet 
must move. Henry's discovery may be explained in the follow- 
ing way. Let us suppose a long piece of wire wound round and 
round in a coil, like a coil of rope, but without anything inside of 
it. Then bring the two ends of the wire into contact. Of 
course this alone would be nothing but a commonplace coil of 
wire. Now take a powerful magnet and insert it inside the 
coil. While you are doing this an electric current will pass 
through the coil, but the moment you get the magnet inside and 



JOSEPH HENRY 127 

stop the motion, the current stops also. Now take the mag- 
net out and the current again flows, but in the opposite direc- 
tion. 

Here we have the principles on which the modern dynamo is 
constructed, by which electric roads are now run. Unfortunately 
there were very few scientific societies and scientific men in this 
country; and Henry himself had no idea what an epoch-making 
discovery this was; so he did not publish it immediately, but 
went on trying to perfect it before describing it in print. While 
he was doing this he found that Faraday had made the same 
discovery in England, and published it to the admiring scientific 
world. It was a remarkable illustration of Henry's high charac- 
ter that he never complained of not receiving the credit of having 
been another discoverer, but subsequently spoke of "Faraday's 
admirable discovery" as if it was something with which he had 
nothing to do. 

Another discovery which Henry was the first to publish, and 
for which he has entire credit, is that which is known as the self- 
induction of an electric current. Under certain circumstances 
when a long current is suddenly broken there is a momentary 
flash in the opposite direction, and the longer the wire through 
which the current is passing the stronger is this flash. This is the 
cause of the bright flashes that are so often seen at night on the 
trolley of an electric car as it is running along the wire. The 
trolley makes a slight jump; the current is thus broken, and the 
self-induced current jumps across the space with the brilliant flash 
which we all must have so often noticed. 

Another of Henry's discoveries and one of a very curious char- 
acter was that, when a flash of electricity suddenly passes through 
a wire — when a Leyden jar is discharged, for example — what takes 
place is not a single passage of electricity, but a vibrating of elec- 
tricity back and forth through the wire. These vibrations are so 
rapid that they all take place in a much smaller time than the 
human faculties could ever appreciate, perhaps the ten thousandth 
or one hundred thousandth of a second, perhaps I ought to say the 
fraction of a millionth of a second. The question may arise how 



128 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

is it possible to determine invisible motions back and forth in a 
millionth of a second. 

Henry's method was very simple. He passed the electric dis- 
charge through a wire round a needle. This object being of 
highly tempered steel retained the magnetism communicated to it 
by the current. Henry found that, when the needle was examined 
after the current had flashed around it, its north and south poles 
were not always at the ends which should have been produced 
by the discharge, but were often in the opposite direction, the north 
pole being the one that should have been south. He immediately 
saw what was the cause. The electricity must have flashed first in 
one direction and then in the opposite one. In perhaps the mil- 
lionth of a second it not only destroyed the magnetism which had 
first been produced by the current but induced a magnetism of 
the opposite kind. 

Henry's active and fertile mind was by no means confined to 
electricity. Everything he could find in the heavens or on the 
earth to investigate, he was ready to actively take hold of. He 
delighted in experimenting on the properties of matter, and left 
behind voluminous notes of his results in this field. 

About 1832 Professor Henry was called to the chair of Natural 
Philosophy in Princeton College. Although the duties of an Amer- 
ican college professor seldom allow much time for original investi- 
gation, he soon resumed his electrical researches, and the first of a 
regular series was communicated to the American Philosophical 
Society in 1835. On February 6 of that year he continued the 
subject of the self-induction of the electric current with especial 
reference to the influence of a spiral conductor upon it. The 
series of experiments on this subject are very elaborate, but can- 
not be fully described without going into details too minute for 
the present sketch. 

Among the little known works of Professor Henry during this 
period are his researches upon solar radiation and the heat of the 
solar spots. In connection with his relative, Professor Stephen 
Alexander, he may be said to have commenced a branch of modern 
solar physics which has since grown to large proportions, by com- 



JOSEPH HENRY 129 

paring the temperature of the solar spots with that of other parts 
of the sun's disk. The first experiments were made on January 4, 
1845. A very large spot was then visible upon the sun, the image 
of which was thrown by a four-inch telescope upon a screen in a 
dark room. A thermopile was placed in such a position that the 
image of the spot and of the neighboring parts of the solar disk 
could be thrown upon it in quick succession. The result of obser- 
vations extending through several days was that decidedly less 
heat was received from the spot than from the briUiant part of the 
photosphere. It is believed that it was these experiments which 
started Secchi on the briUiant investigations in solar physics which 
he carried on in subsequent years. 

In one of his numerous communications presented to the Philo- 
sophical Society he appears as one of the inventors of the electro- 
chronograph. On May 30, 1843, he presented and read a com- 
munication on a new method of determining the velocity of 
projectiles. It was in its essential parts identical with that now 
generally adopted. It consisted, he says, in applying the instan- 
taneous transmission of the electrical action to determine the time 
of the passage of the ball between two screens placed at a short dis- 
tance from each other on its path. For this purpose the observer 
is provided with a revolving cylinder, moved by clockwork at the 
rate of at least ten turns in a second, and of which the convex sur- 
face is divided into a hundred equal parts, each part therefore 
indicating in the revolution the thousandth part of a second or less. 
Close to the surface of this cylinder, which revolves horizontally, 
are placed two galvanometers, one at each extremity of a diame- 
ter; the needles of these being furnished at one end with a pen for 
making a dot with printers' ink on the revolving surface. In the 
appendix to the paper he proposes to dispense with the galvan- 
ometer and produce the marks by direct electromagnetic action, 
as is now done in the familiar astronomical chronograph. 

It is impossible in the course of this short sketch to present any 
full account of Professor Henry's scientific researches. He was a 
bom experimentalist; one who knew how to cross-examine Nature 
as an astute lawyer would cross-examine a witness and thus bring 



I30 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

out her inmost secrets. He was one of those men by whom it 
seems as if Nature loves to be cross-examined. Whether his 
questions pertained to the most familiar phenomena of every-day 
life or the most complex combinations in the laboratory, they are 
all marked by the qualities of the author's mind, — acuteness in 
research, a clear appreciation of the logic of science, and an enthu- 
siasm for truth irrespective of its utilitarian results. During the 
period of his residence at Princeton, he was a voluminous contribu- 
tor to the Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, an 
association already famous in the history of science by the names 
of Franklin and Rittenhouse to which his own name was now to 
be added. 

On December 3, 1846, Henry was chosen the first Secretary of 
the newly organized Smithsonian Institution. The work of the 
remaining years of his long life is so intimately connected vnth this 
institution that the organization must be described to understand 
the man. The inducement is all the stronger to do this because 
there is probably no foundation for the promotion of science or 
original research which shows so many features interesting by 
their mysterious character and by the novelty of the idea. 

James Smithson, a private English gentleman of fortune and 
scientific tastes, and a chemist of sufficient note to be elected a 
Fellow of the Royal Society, led a comparatively retired life, and 
died unmarried, in 1829. He does not seem to have left any near 
relatives except a nephew. On opening his will it was found to 
be short and simple. Except an annuity to his servant, he left 
the nephew, for his life, the whole income from his property, and 
the property itself to the nephew's children should he leave any. 
In case of the death of the nephew without leaving a child or 
children, the whole property was bequeathed "to the United States 
oj America, to found at Washington, under the name oj the Smith- 
sonian Institution, an establishment for the increase and diffusion 
of knowledge among men." 

Probably few men have ever written a clause so well fitted as 
this to excite a curiosity which can never be gratified. The views 
and motives of the writer in making this provisipu are involved 



JOSEPH HENRY 131 

in impenetrable obscurity. The first idea to strike a reader would 
be that Smithson had some especially kind feeling toward either 
the United States or its form of government. But no evidence of 
this has ever been discovered. He is not known to have had the 
personal acquaintance of an American, and his tastes were sup- 
posed to have been aristocratic rather then democratic. 

It would also have been supposed that the organization of an 
institution which was to carry his name down to posterity would 
have been a subject of long and careful thought, and of conversa- 
tion with friends, and would have been prescribed in more definite 
language than that used in the will. Some note, some appended 
paper would certainly be found communicating his views. But 
nothihg of the sort has ever come to light. 

We thus have the curious spectacle of a retired English gentle- 
man, probably unacquainted with a single American citizen, be- 
queathing the whole of his large fortune to our Government to 
found an establishment which was described in ten words, with- 
out a memorandum of any kind by which his intentions could be 
divined or the recipient of the gift guided in applying it. The 
nephew, named Hungerford, died in 1835. An amicable suit in 
chancery was instituted by our Government, through the Hon. 
Richard Rush, as its agent, the defendant being the Messrs. 
Drummond, executors of Smithson. Although there was no con- 
test at any point, the suit occupied three years. On May 9th, 
1838, the property was adjudged to the United States, and during 
the next few months disposed of by Mr. Rush for about ;^io5,ooo. 
The money was deposited in the Treasury in the following autumn. 

The problem now presented to Congress was to organize the 
Institution described by Smithson. The writer must confess that 
he does not share the views of those who maintain that the intent 
of Smithson was too clear and definite to be mistaken, and that 
the difficulty which our legislators found in deciding upon a plan 
shows their lack of intellectual appreciation. It is very much 
easier to see the right solution of a problem after it is reached than 
before. It ought to be a subject of gratitude rather than criticism 
Jhat it took the country eight years to reach a solution. The plan 



132 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

at length adopted was better than any of those previously proposed, 
and the form into which the Institution grew was still in advance 
of the plan which at length passed Congress. 

After a seven years' discussion of all sorts of combinations, the 
act under which the Institution was at last organized became a 
law in August, 1846. It provided that the business of the Institu- 
tion should be conducted by a Board of Regents, who should 
choose a suitable person as Secretary of the Institution. It also 
provided for the erection of a suitable building of plain and durable 
materials and structure, without unnecessary ornament, for the 
reception of objects of natural history, a chemical laboratory, a 
library and gallery of art, and the necessary lecture-rooms. The 
Secretary had charge of the building and property of the Institu- 
tion, and was also to discharge the duties of librarian and keeper 
of the museum, and, with the consent of the Board of Regents, to 
employ the necessary assistants. All the officers were removable 
by the Board of Regents whenever in their judgment the interests 
of the Institution required them to be changed. 

The Board of Regents created by the act immediately com- 
menced active operations. In December, 1846, a committee of 
the Board, consisting of Mr. Robert Dale Owen, Mr. Henry N. 
Hilliard, Professor A. D. Bache, Mr. Rufus Choate, and Mr. 
Pennybacker, made a report on the plan of organization. Among 
the recommendations of this report the qualifications desired in 
the Secretary are of interest to us. It was pointed out as an almost 
necessary condition that the Secretary should become the chief 
executive officer of the Institution. After some general remarks 
respecting the qualifications of Secretary the report proceeds: 

"Your committee think it would be an advantage if a compe- 
tent Secretary could be found, combining also the qualifications 
of a professor of the highest standing in some branch of science. 
If to these be added efficiency as an executive officer and a knowl- 
edge of the world we may hope to see filling this distinguished 
post a man who, when brought into communication with dis- 
tinguished men and societies in this and other countries, shall be 
capable, as representative of the Smithsonian Institution, to reflect 
honour on the office, not requiring to borrow distinction from it. 



JOSEPH HENRY 133 

"Your committee will not withhold their opinion that upon 
the choice of this single officer, more probably than on any other 
act of the Board, will depend the future good name and success 
and usefulness of the Smithsonian Institution." 

Previous to the election of Secretary the following resolution, 
from the same comittee, was adopted by the Board: 

"Resolved, That it is essential, for the advancement of the 
proper interests of the trust, that the Secretary of the Smithso- 
nian Institution be a man possessing weight of character, and a 
high grade of talent ; and that it is further desirable that he possess 
eminent scientific and general acquirements; that he be a man 
capable of advancing science and promoting letters by original 
research and effort, well qualified to act as a respected channel of 
communication between the Institution and scientific and literary 
societies in this and foreign countries; and, in a word, a man 
worthy to represent before the world of science and of letters the 
Institution over which this Board presides." 

Although couched in general terms it may be supposed that 
these expressions had direct reference to the subject of our notice, 
and were meant to justify the Board in selecting a scientific inves- 
tigator of so much eminence to take charge of the establishment. 
Professor Henry was elected on December 3, 1846, and signified 
his accceptance a few days later. It was a frequent remark of his 
in after years that he had never sought a position, and had never 
accepted one without fear and trembling. Of the few positions 
he ever accepted we might well suppose that this was one on which 
he entered with most hesitation. Held in the highest esteem by 
the authorities of the college, his position at Princeton was in 
every respect most agreeable. His enthusiasm as a teacher could 
not fail to bring around him an appreciative body of pupils. He 
was not moved by any merely worldly ambition to seek a larger 
and more prominent field of activity. He thus enjoyed what is 
almost the happiest lot of man, that of living in a community 
suited to his tastes and pursuits, and of being held in consideration 
by all with whom he came in contact. He was now to take a 
position around which had raged for eight years a conflict of 
opinion which might at any time break out anew. That all parties 



134 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

could be satisfied was out of the question, and his aversion to 
engaging in anything which would lead to controversy was so 
great that he would hardly have accepted had it not been for the 
urgent solicitation of Professor Bache. The latter pointed out to 
him that the proper administration of Smithson's munificent 
bequest was at stake, and that he, Henry, was the only man 
available to whom all parties could turn with the assurance that 
the Institution would be carried through its difficulties. This 
was an appeal which he could not understand; he therefore deter- 
mined at least to make the attempt, and entered upon his duties 
with the assurance from the college authorities that, should he 
fail, his position at Princeton would always be open to him, and 
his friends ever ready to welcome him back. 

After two or three years the divergent views respecting the proper 
direction to be given to the activities of the Smithsonian Institu- 
tion gradually began to aggregate themselves into two groups, 
and thus to assume a partisan aspect. Many of the projects which, 
during the eight years of discussion, had found supporters, were 
entirely given up, such, for instance, as the agricultural college, 
I great observatory, the instruction of women and the establish- 
ment of a school of science. But the act of Congress provided, as 
already stated, for a library, a museum, a gallery of art, and courses 
of lectures. Henry, while yielding to the necessity imposed upon 
the Institution of complying with the law directing the establish- 
ment of these accessories, was in the main opposed on principle 
to their permanent support by the Institution. The position he 
took was that as Smithson was a scientific investigator, the terms 
of his endowment should be construed in accordance with the in- 
terpretation which he himself would have put upon his words. 
The increase of knowledge would mean the discovery of new 
truths of any sort, especially the truths of Nature. The only way 
in which an extended diffusion of knowledge among men at large 
could be effected was by publication. 

The departments of exploration, research, and publication were 
therefore those to which Henry was most inclined to devote the 
energies of the Institution. While he made no factious opposition 



JOSEPH HENRY 135 

to the collection of a library, he did not consider it as increasing 
knowledge or contributing to that wide diEFusion of it which Smith- 
son provided for. True, it might indirectly contribute to such 
diffusion by giving authors the means of preparing books; but 
this assistance was of too local and indirect a character to justify 
the appropriation of a large proportion of the Smithson funds to 
it. Nearly the same objections applied to the museum. The 
objects therein preserved were the property of the Government, or 
such as were necessary to supplement the governmental collections. 

Perhaps the project on which the Secretary looked with most 
disfavor was the building. The system of operations which he 
would have preferred required little more than a modest suite of 
office-rooms. The expenditure of several hundred thousand dol- 
lars on an architectural structure seemed to him an appropriation 
of the funds to which he could give no active encouragement. In 
later years one of the warnings he often gave to incipient institu- 
tions of learning was not to spend more money in bricks and 
mortar than was absolutely necessary for the commencement of 
operations, and it can hardly be doubted that his sentiments in 
this direction had their origin in his dissatisfaction with the large 
expenditure upon the Smithsonian building. 

We must not be understood as saying that Henry antagonized 
all these objects, considered them unworthy of any support from 
the Smithsonian fund, or had any lack of appreciation of their 
intellectual value. His own culture and mental activities had 
been of too varied a character to admit of his forming any narrow 
view of the proper administration of the establishment. The 
general tenor of his views may be summed up in two practical 
propositions: 

(i) The Institution should undertake nothing which coiild be 
done by other agencies. A paper or report which would naturally 
find its outlet in some other channel was never to be published by 
the Institution. A research made for a commercial object would 
find plenty to engage in it without his encouragement. It was the 
duty of the Government to provide room for its own collections 
and to make them accessible to investigators, rather than to draw 



136 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

upon the Smithson fund for this purpose. As a natural corol- 
lary of these views the Institution should not engage in competi- 
tion with other organizations in any enterprise whatever. 

(2) Objects of merely local benefit, which no one could avail 
himself of except by a visit to Washington, were to be regarded 
as of subsidiary importance, as not well fitted to carry out the views 
of Smithson to the wide extent he would have desired, and as 
properly belonging to the local authorities. 

Putting both these principles, the library, the museum, the art 
gallery, the courses of lectures, and the Smithsonian building 
were looked upon as things only temporarily undertaken by the 
Institution, to be turned over to other agencies whenever such 
could be found ready to assume the responsibility of the opera- 
tions connected with them. 

The position taken by Professor Henry resulted in a contest 
of parties which was for the time being decisive of the policy of 
the Institution. A considerable party in the Board of Regents as 
well as several officers of the Institution were opposed to his views. 
Among these was the librarian, a gentleman of much learning and 
good standing in the literary world. He naturally wanted all the 
money he could command to increase the library, a proceeding 
to which Henry was opposed, holding that as this was only a local 
benefit, it should be provided by Congress. But the librarian was 
a man of such influence that it became evident to Henry that the 
carrying out of his own policy was impossible while he was in 
office. He, therefore, took the bold course of removing him. 

This brought up the whole subject of the power of the Secretary 
to remove the officers and employees of the Institution. The 
leader of the minority was the Honorable Rufus Choate of Boston. 
He was an active supporter of the library scheme and showed his 
dissatisfaction with the conclusion by resigning his position as 
regent. This led to the subject being referred to a committee of 
the Senate, which made a unanimous report in favor of the Secre- 
tary and the majority of the Board of Regents. In the House of 
Representatives, of which Mr. Choate was a member, the matter 
assumed a more serious aspect. Mr. Choate read a letter criticiz- 



JOSEPH HENRY 137 

ing the Board of Regents which was referred to a select committee 
of five, appointed to inquire and report to the House whether the 
Smithsonian Institution had been managed and its funds ex- 
pended in accordance with law, and whether any additional legis- 
lation was necessary. After a careful examination, extending 
through a period of six weeks, the committee seems to have been 
unable to agree upon a report. Two reports were, in fact, made. 
One, signed by Mr. Upham, the chairman, took ground against 
the power of removal by the Secretary of the Institution, and 
against the restriction of the increase of the library as contemplated. 
Another very elaborate report, signed by two members, sustained 
the Secretary and the majority of the Board. The remaining two 
members of the committee signed neither report; nor did either 
report propose any action on the part of Congress except the pay- 
ment of the clerk of the committee. The contest which had been 
going on for a period of seventeen years thus ended in a complete 
vindication of Professor Henry and the position he had assumed. 
During the remainder of his life he had the great satisfaction of 
feeling that he was held in constantly increasing esteem both by 
the Regents and the public. 

In January, 1865, an event occurred which though an almost 
irreparable calamity, tended materially toward the appropriation 
of the Smithsonian fund income toward those objects which the 
Secretary thought most proper. A considerable portion of the 
upper story of the main building, and a part of the lower story 
were burned. The incipient art gallery, the chemical laboratory, 
and the lecture-room were all involved in the destruction. Happily 
the library and the museum remained nearly intact. An oppor- 
tunity thus offered itself to have some of the trusts imposed upon 
the fund imdertaken by other agencies. The Library of Congress 
was rapidly growing into a great national institution, so that there 
was no longer any sound reason for collecting a separate Smith- 
sonian library. An act was, therefore, passed by Congress provid- 
ing for the deposit of the Smithsonian books in the Library of 
Congress, so that all could be consulted together, and the Institu- 
tion at the same time be relieved from their care. The necessity 



138 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

for reconstructing the art gallery was obviated by the prospective 
establishment of the Corcoran Art Gallery in a neighboring part 
of the city. The erection of Lincoln Hall and the establishment 
of a course of lectures, sometimes of a high intellectual character, 
by the Young Men's Christian Association, did away with the 
necessity of reconstructing the lecture-room. The principal im- 
mediate drawback was that the building had to be reconstructed 
at the expense of the Smithsonian fund, although Professor Henry 
was not entirely satisfied that so large a building was necessary 
for the Institution. 

The only serious burden which remained upon the Institution 
was the National Museum; but the expense of its support was 
now undertaken by the Government, and it therefore ceased to be 
a charge upon the Smithsonian fund except in this indirect way 
that the building which housed it had been paid for out of that 
fund. No advantage would therefore have been gained by remov- 
ing the museum unless the building was purchased by the Govern- 
ment. The Secretary was, therefore, desirous of effecting such a 
sale, but his views do not appear to have met with the entire con- 
currence of the Board of Regents. The latter were not unnaturally 
averse to seeing the Institution surrender its imposing habitation 
and the associations which clustered around it. A very natural 
compromise would have been for the Government to pay the Insti- 
tution a suitable moderate rent for those portions of the building 
devoted to the care of government property, but it does not appear 
that this measure was ever proposed. 

The position of the Smithsonian building in the public grounds 
led Professor Henry to take an active interest in measures for the 
improvement of the city. Among his latest efforts in the direction 
were those made with the object of having the old canal which 
bounded the Mall filled up. Some may still remember a witty 
argument with which he urged this measure upon the Board of 
Public Works. "The great inefficiency of the Smithsonian had 
been said by its opponents to be illustrated by the fact that, al- 
though formed to diffuse knowledge over the whole world, it had 
not diffused knowledge enough among the local authorities of the 



JOSEPH HENRY 139 

place where it was situated to malce them see the necessity of 
abating the pestilential nuisance of this obsolete canal." The 
work of filling up was immediately commenced by the Board to 
which the argument was addressed. 

The administration of the Smithsonian Institution was so heavy 
a task from a business point of view that it was impossible for 
Professor Henry to continue his personal scientific researches. 
His function was now not so much to carry on investigations of 
his own as to encourage and support investigations by others. 
One of the most important measures toward this end was the 
publication of original scientific works, which would both promote 
knowledge and diffuse it among men. From this point of view, 
the correctness of which no one will contest, this was the most 
effective step by which Smithson's purpose could be carried out. 
A medium of publication was all the more necessary because at 
that time our scientific societies were so poor that investigators 
found great difficulty in securing the pubUcation of their works. 
Naturally such works, especially if printed in proper style, are 
quite expensive. They frequently require illustrations and these 
formerly cost a great deal more than they do now. Seeing this 
urgent want Professor Henry commenced the issue of the Smith- 
sonian Contributions to Knowledge, a series of memoirs going on 
from year to year, now forming an important part of every great 
scientific Hbrary. In order to make it certain that only important 
publications should be published, every paper before being ac- 
cepted was referred to a committee, to report upon its originality 
and scientific value. 

In bringing out the spirit of Henry's work, which placed pure 
knowledge ahead of practical applications, it must not be supposed 
that he was indifferent to the latter. If he seemed to pay little 
attention to utility it was because he well knew that there would 
be a score of men all ready to put discoveries to a useful end for 
every one person who was quahfied to make them. But when this 
was not the case he was ever ready to promote the practical appli- 
cation of science. One of his enterprises in this direction sowed 
the seed from which our present weather service grew. One of 



I40 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

the first works of the Smithsonian Institution was to arrange a 
system of meteorological observations at various points in the 
country. The commencement of work at the institution chanced 
to be coeval with the extensive application of the electric telegraph. 
In 1874, Henry called the attention of the Board of Regents to the 
facilities which lines of telegraph would afford for warning ob- 
servers to be on the watch for the approach of a storm. As a part 
of the system of meteorology, the telegraph was to be employed 
in the investigation of atmospheric phenomena. The advantage 
to agriculture and commerce to be derived from a knowledge of 
the approach of a storm was recommended as a subject deserving 
the attention of the Government. About 1850 a plan of mapping 
the weather was instituted. A few now living may remember the 
large maps of the country suspended in the entrance of the Institu- 
tution, on which the state of the weather in different regions was 
indicated by movable signs. This system continued until 1861, 
when the breaking out of the Civil War prevented its further con- 
tinuance. 

After the close of the war a renewal of the system was proposed 
and some effort made for the attainment of this object. But 
with this, as with every other enterprise, Professor Henry would 
never go on with it after anyone else was found ready to take it up. 
In 1869 Professor Abbe commenced the issue of regular weather 
bulletins from the Cincinnati Observatory, showing the state of 
the weather at a number of telegraphic stations, followed by a 
brief forecast of the weather which would probably be experienced 
at Cincinnati during the next twenty-four hours. About the 
same time provision was made by Congress for a national system 
under the direction of the Chief Signal Officer of the Army. This 
received the cordial support of Professor Henry, who gave every 
facility at the disposal of the Institution to General Myer for the 
completion of the organization, and, indeed, turned over the 
whole practical part of the subject to him. 

Among the services of Professor Henry outside of the field of 
pure science and of the administration of the Smithsonian Institu- 
tion the first place is due to those rendered in connection with the 



JOSEPH HENRY 141 

Lighthouse Board. This Board was organized by act of Con- 
gress in 1852 to discharge all administrative duties relating to the 
lighthouse establishment on the American coasts. The duties as- 
signed to Professor Henry in this connection included experiments 
of all kinds pertaining to lights and signals. The illuminating 
power of various oils was made the subject of exact photometric 
experiments, and large sums were thus saved to the Govern- 
ment by the adoption of those illuminators which gave most light 
in proportion to cost. The necessity of fog-signals led to what 
are, for our present purpose, the most important researches in 
this connection, namely, his investigations into the phenomena of 
sound. Acoustics had always been one of his favorite subjects. 
As early as 1856 he published a carefully prepared paper on the 
acoustics of the public buildings, and he frequently criticized the 
inattention of architects to this subject. His regular investiga- 
tions of sound in connection with the Lighthouse Board were 
commenced in 1865. ^^ ^^'^ ^^^g been known that the audibility 
of sounds at considerable distances, and especially at sea, varies 
in a manner which has seemed quite unaccountable. There were 
numerous instances of a sound not becoming audible until the 
hearer was immediately in its neighborhood, and others of its 
being audible at extraordinary distances. Very often a sound was 
audible at a great distance and was lost as the hearer approached 
its source. The frequency of fogs on our eastern coasts and the 
important part played by sound signals in warning vessels of 
danger rendered it necessary to investigate the whole theory of 
the subject, and experiment upon it on a large scale. 

One of the first conclusions reached related to the influence of 
reflectors and of intervening obstacles. That a sound in the focus 
of a parabolic reflector is thrown forward and intensified in the 
manner of light has long been a well-known fact. The logical 
consequence of this is that the sound is cut off behind such a reflec- 
tor, so that at short distances it is many times louder in front of 
the reflector than behind it. In the case of light, which moves in 
right lines, it is well known that such an increased volume of light 
thrown in one direction will go on indefinitely. But in the case of 



142 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

sound the law was found to be altogether difierent — the farther 
the observer went away from the source, the less the influence 
of the reflector, and at the distance of two or three miles the latter 
was without effect,— the sound being about equally audible in 
whatever direction the reflector might be turned. Another impor- 
tant discovery, made the following year, was that when a sound was 
moving against the wind it might be heard at an elevation when 
it was inaudible near the surface of the water. 

The observations resulted in collecting an immense mass of 
facts, including many curious abnormal phenomena. Henry was 
always extremely cautious in formulating theories of the subject, 
and had no ambition of associating his name with a generalization 
which future researches might disprove. The result of his obser- 
vations, however, was to show that there were none of these curi- 
ous phenomena which might not be accounted for by a species 
of refraction arising from varying atmospheric currents. The 
possible effects of this cause had been pointed out by Professor 
Stokes of England in 1857, and the views of the latter seem to 
have been adopted by Henry. One of the generalizations is very 
clearly explained on this theory: A current of air is more rapid at 
a short height above the water than at its immediate surface. If a 
sound-wave is moving with such a current of air its upper part will 
be carried forward more rapidly than its lower part; its front will 
thus be presented downward and it will tend to strike the water. 
If moving in an opposite direction against the wind, the greater 
velocity of the latter above the water will cause the upper part of 
the sound-wave to be retarded. The wave will thus be thrown 
upward, and the course of the sound will be a curved line convex to 
the water. Thus an observer at the surface may be in a region of 
comparative silence, when by ascending a few yards he will reach 
the region of sound vibration. 

It was at the hghthouse station in the month of December, 1877, 
that Professor Henry noticed the first sympton of the disorder 
which terminated his life a few months later. After passing 
a restless and uncomfortable night, he arose in the morning, 
finding his hand partially paralyzed. A neighboring physician 



JOSEPH HENRY 143 

being sent for made a prognosis of a very serious character. Al- 
though no prospect of recovery could be held out, it was hoped 
that the progress of the disease would be so slow that, with his 
healthy constitution, he might still endure for a considerable period. 
This hope, however, rapidly faded, and it soon became evident 
that his work was approaching its end, but his intellect was not 
for a moment clouded nor his interest in what was going on 
diminished. Only a day or two before his death he asked whether 
the transit of Mercury had been successfully observed and the 
appropriation for observing the total eclipse secured. He was 
then gradually sinking, and died at noon on May 13, 1878. 

We should make a great mistake if we measured Henry's useful- 
ness simply by what he ostensibly did, much as the latter would 
have redounded to his credit. He was one of those men, now 
becoming altogether too rare, who felt that his activities should 
not be bounded by the requirements of official duty, but that one 
should strive to leave behind him something which would make the 
world better. He appeared in Washington as a recognized leader 
of science, whom those connected with the Government could 
readily consult and by whose advice they could profit. Our pres- 
ent system of government science had then scarcely begun. About 
the only institution of a scientific character which the Govern- 
ment had established was the Patent OfiBce, to which was at- 
tached an officer whose duty it was to collect statistics relating to 
agriciilture. Out of this little beginning grew the present Agri- 
cultural Department. 

A circumstance not to be lost sight of is that Henry, in obedience 
to one of the great principles of his life, voluntarily relinquished 
to others each field of investigation at the very time when he had 
it so far cultivated that it might yield him fame and profit. It is 
an unfortunate fact that the world, in awarding its laurels, is prone 
to overlook the sometimes long list of those whose labors have 
rendered a result possible, and to remember only the one who gave 
the finishing stroke, or applied previously known principles to 
some useful result. There are few investigators to whom the 
criterion in question would do less justice than to the subject of 



144 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

our notice. In his unselfish devotion to knowledge he sowed that 
others might reap, on the broad humanitarian ground that a 
valuable harvest would be sure to find a reaper while the seed might 
wait in vain for a sower. Had this been done solely in his individ- 
ual character we should have looked upon his course with admira- 
tion; but in bringing the principle into the Smithsonian Institution 
he avoided a danger and rendered a benefit for which we cannot 
be too grateful. To this principle is due the fact that the Institu- 
tion never appeared as a competitor, seeking an advantage for 
itself, but always as the active cooperator in every enterprise tend- 
ing to carry out the object prescribed by its founder. 

So vast was the field which even with these restrictions Henry 
had before him that this readiness to abandon portions of it to 
others might seem very natural did we not know by experience 
how apt the contrary view is to prevail. Besides his electric re- 
searches and his establishment of a meteorological system his 
field of work took in such subjects as the physical geography of 
his native state, terrestrial magnetism, capillarity, molecular 
physics, observations of meteors, phosphoresence, solar physics, 
protection from lightning, observations of the aurora, the radia- 
tion of heat, the strength of building materials, experiments on an 
alleged spontaneous separation of alcohol and water, aeronautics, 
the ventilation of buildings, the phenomena of sound, and various 
other subjects hardly admitting of classification. 

One of his interesting traits of character, and one which power- 
fully tended to make the Smithsonian Institution popular and use- 
ful, was a certain intellectual philanthropy which showed itself 
in ceaseless efforts to make others enjoy the same wide views of 
nature which he himself did. He was accessible to a fault, and ever 
ready to persuade any honest propounder of a new theory that he 
was wrong. The only subject on which the writer ever had to 
express to him strong dissent from his views was that of the practi- 
cability of convincing "universe-makers" of their errors. They 
always answered with opposing arguments, generally in a tone of 
arrogance or querulousness which deterred even the modest Henry 
from replying further; but in spite of oft-repeated failure he still 



JOSEPH HENRY 145 

considered it a duty to do what he could toward imbuing the next 
one of the class who addressed him with correct notions of scientific 
principles. 

It is hardly necessary to say that in Professor Henry's mental 
composition were included a breadth of intellect, clearness of 
philosophic insight, and strength of judgment, without which he 
could never have carried out the difficult task which his official 
position imposed upon him. His mental fiber was well seen in 
the stand which he took against the delusions of spiritualism. On 
no subject was he more decided than on that of the impossibility 
and absurdity of the pseudo-miracles of the mediums, who seemed 
to him to claim no less a power than that of overruling the laws of 
nature. An intellectual person yielding credence to their preten- 
sions seemed to him to be in great danger of insanity. An old and 
respected friend, who had held a prominent position in the govern- 
ment service, in speaking to him on the subject, once described 
how he had actually seen a spiritual medium rise in the air and 
waft himself out of the window. " Judge," answered the Professor, 
"you never saw that, and if you think you did, you are in a danger- 
ous mental condition. If you do not give this delusion up you 
will be in the insane asylum before you know it. As a loving 
friend I beseech you to take warning of what I say, and to reflect 
that what you think you saw is a mental delusion which requires 
the most careful treatment." 

He once related to the writer a curious circumstance as an illus- 
tration of the character of this "spiritual" legerdemain. A noted 
spiritualist had visited Washington during Mr. Lincoln's adminis- 
tration and held several stances with the President himself. The 
latter was extremely desirous that Professor Henry should see the 
medium, and give his opinion as to how he performed his wonder- 
ful feats. Although Henry generally avoided all contact with such 
men, he consented to receive him at the Smithsonian Institution. 
Among the acts proposed was that of making sounds in various 
quarters of the room. This was something which the keen senses 
and ready experimental faculty of the Professor were well qualified 
to investigate. He turned his head in various positions while the 



146 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

sounds were being emitted. He then turned toward the man with 
the utmost firmness and said, "I do not know how you make the 
sounds, but this I perceive very clearly: they do not come from 
the room but from your person." It was in vain that the operator 
protested they did not, and that he had no knowledge how they 
were produced. The keen ear of his examiner could not be 
deceived. 

Some time afterward Henry was traveling in the east, and took 
a seat in a railway car beside a young man, who finding who his 
companion was, entered into conversation with him, and informed 
him that he was a maker of telegraph instruments. His advances 
were received in so friendly a manner that he went further yet, 
and confided to the Professor that his ingenuity had been called 
into requisition by spiritual mediums, to whom he furnished the 
apparatus necessary for the manifestations. Henry asked him 
by what mediums he had been thus engaged, and was interested 
to find that among them was the very man he had met at the 
Smithsonian Institution. The sounds which the medium had 
emitted were then described to the young man, who in reply stated 
that the apparatus had been constructed by himself, and ex- 
plained its structure and working. It was fastened around the 
muscular part of the upper arm, and so devised that the sounds 
would be produced by a simple action of the muscle, unaccom- 
panied by any motion of the joints of the arm, and therefore en- 
tirely invisible to a bystander. 

On the whole we must class Joseph Henry among those men 
whose lives afford the most interesting examples for the guidance 
of youth. He who, at the present day, has to do with public life 
may well be discouraged by the selfishness of its spirit and the 
extent to which routine takes the place of reason in all its opera- 
tions. Under these circumstances the spectacle of a man ani- 
mated by the most exalted impulses, devoting his energies to the 
promotion of good works oa the highest plane, and leaving after 
him none but fragrant memories, ought to be a source of encour- 
agement and inspiration to every young man who is able to follow 
in his footsteps. 



LOUIS AGASSIZ 

ZOOLOGIST 
1807-1873 
By Charles Frederick Holder 

"I WISH to be a good son, a good citizen, and the first naturalist 
of my time. I feel within me the strength of a whole generation 
to work towards this end, and I shall reach it, if the means be not 
wanting." So wrote young Agassiz to his father on the threshold 
of his career. He was a good son, he became a good citizen and 
in the opinion of many of his peers he was the first naturalist of 
his time, ranking with Darwin, Huxley and Spencer, and if brevity 
alone was desired the historian might stop here, and let his own 
outline of principles stand. 

It is a pleasure to have known Louis Agassiz, to have seen his 
genial smile, and to remember his strong personality. The 
writer lived at 'Lynn, and with the late Dr. J. B. Holder often 
walked over to Nahant and visited Agassiz in his artistic home on 
the rocky peninsula which reaches out into Massachusetts Bay. 
In Dr. Holder's correspondence covering nearly twenty years' 
acquaintance with Agassiz many interesting letters occur referring 
to collecting tours and dredging in Massachusetts Bay, which 
ended in Dr. Holder going to Tortugas, Florida, to make an elab- 
orate study of the Florida reef, which was carried on for six or 
seven years. During this period the writer had, for the pleasure 
it afforded, an active participation in the collective part of the plan 
of the work ; and recalls the remarkable interest of Agassiz in the 
work, his long and interesting letter'^, his delight at the many new 
species found and described. Even when Dr. Holder's deductions 
regarding the growth of corals were, to some extent antagonistic 

147 



148 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

to his own, the result was not a tragedy, as some of the breaking 
of fond theories appear to be. Agassiz had placed himself on 
record as believing that corals and coral reefs grew very slowly. 
Dr. Holder proved the contrary, and with the writer kept coral 
heads in partial confinement on the reef, which doubled their 
diameter in a year. Such a specimen is to be seen in the Ameri- 
can Museum of Natural History and is figured in the writer's 
Elements of Zoology. 

Agassiz impressed me as a strong, virile man of remarkabl 
mold. Had he not been a naturalist, he would have been i 
leader of men in some other direction. As an organizer he was 
preeminent; as a scientist profound. He was a theorist and idealist 
yet his attitude was essentially scientific; he sought the truth and 
worked along the lines of logical investigation, feeling his way from 
fact to fact, not jumping at conclusions; and it is this quality of 
mind that has given him the position in the scientific history of 
the world as its greatest teacher in the department of zoological 
science. 

It is rare that an alien has become so thoroughly identified with 
the country of his adoption as Agassiz. He was born in Switzer- 
land May 28, 1807, in the little village of Mottier, in the canton of 
Vaud, and came from a long line of intellectual men and women; 
and possibly the deep religious feeling which dominated his entire 
life and to some extent influenced his career, can be traced to 
heredity, as his father was the sixth clergyman in a direct line from 
a divine who came down from a Burgundian Huguenot who fled 
from France to escape the persecutions which characterized the 
reign of Louis XIV. 

While Agassiz had a life struggle to attain the prominence he 
succeeded to, it can be said that he was a born genius in the fields in 
which he later became conspicuous. When a youth he developed 
a remarkable taste for nature study. He was conscientious, 
indefatigable, studious, earnest, and possessed of a masterly 
power of overcoming obstacles that would have appeared insur- 
mountable to the average youth. An illustration of this is to be 
seen in his attempts to become a naturalist. His father was deter- 



LOUIS AGASSIZ 149 

rained that he should be a business man or a physician; the son 
was equally determined to follow the study of his "choice and he 
won by the very greatness, the loftiness of his appeals, and the 
logic of his well-supported arguments. 

The very element of semi-poverty would have discouraged the 
average boy alone, but to Agassiz it was another reason for suc- 
cess, and in this determination, reinforced by lucid demonstra- 
tions, one sees the explanation of his successes in the various epochs 
of his career which led to the lofty pinnacle upon which he stood 
when he passed on into history. 

Agassiz's youth was spent in the open. Until the age of ten he 
roamed the fields a devoted student of every branch of nature, 
from the song of the birds to the deep snows and glaciers of his 
mountains. During this period he studied with his parents. He 
displayed not only a remarkable love for animals, but a peculiar 
desire to know all about them, their structure, and habits; and at 
this time we find him an all around investigator, not only studying 
living fishes in a home-made aquarium, but watching the work of 
mechanics of various kinds and copying their work. At ten years 
of age he entered the University of Bienne, and at twelve had 
a remarkable collection of animals and plants, committing the 
Latin names to memory and compiling remarkable manuscripts; 
in fact, tutoring himself "in the rudiments of many desperate 
studies" and methods which, doubtless, had in later years to be 
unlearned. Indeed he says, "I am conscious that at successive 
" periods of my life I have employed very different systems of study." 

When very young Agassiz began to buy books relating to the 
studies of his choice. In the later years of his life at Bienne, he 
annoimced his strong desire to become a naturalist, but his father 
believing it would mean a life of comparative poverty, determined 
that he should follow a business career, and while Agassiz was 
secretly preparing to become the great savant, the father was 
laying plans for his entering the firm of his uncle at Neuchatel; 
but Agassiz succeeded in holding off the decision, and entered 
the College of Lausanne where he met many scientific men who in- 
fluenced his career. Here he had first access to collections of 



ISO LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

scientific value. Here in 1823 he listened to his first lecture in 
Zoology. 

Seeing that they could not influence him his family virtually 
surrendered, or a compromise was effected through Dr. Mathias 
Mayor, and Agassiz entered the medical school at Zurich which 
he considered a step in the right direction. Some idea of the charm- 
ing personality of Agassiz can be formed from the following 
incident. With a few friends he was on a walking trip through 
the country where he met en route, a gentlemen who invited them 
to join him at lunch, during which, he was so impressed with the 
young student that he later expressed a desire to adopt him, and 
to undertake his complete education, a consummation which would 
have been accomplished had not family ties between the boy and 
his parents been so strong. All who met young Agassiz fell under 
the potent charm of his personality and it was noted that his pro- 
fessors took exceptional interest in him. In this way his acquaint- 
ance was increased and he was enabled to meet men of impor- 
tance, and to borrow books. It is difficult for the reader to-day, 
when every village has its library, to realize that young Agassiz 
had the greatest difficulty in obtaining books. They were rare, 
and he did not possess the money to buy them; and that this can 
be thoroughly appreciated, it may be said that he spent days and 
weeks copying books that he had borrowed, which he could not 
afford to buy, that he might at least own a copy, while pages and 
chapters of others were committed to memory. It would be diffi- 
cult to imagine a modern boy copying two volumes of Lamarck's 
Animaux sans Verttbres, that he might have the material at hand. 

The character of Agassiz was influenced greatly by the men he 
associated with at this time. This is not strange, but it is remark- 
able that he should have sought the friendship of such men and 
preferred it; and that he might reap the full value of this associa- 
tion he entered Heidelberg University in 1820. He now met 
Leuckart, Tiedemann and Braun, who gave him every possible 
aid. His life now was that of a student actuated by a remarkable 
prescience. The ordinary frivolities of youth did not enter into his 
composition; not that he was not full of life, fond of sports but 



LOUIS AGASSIZ 151 

he seems to have been gifted with that rare faculty in the young, 
of looking ahead. He planned his career and was working up 
to it with a sagacity that was almost abnormal. He was confined 
to his books and lectures, yet he did not neglect outdoor life and 
exercise. He was a skilled fencer; few could tire him in walks over 
the country, and to this was due his lusty frame and commanding 
figure and later in life his power to withstand fatigue. 

Perhaps no feature of Agassiz's life has attracted so much atten- 
tion among laymen as his thoroughly religious feeling and attitude, 
and this never changed. He possessed it all though life, and in 
the great intellectual conflicts in which he became engaged in 
later years, his religious nature was always a dominant factor to 
be counted with. We find this cropping out in his student life. 
His home training, the influence of his mother, and the traditions 
of his family were strong within him, and the "rare comet in the 
Heidelberg horizon," as Braun describes him at this time, was a 
student with strong religious proclivities that could not be over- 
come by even the jokes of his more or less jovial fellows. 

In 1827 Agassiz entered the University of Munich, one of the 
epochs of his career, accomplished not without a struggle, as his 
family were people of moderate means, and he was sustained at 
every step of his career only by the greatest effort. He writes at 
this period: 

"I cannot review my Munich life without deep gratitude. The 
city teemed with resources for the student in arts, letters, philos- 
ophy, and science. It was distinguished at that time for activity 
in public as well as in academic life. The King seemed liberal; 
he was the friend of poets and artists, and aimed at concentrating 
all the glories of Germany in his new university. I thus enjoyed 
for a few years the example of the most brilliant intellects, and 
that stimulus which is given by competition between men equally 
eminent in different spheres of human knowledge. Under such 
circumstances a man either subsides into the position of a fol- 
lower in the ranks that gather around a master, or he aspires to 
be a master himself." 

Already Agassiz's marked personality was making itself felt 
upon his compatriots. The "LitUe Academy" came into being, 



152 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

a meeting of men of congenial tastes and spirit, where papers 
were discussed and great projects with all the enthusiasm of youth, 
proposed. 

Mr. Dinkel, who was the artist of Agassiz, in describing the 
"Little Academy" says that the members all had nicknames, as 
"Molluscus," "Cyprinus," and "Rhubarb." The room was 
small and so filled with specimens, seat and floor, that visitors 
not only had to stand up, but sometimes could not move around, 
while the walls were covered with sketches of all kinds of animals, 
and their skeletons and grinning skulls, to the possible terror of 
the landlady. 

Here Agassiz outlined the Brazilian trip which came later, 
suggested by Martius who told of his experiences in this lotus land 
of the entomologist. 

That Agassiz was influenced by the strong personality of Von 
Martius is evident. The latter was the friend of the King of 
Bavaria; a man of ripe scholarship, who with Spis, had made for 
his majesty an important trip through South America. Spix 
died, and Von Martius, to the astonishment and delight of Agassiz, - 
gave him the fishes of this great expedition to work up, this being 
in a way a notable step in his career. It was the turning of the 
roads to Agassiz. His parents hoped that he would graduate and 
become a practicing physician, but Agassiz did not take them 
wholly into his confidence and tell them of his association with 
Von Martius, or the signal honor that had fallen to him, as he 
knew that it would cause them annoyance; so he began on the 
great work at night, pursuing his medical studies by day, deter- 
mining to use the work as a lever to induce his parents to consent 
to the scientific career. 

To his father he wrote, "If during the course of my studies I 
succeed in making myself known by a work of distinction, will 
you not then consent that I shall study, at least during one year, 
the natural sciences alone, and then accept a professorship in 
Natural History, with the understanding that if in the first place 
and in the time agreed upon, I shall take my Doctor's degree? " 
His father replied, "Let the sciences be the balloon in which you 



LOUIS AGASSIZ 153 

prepare to travel through higher regions, but let medicines and 
surgery be your parachutes." 

The secret could not be kept, and the spectacle of Agassiz at 
twenty-one years of age making a report on the fishes of Brazil 
to the Government, was so signal an honor that it silenced all 
opposition. The work gave him fame, and when completed, the 
name of Agassiz appeared upon the title-page as a Doctor of 
Philosophy, which was soon followed by his degree of M. D. 

At twenty-three Agassiz was well-known in Europe, an author 
and naturalist of national reputation, a position not accomplished 
without great mental and physical effort; the details of which can- 
not be given in a sketch so limited. It was now that Agassiz met 
Cuvier and Von Humboldt, who both recognized the inherent 
genius of the young man and aided him in every way possible. 
Cuvier placed in his hands his notes on fishes, a signal honor. 
Agassiz was delighted, but as his father had foreseen, the life of a 
naturalist was not productive in a pecuniary sense, and in 1832 
he possessed an income of but forty dollars a month, out of which 
he paid his artist twenty-five, leaving him but fifteen dollars to 
live upon. At this period, working fifteen hours a day, his only 
regret appears to have been that he was so poor, that he did not 
have a suitable coat to wear when he presented letters of introduc- 
tion. The severest privations did not sway or influence him from 
his object which was to become the greatest teacher of science of 
the day, and he even refused a salary of two hundred dollars per 
annum from a journal, that desired him to edit a zoological section, 
on the ground that he would be obliged to give up two hours a 
day from his studies. Investigators in Psychology to-day will 
find the following story of Agassiz of more or less interest. He 
was working on a fish, which ultimately appeared in his Recherches 
sur les Poissons Fossiles. One fish puzzled him; he could not 
trace its characteristics. One night he dreamed he saw it worked 
out in the rock; for two nights he had this dream, but in some 
way, after the fashion of dreams, it evaded him when he awoke; 
so on the third night he placed paper and pencil at his bedside. 
Again he had the dream, and seizing the pencil he drew the out- 



154 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

line roughly as it appeared. The following day he went to the 
Jardin des Plantes, and there he cut away the stone of a fossil 
fish, Cyclopima spinosum and found the figure of his dream, 
which is pictured in the above mentioned work. Vol. IV, tab. i, 

p. 21. 

With the death of Cuvier dark days fell upon Agassiz; he be- 
came more and more impoverished, he was forced to relinquish 
his artist and then, owing to complications which followed, he was 
absolutely forced to face the possible abandonment of the career 
he had laid out for himself. He even decided to return to his 
native town and teach, to leave Paris and all its treasures, which 
meant so much to the student. But Agassiz was a man of destiny, 
and in this instance destiny may be translated to mean the logical 
result of true and conscientious effort in a given direction. When 
his fortunes were at the lowest ebb, out of a clear sky came a 
letter from Von Humboldt inclosing a letter of credit for one thou- 
sand francs. This was another stepping-stone in his career, and 
from then on Humboldt became his friend and patron. Through 
the author of Cosmos he secured a professorship at Neuchatel, 
which while small, eighty louis per annum, was guaranteed for 
three years. Baron Von Humboldt's letter to the college author- 
ities contains the following: "He (Agassiz) is distinguished by his 
talents, by the variety and substantial character of his attainments, 
and by that which has a special value in these troubled times, his 
natural sweetness of disposition." 

Von Humboldt advanced Agassiz's interests as rapidly as pos- 
sible, and in 1832 we find him a national figure as a professor deliv- 
ering his first lecture "upon the relations between the different 
branches of Natural History and the then prevailing tendencies of 
all the sciences." It was at this period that Leopold Von Buch, the. 
famous geologist, said that he dreaded to knock at the door of Ag- 
assiz of Neuchatel. "Why," asked a friend. "I fear that he will 
take me for a new species," was the witty rejoinder, which spoke 
volumes for Agassiz at the time. Agassiz, now about twenty-six 
years of age, married the sister of his friend, Cecile Braun, and 
honors came thick and fast and recognition from scientists all over 



LOUIS AGASSIZ 155 

the world. Agassiz was an international figure and as a teacher of 
the sciences, he occupied a distinguished position. He now took 
the WoUaston prize of seven hundred francs, a godsend as he had 
expended his last cent in producing a volume of his splendid work, 
Researches Among the Fossil Fishes, which was only finished in 
1843, occupying ten years for its completion. 

Agassiz now visited England and was enthusiastically received, 
meeting Lyell, Murchison, Buckland, Egerton, Lord Coll, and 
before these leaders of the day he demonstrated his marvelous 
insight into the secrets of nature. At a meeting he was asked to 
give his idea of a fish that might belong to a certain ancient geolog- 
ical horizon. He of course had never seen such a fish nor did he 
know that one had been found in this ancient stratum, but he 
walked to the board and made a sketch of the fish as he thought 
it woxild appear, a rousing cheer greeting his work. Then to his 
amazement some one pulled aside a screen and showed the fossil 
specimen. Agassiz had anticipated and figured it perfectly. 

To such an extent said Dr. Stebbins "had this great scientist 
advanced in a knowledge of the plan of God in nature." Agassiz 
now became interested in glaciers and in the following years gave 
the world his splendid works, opinions based on observation of 
these marvelous phenomena of the Alps, and his work aroused 
the greatest interest and discussion all over Europe and in scien- 
tific centers of America. His views received criticism in many 
quarters, but they prevailed and his masterly handling of the 
subject made him still more famous, and in 1838, when thirty 
years of age, he received the membership of the Royal Society of 
London. 

It is impossible to even mention the books and subjects which 
Agassiz had in mind, during this and following years, in the limited 
space of this paper. America, where he was destined to rise to the 
highest pinnacle of his career as a great teacher of science, first 
came seriously into his mind in 1842 when a trip was suggested 
by the Prince of Canino. His books were contributions to science, 
and their production was often a continual drain, keeping him 
impoverished, but when an offer came from America for a course 



156 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

of lectures, and the King of Prussia gave him fifteen thousand 
francs for investigation, he decided to accept it, and in 1846 he 
arrived in Boston and began his lectures on the "Plan of Crea- 
tion." Agassiz was now thirty-nine years of age, in his prime, and 
he made so strong an impression upon the people of the Republic 
that they determined to keep him. American ideas appealed to 
him. He was necessarily a lion and in constant demand, but 
avoided publicity, declining invitations when he could, giving as a 
reason that he was in the employ of the King of Prussia. 

Many could not understand him, and a servant said he was a 
"queer stick" spending his time at the fish markets, and the 
market men thought he was "daft " as the fishes he preferred were 
the ones the men generally threw away. The course of lectures at 
the Lowell Institute was so successful that he began another on 
Glaciers. The American idea was slowly but firmly taking posses- 
sion of his heart and mind. He was captured by the hospitality 
of the Americans. He says in writing to a friend: 

"I am constantly asking myself which is better, our old 
Europe where the man of exceptional gifts can give himself ab- 
solutely to study, opening thus a wide horizon for the himian 
mind, while at his side thousands barely vegetate in degradation 
or at least in destitution; or this new world where the institu- 
tions tend to keep all on one level as part of the general mass, — 
but a mass, be it said, which has no noxious elements, yes, the 
mass here is decidedly good. All the world lives well, is decently 
clad, learns some things, is awake, is interested. 

"Instruction does not, as in some parts of Germany for in- 
stance, furnish a man with an intellectual book and then deny 
him the use of it. The strength of America lies in the prodigious 
number of individuals who think and work at the same time. 

"It is a severe test of pretentious mediocrity, but I fear, it 
may also efface originality." 

To Milne Edwards he wrote, 

" Naturalist as I am, I cannot but put the people first, the people 
who opened this part of the American continent to European civ- 
ilization. What a people! " 

If the American people made an impression on Agassiz he cer- 



LOUIS AGASSIZ 157 

tainly made one upon them. At this time he was a splendid type 
of manhood of noble presence. Enthusiasm beamed in every 
glance, he had a benignant air, and was a notable figure, fascinat- 
ing, magnetic, yet simple with all, a great leader along the paths 
of his choice. Inducements were held out to Agassiz to remain in 
America and he soon had many pupils and with his determination 
to remain began a new epoch in American science. 

In 1848 the King of Prussia gave him an honorable discharge 
from his services, and Agassiz was offered the chair of the Amos 
Lawrence Scientific School at Cambridge. So at the age of forty 
he became a professor at Harvard University and joined the 
charmed intellectual circle made up of Longfellow, Peirce, Fulton, 
Asa Gray, Wyman, Channing, Holmes, Emerson, Whittier, 
Ticknor, Motley, Lowell and other American immortals. 

Agassiz now sent for his family, and soon his home was the 
center of scientific interest. He impressed American men of science 
by the thoroughness of his methods, the boldness of his theories, 
and at once established new methods, new lines of thought and 
became the greatest science teacher the world has ever seen. His 
coming was epoch-making not only along the line of original in- 
vestigation, but for the dissemination of knowledge among the 
people. He established new methods. He began the Museum of 
Comparative Zoology at Cambridge, and under his influence, 
science took on new interests, a fresh impetus along many lines. 
The Government offered him every facility for original investiga- 
tion, and through the Coast Survey and other sources he began lines 
of work which were far reaching, not to say revolutionary. He 
made science popular in America by his lucid methods and the 
charm of his engaging personality. New works were continually 
coming from his hand, as years went on, and his bibliography as 
pubHshed in the writer's Li[e or in the records of the Government 
constitutes a monument of enduring fame, a stupendous record of 
work, which in the main was a labor of love; the disinterested 
labor of a lifetime devoted to science. Agassiz married a second 
time in 1850, Elizabeth Graves Gary, a woman of superlative 
gifts and many graces of character, • 



IS8 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

Of her Arnold Guyot in his memoir of Agassiz in the National 
Academy writes: "Her literary talents, to whom we owe the interest- 
ing account of the Florida reefs and perhaps the final appearance 
of more than one of his later works, are acknowledged by all. 
Her deep and absolute devotion, her soothing influence secured 
for him the peace of mind and heart so necessary for an undis- 
turbed mental activity. To her also science owes a debt of 
gratitude." 

Agassiz was the same vigorous collector in America he had been 
in Europe and had soon visited all sections of the country from the 
Lake Superior copper regions, which he explored, to southern 
Florida, and the Pacific coast. While on a trip with the coast 
survey vessel he visited Charleston and was there offered a pro- 
fessorship in the Medical College, it being a more remunerative 
position than the one he held at Harvard. This he retained until 
1853, ever hampered by the lack of adequate funds to carry on his 
elaborate publications and explorations. He established with his 
wife a school for young ladies in Boston in 1855, which became 
one of the institutions of the region, and was continued for eight 
years, materially aiding his work in the accumulation and knowl- 
edge relating to marine zoology and its dissemination. 

European nations, particularly France, never quite forgave 
Agassiz for going to America, and continually offered him induce- 
ments to return. The French Emperor tendered him a position 
that probably no other living scientist, of France at least, would 
have refused and in 1857 he was invited to take the chair of Paleon- 
tology in the French Museum of Natural History, a position which 
had been held by D'Orbigny, and despite his continued refusals 
the Emperor conferred upon him the order of the Legion of 
Honor. His reply was characteristic, he had become imbued with 
American sentiments. "Were I offered absolute power for the 
reorganization of the Jardin des Plantes with a revenue of fifty 
thousand francs I should not accept it. I like my independence 
better." 

The idea of a great museum now filled his heart and mind and 
after many years' work, needless trials and struggles, the Museum 



LOUIS AGASSIZ 159 

of Comparative Zoology as it stands to-day was founded and 
equipped on land provided by Harvard University and the state, 
an institution which has grown and been added to by his distin- 
guished son, Alexander Agassiz. The museum was dedicated in 
i860, and the present writer for the pleasure of it made large and 
extensive collections with Dr. J. B. Holder, late curator of Zoology 
of the American Museum of Natural History, New York, on the 
Florida reef for Agassiz at this time, forwarding them all during 
the Civil War by every passing vessel, many of which were cap- 
tured by the various Confederate cruisers, so failed to reach their 
destination. 

Agassiz's energy at this time was boundless, and he began a 
series of elaborate volumes, ten in number, entitled Contribu- 
tions to the Natural History of the United States, the expenses 
of which were met by public subscription, and four of those 
monumental works were completed before his death. The first 
volume was completed on his fiftieth birthday, which was cele- 
brated by his pupils, who serenaded him, giving at midnight the 
grand Choral of Bach. The event was also emphasized by the 
Saturday Club of which he was an honored member, at which 
Longfellow read a poem entitled "The Fiftieth Birthday of Agas- 
siz." Dr. Holmes says, "I cannot forget the delicate unusual way 
in which he read his charming verses": 

It was fifty years ago, 

In the pleasant month of May, 
In the beautiful Pays de Vaud, 

A child in its cradle lay. 

And Nature, the old nurse, took 

The child upon her knee. 
Saying: "Here is a story-book 

Thy Father has written for thee." 

"Come wander with me,'' she said, 
"Into regions yet untrod, 
And read what is still unread 
In the manuscripts of God." 



l6o LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

And he wandered away and away 

With Nature, the dear old nurse, 
Who sang to him night and day 

The rhymes of the universe. 

And wherever the way seemed long, 

Or his heart began to fail, 
She would sing a more wonderful song, 

Or tell a more marvellous tale. 

So she keeps him still a child, 

And will not let him go, 
Though at times his heart beats wild 

For the beautiful Pays de Vaud; 

Though at times he hears in his dreams 

The Ranz des Vaches of old, 
And the rush of mountain streams. 

From glaciers clear and cold. 

And the mother at home says, "Hark! 

For his voice I listen and yearn; 
It is growing late and dark. 
And my boy does not return." 
May 28, 1857. 

The Saturday Club had a warm place in the affections of 
Agassiz — here he met the friends of his choice. 
Dr. Wendell Holmes in referring to it said: 

"At one end of the table sat Longfellow, placid, quiet, benig- 
nant, soft-voiced, a most agreeable rather than a brilliant talker, 
but a man upon whom it was always pleasant to look, whose 
silence was better than many another man's conversation. At 
the other end sat Agassiz, robust, sanguine, animated, full of talk, 
boy-like in his laughter. The stranger who should have asked 
who were the men arranged along the sides of the table would 
have heard in answer the names of Hawthorne, Motley, Dana, 
Lowell, Whipple, Peirce, the distinguished mathematician, Judge 
Hoar, eminent at the bar and in the cabinet, Dwight the lead- 



LOUIS AGASSIZ i6i 

ing musical critic of Boston for a whole generation, Sumner the 
academic champion of freedom, Andrew, ' the great war governor ' 
of Massachusetts, Dr. Howe, the philanthropist, William Hunt, 
the painter, with others not unworthy of such company." 

Among the many experiences of Agassiz was being taken for a 
harmless lunatic by some country men when on a trip through 
New Hampshire. With some friends he collected insects and 
pinned them to his hat and coat. Some one asked the driver of 
the coach who the men were who acted so strangely, and he re- 
plied, "Their keeper says they are naturals, and I should say 
they was." The trip of Agassiz to Brazil was one of his great 
explorations, which lack of space will not permit reviewing. He 
followed this in 1869 with a cruise on the Hassler to the coast of 
Cuba, and during all these years his days, hours and moments 
were filled with labors of the most exhaustive kind. In 187 1, he 
made a trip around the Horn to San Francisco in the Bibb, and in 
1872 we find him again working upon the plan for a great marine 
laboratory and school which finally took shape, due to the gift of 
John Anderson of New York, who gave the island of Penikese for 
the pm-pose and the sum of fifty thousand dollars for equipment. 
Many of the leading naturalists of to-day were students of Agassiz 
here, and to Dr. David Starr Jordan, President of Stanford 
University, the writer is indebted to the following memories of 
days with the greatest teacher of science the world has ever pro- 
duced: 

"Penikese is a little island containing about sixty acres of very 
rocky ground, a pile of stones, with intervals of soil. It is the last 
and least of the Elizabeth Islands, lying to the south of Buzzards 
Bay, on the south coast of Massachusetts. The whole cluster was 
once a great terminal moraine of rocks and rubbish of all sorts, 
brought down from the mainland by some ancient glacier, and 
by it dropped off into the ocean off the heel of Cape Cod. The 
sea has broken up the moraine into eight little islands by wearing 
tide channels between hill and hill. The names of these islands 
are recorded in the jingle which the children of that region learn 
before they go to school: 



I62 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

Naushon, Nonamesset, 
Uncatena, and Wepecket, 
Nashawena, Pesquinese, 
Cuttyhunk, and Penikese. 

" And Penikese, least and smallest of them, lies, a little forgotten 
speck, out in the ocean, eighteen miles south of New Bedford. It 
contains two hills, joined together by a narrow isthmus, a little 
harbor, a farm-house, a flagstaff, a barn, a willow tree, and a 
flock of sheep. And here Agassiz founded his school. This was 
in the month of June in the year 1873. 

" From the many hundred applicants who sent in their names as 
soon as the school was made public Agassiz chose fifty, thirty 
men and twenty women, teachers, students, and naturalists of 
various grades from all parts of the country. This practical recog- 
nition of co-education was criticized by many of Agassiz's friends, 
trained in the monastic schools of New England, but the results 
soon justified the decision. These fifty teachers should be trained 
as far as he could train them in right methods of work. They 
should carry into his schools his views of scientific teaching. Then 
each of these schools would become in its time a center of help to 
others, until the influence toward real work in science should 
spread throughout our educational system. 

" None of us will ever forget his first sight of Agassiz. We had 
come down from New Bedford, in a little tugboat in the early 
morning and Agassiz met us at the landing-place on the island. He 
was standing almost alone on the litde wharf, and his great face 
beamed with pleasure. For this summer school, the thought of 
his old age, might be the crowning work of his lifetinie. Who 
could forsee what might come from the efforts of fifty men and 
women, teachers of science, each striving to do his work in the 
best possible way? His thoughts and hopes rose to expectations 
higher than any of us then understood. His tall, robust figure, 
broad shoulders bending a little under the weight of years, his 
large round face lit up by kindly dark-brown eyes, his cheery 
smile, the enthusiastic tones of his voice, all these entered into our 
first as well as our last impressions of Agassiz. He greeted us 



LOUIS AGASSIZ 163 

with great warmth as we landed. He looked into our faces to 
justify himself in making choice of us among the many whom he 
might have chosen. Among the students in the school at Penikese, 
who come to my mind as I write, are Dr. Charles O. Whitman, 
now of the University of Chicago; Dr. William K. Brooks, of 
Johns Hopkins; Dr. Frank H. Snow, afterwards Chancellor of the 
University of Kansas; Dr. W. O. Crosby, of the Boston Society 
of Natural History, then a boy from Colorado interested in rocks 
and minerals; Samuel Garman, Walter Faxon, Walter Fewkes, 
and Charles Sedgwick Minot, all of them still connected with the 
work at Cambridge; Ernest IngersoU, then just beginning his 
literary work; Professor J. G. Scott, of the Normal School at 
Westfield; Professor Stowell, of the school at Cortland; Professor 
Apgar, of Trenton, N. J.; Professor Fernald, of Maine; Miss 
Susan Hallowell, of Wellesley College; Miss Mary Beaman 
(Mrs. Joralemon); Mr. E. A. Gastman, of Illinois; and other 
well-known instructors. With these was the veteran teacher of 
botany at Mount Holyoke Seminary, Miss Lydia W. Shattuck, 
with her pupil and associate, Miss Susan Bowen. Professor H. H. 
Straight and his bride, both then teachers in the State Normal 
School at Oswego, were also with us. These four, whom all of us 
loved and respected, were the first of our number to be claimed by 
death. 

" Among our teachers, besides Agassiz, were Burt G. Wilder, 
Edward S. Morse, Alfred Mayor, Frederick Guyot and Count 
Pourtales, early associates of Agassiz, already in the fullness of 
years. Mrs. Agassiz was present at every lecture, note-book in 
hand, and her genial personality did much to bind the company 
together. 

" The old bam on the island had been hastily converted into a 
dining-hall and lecture-room. A new floor had been put in, but 
the doors and walls remained unchanged, and the swallows' 
nests were undisturbed under the eaves. The sheep had been 
turned out, the horse stalls were changed to a kitchen, and on the 
floor of the bam instead of the hay-wagon, were placed three long 
tables. At the head of one of these sat Agassiz. At his right hand 



l64 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

always stood a movable blackboard, for he seldom spoke without 
a piece of chalk in his hand. He would often give us a lecture 
while he sat at the table, frequently about some fish or other crea- 
ture, the remains of which still lay beside our plates. 

" Our second day upon the island was memorable above all the 
others. Its striking incident has passed into literature in the poem 
of Whittier, 'The Prayer of Agassiz.' 

" When the morning meal was over, Agassiz arose in his place 
and spoke, as only he could speak, of his purpose of calling us 
together. The swallows flew in and out of the building in the soft 
June air, for they did not know that it was no longer a barn but a 
temple. Some of them almost grazed his shoulder as he spoke 
to us of the needs of the people for better education. He told us 
how these needs could be met, and of the results which might come 
to America from the training and consecration of fifty teachers. 

" This was to him no ordinary school, still less an idle summer's 
outing, but a mission work of the greatest importance. He spoke 
with intense earnestness, and all his words were filled with that 
deep religious feeling so characteristic of all his thoughts. For 
to Agassiz each natural object was a thought of God, and trifling 
with God's truth as expressed in Nature was the basest of sacrilege. 

" What Agassiz said that morning can never be said again. No 
reporter took his language, and no one could call back the charm 
of his manner or the impressiveness of his zeal and faith. 

" At the end he said, 'I would not have any man to pray for me 
now,' and that he and each of us would utter his own prayer in 
silence. What he meant by this was that no one could pray in 
his stead. No public prayer could take the place of the prayer 
which each of us would frame for himself. Whittier says: 

On the isle of Penikese, 
Ringed about by sapphire seas, 
Fanned by breezes salt and cool, 
Stood the Master with his school. 
******* 
Said the Master to the youth: 
"We have come in search of truth, 



LOUIS AGASSIZ 165 

Trying with uncertain key 

Door by door of mystery; 

We are reaching, through His laws, 

To the garment-hem of Cause 

Him, the endless, unbegun, 

The Unnamable, the One 

Light of all our light the Source, 

Life of life, and Force of force. 

As with fingers of the blind, 

We are groping here to find 

What the hieroglyphics mean 

Of the Unseen in the seen, 

What the thought which underlies 

Nature's masking and disguise, 

What it is that hides beneath 

Blight and bloom and birth and death. 

By past eiTorts unavailing. 

Doubt and error, loss and failing, 

Of our weakness made aware, 

On the threshold of our task 

Let us light and guidance ask. 

Let us pause in silent prayer!" 

******* 

Even the careless heart was moved. 
And the doubting gave assent 
With a gesture reverent, 
To the Master well beloved. 
As thin mists are glorified 
By the light they cannot hide. 
All who gazed upon him saw, 
Through its vail of tender awe. 
How his face was still uplit 
By the old sweet look of it. 
Hopeful, trustful, full of cheer. 
And the love that casts out fear. 



" And the summer went on with its succession of joyous morn- 
ings, beautiful days, and calm nights, with every charm of sea and 



i66 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

sky, the master with us all day long, ever ready to speak words of 
help and encouragement, ever ready to give us from his own stock 
of learning. The boundless enthusiasm which surrounded him 
like an atmosphere, and which sometimes gave the appearance of 
great achievement to the commonest things, was never lacking. 

" Essentially Latin in his nature, he was always picturesque in 
his words and his work. He delighted in the love and approbation 
of his students and his friends, and the influence of his personality 
sometimes gave his opinions weight beyond the value of the inves- 
tigations on which they were based. With no other investigator 
have the work and the man been so identified as with Agassiz. No 
other of the great workers has been equally great as a teacher. 
His greatest work in science was his influence on other men. 

" In an old note-book of those days " continues Doctor Jordan, 
" I find fragments of some of his talks to teachers at Penikese. 
From this note-book I take some paragraphs, just as I find them 
written there: 

" ' Never try to teach what you do not know yourself and know 
well. If your school board insist on your teaching anything and 
everything, decline firmly to do it. It is an imposition alike on 
pupils and teacher to teach that which he does not know. Those 
teachers who are strong enough should squarely refuse to do such 
work. This much needed reform is already beginning in our 
colleges, and I hope it will continue. It is a relic of mediaeval 
times, this idea of professing everything. When teachers begin 
to decline work which they cannot do well, improvements begin to 
come in. If one will be a successful teacher, he must firmly re- 
fuse work which he cannot do successfully.' 

" 'It is a false idea to suppose that everybody is competent to 
learn or to teach everything. Would our great artists have suc- 
ceeded equally well in Greek or Calculus? A smattering of every- 
thing is worth little. It is a fallacy to suppose that an encyclopaedic 
knowledge is desirable. The mind is made strong not through 
much learning, but by the thorough possession of something.' 

" 'Lay aside all conceit. Learn to read the book of nature for 
yourself. Those who have succeeded best have followed for years 
some slim thread which has once in a while broadened out and 
disclosed some treasure worth a life-long search.' 

" 'A man cannot be Profes.sor of Zoology on one day and of 



LOUIS AGASSIZ 167 

chemistry on the next, and do good work in both. As in a concert 
all are musicians one plays one instrument, and one another, but 
none all in perfection.' 

" 'You cannot do without one specialty. You must have some 
base line to measure the work, and attainments of others. For 
a general view of the subject, study the history of the sciences. 
Broad knowledge of all Nature has been the possession of no 
naturalist except Humboldt, and general relations constituted his 
specialty.' 

" ' Select such subjects that your pupils cannot walk without see- 
ing them. Train your pupils to be observers, and have Ihem 
provided with the specimens about which you speak. If you can 
find nothing better, take a house fly or cricket, and let each one 
hold a specimen and examine it as you talk.' 

" 'In 1847 I g^'Ve an address at Newton, Mass., before a Teach- 
ers' Institute conducted by Horace Mann. My subject was 
grasshoppers. I passed around a large jar of these insects, and 
made every teacher take one and hold it while I was speaking. 
If any one dropped the insect, I stopped until he picked it up. 
This was at that time a great innovation, and excited much 
laughter and derision. There can be no true progress in the 
teaching of natural science until such methods become general.' 

" 'There is no part of the country where in the summer you can- 
not get a sufficient supply of the best specimens. Teach your 
children to bring them in themselves. Take your text from the 
brooks, not from the booksellers. It is better to have a few forms 
well known, than to teach a little about many hundred species. 
Better a dozen specimens thoroughly studied as the result of the 
first year's work, than to have two thousand dollars worth of shells 
and corals bought from a curiosity shop. The dozen animals would 
be your own.' 

" 'You ^ will find the same elements of instruction all about you 
wherever you may be teaching. You can take your classes out 
and give them the same lessons, and lead them up to the same 
subjects you are yourselves studying here. And this method of 
teaching children is so natural, so suggestive, so true. That is 
the charm of teaching from Nature herself. No one can warp 
her to suit his own views. She brings us back to absolute truth 
as often as we wander.' 

" 'The study of Nature is an intercourse with the highest mind. 

1 In this paragraph, quoted by Mrs. Agassiz {Life and Letters of Agassiz, 
p. 77S) I have adopted the wording as given by her. 



l68 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

You should never trifle with Nature. At the lowest her works 
are the works of the highest powers, the highest something m 
whatever way we may look at it.' 

" 'A laboratory of Natural History 'is a sanctuary where nothmg 
profane should be tolerated. I feel less agony at improprieties 
in churches than in a scientific laboratory.' 

" 'In Europe I have been accused of taking my scientific ideas 
from the church. In America I have been called a heretic because 
I will not let my church-going friends pat me on the head.' 

" Of all these lectures the most valuable and the most charming 
were those on the glaciers. In these the master spoke, and every 
rock on our island was a mute witness to the truth of his words. 

" He often talked to us of the Darwinian theory, to which in all 
its forms he was most earnestly opposed. Agassiz was essentially 
an idealist. All of his investigations were to him not studies of 
animals or plants as such, but of the divine plans of which their 
structures are the expression. 'That earthly form was the cover 
of spirit was to him a truth at once fundamental and self-evident.' 
The work of the student was to search out the thoughts of God, 
and as well as may be to think them over again. To Agassiz 
these divine thoughts were especially embodied in the relations 
of animals to each other. The species was the thought-mind at 
the moment of the creation of the first one of the series which repre- 
sents the species. The marvel of the affinity of structure, of unity 
of plan in creatures widely diverse in habits and outward appear- 
ances, was to him a result of the association of ideas in the divine 
mind, an illustration of divine many-sidedness. To Darwin these 
same relations would illustrate the force of heredity acting under 
diverse conditions of environment. 

" Agassiz had no sympathy with the prejudices worked upon by 
weak and foolish men in opposition to Darwinism. He believed 
in the absolute freedom of science; that no power on earth can give 
answers beforehand to the questions which men of science en- 
deavor to solve. Of this I can give no better evidence than the 
fact that every one of the men specially trained by him has joined 
the ranks of the evolutionists. He would teach them to think for 
themselves, not to think as he did." 



LOUIS AGASSIZ 169 

No one can contemplate the character of Agassiz, without 
realizing its nobility, its strength, its sweetness and his joyous 
nature. He was notably a Christian in all the term implies. He 
held to the belief in an all wise Creator. He was the great theistic 
philosopher of his day and time. Nature was to him so much 
evidence of an enduring mind, a divine intelligence. 

In his essay on classification he says: "All the facts proclaim 
aloud the one God whom we know, adore, and love, and Natural 
History must in good time become the analysis of the thoughts 
of the creator of the Universe as manifested in the animal and 
vegetable kingdoms." 

Holding such views it is not surprising that Agassiz opposed 
Darwin and it may be said that he led the anti-Darwin forces; a 
controversy which was waged all over the civilized world, at one 
time. Agassiz held out to the last, but it is interesting to note 
that his pupils, I believe with few, if any exception, went over to 
the forces of evolution, as understood at the time. The views of 
Agassiz did not mitigate against him as a scientist. The question 
of a divinity or no divinity, is beyond the pale of science, is not a 
scientific question, is not susceptible to argument from the stand- 
point of science, and the influence of Agassiz, as a great teacher, 
as a dominant educational force and factor stood, stands to-day 
unimpaired. His appearance in America was the beginning of a 
new era, was a scientific renaissance and his beneficent influence 
radiated around the world like the ripples from a pebble dropped 
upon the serene and glass-like surface of a pool. In 1873, Agassiz, 
the colossus of workers, Agassiz who had been warned years 
before by Von Humboldt that the intense work he was doing 
"kills," began to break down. 

"I want rest," he said, "I am ready to go; I am tired; but I 
will work while I live, while I have strength I will labor," and 
here was the secret of his success, of all success, in life. And so 
he passed on; a good and faithful servant who found eternal rest 
on December 14, 1873. No man has a greater or more endur- 
ing monument than he. His influence, his works rise, a pillar 
of Hercules that will stand potent; virile so long as time lasts. 





^^ ^^XrVS^yCXA^ 



JEFFRIES WYMAN 

ANATOMIST 

1814-1874 

By Burt G. Wilder 

Among those in whose honor this series has been prepared 
probably no one is less generally known than Jefltries Wyman. He 
never published a book, rarely a magazine article or newpaper 
communication. He seldom spoke in public or upon other than 
strictly scientific topics. He never claimed credit or took part in 
a controversy. Yet for nearly half a century he was devoted to 
the increase and diffusion of knowledge. His discoveries were 
numerous and important, some almost startling. He aided the 
determination of momentous issues. His writings were models 
of clearness and conciseness. His teaching was admirable and 
highly appreciated. His museum was unique. In his special 
branches his authority was recognized the world over. Confidence 
in him was absolute; and rarely has any man gained from friends 
and pupils an affection so deep, sincere and enduring. At his 
death the governing body of the institution with which, as pupil 
or officer, he had been connected for three-fourths of his life, 
voiced the sentiments of all who knew him in terms appropriately 
simple and direct: 

"The President and Fellows of Harvard University recall with 
affectionate respect and admiration the sagacity, patience and 
rectitude which characterized all his scientific work ; his clearness, 
accuracy and conciseness as a writer and teacher; and the industry 
and zeal with which he labored upon the two admirable collec- 
tions which remain as monuments of his rare knowledge, method 
and skill. They commend to the young men of the University 

171 



172 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

this signal example of a character modest, tranquil, dignified and 
independent, and of a life simple, contented and honored." 

The father of Jeffries Wyman was Dr. Rufus Wyman, born in 
Woburn, Mass., and graduated at Harvard in 1799; he studied 
medicine under Dr. John Jeffries of Boston, and during the 
latter part of his life was physician to the McLean Asylum for the 
Insane; in this, the earliest institution of the kind in New England, 
Dr. Wyman had the wisdom, the courage and the power to intro- 
duce radical improvements in the care and treatment of mental 
defectives. His wife was Ann, daughter of James Morrill, a 
Boston merchant; this family name was continued in the baptis- 
mal name of the second son. Dr. Morrill Wyman, of Cambridge, 
who was held in the highest honor and affection until his death, 
January 30th, 1903. ^ 

1 For the family history, for the earlier life of Professor Wyman, for various 
information, and for a revision of the completed manuscript I am indebted to 
Professor Wyman's daughters, Miss Susan and Miss Mary Morrill Wyman; 
to the only son, who inherited his father's name and has transmitted it to his 
son; and to Dr. Henry P. Walcott, a connection of Professor Wyman by mar- 
riage. Aid has been received also from Mr. Glover Morrill Allen, a relative of 
Professor Wyman; from President Charles W. Eliot; from Professors Thomas 
Dvifight and James C. White of the Harvard Medical School; from Dr. 
Francis H. Brown and other pupils of Professor Wyman; and from Mr. Allen 
Danforth, Comptroller of Harvard University. A friend and former teacher 
discovered in the Boston papers of the period announcements and notices of 
Wyman's Lowell Institute lectures and abstracts of some communications to 
the Natural History Society, presumably sent by its secretary. There have 
been consulted the memoirs or articles by Asa Gray (Address at the Memorial 
Meeting of the Boston Society of Natural History, October 7th, 1874, re- 
printed from the Proceedings, vol. 17, pp. 96-124; also his Remarks, as Cura- 
tor, po tempore, of the Peabody Museum of American Archeology and Eth- 
nology, in the Eighth Annual Report, presented April 8th, 1875 {Reports, 
vol. 1, pp. 7-1 r, with portrait); by Oliver Wendell Holmes {Boston Daily 
Advertiser, September 12th, 1874, and, at greater length, under the title, 
"A Memorial Outline," the Atlantic Monthly, November, 1874, pp. 611- 
623); by S. Weir Mitchell (under the title, "The Scientific Life," Lippincott's 
Magazine, March, 1875, pp. 352-356); by Alpheus S. Packard (reprinted 
from Biographical Memoirs of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 2, 
1886, pp. 77-126); it was read April iSth, 1878, and contains a Bibliography 



JEFFRIES WYMAN 173 

Jeffries was the third son and was named for his father's medi- 
cal preceptor. He was born at Chelmsford, near Lowell, Mass., 
August II, 1814. His early education was received at a school 
in Charlestown, kept by Horatio Gates. Of this period, while 
he was between seven and ten years old, there is preserved a record 
consisting of weekly entries in a Uttle book dated from October 
20th, 1821, to March 27th, 1824. The first entry is "Studies very 
well"; the last, "Is a good boy." Between are "A fine little fel- 
low"; "at the head of his class," etc. Later he attended the 
Academy at Chelmsford and prepared for college under Dr. 
Benjamin Abbott. He entered Harvard in 1829, the first year of 
the presidency of Josiah Quincy, and was graduated in due course; 
of the fifty-three members of the class of 1833 six, including 
Wyman, became professors in their alma mater. 

In the spring of his senior year, Wyman had a dangerous attack 
of pneumonia which, says Dr. Holmes, "seems to have laid the 
foundation of the pxilmonary affection that kept him an invalid 
and ended by causing his death." To recover from the effects 
of this attack he passed the following winter in Georgia and South 
Carolina. This flight southward at the approach of winter was 
the precursor of many others by which his life was undoubtedly 
prolonged. 

His interest in natural objects was early manifested. When less 
than ten years old he spent his holidays largely along the banks 

of Wyman's writings which, although marred by errors and omissions, was 
reproduced in the volume, Animal Mechanics, (articles by Sir Charles 
Bell and Jeffries Wyman, edited, with portrait, by Morrill Wyman in 1902); 
by Frederick W. Putnam (Report of the Council [on Deceased Members] in 
Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, n. s., vol. 10, 
i875> PP- 496-505, including a Bibliography). Wyman's relations with the 
Lowell Institute, as Curator and Lecturer, are stated, with a portrait, in the 
History of the Lowell Institute, by Miss Harriette Knight Smith, 1898, 
p. 18. From September, 1859, to July, 1862, I was a pupil of Professor 
Wyman, and acted as his unofficial assistant during the latter half of the 
period; my recollections are very distinct; of the third year I have a Diary, 
and I have preserved all his letters, more than thirty in number. My previous 
tributes were published in Old and Neiv, November, 1874, pp. 533-544, and 
in the Popular Science Monthly, January, 1875, pp. 355-360, with a portrait. 



174 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

of rivers and creeks, and nearly always returned with some speci- 
men, living or dead. In college the same preference continued, 
and he made many dissections, especially one of a mammoth 
bullfrog, once an inhabitant of Fresh Pond, which was an object 
of great interest to his classmates.^ 

Early, too, were displayed the taste and talent for drawing that 
proved so helpful in later years. With litde instruction, he copied 
Hogarth's picture of the politician who was so absorbed in his 
paper that his hat caught fire from the candle. When ten or 
twelve years old he executed upon a panel, with house-paints, a 
portrait of himself; the likeness was recognizable, but the tints 
were imperfect, the hair being colored green 1 

While at the Phillips Exeter Academy the impression made by 
young Wyman upon his fellow-pupils is recorded in a letter to Dr. 
Holmes from his classmate. Professor Bowen: 

"He was pure-minded, frank, playful, happy, careless, not 
studious, at least in his school-books, but not mischievous. He 
would take long rambles in the woods and go a-fishing, and draw 
funny outline sketches in his school-books, and whittle out gim- 
cracks with his pen-knife, and pitch stones or a ball farther and 
higher than any boy in the academy, when he ought to have been 
studying his lessons. Only a few years ago, when we were chat- 
ting together about our early life at Exeter and in college, he said, 
in his frank and simple way, with a laugh and half a sigh, 'Bowen, 
I made a great mistake in so neglecting distasteful duties, though 
you may think I made up for it by following the bent of my in- 
clinations for catching and dissecting bullfrogs. I have been 
obliged, even of late years, to study hard on some subjects dis- 
tinct from and yet collateral with my especial pursuits which I 
ought to have mastered in my boyhood." '^ 

1 This may be the "Skeleton of a frog, North America," numbered 1335 
in his manuscript catalogue of the specimens now at the Boston Society of 
Natural History. 

2 According to the college records, in his senior year Wyman stood No. 50 
in a class of fifty-three; let no budding anatomist, however, expect to achieve 
scientific eminence by contenting himself with a corresponding rank; some of 
the earlier pupils of Agassiz were none the wiser for their imitation of his ex- 
cessive smoking at a certain period. 



JEFFRIES WYMAN 175 

It does not appear that young Wyman had any special prefer- 
ence for the practice of medicine; he was emphatically a born 
naturalist. But at that period naturalists, as a class, hardly ex- 
isted; the very word, as in the well-known anecdote of Agassiz 
and his colleagues in the White Mountains, was in danger of 
interpretation as equivalent to "naturals." The lecture-room and 
the illustrated magazine had not then become familiar mediums 
for scientific instruction and personal income. With few excep- 
tions the naturalists of the time were practitioners; their vocation 
was medicine; science was merely an avocation. At all events 
Wyman could see no means of gratifying his natural history tastes 
other than by joining his father's profession. Soon after his 
graduation, in 1833, he entered the Harvard Medical School, and 
pursued his studies, partly with his father and partly with Dr. 
John C. Dalton, father of the distinguished physiologist of the 
same name. 

In the spring of 1837, he received the degree of M. D., presenting 
a graduation thesis, entitled "De oculo," with drawings. This 
was never printed; but soon afterward (September, 1837) he 
published in The Boston Medical and Surgical Journal his first 
paper, " On the Indistinctness of Images Formed by Oblique Rays 
of Light," a physiologic essay for which his anatomic thesis con- 
stituted a natural foundation. 

Soon after graduation he opened an office in Boston on Howard 
Street (not Harvard or Washington, as sometimes stated). What 
practice he had is not known; we may be assured that he pre- 
pared for it diligently, awaited it patiently, and attended to it faith- 
fully. He was soon appointed demonstrator of anatomy at the 
medical college under Dr. John C. Warren. It is the duty of the 
demonstrator to aid the lecturer by making in advance the dis- 
sections and preparations needed to illustrate the exposition of the 
structure of an organ or region; for this office Wyman was particu- 
larly well equipped, and he held it for two years. In July, 1838, 
he also received a temporary appointment as assistant physician 
at the Massachusetts General Hospital.^ 

1 To replace Dr. J. B. S. Jackson who was himself performing the duties in 



176 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

The compensation as demonstrator was slight and Wyman 
felt that his father had already done enough in educating his sons. 
He lived within his means, but there is no reason to think that his 
health, strength or efiSciency was impaired by undue frugality. As 
was the custom in those days of a volunteer fire-department, he 
accepted ' from Samuel A. Eliot, Mayor, an appointment dated 
September i, 1838, and was assigned to Engine No. 18. The rule 
was that the first comer to the engine-house should bear the lan- 
tern and be absolved from other work; Wyman lived near by and 
his promptitude generally saved him from all severe labor than 
that of enlightening his company. 

During this period there was offered a really extraordinary oppor- 
tunity for usefulness and self-support. In 1839, by the bequest 
of John Lowell, Jr., there had been founded in Boston the Lowell 
Institute. This provided for the delivery, each winter, of several 
courses upon various subjects by lecturers invited from all parts 
of the civilized world. It has thus not only instructed the public 
but also proved an incentive and an aid to the advancement of 
knowledge. The first trustee, John Amory LoweU, appointed 
Wyman as curator at $500 per annum. He held the ofl&ce for 
three years, and during the second (1840-41), gave a course upon 
Comparative Anatomy which proved so attractive that its repeti- 
tion was demanded.^ For the lectures the compensation was 
liberal (and has since been increased) ; with the funds thus earned 
by his first essay in teaching others he went abroad to seek further 
instruction for himself. 

He reached Paris in May, 1841. Although Cuvier had then 

the absence of Dr. Henry I. Bowditch. There is no evidence that Jeffries 
Wyman served as house-physician during his medical course. 

1 The Boston Evening Transcript of December 3, 1840, and January 12, 
1841, has somewhat extended notices of the opening and closing lectures of 
this course. While regarding his manner and delivery as perhaps too quiet 
they recognize that "he was a perfect master of the subject and indefatigable 
in his efforts to disseminate among his hearers that ardent love of science 
which is so manifest in himself. The drawings (the work of the lecturer him- 
self) were spirited and conspicuous, very well executed, and precisely of the 
kind wanted for illustration to a popular audience." 



JEFFRIES WYMAN 177 

been dead nearly twelve years that city was stm the center of 
biologic science. Wyman attended the lectures of Flourens, 
Longet and Majendie on Physiology, and those of de Blainville, 
Dumeril, Milne-Edwards, St. Hilaire and Valenciennes on 
Zoology and Comparative Anatomy. In the summer of 1842, 
after the lectures were over, he made pedestrian tours along the 
Loire and the Rhine, returned through Belgium and then went 
to London. There, while studying the Hunterian collections at 
the Royal College of Surgeons, he learned that his father was 
alarmingly ill; he departed as soon as practicable but, to his in- 
tense grief, arrived too late to see his beloved parent alive. 

After his return to Boston he wrote for Silliman's Journal 
{American Journal of Science and Arts) reviews of three widely 
different publications, viz., DeKay's Zoology of New York, 
Vogt's Embryologie des Salmones, and Agassiz's Monographies 
d'Echinoderms, vivans et fossiles} These, and the two that 
appeared in the same journal twenty years later of Weir-Mitchell 
and Morehouse's Respiration of Turtles and Owen's Monograph 
of the Aye- Aye, are apparently his only reviews; it may be inferred 
that he did not prefer the attitude of critical commentator. 

Congenial occupation was offered in 1843 by his appointment 
as professor of anatomy and physiology in the medical depart- 
ment of the Hampton-Sidney College at Richmond, Virginia; this 
involved his absence from Boston only in the winter and spring, 
when the milder climate was advantageous. 

In :847, upon the death of Dr. J. C. Warren, the instruction 
in anatomy and physiology at the Harvard Medical School in 
Boston was intrusted to Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes (who was 
an accomplished anatomist as well as poet and writer); his was 
the Parkman professorship, named in honor of Dr. George Park- 
man. At the same time, Wyman, then thirty-three years old, was 

1 The monographs of his future colleague were characterized as follows: 
"They constitute one of the most important additions which have been made 
to modern zoology, no less in consequence of the completeness of the plan 
upon which they have been conceived than the fidelity with which they have 
been executed." 



178 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

appointed Hersey Professor of Anatomy in the Lawrence Scientific 
School, a part of Harvard College in Cambridge.^ Wyman made 
the single word, anatomy, cover Embryology and Comparative 
Physiology, both with reference to Vertebrates rather than Inver- 
tebrates. They thus became complementary to the courses of 
Agassiz (appointed at about the same time) on Geology and Paleon- 
tology, and on Zoology with more special reference to the Inverte- 
brates. In this connection it may be added that while the title of 
the likewise newly established chair of Asa Gray was the compre- 
hensive one of Natural History, his instruction was practically 
confined to Botany. 

Upon the subjects above named Wyman gave two courses of 
lectures. His enforced migration southward in midwinter threw 
the courses into the fall and spring. During my pupilage, 1859-62, 
Wyman's lectures constituted a senior elective. The limited time 
allowed, and the lack of preparation of his hearers, did not permit 
him to offer a complete exposition of any one topic. But every 
word told. He spoke from notes, which were yearly revised and 
rewritten so as to embody the latest information.^ 

The writer heard both courses three times, and feels that he 
profited more by the last than by tlie first. Wyman had many 
and accurate diagrams, made by himself; and they were always 
carefully arranged before each lecture. His use of specimens 
for illustration was really profuse, notwithstanding the fact, 
which he greatly lamented, that the museum was on the floor 
above the lecture-room, involving a laborious and perilous trans- 
fer by the stairs or by a sort of dumb-waiter. At that period 

1 The fund for this chair represented the consolidation of bequests made 
successively between 1772 and 1812 by Ezekiel Hersey, Sarah Derby, John 
Gumming, Abner Hersey, and Esther Sprague. During Wyman's incum- 
bency the income varied from $827.39 to $1,375.85, but in the earlier years 
it was not all paid to him. 

2 Among the interesting documents preserved by his family is a set of his 
"Notes." The sheets measure 19 cm. by 16.5 (7.5 by 5,5 in.); the paper cover 
bears at the left margin, "1849, Comp. Physiology;" the complete title is: 
"Harvard University. Lectures on Comparative Physiology in the Scientific 
School (April II to June 18), 2d term, 1S49. J- Wyman, Hersey Prof." 



JEFFRIES WYMAN 179 

experimental physiology had made little progress in this country, 
but Wyman devised some most ingenious and effective pieces of 
apparatus, which he too modestly called "dodges"; among these 
was one for the demonstration of ciliary movement.' In a letter 
criticizing a recently issued text-book of physiology for the lack 
of experimental detail, he adds, "Everything that can be rein- 
forced by experiment should be." Yet I never knew him inflict 
needless pain upon any creature. 

He used the blackboard perhaps less readily and picturesquely 
than Agassiz, but with more care and accuracy and with great 
effect. He did not look constantly at his audience, and he never 
spoke for applause. His hearers respected his wish that the only 
expression of approval should be perfect silence and attention; 
but occasionally a quiet smUe would usher in some quaint illustra- 
tion of his subject, and embolden the audience to a subdued dem- 
onstration. At the close, he always remained for an hour, explain- 
ing specimens, and discussing questions with interested students. 

With the Boston Society of Natural History he was identified 
during almost his whole scientific life. Joining in October, 1837, 
he early served as secretary and as curator of several departments. 

At the annual meeting, May 17, 1843, ^t the age of twenty- 
nine, he delivered an address which is thus mentioned in the 
Proceedings, vol. i, p. 116: 

"Then followed the Annual Address, from Dr. J. Wyman, a 
learned and interesting discourse on the progress of science in 
the various branches of Natural History during the past year. 
At the close of the address it was voted 'That the thanks of the 
Society be presented to Dr. Jeffries Wyman, for his interesting 
and instructive address, and that a copy be requested for publi- 
cation.' " ^ 

Elected President in 1856, he at first declined, holding that he 

1 In a letter of November 2Sth, 1869, feeling that it would be useful in my 
own instruction, he devotes to it two pages and a diagram; it was not pub- 
lished until 187 1. 

2 There is no evidence that the address was ever published; the manuscript 
is in possession of his daughter. It will be noted that this was not the presi- 
dential address; to that office he was chosen thirteen years later. 



l8o LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

could be more useful as merely a member. Prevailed upon to 
accept, he was retained in the ofBce, in spite of repeated resigna- 
tions, until his connection with the Peabody Museum of Archae- 
ology and his temporary absence in Europe forced the society to 
relieve him in 1870. He almost invariably attended the meetings, 
and almost as invariably had something interesting to communi- 
cate; but he always waited until others had spoken. 

Under his administration, the society prospered in every way. 
The membership increased; the collections were enlarged and 
displayed; a new building was erected with funds partly given by 
a friend of his; ^ public lectures were delivered; and the value of 
the society to the community and to science was brought to the 
highest point. Some idea of the extent of his activity may be 
gained from the fact, that, during the ten years from i860 to 1870, 
the titles of his communications are about fifty in number, some 
of them being elaborate and extended papers. Among the rest 
is a loving memorial of his friend Dr. A. A. Gould, many passages 
of which might now be applied to himself. 

Wyman was a member of the American Academy of Arts and 
Sciences^ (in Boston), but attended its meetings less constantly 
than those of the Natural History Society. Of the National 
Academy of Sciences he was named one of the original members 
in 1863. He does not appear to have attended the meetings as 
his name is absent from the rolls in 1865-70, but in 1871 it is 
included among the Honorary Members; in the following year it 
was "transferred to the list of Active Members." 

Wyman was one of the administrative "Faculty" of the Museum 
of Comparative Zoology from the date of its formation; and his 
relations with its founder were always of the most cordial nature, 
however they might differ upon some questions.* He recognized 

1 Dr. William J. Walker. 

2 The Memoirs of this Academy, vol. g, 1867, contain one of Wyman's 
most important papers, "On the Development of Raia batis" (a ray or 
skate), and his "Notes on the Cells of the Bee" was printed in the Pro- 
ceedings, vol. 7, 1868. 

8 As to Evolution, see the extracts on p. 193. 



JEFFRIES WYMAN l8i 

and admired the powers of his zoologic colleague; and Agassiz, 
for his part, never tired of praising Wyman, and of advising his 
students to attend his lectures; his good opinion of the teacher 
was tranferred to the pupils of the latter; and indeed, in all ana- 
tomical and medical circles Wyman's name was a passport to 
favor and opportunity.^ 

From personal participation in the Civil War Wyman was 
excluded by his age and health; but his lively interest in it was 
practically shown in various ways and is evinced by the following 
extracts from letters dated, respectively, August 20, 1862, Decem- 
ber 21, 1862, May 8, 1863, May 26, 1864, and January 15, 1865: 

"Knowing how many there are connected with the hospitals 
who shirk their duties ... I do not know when you and Adams 
(see p. 201, note) will have a better chance to do good than that 
now at your disposal." "The weather here is severely cold, and 
if such prevails on the Potomac the sufferings of the soldiers must 
be fearful." "I presume you will have enough to do for the 
present to take care of the wounded from the Fredericksburg dis- 
aster, the consequences of downright folly on the part of the man- 
agers of the war." "I could not help feeling indignant when I 
read the account of the attack at Honey Hill, to find that our 
troops were again marched, as they have been so often, in the 
face of a battery where it was equally disastrous to advance or 
retreat; it does seem to me that there was a disgraceful blunder 
on the part of some one. ... At Thanksgiving time I visited 
the Army of the Potomac. I went to the picket-lines and took a 
deliberate look with my glass into a rebel battery; they did not 
pay me the compliment to offer a single bullet; of course I don't 
complain." 

On the 8th of October, 1866, Mr. George Peabody gave one 
hundred and fifty thousand dollars "in trust for the foundation and 

1 The writer is sure that to Wyman's name more than to his own merits 
were due the invitation from Dr. Francis H. Brown, also a pupil, to serve 
under him as medical cadet at the Judiciary Square Army Hospital in Wash- 
ington in July, 1862; the request to perform the necropsies there; the proposi- 
tion to give the course in anatomy at a medical college; the detail to assist 
Dr. John H. Brinton on "The Surgical History of the War "; and the special 
opportunities for taking examinations for higher grades in the service. 



l82 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

maintenance of a museum and professorship of American archae- 
ology and ethnology in connection with Harvard University." 
Wyman was named one of the original seven trustees and became 
curator. 

Into this work Wyman entered with all the zeal and enthusiasm 
of youth. As was his wont, he did all himself: every specimen 
passed through his hands. Under date of January 2, 1869, his 
ideas and methods were clearly set forth : 

"I once thought my collection of thigh-bones and other long 
bones uselessly large; but having just received more or less com- 
plete skeletons of over fifty!! [the exclamation-points are his own] 
moundbuilders from Kentucky, I find that, for the purposes of 
comparison there is no such thing as too many, since everything 
turns on averages. I see six months work ahead, and wish you 
were here to help me. Just think of measuring fifty skulls, each 
by twenty-five different measurements." 

His seventh and last report contains an account of Canni- 
balism among the American Aborigines based upon evidence that 
he had been accumulating since 1861. This portion of the Report 
is reproduced entire in the American Naturalist for July, 1874, 
and there are quoted here only the characteristically judicial sum- 
mary of the evidence and the grimly humorous comments upon 
the motives for the origin and maintenance of cannibalism: 

"It would perhaps be going too far to say that the presence of 
human bones, under the circumstances above described, amounted 
to absolute proof of cannibalism. The testimony of eye-witnesses 
would be the only sure evidence of it. There is, however, nothing 
with regard to them which is inconsistent with this practice, nor 
does any other explanation occur to us which accounts for their 
presence so well. [Surely no professed logician could state that 
better.] 

"The idea of eating human flesh as ordinary food, may, per- 
haps, have had its origin in eating it as a necessity. Once tasted 
and found to be good, as all cannibals aver that it is, under the 
influence of savage instincts and passions, the conversion of an 
enemy's flesh into meat to eat would be very natural. . . The 
New Zealander loves human flesh as a choice food, and also eats 
it under the superstitious belief that he thus not only incorporates 



JEFFRIES WYMAN 183 

the body of his enemy with his own, but absorbs also his enemy's 
soul, so that ever after the two are one. To the victor this had an 
especial significance, for believing in a future state and the pres- 
ence of his enemy there, if he eats him in this life he makes sure 
of it that there will be no trouble with him hereafter, for he pos- 
sesses him body and soul already [p. 411]." 

One of the pleasantest incidents in Professor Wyman's life, and 
one known to comparatively few besides those directly concerned, 
was the presentation to him, upon the eve of a visit to Europe, 
of a testimonial in the double form of a sum of money and a letter 
expressing the "warm feelings of gratitude and respect" enter- 
tained toward him by those who had worked in his laboratory 
between the years of 1850 and 1870.^ Wyman's acknowledgment 
was characteristically simple and modest, and is here reproduced: 

"Cambridge, Jan. 19, 1870. 

"Gentlemen: — I received, yesterday, the letter bringing your 
good wishes and expressions of regard. They are most gratify- 
ing to me, and recall, too, the great pleasure I have always en- 
joyed from personal intercourse with you. Such testimonials are 
among the greatest rewards a teacher can receive. 

"Besides these, there is the unexpected and most generous gift 
you send. I thankfully accept it; and, following one of your sug- 
gestions, shall gladly devote it to the acquisition of some instru- 
ments which I very much need; and so through your kindness, 
shall not only be able to do my work as a teacher better, but shall 
have the most pleasant associations connected with the means 
you give me. 

"Offering to each of you my heartiest thanks for this your re- 

1 According to the Circular as to this Testimonial, issued October 20, 1869, 
after he had ceased to receive students preparing to study medicine, the 
total number communicated with was seventy-two. Of these the large 
majority had became practitioners; at least three, the two Worcesters and 
Mills, entered the ministry; the following, and probably others, became 
teachers or private investigators: LeConte, '50; Dean, Wilder and Moore, 
'59; Warriner and Lombard, '60; Rothrock, '61; Amory and James, '63; 
Derby and Fitz, '64; Bowditch, '65; and Farlow, '66; thirteen in all. The 
years under which the names are grouped indicate the dates of beginning 
study with Wyman; comparatively few remained long enough to obtain a 
degree with him before graduating in medicine. 



l84 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

membrance of me, I am, gentlemen, with the kindest regards and 
best wishes, 

"Always sincerely yours, 

"[Signed] J. Wyman. 
"Drs. J. T. G. Nichols, Francis H. Brown, H. P. Walcott, Nor- 
ton Folsom, H. E. Townsend." 

His forethought and personal attention to details were nowhere 
more clearly shown than in his preparations for expeditions, or for 
the annual flight to Florida or South America. In no other way 
can we account for the extent of the collections and information 
gathered during these absences from Cambridge. In fact, his 
vacations were only alternations of work ; and his European tours 
in 1853 and 1870 were less occasions of rest to himself than of gain 
to the institutions with which he was connected. 

Wyman was chosen to the Phi Beta Kappa, and attended 
the annual meetings; he was not a Mason or a member of any 
other secret organization. He did not smoke, and used wine with 
moderation upon occasion. 

Professor Wyman was twice married; in December, 1850, to 
Adeline Wheelwright, who died in 1855, leaving two daughters; 
in August, 1 86 1, to Annie Williams Whitney, who died in Febru- 
ary, 1864, shortly after the birth of an only son; there survive 
the son and the younger daughter; see note to p. 172. 

The following statements are derived from the memoir of Asa 
Gray (see note to p. 172). 

"Although Wyman's salary, derived from the Hersey endow- 
ment (see p. 178) was slender indeed, he adapted his wants to his 
means, foregoing neither his independence nor his scientific work. 
In 1856 came unexpected and honorable aid from two old friends 
of his father who appreciated the son and wished him to go on 
with his scientific work without distraction. Dr. William J. 
Walker sent him ten thousand dollars outright. Thomas Lee, 
who had also helped in his early education, supplemented the en- 
dowment of the Hersey professorship with an equal sum, stipu- 
lating that the income should go to Wyman during life, whether 
he held the chair or not. Seldom, if ever, has a moderate sum 
produced a greater benefit. 



JEFFRIES WYMAN 185 

"Winter after winter, as he exchanged our bleak climate for 
that of Florida, we could only hope that he would return. Spring 
after spring he came back to us invigorated, thanks to the bland 
air and the open life in boat and tent, which acted like a charm; — 
thanks, too, to the watchful care of his attached friend, Mr. Pea- 
body,^ his constant companion in Florida life. In 1874 it wiS late 
in August when he left Cambridge for his usual visit to the White 
Mountain region, by which he avoided the autumnal catarrh; 
and there, at Bethlehem, New Hampshire, on the fourth of Sep- 
tember, a severe hemorrhage from the lungs suddenly closed his 
valuable life." 

Half a century ago science was far less extensive and specialism 
was less imperative. It was possible for one individual to be a 
naturalist in a very broad sense. Wyman was not only an educated 
physician and for a time an actual practitioner; his two courses 
of lectures embraced embryology, anatomy and physiology, mainly 
of vertebrates, yet of invertebrates in no small degree. Most of 
his publications deal with the comparative anatomy of vertebrates, 
but there are papers upon the structure, habits and development 
of insects, shell-fish and worms; upon infusoria; upon fossil re- 
mains and prehistoric human bones and implements; upon plants 
and the marks made by ripples and raindrops; the remarkable 
discussion of the irregular forms of the cells of the bee involved 
mathematic computations. 

At a moderate estimate, Wyman's published communications, 
nearly two hundred in number, would cover about one thousand 
octavo pages, with many figures of his own making. A part, at 
least, of his unpublished drawings and notes could be incorporated 
with what he had already given to the world. Brought together 
and properly edited, his works would be at once a benefit to science, 
a memorial of their author, and an earnest of that which he was so 
often urged to undertake, but which his successors should now 
aim to accomplish; namely, a comparative anatomy of vertebrates 
based upon American forms. 

The year of Wyman's inauguration as professor at Harvard 
was signalized by his recognition of the gorilla as a new species 

1 George Augustus Peabody, Esq., Burleigh Farm, Danvers, Mass. 



l86 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

of ape. In order to appreciate the significance of the event itself 
and the nature of Wyman's part in it some preliminary statements 
are needed. 

At that time, in addition to the many kinds of monkeys— with 
tails of greater or less length and lacking the vermiform appendix 
of the intestinal cecum— there were known several anthropoids 
or man-like apes, with no trace of a tail but having an appendix 
substantially hke that of man. These apes comprised several 
species of gibbons from Asia and Asiatic islands; the reddish- 
brown orang of Borneo and Sumatra; and the black chimpanzee 
of West Central Africa. The gibbons were not discussed by Wy- 
man and need not be considered here; the chimpanzee was some- 
times spoken of as the "Black orang." ^ Wyman had already 
published an important paper on the structure of the chimpanzee 
in conjunction with Dr. Thomas S. Savage, a corresponding mem- 
ber of the Boston Society of Natural History; while serving as a 
missionary on the West Coast of Africa, Dr. Savage obtained the 
specimens that were examined by Wyman, and himself contributed 
Observations on the External Characters and Habits. 

The first scientific account of the gorilla was given by Wyman 
in the summer of 1847, ^f'^sr the reception of specimens sent him 
by Dr. Savage from New York on the i6th of July. The commu- 
nication was made to the Boston Society of Natural History on the 
i8th of August; ^ see the Proceedings, vol. 2, pp. 246-247. 

The paper was printed in full, with four plates, in the Boston 

1 "The term Orang, more commonly but incorrectly written Ourang, is 
strictly applicable to the eastern species only. Orang is a Malay word which 
means a reasonable being, and is also given to man and the elephant. Outan 
means wild or of the woods; Orang-outan, wild man, Cambang-outan, wild 
goat. Outang, the word generally used as the adjective, signifies a robber. 
See Cuvier, Animal Kingdom, McMurtrie's Translation, vol. I, p. 57, note." 
Footnote to Wyman's first paper on the Gorilla, p. 417. 

2 At the meeting of the association of American Geologists and Naturalists 
in Boston, beginning September 20th, the specimens were also shown and 
commented upon by Wyman, who that year was the Secretary. That associ- 
ation was the precursor of the American Association for the Advancement of 
Science which was organized at Philadelphia the following year. 



JEFFRIES WYMAN 187 

Journal of Natural History, vol. 5, part 4, pp. 417-443.^ The 
Journal was in octavo form, and the large plates had to be folded. 
Evidently Wyman realized the importance of the subject since 
he took the unusual trouble to have the article reprinted in quarto 
form with the plates on heavier paper and the text repaged and 
very slightly rearranged but not otherwise altered, excepting as to 
the title-page, which reads as follows: 

A DESCRIPTION OF THE CHARACTERS AND HABITS 
OF TROGLODYTES GORILLA. BY THOMAS S. SAV- 
AGE, M. D. CORRESPONDING MEMBER OF THE 
BOSTON SOCIETY OF NATURAL HISTORY. AND OF 
THE OSTEOLOGY OF THE SAME, BY JEFFRIES 
WYMAN, M. D. HERSEY PROF. AN AT. IN HARVARD 
UNIVERSITY. 
(From the Boston Journal of Natural History.) 

BOSTON: PRINTED BY FREEMAN AND BOLLES. 
1847- 

How many copies of this quarto edition were printed I have not 
been able to learn. In the possession of Wyman's family is his 
private copy, handsomely bound up with 26 leaves of ruled paper; 
upon these, in Wyman's unmistakable handwriting, are copies of 
letters relating to the gorilla, prefaced by an account of the early 
stages of the discovery. 

This account is signed, and dated Cambridge, June 18, 1866. 
Although referred to in the memoirs by Gray and Packard, it has 
never been printed so far as I am aware, and it is reproduced 
here because in several respects it is a unique document. Not 
only is the topic of unusual zoologic and anthropologic interest; 
it embodies a really extraordinary evidence of self-abnegation 
upon the part of both the men most directly concerned; and it 
constitutes, so far as I know, the sole instance of Wyman's claim 
for priority; yet, it will be noted, even this was merely written for 

1 This paper and the part of the Journal containing it seem to be very 
rare; the writer will be grateful for information as to the location of copies. 



l88 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

the sake of his family with no hint of a wish that it be published, 
even after his death. 

To the writer its presentation here appears as almost a sacred 
duty, a duty to the man, to his family, to his university and to the 
nation.^ 

TROGLODYTES GORILLA, SAVAGE 
History of the Discovery 

The existence in Africa of a large ape, which without doubt 
was the gorilla, was mentioned by Battell,' and by Bowdich in 
his Mission to Ashantee,^ but it does not appear that either of 
them saw the animal. In April, 1847, the Rev. J. L. Wilson 
brought to the notice of Dr. Thomas S. Savage, while the latter 
was on a visit to Gaboon, the skull of a large ape. Dr. Savage 
became convinced that it was not known to naturalists, and 
was able to obtain through the aid of Mr. Wilson other crania 
and various portions of the skeleton, including the pelvis and 
some of the long bones. He also sent drawings of a male and 
female skull to Professor Owen, who satisfied himself from them, 
that the ape in question was not the pongo of Borneo, but 
expressed (in a letter) the behef that the crania might prove to 
be those of an old, adult male and female chimpanzee. He, 
however, threw out the suggestion that as there were two species 
of apes in Borneo, Africa might also possess two species. 

The collections of crania and bones belonging to Mr. Wilson 
and Dr. Savage were placed by the latter in my hands for de- 
scription, Dr. Savage reserving for himself an account of the 

1 Were a dozen persons, ordinarily intelligent and well-informed, to assign 
offhand the credit for introducing to science "the most portentous and 
diabolic caricature of humanity that an atrabilious poet ever conceived," 
probably at least one-half would name Huxley; three, Darwin; two miglit 
name Owen, or perhaps one of these would recall the traveler, Du Chaillu; 
certainly not more than one, if any, would mention either Savage or Wyman. 
Even in the American edition of an ostensibly reliable work, Hartmann's 
Anthropoid Apes (International Scientific Series, 1886), the index omits 
Wyman's name; in the text (p. 5) it is misspelled; and his prior contribution 
is recorded after that of Owen. 

2 Purchas, His Pilgrimes, London, 1625, Part II, p. 984. 

3 London, 4to, 1819, p. 440. 



JEFFRIES WYMAN 189 

outward characters and of the habits. A joint memoir was pre- 
sented by us to the Boston Society of Natural History, Au- 
gust i8th, 1847. 

In the meantime Mr. Samuel Stutchbury, Curator of the 
Bristol Museum in England, having learned of Dr. Savage his 
discovery, obtained through Captain Wagstaff, three crania 
which he immediately placed in the hands of Professor Owen 
for description. An account of them was presented to the Zoo- 
logical Society of London, February 22, 1848, six months after 
our memoir had been read in Boston. 

Professor Owen in a letter to Dr. Savage acknowledges that 
our description established the specific characters of the gorilla 
and that priority belonged to us. Through a vote of the Council 
of the Zoological Society the osteological characters, as set forth 
by me, were printed as an appendix to Professor Owen's memoir. 
It does not appear, however, either in the Proceedings or the 
Transactions of the Society at what time our memoir was published 
nor that we had anticipated him in our description} 

The credit of the discovery clearly belongs to Drs. Wilson and 
Savage, chiefly to the latter, who first became convinced of the 
fact that the species was new and who first brought it to the 
notice of naturaUsts. The species therefore stands recorded 
Troglodytes gorilla, Savage. 

In the following accovmt the notice of the external characters 
and habits was prepared by Dr. Savage. The introductory 
portion and the description of the crania and bones, and also 
the determination of the difi'erential characters on which the 
establishment of the species rests, was prepared by me. In 
view of this last fact Dr. Savage thought, as will be seen in 
letter, that the species should stand in my name; hut this I 
declined? 

In a conversation I had with Dr. A. A. Gould with regard to a 
suitable name, when I informed him that Hanno stated that the 
natives called the wild men of Africa Gorillce, he at once sug- 
gested the specific name gorilla, which was adopted. 

1 The italics are mine. I am unable to ascertain or even to conjecture the 
date of Owen's reception of the first information as to the paper of Wyraan 
and Savage. His letter to Wyman, dated July 24, 1848 (copied in the latter's 
private copy of the gorilla memoir already described), begins: "I duly re- 
ceived," etc., but duly is a very indefinite wovi. Upon this matter no light is 
thrown in the Life of Owen by his son. 

2 The italics are the present writer's. 



IQO LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

In October, 1489, Dr. G. A. Perkins brought to me two addi- 
tional crania which formed the subject of a second memoir. 

In 1859, Mr. P. B. Du Chaillu arrived in New York with a 
large collection of the skins and skeletons of the gorilla. These 
he kindly placed at my disposal. My notes on his collection 
were printed in his book of travels. The account of the dis- 
section of a young gorilla preserved in alcohol and which he 
presented to me was printed in the Proceedings oj the Boston 
Society of Natural History, vol. 7, i860, p. 211, and in vol. 9, 
p. 203. 

[Signed] Jeffries Wyman, Cambridge, June 18, 1866. 

His studies of the two African apes naturally led Wyman to 
compare them with one another and with man. His second 
paper on the gorilla {American Journal Science and Arts, n. s., 
vol. 9, 1850, pp. 34-45) contains unusually positive expressions: 

"Owen regards the gorilla as the most anthropoid of all known 
brutes. After a careful examination of his memoir I am forced 
to the conclusion that the preponderance of evidence is unequivo- 
cally opposed to the opinion there recorded. . . There seems 
to be no alternative but to regard the Chimpanzee as holding 
the highest place in the brute creation [p. 41]. No reasonable 
ground for doubt remains, that the Enge-ena [gorilla] occupies a 
lower position and consequently recedes further from man than 
the Chimpanzee [p. 42]." ^ 

The same paper contains a really extraordinary — indeed, for 
Wyman, almost anomalous — feature, viz., the formulation of a 
generalization without intimating the actual or probable occur- 
rence of exceptions. On p. 41, in describing the cranium of a 
gorilla, he says: 

"In man, the intermaxillary bones form a projecting ridge on 
the median line both in and below the nasal orifice and at the 

1 It will be noted that two questions are involved, viz., (a) of the two 
African apes, gorilla and chimpanzee, which resembles man the more nearly? 
and (b) is either of them the highest animal? Both Wyman and Owen ap- 
pear to assume that it is merely a choice between the two. Waiving for the 
present the interesting question as to whether even man is the highest from 
a purely structural standpoint, there are certain features of the brain of the 
Bornean ape, the orang, that are more anthropoid than those of the two 
African forms. 



JEFFRIES WYMAN 191 

middle of the border of this opening form the projecting 'nasal 
spine,' which is not met with in any of the lower animals, and 
is therefore an anatomical character peculiar to man." 

The italics are his, a rare instance of emphasis of his own views. ^ 

Intimately associated with the subjects of the papers just named 
is his elaborate exposition of The Cancellated Structure of those 
Bones which have a Definite Relation to the Erect Position which is 
Naturally assumed by Man alone. Communicated to the Natural 
History Society in 1849, it was not published until 1857 ; fortunately, 
as stated in the note to p. 173, it was reprinted in 1902 by Wyman's 
elder brother as part of a volume on Animal Mechanics. There 
are described and figured, from sections of human bones, arrange- 
ments of the lamellce and intervening spaces, mechanically adapted 
to sustaining the weight of man in the erect attitude; he adds: 
"The only animals in which I have detected any approach to the 
structure of the neck of the thigh [bone] in man are the chimpanzee 
and the gorilla. ... In these slight traces of the trusswork 
exist." 

Wyman's judicial temperament was never more needed or 
more conspicuous than in his treatment of the ever-vexing prob- 
lems of the differences and relative rank of the several human 
races; then, as now, in this country, those problems constituted 
a "Negro Question." 

As early as 1847, ^^ his first gorilla paper, his views were thus 
stated: "It cannot be denied that the Negro and the Orang ^ do 
afford the points where man and the brute, when the totality of 
their organization is considered, most nearly approach each other." 

Granting any racial differences, and assuming the descent (or 
ascent) of the human species from one or more ape-like forms now 
extinct, the validity of the view that from those ancestral stocks 

1 In certain apes and even monkeys has been detected a trace (beginning 
or proton) of the nasal spine; and there have been recorded several cases of its 
more or less nearly complete absence in man; practically, however, as stated 
by Wyman, it constitutes a constant and peculiar human character. 

2 Here, as explained on p. 186, he uses the one word for all the anthropoid 
or tailless apes, 



192 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

the white race, as a whole, has advanced further than the black, 
will be no more denied by thoughtful negroes than by the average 
man of to-day would be denied the superior physical perfection 
of, e. g., the type of the Apollo Belvedere. 

But, in the first place, upon several occasions, Wyman took 
pains to specify that, in respect to the location of the foramen 
magnum (the orifice at the base of the skull through which the 
brain is continuous with the spinal cord), the North American 
Indians are more ape-like than the Africans.* 

In the second place, the same paragraph quoted above from 
his gorilla paper contains the following emphatic declarations: 
"Any anatomist who will take the trouble to compare the skeletons 
of the Negro and the Orang, cannot fail to be struck at sight with 
the wide gap which separates them. The diiierence between the 
cranium, the pelvis, and the conformation of the upper extremities 
in the Negro and the Caucasian, sinks into comparative insig- 
nificance when compared with the vast difference which exists 
between the conformation of the same parts in the Negro and the 
Orang." A similar remark is made in his later paper on the 
Hottentot, B. S. N. H., Proceedings, December i6th, 1863. 

We may imagine the scorn with which Wyman would have 
repudiated the implication of a novelist that an intelligent person 
could not distinguish between the skull of a gorilla and that of a 
negro.^ 

Wyman's trusted Janitor, Clary, was a dark mulatto. During 
the Civil War, the action of the United States paymaster in offer- 
ing, at first, the Massachusetts regiments of colored troops the 
wages of laborers instead of the pay of soldiers, as had been prom- 
ised,' was vigorously condemned by Wyman in a letter dated 

1 Observations on Crania, Boston Society of Natural History Proceedings, 
vol. II, April isth, 1858; reprint, p. 14; also November 20, 1867, pp. 322-323. 

2 For the later qualification of this implication and for some comparisons 
between African and Caucasian brains see the writer's address, "The 
Brain of the American Negro." Proceedings of The Aminal Conference 
of The National Negro Committee for igog. 

8 This incident was related by me in an address, "Two Examples of the 
Negro's Courage, Physical and Moral," at the Garrison Centenary in Boston, 



JEFFRIES WYMAN 193 

May 26, 1864: "All you say about the pay of the soldiers puts 
the government in a very shabby light; its members are disgracing 
themselves in the eyes of the world." 

Evolution was a real and serious issue during the last fifteen 
years of Wyman's life. The first edition of Darwin's The Origin 
of Species appeared in the fall of 1859.^ Like Asa Gray, Wil- 
liam B. Rogers and some others Wyman felt no antagonism toward 
the new theory and was even somewhat prepossessed in its favor. 
But the formulation and publication of his views were delayed and 
modified by his natural deliberation and dislike of controversy; 
possibly, also, by the pronounced opposition of his nearest col- 
league, Agassiz. His first distinct public expression of opinion 
seems to have been in the following paragraph from his review 
of Owen's "Monograph of the Aye-Aye," in the American Journal 
of Science, 2d series, vol. 36, 1863, pp. 294-299: 

"We conclude with expressing the belief, that there is no just 
ground for taking, and that we arrive at no reasonable theory 
which takes, a position intermediate between the two extremes. 
We must either assume, on the one hand, that living organisms 
commenced their existence fully formed, and by processes not in 
accordance with the usual order of nature as it is revealed to hu- 
man minds, or, on the other hand, that each species became such 
by progressive development or transmutation; that, as in the in- 
dividual, so in the aggregate of races, the simple forms were not 
only the precursors, but the progenitors of the complex ones, and 
that thus the order of nature, as commonly manifest in her works, 
was maintained." 

For Wyman the foregoing was quite emphatic. How keenly 
he realized the situation appears in the following extract from a 
letter written in 187 1 (undated, but received by me on May 30): 

December loth, 1905, printed in Alexander's Magazine for January, 1906. 
See also the address referred to in the previous note. 

1 At that time the present writer had just entered Wyman's laboratory and 
begun to attend the meetings of the Boston Society of Natural History. He 
recalls with awe the earnest discussions among the intellectual giants of the 
day. 



194 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

"At present I am giving a few lectures on Embryology and its 
bearing on Evolution in general. It is a curious fact that the op- 
ponents of evolution have as yet started no theory except the pre- 
posterous one of immediate creation of each species. They simply 
deny. After many trials I have never been able to get Agassiz to 
commit himself to even the most general statement of a concep- 
tion. He was Just the man who ought to have taken up the evo- 
lution theory and worked it into a good shape, which his knowl- 
edge of embryology and palaeontology would have enabled him 
to do. He has lost a golden opportunity, but there is no use in 
talking of that." ^ 

That this divergence upon a vital question did not estrange them 
personally is greatly to the credit of both these great men. 

In the posthumous paper on the shell-heaps of Florida,^ which 
Packard believes to have been written in 1873 or early in 1874, 
he reiterates his general view and in a way applies it to the early 
stages of the human species: 

"The steady progress of discovery justifies the inference that 
man, in the earliest periods of his existence of which we have 
knowledge, was at the best a savage, enjoying the advantage of a 
few rude inventions. According to the theory of evolution, which 
has the merit of being based upon and not being inconsistent with 
observed analogies and processes of nature, he must have gone 
through a period when he was passing out of the animal into the 
human state, when he was not yet provided with tools of any 
sort, and when he lived simply the life of a brute." 

The question of Abiogenesis ("spontaneous generation") was 
considered by Wyman with his habitual caution. He performed 
two extensive series of experiments with flasks ^ containing boiled 
solutions of organic matter. The earlier (1862) seemed to indi- 

1 In his memoir (referred to on p. 172, note) Asa Gray relates a conversa- 
tion in which Wyman expressed the same regret and recalled a conversation 
of his own with Agassiz, when the latter said that Humboldt had told him 
that Cuvier missed a great opportunity in taking sides against St. Hilaire. 

2 Fresh-water Shell-mounds of the St. Johns River, Florida. Fourth 
memoir. Peabody Academy of Science, Salem, Mass., 1875. 

3 One of these historic flasks has been appropriately placed in the charge 
of Theobald Smith, M. D., Professor of Comparative Pathology in Harvard 
University. 



JEFFRIES WYMAN 195 

cate the possibility of the reappearance of hfe after treatment and 
under conditions that were supposed to be fatal. But in the later 
series (1867), when the solutions were boiled for five consecutive 
hours, living organisms did not afterward appear therein. Two 
years later, under date of November 25th, 1869, he wrote: "After 
five hours boiling all flasks fail to sustain life. Nevertheless, 
while I do not believe spontaneous generation proved, I by no 
means consider it disproved." What a perfect illustration of the 
aphorism of his friend and colleague, Asa Gray (I quote from 
memory); "Upon many subjects a truly wise man remains long 
in a state of neither belief nor unbelief; but your intellectually 
short-sighted person is apt to be preternaturally clear-sighted, 
and to find his way very promptly to one side or the other of every 
mooted question." 

Wyman was early interested in the study of monsters, not so 
much as curiosities as because he felt the truth of Goethe's axiom, 
"It is in her mistakes that Nature reveals her secrets; " his account 
of a double fetus^ concludes with a discussion of the proximate 
causes of organic arrangement: 

"The force, whatever it be, which regulates the distribution of 
matter in a normal or abnormal embryo always acts symmet- 
rically; and, if we look for any thing among known forces analo- 
gous to it, it is to be found, if anywhere, in those known as polar 
forces. The essential features of polarity, as in symmetry, are 
antagonism either of qualities or forms. Studying the subject in 
the most general manner, there are striking resemblances between 
the distribution of matter capable of assuming a polar condition, 
and free to move around a magnet, and the distribution of matter 
around the nervous axis of an embryo." 

Closely associated with these considerations is the problem of 
the relationship between the arms and legs, to which he had long 
given much thought, and upon which he published a very remark- 
able paper.^ The opening words are as follows: 

1 Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, March 29, 1866. 
"^ On Symmetry and Homology in Limbs. Proc. Boston Soc. Nat. Hist., 
June 5, 1867, p. 32. 



196 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

"Anatomists who have compared the fore and hind limbs of 
men and animals have mostly -described them as if they were 
parallel repetitions of each other, just as are any two ribs on the 
same side of the body. By a few they have been studied as sym- 
metrical parts, repeating each other in a reversed manner from 
before backwards, as right and left parts do from side to side. 
We have adopted this last mode of viewing them, because, though 
open to grave objections, as will be seen further on, the difficulties 
met with are, on the whole, fewer than in the other, and because, 
too, it is supported by the indications of fore-and-hind symmetry 
in other parts of the body." ^ 

Those who have adopted his view, and who hope, in time, to 
show that fore-and-hind symmetry is a fundamental law of verte- 
brate organization, are encouraged by the reflection that their 
leader seldom gave even a qualified assent to any doctrine which 
did not prove in the main correct. 

For some reason Wyman devoted comparatively little attention 
to neurology. Under date of July 25, 1864, he wrote: 

"I shall try to work in a direction in which I have hitherto done 
but little, viz., the nervous system." 

The papers on the brains of the frog (1852) and opossum (1869), 
while admirable and suggestive so far as they go, fall short of 
what might have been expected. The former, indeed, contains 
what is, so far as I know, the sole instance, in all his writings, of 
a serious misapprehension, viz., as to the developmental and mor- 
phologic significance of the fusion of the right and left olfactory 
bulbs in the frog. 

It fell to Wyman to report upon the brains of two notable men, 
Daniel Webster (1853), and Louis Agassiz (1873). To them he 
refers in the last letter received from him, dated June 17, 1874, 
less than three months before his own death. He says: 

"Agassiz' brain weighed 1,495 grams, Webster's 1,500 and a 
triile more. Practically the two were alike as far as absolute weight 

1 The writer has a sheet of paper upon which, on Christmas Day, 1861, 
Wyman made five hasty but most graphic and suggestive sketches of the ideal 
vertebrate, with its viscera and limbs symmetrically arranged with reference 
to a central neutral point. 



JEFFRIES WYMAN 197 

goes. Neither was in a healthy condition; Webster's was some- 
what atrophied and did not fill the skull, and Agassiz' had no doubt 
diminished from its healthy weight." ' 

About two years after Wyman's Harvard appointment there 
devolved upon him the painful duty of aiding the conviction of a 
colleague of the crime of murder. On the 23d of November, 1849, 
Dr. George Parkman (in whose honor was founded the chair of 
anatomy held by Dr. Holmes) was killed in the college building 
by John W. Webster, professor of chemistry. The latter tried to 
dispose of the corpse by various means, including fire, and the 
fragments of bone were identified by Wyman with characteristic 
skill and caution; his evidence related also to the manner of dis- 
membering the body and to the determination of blood-stains.^ 

So predisposed was Wyman, by temperament and habit, to 
recognize imperfections in brilliant and apparently perfect general- 
izations, that, had he written a Latin grammar, he probably 
would have set the rules in small type; the exceptions thereto in 
type of medium size; and the exceptions to the exceptions in the 
most conspicuous. In 1865, the commonly accepted assertion of 
Lord Brougham that in the cell of the bee there is perfect agree- 
ment between theory and observation, was tested by measure- 
ments and by pictures ingeniously produced by the cells them- 
selves. He concluded that "it may reasonably be doubted whether 
a type cell is ever made." 

In 1833 the sensational newpaper report as to a "shower of 
flesh and blood" was disposed of by Wyman's recognizing frag- 
ments as similar to what he had seen disgorged by turkey-buzzards 
during his sojourn at Richmond. In 1845 were exhibited, under 
the name, Hydrarchos, what were claimed to be the bones of an 

1 According to the above figures, reckoning the avoirdupois ounce as 
equivalent to 28.35 grams, each of the brains weighed about 52.7 ounces. 
This is not the place for an attempt to reconcile the figures with slightly- 
higher ones published elsewhere. 

2 The execution took place August 30, 1850. The descriptions in the news- 
papers so impressed the present writer, then nine years old, that he hanged 
himself in order to see how it felt; his ei-o* ccientific experiment nearly proved 
his last. 



198 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

enormous extinct reptile. Wyman demonstrated that they were 
cetacean or whale-like, and did not belong even to one and the 
same individual; in short that they were a factitious agglomeration. 
Among Wyman's numerous other contributions to the knowl- 
edge and the interpretation of Nature, the following possess 
perhaps the more general interest: The recognition of a new 
species of manatee (sea-cow) from West Africa, 1849; an account 
of the brain, organ of hearing and rudimentary eyes of blind-fish 
from the Mammoth Cave, 1843, 1853-56; the jet from the blow- 
hole of whales, shown to consist chiefly of the condensed moisture 
of the breath, 1848-51; the gestation of the Surinam toad, the 
male of which "plants" the eggs upon the back of the female, 
where they are carried until hatched, 1854-56; the mode of forma- 
tion of the rattle of the rattlesnake, 1861; on the alleged "sea- 
serpent," 1863; the occurrence, in Florida, of a true crocodile, a 
genus distinct from the alligator and previously supposed to be 
restricted in this hemisphere to the southern half, 1870; the change 
in habit of cows, found grazing under water in Florida, 1874. The 
same state, his winter refuge and work-place for so many years, 
yielded a really astonishing discovery, communicated to the Natural 
History Society on the 7th of October, 1868, under the title, "On 
a Threadworm Infesting the Brain of the Snake-bird," printed 
in the Proceedings, vol. 12, pp. 100-104, ^.nd partly reproduced in 
the Monthly Microscopical Journal, vol. 2, 1869, pp. 215-216. 
The snake-bird. Plains anhinga (now Anhinga anhinga), is com- 
monly called " water- turkey," but is more nearly related to the 
Divers and Cormorants, differing from them in the form of the 
bill and in the length of the snake-like neck. In seventeen out 0] 
the nineteen individuals examined, Wyman found, coiled up on 
the brain a mass of "threadworms," measuring each from three 
to six centimeters (about one and one-fourth to two and one-half 
inches) in length; the number varied from two to eight; they were 
always upon the cerebellum, just behind the cerebral hemispheres, 
and in some cases produced a distinct depression. "They are 
viviparous and immensely prolific. Their presence constitutes 
what may be called the normal condition of the bird. Their ear- 



JEFFRIES WYMAN 199 

lier stages are unknown, as likewise the manner in which the 
transfer of the embryos is effected outwardly to some other animal, 
or the water, and then back to another Anhinga." Surely almost 
any other man than Wyman would have found in this surprising 
combination a medium of greater scientific reputation, if not, in- 
deed, newspaper notoriety. But that was not his way, and all 
exploitation of his achievements has yet to be accomplished. 

Wyman described very few species, and never permitted one to 
be named after him. Less and less, too, year by year, did he seek 
to draw conclusions as to relationship from his studies of animal 
forms. His interpretations were either teleologic or purely mor- 
phologic; that is, they either illustrated function, or the relations 
of single parts, without reference to the entire organism. 

This feature rendered Wyman's anatomic work absolutely 
free from zoologic bias, and his statements were always received 
as gospel by both parties to a controversy. He might not tell the 
whole truth, for he might not see it at the time; but what he did 
tell was " nothing but the truth," so far as it went. He is one of the 
very few naturalists who "never told a lie," simply because he 
never allowed his imagination to outstrip his observation. The 
hottest partisan felt that a figure or description of Wyman's was, 
so far as it went, as reliable as Nature herself. 

The pecxiliar value of Wyman's writings and of his collections 
depends not so much upon their extent as upon their absolute 
trustworthiness. He worked and thought and wrote by and for 
himself. His facts and ideas were his own; and the smallest 
specimens bear the impress of his personal manipulation. All 
were carefully labeled by himself, and in the descriptive catalogue 
are rich treasures of fact and thought as yet unrevealed.^ 

It was not strange that he carefully guarded the fruit of his life; 
and the writer can never forget the solemn sense of responsibility 
with which he first received the keys and the "freedom" of the 
collection.^ And although the demands upon Wyman's time and 

1 The collection and its catalogue are now in charge of the Boston Society 
of Natural History. 

2 My diary of November 28, 1861, chronicles the permission (without 



200 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

strength made by the Archaeological Museum debarred him from 
anything like his former care, yet he never forgot his first love; 
and, during the last summer of his life, the writer found him, as 
of old, coat off and brush in hand, dusting and rearranging the 
precious things, — the very children of his own industry; every one 
of them reminding him of some special time in the bygone years.^ 
With almost a sigh he looked about him, and said, "No one man 
should try to establish a great museum alone; for it absorbs all his 
time and attention, and sooner or later ruins him, or falls itself 
into decay." 

Nor was this a temporary feeling, born of the day's weariness, 
or the recent death of his colleague, Agassiz. Seven years earlier, 
he had embodied the same conviction in the advice not to aim at 
a multiplicity of specimens, but to select typical and representative 
forms and parts. And, nearly as we may think that his own mu- 
seum approaches his ideal, it can hardly be doubted, that, under 
Providence, had it been one-half so large, Wyman's work would 
have been lighter, his writings fuller, his life longer, and his fame 
greater. But the past cannot be recalled. The man is gone. His 
monument remains, its intrinsic value doubled by our recollections 
of its builder. 

To the ardent naturalist the sharpest temptation is that forbid- 
den by the tenth commandment. A rare specimen, a new fact, 
a brilliant idea, these are the things which he covets, and can hardly 
refrain from appropriating, upon an unconscious conviction that 
he is best capable of using them for the world's benefit, and that 
the end justifies the means. How far Wyman was thus tempted, 
he alone could tell; but that he never yielded in word or deed 
would be unhesitatingly declared by all who knew him. In this, 
as in other respects, his was an almost "impossible morality." 

This freedom from the failings of ordinary men extended to 
language and demeanor under all circumstances. The writer 

precedent, I understood) to take out of town his finest gorilla cranium and 
humerus. 

1 See Asa Gray's reference to the same period in the memoir named in the 
note to p. 173. 



JEFFRIES WYMAN 201 

never knew him to lose his temper. The nearest approach to 
profanity was the result of the catastrophe now to be described. 

As has been stated already, Wyman's courses constituted a 
senior elective. Those who attended them were not commonly 
admitted to the laboratory. During the second year (I think) of 
my pupilage, he determined to occupy a lecture-hour with the 
exhibition of objects through microscopes. It was a great innova- 
tion; never, so far as I know, had such an exhibition been held 
before and the result did not encourage its repetition. In the fore- 
noon of the previous day the tables in our laboratory were ar- 
ranged, the instruments were adjusted, and each of us had his 
station assigned as expositor of one or more specimens. That 
afternoon Wyman did not come to the building at all; would 
that I also had absented myself. In the corner near the sink, and 
near the door of entrance, was the "macerating closet" communi- 
cating with a ventilating flue through which bad odors could 
escape. The floor of the closet was at about the height of a table. 
>7ear the front stood a large glass jar containing a cat's carcass at 
an advanced stage of maceration; that is, after the removal of 
the skin and viscera and most of the flesh, the bones had been put 
into a jar of water and allowed to stand until the remaining flesh 
had decomposed and come off, leaving the bones free. I had oc- 
casion to get something at the back of the closet. In descending 
from it the tail of my dissecting-gown caught upon the top of the 
jar and pulled it over after me; it broke and the contents spread 
over the floor and entered the cracks. The intensity of the odor 
may be inferred from the fact that my bespattered clothing had 
to be destroyed. The janitor was summoned in haste and we all 
cooperated toward purification, but with slight success. It was de- 
cided — rather pusillanimously, as it now appears to me — not to 
notify the professor. The windows were left open and we hoped 
it would not be so bad after all. 

Next morning Wyman arrived before me. What happened was 
witnessed by a fellow-student.^ The professor opened the door, 
stopped short upon the threshold, threw up his hands, and ejacu- 

' J. F. Alleyne Adams, now a distinguished physician of Pittsfield, Mass. 



202 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

lated "By George, what a confounded smell ! " Under the circum- 
stances, from most men this would have seemed a very mild 
exclamation; from Wyman's lips it fell upon his listeners like 
lightning from a clear sky. 

To conclude the episode; as the seniors arrived each sniffed 
and asked whether the laboratory always smelt hke that. The 
exhibition was never repeated. Yet Wyman did not reproach me 
nor did he ever again refer to the incident. 

In those days listeners to anatomical lectures in some colleges 
and medical schools were too often shocked by words or innuen- 
does alike unworthy of the speaker and insulting to his hearers. 
Wyman never uttered a word that might not have been published 
abroad. 

By some, this purity of life, reaching as it did into things great 
and small, will be regarded as of no avail, unless a satisfactory 
account is given of his religious convictions. This is out of the 
writer's power, and even further from his purpose. I do not recall 
a remark of Wyman's upon any theological topic whatever. His 
daughters, however, inform me that "in term time he regularly 
attended the college services, in vacations the Unitarian church, 
and joined in the Communion. He was a lover of hymns, was 
fond of reading the Bible and was distinctly a religious man." To 
me he seemed almost above the need of spiritual information or 
correction. His life was blameless. The heaviest of all human 
afflictions was endured by him with a resignation to which no set 
forms of piety could have contributed aught of value. He worked 
on for science and for his fellow-men, thinking always of others 
rather than of himself, and always doing better than he could 
hope to be done by. And is not this the essence of true religion ? 

Still we may gain some idea of his convictions respecting the 
Creator, the relation of mind to matter, and the other life, from 
passages in the notice of Dr. Burnett, already referred to: 

" He seems to have had a pervading perception of God in his 
works, and often in eloquent words gave expression to his feel- 
ings when some new manifestation of divine wisdom was un- 
covered to his inquiring mind. . He had religious faith and 



JEFFRIES VVYMAN 203 

religious hope. . . . There is a moment when, if ever on earth, 
the heart, if it opens itself, does so without disguise; it is that dread 
moment when death approaches so near, that there is no alterna- 
tive but to look upon this earthly life as finished, its account 
made up, and when all that remains for the mind to dwell upon is 
the dissolution of the body, and the realization of another life." 

Admired and trusted by his associates, by the younger naturalists 
Wyman was absolutely adored. Ever ready with information, 
with counsel and encouragement, so far from assuming toward 
them the attitude of a superior, he on several occasions permitted 
his original observations to be more or less merged within their 
productions. His generous desire to accord all possible opportunity 
and credit to others was early exemplified in his relations with Dr. 
Savage in respect to the gorUla, as described on p. 189. Dr. S. 
Weir Mitchell has records and recollections of like manifestations 
toward himself. In the following instances the persons concerned 
were former pupils and much younger than Wyman. His account 
of the brain of the opossum was published as an appendix to the 
Osteology and Myology of the same animal by Eliot Coues. 
Edward S. Morse has a letter urging him to publish his own eluci- 
dation of a morphologic point to which Wyman had already given 
considerable attention; indeed, in a letter to me, dated Janu- 
ary 15, 1872, he gives a diagram and alludes to a certain fact as a 
"bombshell." Referring to the thesis of Norton Folsom, which 
included an exposition of Wyman's own views upon "fore-and- 
hind symmetry," he wrote me. May 26, 1864: "I do not know 
exactly what ideas he brought forward, but I suppose they were 
not unlike those we have all talked over [wholly his own]. I am 
very glad that they are beginning to find their way into the minds of 
young men, for the older ones will never listen to them." (The 
itahcs are mine.) On the 27th of February, 1863, while my own 
thesis was under revision for belated publication, he wrote: "I 
do not know that I have anything to add with regard to 'fore-and- 
hind symmetry,' but if you find it convenient to make use of the 
talks we have had about it, of course I should be glad to have 
them turned to account." 



204 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

The universal regard in which he was held is, in the writer's 
case, intensified by the sense of peculiar obligations which might 
cloud the estimate of any ordinary individual.^ But to no man 
more fitly than to Wyman could be addressed the lines: 

"None knew thee but to love thee. 
Nor named thee but to praise." 

Nor were any strictures ever made upon him, from any 
quarter, other than as to his extraordinary lack of personal am- 
bition, and his aversion to public notice or display. If there 
exist already no such words as inegotism and inegotistic they 
really need to be coined in order to designate a characteristic 
of Jeffries Wyman so pronounced that it almost ceased to be a 
virtue. 

His attitude toward criticism and critics is well exemplified in 
the following extracts from letters of March i, 1863, and Octo- 
ber 23, 1872, respectively: 

"I do not think it worth the while to trouble yourself about 

what Professor or anyone else chooses to say by way of 

criticism of my experiments [on 'spontaneous generation']. One 
thing is certain; if they are good, they will stand, and in the long 
run fight their own way. The verbal criticism of anyone cannot 
affect them. 

"Have you seen the notice by of your paper, and mine 

too [how characteristic the order]? It is quite comic to see how 
he charges us with ignoring, etc. At first I thought of correcting 
some of his mistakes, but all such things pass out of mind so soon 
that it seemed useless, and so I am satisfied that the best way is 
to say nothing." 

Wyman rarely referred to what he had already done, and still 
more rarely to what he intended to do. The only prognostication 

1 In most cases the reprints of Wyman's papers were repaged, without even 
adding the original page numbers in brackets. Probably this was due to the 
preference of the printer and was simply overlooked by the author. The de- 
fect is specified partly because it is still tolerated by some writers, but mainly 
for the sake of showing that my affection and admiration for my friend and 
teacher have not rendered me absolutely incapable of criticism. 



JEFFRIES WYMAN 205 

of this sort known to me occurs in his early and very suggestive 
paper, "Analogies Which Exist Between the Structure of the Teeth 
of the Lepidostei (Gars or Gar-pikes), and those of the Labyrintho- 
donts (extinct Amphibia)." BosL Soc. Nat. Hist., Proceedings, 
1843, vol. I, pp. 131-132; the report (for which, indeed, he may 
not have been responsible, says: "Other analogies were found in 
the osteology, but of these he proposes to speak in a future com- 
munication." No such appears to have been made. 

Wyman's language, in both speech and writing, was always sim- 
ple and unaffected. The single instance of what might be termed, 
in the usual sense, "fine writing," occurs in his notice of the life 
and writings of Waldo I. Burnett, while speaking of the cell: 

"The nucleated cell! — that minute organic structure which 
the unaided eye cannot discern, yet constituting the first stage of 
every living being, the seat of so many of the complex phenomena 
of animal and organic life, and the agent by which even the mind 
itself retains its grasp, and exerts its influence upon the living 
structures with which it is associated." 

Wyman certainly never aimed at epigram, yet some of his say- 
ings deserve at least to be called aphorisms. Of the following 
the first two have been quoted already: "For the purposes of 
comparison there is no such thing as too many, since everything 
turns on averages." "Everything that can be reinforced by experi- 
ment should be." "The isolated study of anything in Natural 
History is a fruitful source of error." "No single experiment in 
physiology is worth anything." " Here [as to the form of the bee's 
cell], as is so often the case elsewhere in nature, the type-form is 
an ideal one, and with this, real forms seldom or never coincide." 
"The cat's anatomy should be done first because it would also 
serve as an introduction to human anatomy and thus become an 
important aid to medical education." "In organizing your 
department aim to fulfil these four conditions, viz. (i) Let the 
museum, laboratory and lecture-room be on one floor. (2) Light 
the museum from above. (3) Select representative forms; for 
what you want pay liberally if necessary; decline other things even 
as gifts. (4) Give not more than two lectures a week, so as to 



2o6 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

secure time for preparation, for researcii, and for the instruction 
of advanced pupils." 

As may be inferred from his character and from what has been 
said on p. 205, Wyman preferred simple and vernacular terms. 
During the years 1871-72 several of his letters contain frank ani- 
madversions upon certain of my terminologic novelties. A discus- 
sion of the subject would be out of place here. The following rep- 
resentative extracts from a letter of October 23, 1872, should be 
regarded in the light of two facts: First, his own studies of the brain 
had been practically restricted to forms (frog and opossum) where 
that organ is comparatively simple; secondly, it had not been then 
proposed that the antagonistic preferences of the "classicists" 
and the " vernacularists " might compromise in the employment 
of paronyms, i. e., national slight modifications of the common 
Latin antecedent; e. g., hippocampus, which becomes hippocampo 
in Italian, hippocampe in French, hippocamp in English, and 
Hippokamp in German. 

"I really do not think the time has come to establish a general 
nomenclature, that is, one covering the whole ground, for the 
reason that the subject is still in its infancy and not ready for it. 
The muddle growing out of human anatomy will naturally disap- 
pear in the course of time, as the horizontal method of viewing 
animals must prevail. The term, Intermemhral, strikes me as 
good, although at first I relucted at it." ^ 

Notwithstanding Wyman's exceptionally mild disposition his 
regard for verity was almost fierce, and upon occasion he could 
rejoice in the tragedy implied in the phrase (from Huxley, I think), 
"The slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact." At 
Wyman's hands, however, the sacrifice would be accomplished 

1 In this connection it is interesting and instructive to note that, in his 
Memoir on the Development of the Ray, 1867, p. 35, Wyman consistently em- 
ploys, if, indeed, he did not coin, the singularly appropriate term of Greek 
derivation, protocercal, for the "primary, embryonic condition" of the tail; 
this alone would warrant the use of the international proton rather than 
"Anlage," the international and (to French anatomists, particularly) ob- 
jectionable heteronym. 



JEFFRIES WYMAN 207 

(like the killing of mortally wounded soldiers by old Ambrose 
Par^), "doucement et sans cholere." 

This rare combination of judicial severity with gentle toleration 
in Wyman's character is admirably portrayed by Dr. Holmes: 

"If he had been one of the twelve around the Master, whom 
they had seen hanging on the cross, no doubt, like Thomas, he 
would have asked to see the print of the nails, and know for him- 
self if those palms were pierced, and if that side had received the 
soldier's spear thrust. But if he had something of the question- 
ing follower in how many ways he reminded us of the beloved 
disciple ! His characteristic excellencies recall many of the apostle's 
descriptions of the virtue which never faileth. He suffered long 
and was kind; he envied not; he vaunted not himself; he was not 
puffed up; he sought not his own; was not easily provoked; thought 
no evil; and rejoiced in the truth. If he differed from Charity in 
not believing all things, he followed the apostolic precept of trying 
all things, and holding fast that which stood the trial." 

Without brilliancy, Wyman combined qualities rarely found in 
the same individual. No man of our time has surpassed him in 
the love of nature for its own sake, free from the hope of position, 
power, or profit, in keenness of vision both physical and mental, 
in absolute integrity with the least as well as the greatest things, 
in industry and perseverance, and in method, whether for the 
arrangement of collections, or the presentation of an idea. And 
if to these had been adjoined a tithe of the ambition displayed by 
lesser men, and had his health and strength been at all equal to 
his mental powers, no one can doubt that his attainments, his pro- 
ductions, and his reputation with the world at large would have 
been surpassed by those of none of his contemporaries. 

However much we may, for our own sakes, regret that such was 
not the case, we know that into his mind never entered the shadow 
of bitterness. His recognition of others' labors was full and gener- 
ous: his mind was upon the facts and principles of nature, and 
regarded not the medium through which they were obtained; and, 
if he ever prayed for health and strength, it was surely not for his 
own advancement, but because he felt within himself the desire 
and the ability to learn and to teach the truth. 



2o8 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

His reputation was less widespread than that of some others, 
but it was more deeply rooted. And as the years roll on, and as 
the final estimate is made of the value of what has been done in this 
country, we may be sure that the name of Jeffries Wyman will 
stand high among those who have joined rare ability and unwearied 
industry with a pure and noble hfe. To use his own words upon 
a like occasion, "Let us cherish his memory, and profit by his 
example." 

This account of Jeffries Wyman may close fitly with tributes 
from two who were not only friends and colleagues but masters of 
the art of expression, Oliver Wendell Holmes and James Russell 
Lowell: 

"A more beautiful and truly admirable character would be 
hard to find among the recorded lives of men of science. The 
basis of all was in his personal qualities, his absolute truthfulness, 
his great modesty, his quiet enthusiasm, his inexhaustible patience. 
He never boasted, he never sneered, he never tired, he put forward 
no pretensions to infallibility, though he was never caught making 
mistakes; he was always exact and positive as to what he had 
seen, but willing to suspend his opinion, however tempting a 
generalization might offer itself, if it was only probable and not 
proved. He was prompt to recognize the merits of those whom 
he considered in any way his superiors, generous in his estimate 
of his equals, and a willing helper of those who looked to him for 
any kind of knowledge he could impart. In a word, he was always 
the same honest-minded, sagacious, unprejudiced, sweet-souled, 
and gentle-mannered creature of God, whom it was a joy to meet, 
a privilege to listen to, a regret to part from, whom it is a sorrow 
to lose, and whom it will always be a precious inheritance to re- 
member." 

"The wisest man could ask no more of Fate 
Than to be simple, modest, manly, true, 
Safe from the Many, honored by the Few; 
Nothing to count in World or Church, or State, 
But inwardly in secret to be great; 
To feel mysterious Nature ever new. 
To touch, if not to grasp, her endless clue, 
And learn by each discovery how to wait. 



JEFFRIES WYMAN 209 

He widened knowledge and escaped the praise; 
He wisely taught, because more wise to learn; 
He toiled for Science, not to draw men's gaze, 
But for her lore of self-denial stem. 
That such a man could spring from our decays 
Fans the soul's nobler faith until it bum." 




Reproduced by permission from the eiigravlTie on wood by Gustav Kruell. Copyright, 1890. 



ASA GRAY 

BOTANIST 

1810-1888 

By John M. Coulter 

Asa Gray became the foremost botanist of America, with a 
place in the esteem and affection of American botanists so unique 
that it is not likely to be dupKcated. His reputation as a scientific 
man was perhaps greater in Europe, for at that time his most 
important work could be appreciated better there; but his hold 
upon his American colleagues was more that of a genial and 
helpful teacher than that of an impersonal investigator. 

His boyhood gave little promise of this great future, for there 
was nothing in his surroundings that suggested a life devoted to 
science. It would be interesting to account for his unusual career 
by discovering something in his ancestry or in his own early experi- 
ences that brought it to pass. Unfortunately such records are too 
scanty to be used in such a way, and Dr. Gray was too busy with 
his work to supply more than the barest outline of his early life. 
His father was a tanner in Sauquoit, Oneida County, New York, 
where Gray was born, November 18, 18 10. While he was very 
young the family moved to a small settlement about a smelting 
fiumace — Paris Furnace — where the father established a tannery. 
The child was set the monotonous task of feeding the bark-mill 
and driving the old horse that furnished its motive power. Those 
who have seen these old mills can appreciate that a keen, active 
boy, restless in mind and body, would find such an occupation 
depressing; but it may have been good training. 

Mrs. Gray has recorded her impressions of the father and mother 

as follows: 

an 



212 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

"The father was quick, decided, and an immense worker; from 
him the son took his lively movements and his quick eagerness of 
character, perhaps also his ready appreciation of fun. 

"The mother was a woman of singularly quiet and gentle char- 
acter, with great strength and decision, and possessed a wonder- 
ful power of accomplishing and turning off work; a woman of 
thoughtful, earnest ways, conscientious and self -forgetting." 

There are some records of young Gray's precocity; for his 
schooling is said to have begun when he was three years old; and 
we are told that at six or seven he was a champion speller at the 
numerous "spelling matches" that once furnished the chief excite- 
ment of country neighborhoods. This was not bad training in 
accuracy of observation and tenacity of memory, and both quali- 
ties were later shown in high degree by the great botanist. 

Professor Gray was not "college-trained," and his formal ed- 
ucation would be regarded now as vague and irregular and not 
very effective ; and yet, even in purity and felicity of literary expres- 
sion, which is often supposed to belong peciiliarly to university 
culture, he was not surpassed. If the best that formal education 
can do is to make self-education possible. Gray needed no more 
of it than he received. He was one of many strong men, full of 
initiative, who develop in spite of lack of opportunities and con- 
trary to the most approved principles of pedagogy. 

For a time he studied at a "select school " taught by the pastor's 
son, and at twelve he was sent to the Clinton Grammar School. 
There he studied for two years, spending his summer vacations 
in the harvest-field. After another year of study at the academy 
in Fairfield, his general education was brought to a close, at a 
point that one might roughly estimate as about half through a 
good high school of to-day. 

His practical father thought the time had come to turn educa- 
tion into useful channels, and persuaded him to begin at once the 
study of medicine. This advice to a partly trained boy of fifteen 
was a testimony not only to his reputation as a student, but also 
to the current notion as to the amount of general education neces- 
sary for a physician. In 1826, therefore. Gray entered the "Medi- 



ASA GRAY 213 

cal College of the Western District," at Fairfield. His medical 
training was a patchwork of lectures at the college and study in 
the offices of practicing physicians, chiefly that of Dr. John F. 
Trowbridge of Bridgewater; but it continued for five years, when 
in 1831 he received the degree of M. D., a few months before he 
was of age. His medical studies, however, served chiefly to intro- 
duce him to botany, which became a growing desire throughout 
his preparation for a medical career. 

Fortunately we have Gray's own record of his distinct "call" 
to botany. He says that during the winter of 1827-28 he chanced 
to read the article "Botany" in Brewster's Edinburgh Encyclo- 
pcBdia, and this aroused so greatly his interest in the subject that 
he bought Eaton's Manual, read it eagerly, and longed for spring. 
When the first flowers appeared, he tried his Manual, and he tells 
us that "spring beauty" (Claytonia) was the first plant he named. 
This seems to have been like putting a brand to a mass of dry fuel, 
for his interest became a consuming one, and the fire was never 
extinguished. The call came, therefore, not through the personal 
inspiration of a teacher, but directly from Nature; and to most 
great naturalists the call has come in this way. 

In the botany of that day there was a peculiar charm to the real 
naturalists, for it meant the forest and the field, the "search for 
hid treasure," the triumphant discovery, the gradual accumulation 
of material, the ever- widening horizon of "exchanges" and 
friendships. To-day botany has made very great advances, and 
there are many botanists who have never had these inspiring 
experiences; but those who have had them recall the old thrill as 
a beautiful memory. When Asa Gray became interested in bot- 
any, the classification of plants — chiefly of flowering plants — 
was the whole of botany; and it remained so in America well 
through his long life. In a certain sense. North America was then 
virgin territory, and its rich flora was awaiting discovery and 
description. Naturally this was the first duty of American bot- 
anists, and it was a task that bred enthusiasm, just as the dis- 
covery of a new country is more exciting than its cultivation. 

With the collection and naming of plants there came naturally 



214 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

for Gray the beginnings of an herbarium, the best record of his 
discoveries. In those days the naming of ordinary plants was by 
no means so simple a thing as Gray afterwards made it for the 
botanical fraternity through his admirable Manual. Descriptions 
were often meager and indefinite and scattered; and the frequent 
uncertainties of determination would have discouraged any but 
the most ardent. Hence in Gray's herbarium there began to 
accumulate his perplexities — plants that he could not identify. 

Up to this time botany for him seems to have been only a fasci- 
nating recreation, his serious purpose stiU being the medical pro- 
fession; but his undetermined plants brought him into his vital 
botanical connection, and so determined his career. In 1830, a 
year before he received his medical degree, he went to New York 
City to buy medical books for his instructor, Dr. Trowbridge. A 
package of undetermined plants was taken along, for he hoped to 
get the assistance of Dr. John Torrey, at that time the best known 
American botanist. He failed to find him, but left the plants. 
Presently there came a letter from Torrey, inclosing the names of 
his plants, and doubtless also containing kindly expressions of 
encouragement. In any event, this letter began their life-long 
acquaintance and intimate association, until Dr. Torrey's death 
in 1873. 

Then came the struggle for a botanical opportimity, a struggle 
that continued for seven or eight years. There was abundant 
opportunity for botanical work, but in those days there were no 
botanical positions. Botany was cultivated chiefly by practicing 
physicians, clergymen, or those who had an income sufficient to 
permit it. It was distinctly not recognized as a means of livelihood. 
Gray did not want to practice medicine; he did want to devote 
himself to botany; and he had no income. For six years he seems 
to have lived "from hand to mouth," teaching during the winters, 
chiefly in Utica, and using the money thus earned in making 
collecting tours during the summers. One summer he spent in 
Western New York; and another in the "pine-barrens" of New 
Jersey, where he was sent by Dr. Torrey. Those who knew him 
later, when his great reputation had become established, can well 



ASA GRAY 215 

imagine that his bright, cheery spirit carried him through these 
uncertain years in the hope that some opportunity would present 
itself. It was in the midst of this period, December, 1834, that he 
read his first paper before the New York Lyceum of Natural 
History; and it showed that the young botanist did not flinch 
before the most difficult groups of plants, for it was a monograph 
of North American Rhynchosporeae, a group of sedges. 

Dr. Torrey became so much impressed with his ability that in 
1835 he invited him to become his assistant; but the offer was with- 
drawn later on account of the poor outlook for paying his salary, 
which doubtless was to have been meager enough. To young Gray 
this must have been a keen disappointment, for it seemed to shut 
the door of a great opportunity. It would have seemed to most 
men that botany should be abandoned as a means of living and 
serious attention given to establishment in some recognized pro- 
fession. But Gray returned to his father's house and spent the 
year in preparing his Elements of Botany, which was published in 
May, 1836, and was the first of that remarkable series of text- 
books which for many years dominated botanical instruction in 
the United States, and which are marvels of clear, masterful 
presentation. 

In 1836, through the influence of Dr. Torrey, Gray was ap- 
pointed curator of the collections of the New York Lyceum of 
Natural History, and in its new building he made his home. It 
may be said that his career as a professional botanist began with 
this appointment. Although it was to be regarded as only a tempo- 
rary makeshift, his whole time could now be devoted to his chosen 
pursuit. About this time an opportunity presented itself to the 
young botanist that seemed to promise great things. A govern- 
ment exploring expedition in the South Pacific was being organized, 
and Gray secured appointment as botanist. But there were vexa- 
tious delays and changes in organization, and it was not until 1838 
that the expedition finally sailed, under command of Captain 
Wilkes. It is useless to imagine what would have been the result 
of Gray's personal study of the regions visited by this expedition; 
but from his subsequent contributions it is safe to assume it would 



2l6 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

have included much more than the description of new plants. 
The unknown field of large geographical distribution thrust itself 
upon him even at a distance; and it is certain that a personal 
survey of vegetation in the mass would have made the subject far 
more real and urgent. In the meantime, however, another oppor- 
tunity had presented itself, and a choice had to be made. Gray 
decided to resign his appointment to the expedition; but later its 
collections came to him for study and he obtained a glimpse of 
what he had missed. He made the most of this glimpse, for it 
gave him that large contact with plants outside of North America 
which always entered into his perspective. 

What he regarded as the larger opportunity was the invitation 
to become the junior author with Dr. Torrey of the contemplated 
Flora of North America. While waiting for the Wilkes' Expedition 
to sail, Gray "tried his hand," as he says, upon some of the families 
for the first part of the Flora, with the result that he was asked to 
become joint author. It is hard for botanists now to imagine the 
chaotic condition at that time of descriptions of the North Ameri- , 
can flora. Even for the best known region publication was in 
confusion; while the vaster western area was practically unknown. 
To bring together in some definite organization the plants already 
described, and to describe those brought back by various explor- 
ing parties in the great west, was the task undertaken by the two 
authors. With characteristic energy Gray threw himself into the 
work, and the first two parts — about half of the first volume — 
appeared in July and October, 1838. 

At last a definite and congenial position was open to him, for 
in 1838 he was elected Professor of Natural History in the newly 
organized University of Michigan. In his work on the Flora, he 
had become impressed with the necessity of studying the North 
American plants stored in the great herbaria of Europe. Among 
them were many of the types, that is, the actual plants upon which 
the original descriptions had been based. Nearly all of the earlier 
collections of North American plants were sent to Europe for 
description ; and the subsequent determinations of American bot- 
anists were based upon descriptions often imperfect and ambigu- 



ASA GRAY 217 

ous, with no opportunity of comparison with the types. It is easy 
to understand how incorrect determinations would be made, how 
these would be perpetuated, and how descriptions would finally 
be changed to suit the wrongly named plants. In Gray's first 
work on the Flora he discovered that many American plants were 
masquerading under false names; but to discover the real plant 
to which a name belonged could only be done by examining the 
type specimen. He felt that no more of the Flora should be pub- 
lished until these types had been examined. Hence, although 
accepting the Michigan appointment, he asked for and obtained 
leave of absence to visit Europe, agreeing to serve the university 
at the same time by buying books for the library. 

In November, 1838, he sailed, and entered upon those personal 
relations with the most distinguished European botanists that 
continued with increasing intimacy until his death. His letters 
show that he met almost every distinguished worker in systematic 
botany, and their strong personal liking and admiration for him 
is still freely expressed in the great herbaria he visited. In addition 
to the herbaria of England and Scotland, he visited those of Paris, 
Lyons, Geneva, Munich, Berlin, Halle, Hamburg, and Vienna. 
In all he made six more or less prolonged visits to Europe and put 
the identity of the older described American plants upon a sure 
basis. 

Upon Gray's retiim from his first trip to Europe, in 1839, his 
leave of absence was extended by the University of Michigan. In 
fact he never entered upon his duties there, the furlough merging 
into his appointment at Harvard College. In the spring of 1842, 
he visited Mr. B. D. Greene in Boston, and while there met 
President Quincy of Harvard. Soon afterwards he was elected 
to the Fisher Professorship of Natural History, and continued in 
this position for the rest of his life. The large opportunity had 
come at last, and it was at Harvard that Gray made his great repu- 
tation, entering upon his duties there as teacher, author, and inves- 
tigator with an enthusiasm and an ability that soon made Cam- 
bridge the center of botanical instruction and investigation in 
America. He was a most prolific writer, but a complete list of 



2i8 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

his publications would give no adequate impression of Asa Gray 
as an inspiring teacher, a keen and kindly critic, and a bright and 
genial companion. Such impressions come only from personal 
contact, but they go to make up the appeal to affection; and in the 
case of Professor Gray they accounted in no small way for his 
hold upon American botanists. 

Reference has been made to the fact that Gray's scientific repu- 
tation during his life was perhaps greater in Europe than in 
America, for his real scientific colleagues were chiefly in Europe. 
Now that American botany has developed a larger perspective, 
some unprejudiced estimate of Gray's place in the science may be 
made by an American botanist. During the period of Gray's 
botanical activity, the science of botany in the United States con- 
sisted almost exclusively of the determination of its flora. The 
Atlantic states had been explored in a general way, and enough 
was known to justify the publication of a few manuals. Isolation 
from Europe, however, where the types were stored, had filled 
these manuals with incorrectly determined plants. But the flora 
of the much greater west remained practically unknown. Public 
and private enterprise had organized exploring expeditions that 
touched this flora slightly, and scattered reports contained de- 
scriptions of many plants. In short the flora of North America 
was partly in confusion and more largely unknown when Gray 
began his work. His mission was to organize this chaotic material 
into some orderly form, clearing away confusion, bringing together 
scattered and often ill-considered publications, and establishing 
American systematic botany upon a secure foundation. His was 
the first serious and successful attempt to grasp the flora of the 
whole continent and relate it properly to all previous publications. 
It may be said that American systematic botany as a definite organ- 
ized science, rather than a mass of isolated, sporadic efforts, dated 
from the work of Asa Gray. To appreciate this fact, one has only 
to compare the condition of systematic botany in America before 
and after Gray. In his chosen subject, therefore, Gray stands 
for its permanent transformation in America. 

Work on the Flora of North America was pushed forward 



ASA GRAY 219 

rapidly after Gray's first return from Europe; but at this time 
there began the memorable series of great transcontinental surveys, 
each returning with notable collections of the plants of the regions 
traversed. Naturally most of this material came to Torrey and 
Gray for determination, and these botanists began to get some 
glimpses of the riches of the American flora. Report after report 
was published, and they are now well-known classics in American 
systematic botany. So rapidly did the new material appear and 
so endless did it seem that the Flora of North America was hope- 
lessly out-of-date before half of it had appeared. Any attempt to 
include the whole flora of North America in a single publication 
was clearly out of the question at that time, and so its completion 
was postponed indefinitely. Many years later, after the successive 
waves of new material had subsided a litde. Dr. Gray renewed the 
attempt in what he called the Synoptical Flora of North America. 
It began where the old Flora of Torrey and Gray stopped; then 
it began to traverse again the ground of the older publication ; and 
it is still in process of publication. It was hoped that it could be 
completed by Dr. Gray; for although he could delegate his work, 
he could not delegate his great grasp and vast experience. But 
he did leave a reorganized science, and a better conception of what 
such work demands in the way of research and equipment. 

No one was more competent to estimate Gray's place in syste- 
matic botany than his life-long friend Sir Joseph Hooker, the great 
English botanist, who wrote in Nature, upon the occasion of 
Gray's death : 

"When the history of the progress of botany during the nine- 
teenth century shall be written, two names will hold high posi- 
tions; those of Professor Augustin Pyrame DeCandolle (Geneva) 
and Professor Asa Gray. One sank to his rest in the Old World 
as the other rose to eminence in the New. Both were great 
teachers, prolific writers, and authors of the best elementary works 
on botany of their day." 

The preparation of the large Floras referred to was but the 
bringing together in organized form of the great mass of mono- 
graphs and "contributions" of new species that was constantly is- 



220 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

suing from Cambridge; and the present student of the American 
flora can hardly find a region of his subject that is not underlaid by 
a substratum of Gray's work. The amount of such work, when 
Gray's numerous other publications are considered, is surprising. 
In addition to his tireless industry, he had a remarkable quickness 
for discerning characters, seeing at once what many would have 
to obtain by the drudgery of analysis and patient comparison. 
At one time the writer was preparing a monograph of a small 
family of plants under the direct supervision of Dr. Gray. In 
the course of the work a snarl of confusing forms presented 
themselves, and the most laborious examination brought no 
satisfactory results. The material seemed too abundant to 
classify, for intermediate forms persisted in contradicting every 
suggestion as to grouping. Into the midst of this situation 
Dr. Gray came, and spreading out the troublesome forms upon 
a series of tables so that his eye could run over them all at once, 
with surprising quickness he pointed out characters that proved 
to be exactly the trail that was needed. To see Gray run through 
a bundle of newly arrived plants was a revelation to the cautious 
plodder. Every character he had ever met seemed vivid in 
his memory and ready to be applied instantly; and the bundle 
was "sorted" with a speed that defied imitation. It seemed 
like intuition, but it was vast experience backed by a wonderful 
memory; perhaps it could be called genius. Besides this facility 
for work, Gray's descriptions were marvels of aptness and 
lucidity. As his long-time friend W. M. Canby has written, 
he had "a rare faculty of conveying his own knowledge to others 
by felicitous and accurate description." When one compares 
Gray's brief but complete descriptions, containing no unnecessary 
or inappropriate word or phrase, with the long, labored, repetitious 
and ineffective descriptions of many systematists, this characteri- 
zation will be appreciated. 

Turning from Gray's work as the great organizer of systematic 
botany m North America, to his work as a teacher, his personal 
contact with students, his large correspondence, and his text-books 
are all to be considered. Perhaps no more intimate description 



ASA GRAY :22i 

of Professor Gray in the class-room has been given than that by 
Dr. Farlow, first his pupil and afterwards his colleague at Harvard 
University. His first impressions are recorded as follows: 

"I expected to find an elderly and rather austere man; but I 
found a young-looking man, with strikingly bright and expressive 
eyes, quick in all his motions, and so thoroughly in earnest and 
absorbed in his subject that he assumed that all his hearers must 
be equally interested. There was an air of simplicity and straight- 
forwardness, without a trace of conscious superiority or pedantic 
manner. He was always young in spirit and his enthusiasm was 
contagious." 

He was a great teacher, not in the sense of exacting a rigid 
discipline, but in the far better sense of transforming interest into 
enthusiasm. Nor did he coddle interest, but trained it, often se- 
verely. The writer very distinctly remembers submitting to him a 
piece of work that must have been callow in the extreme, but which 
seemed to its author fairly creditable. Glancing through it with 
characteristic quickness, Gray sat down and took a half hour out 
of an extremely busy day in performing a most searching and re- 
lendess piece of dissection. As the flimsy fabric was torn to tatters, 
the victim felt all the sinking of heart and discouragement that 
must come to a man convinced that he is a complete failure. After- 
wards he discovered that the operation was not to destroy but to 
train, and the lesson was never forgotten. It brought a perspective 
that no amoimt of coddling could have done. Another phase of 
Gray's teaching, and one far too much neglected by scientific men, 
is well brought out by an incident in the experience of Dr. J. T. 
Rothrock, who says: 

"It was not sufficient that the conclusions should be correct, 
but they must be stated in exacdy the right way. An artistic turn 
of a sentence, making it graceful as well as logical, was in his 
eyes of the utmost importance. 'There now, that is neatly stated,' 
is an expression which yet rings in my ears. It was uttered by 
Dr. Gray, when at last I had succeeded in ' putting a point ' as he 
thought it should be. I had written my first scientific paper at 
least six times, and each time thought it was as well done as could 
be; certainly as well done as I was capable of doing it. But my 



222 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

critic was merciless. I mentally resolved each time that I would 
not re-write it; but I did re- write it; and was obliged to continue 
doing so until he thought it might be allowed to pass. It was the 
most helpful lesson I ever received in the art of stating things." 

Gray insisted upon developing initiative in the student. Perhaps 
work in systematic botany lends itself more kindly to a slavish 
following than almost any other. It is so much easier to copy 
descriptions than to make them afresh, especially when they seem 
clear and appropriate. This slavish following Dr. Gray could not 
endure, and when the writer submitted him some pages of a con- 
templated manual, he was informed that he was to act as an inves- 
tigator rather than a recording machine. To see the plant vividly, 
to seize the essential features, and then to describe them aptly 
was to him as much a matter of individual style as the production 
of a literary composition. 

Gray's work as a teacher through his Manual touched his 
greatest audience. The first edition appeared in 1848, and seven 
editions were published. Probably no manual of botany was ever 
so widely used for so long a time, and it well deserved its success. 
It was a model of clear arrangement and masterly description. 
It was simple enough for use by the beginner; its keys were easily 
understood; and its descriptions were marvels of brevity and com- 
pleteness. Long drawn out descriptions are confusing and to the 
beginner they are baffling and often misleading; but the Manual 
selects the essential features of each species and makes it stand out 
sharply. It easily supplanted all preceding manuals, and for half 
a century it has been the constant companion of every botanist 
within its range. This made Gray's name a household word 
wherever botany was either studied or only cultivated as a pas- 
time, and helped in no small way to establish his singularly preemi- 
nent reputation in this country. 

Not only through his more technical scientific work, but more 
largely through his Manual, he developed an enormous corre- 
spondence. Collectors everywhere sent him plants for determina- 
tion or confirmation, and he never turned them aside. It was 
always a mystery how he found time to write so fully to so many 



ASA GRAY 223 

botanists of all grades, from the beginner to the intimate associate. 
With considerable trepidation the writer, then a very amateurish 
collector, sent some plants to Dr. Gray, which he thought might 
be of interest. It seemed presumptuous to intrude upon the time 
of one so occupied with larger matters, and with plants which were 
probably common enough to him. The surprise came in the form 
of a letter so full of kindly suggestion and encouragement that it 
stimulated the ambition and aroused the affection of the recipient 
so effectively that it determined his career and secured his unbroken 
devotion. This case was far from being a solitary one, for just such 
letters went daily from the study at Cambridge, prompted by the 
kind heart of the great botanist; and it is little wonder that he held 
all the younger botanists of the country in the hollow of his hand, 
and became to them the court of final appeal. It was the combina- 
tion of his opportunities and his genial helpfulness that secured for 
him so unique a position. In fact, so complete was his domination 
that to those outside it might seem to have the appearance of 
autocratic control; but those inside knew that it was only the 
natural control that belongs to a strong and helpful man in a 
peculiarly favorable position to be of service. 

Systematic botany lends itself peculiarly to this kind of friendly 
contact, for it involves much correspondence and exchange of 
material; so that its devotees cannot work isolated from their 
fellows, but must form a great fraternity. This accounts for the 
strong personal hold Gray had upon many whom he never met. 
Such a hold is not possible now, aside from any peculiar power 
that may have belonged to Gray; because several important 
centers of systematic work have been established, botanists have 
become more independent, and botany has become a many-sided 
science. 

Associated with the Manual were the various text-books of all 
grades, from How Plants Grow to the Structural Botany. To say 
that they are marvels of clear, flowing style is only to repeat the 
common opinion concerning them. They are models of style for 
elementary texts in general, as well as masterly presentations of the 
subject as it was understood at that time. The first of the series 



224 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

was the Elements of Botany, which appeared in 1836; and the last 
and most important one, written from the university standpoint, 
was the Structural Botany, published in 1879. Very few great 
and hence much-occupied investigators are willing to take the 
trouble to prepare text-books of their subject, much less elementary 
text-books. But Gray was also a great educator, and his ambition 
was to develop the science of botany by training the greatest 
possible number, from the elementary schools to the university. 
Never did he lose interest in this part of his work, and for nearly 
half a century he taught not only the teachers but also the children. 
From the text-books, often said to be "the finest set of text-books 
ever issued in the English language," Gray's greatest popular 
reputation came; for the great majority of Americans knew of 
him as the author of their text-book in botany rather than as a 
great investigator. 

Gray's work did not end with the organization of systematic 
botany in America and with teaching his science to Americans, 
but he was also conspicuous as a great critic. His reviews of 
current work were continuous through his long life, and it seemed 
impossible that he could read so much. These reviews included 
not only American work, but also all European work that was im- 
portant. In fact for years he was the principal channel through 
which foreign publications reached the majority of American 
botanists, publications dealing not only with systematic botany, 
but with all phases of the science. Apparently he wrote with no 
effort; and his graceful, flowing style, with now and then some 
fine humor, was very characteristic. He recognized the responsi- 
bility of his position as critic, feeling that the science and those 
who depended upon his opinion must be served. Hence his 
reviews were not of the kind that either speak well of everything 
or speak well of nothing; but they were sharply discriminating. 
He was often severe, but never ill-natured or personal ; and always 
contrived to find something for commendation. A chronological 
collection of this great series of reviews would form a most instruc- 
tive commentary on the history of botany for half a century. An 
incident related by Mr. Thomas Meehan illustrates Gray's feeling 



ASA GRAY 225 

in reference to his duty as a critic, and explains how a man with 
such evident kindly feeling and consideration for all could some- 
times seem so harsh in criticism. 

"Once a very zealous collector, to whom science was under 
many obligations, described and published a large number of 
plants from imperfect material, with undue haste, and without 
competent knowledge. Dr. Gray had to show that really there 
were very few new species among them, and in so doing his criti- 
cism was unusually severe. In writing to Dr. Gray I ventured to 
remonstrate with him upon the severity he had used. The reply 
was, 'In my heart I would have been more tender than you, but 
I cannot afford to be. I am, from my present position before the 
world, a critic, and I cannot shrink from the duty which such a 
position imposes upon me. If you were in the position that I am, 
with a short life and a long task before you, and just as you 
thought the way was clear for progress some one should dump 
cart-loads of rubbish in your path, and you had to take off your 
coat, roll up your sleeves, and spend weeks in digging that rubbish' 
away before you could proceed, I should not suppose you would 
be a model of amiability.' " 

This critical care of his science appeared not only in his pub- 
lished reviews, but also in the more numerous private letters to 
authors. After any publication, it was the common thing for the 
author to receive from Dr. Gray some characteristic comment, 
very friendly but faithfully keen; and it always helped the next 
performance. When the Botanical Gazette was established in 
1875, ^^^ enterprise was encouraged and the name suggested by 
Dr. Gray. But he followed up this responsibility faithfully, and 
for some time after each issue the editor would receive a letter full 
of commendations or caustic comments. It was quite charac- 
teristic of the man that when the criticism had been unusually 
savage and the editor was feeling that perhaps the Journal had 
better be abandoned. Dr. Gray would send a paper of his own 
for publication. 

Gray's interest extended beyond the somewhat narrow limits of 
his special work in systematic botany, and included the general 
philosophical aspects of biology. One of his most brilliant papers 
was a discussion of the Relation of the Japanese Flora to That of 



226 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

North America. The conclusions as to a former arctic connection 
were all the more remarkable since at that time the testimony 
from the boreal fossil flora was not in. 

It was this larger biological interest that compelled Gray to be- 
come the foremost expounder in this country of Darwin's theory 
of natural selection. It was at the opening of the Civil War that 
the notable discussion began, and perhaps it would have attracted 
even larger public attention than it did if men's thoughts had not 
been so engrossed by the terrible experiences through which the 
country was passing. Gray was almost alone at first in meeting 
the skepticism and opposition aroused by what was soon called 
Darwinism ; and his task was all the more difficult because of the 
opposition of his very influential colleague Agassiz. What he 
contended for was not so much belief in the theory of natural selec- 
tion, for he himself did not accept it in all its fulness, as for an 
attitude of mind that could recognize its bearings without preju- 
dice and could see that it was consistent with theistic belief. Hence 
he was its expounder rather than its defender. He debated with 
skeptical scientists and unbelieving theologians; and especially 
with the latter antagonists were his breadth and keenness shown. 
All of his scattered writings upon this subject were later brought 
together in a volume bearing the appropriate title Darwiniana. 
It is an admirable commentary on the theory of natural selection, 
in which the author now explains it with wonderful lucidity, as a 
great teacher; now defends it against unjust attack, as a great 
champion; now pierces the statements of theologians with most 
brilliant logic, as a great debater; by one means and another 
routing enemies and winning friends. In the midst of the general 
storm aroused by the Origin of Species, Darwin himself learned 
to rely upon the judgment and support of Gray, as shown by their 
correspondence. In Darwin's letters to Gray will be found the 
following statements: 

"You never touch the subject without making it clearer;" "I 
look at it as even more extraordinary that you never say a word 
or use an epithet which does not fully express my meaning;" 
"Others who perfectly understand my bpok, sometimes use ex- 



ASA GRAY 227 

pressions to which I demur;" "I hope and almost believe that the 
time will come when you will go further in believing a much larger 
amount of modification of species than you did at first or do now." 

The contest involved a great principle, and Asa Gray should be 
regarded as the great and successful champion in this country of 
the freedom of scientific investigation from theological domination. 

In 1873, Gray retired from instruction, to give his undivided 
attention to the preparation of the Synoptical Flora and the 
monographic studies connected with it. His priceless herbarium 
and library had been given to Harvard University on condition 
that they be housed in a fire-proof building. This building, in the 
Botanic Garden at Cambridge, connected with Dr. Gray's house, 
his own study being the connecting link between the two, is full 
of associations for American botanists. Those who consulted the 
herbarium, and all who published were compelled to do this sooner 
or later, will never forget the rapid steps that now and then issued 
from the study and hastened into the adjoining library; the oc- 
casional words of friendly greeting; the still more prized invitation 
to the study; and the genial hospitality of the home that was open 
to all who loved plants. 

After Cambridge became a receiving center for nearly all im- 
portant collections of North American plants, it might be supposed 
that Gray would be compelled to become exclusively a herbarium 
botanist. The pressure of important work thrust upon him would 
certainly seem to have justified it. But he began botany in the 
"open," and he always returned to it at every opportunity. His 
visits to the most interesting regions of the North American flora, 
from the "pine barrens" of New Jersey and the mountains of 
the South Atlantic states to the Rocky Mountains, were not only 
the greatest delight to him, but memorable occasions to those 
who were fortunate enough to accompany him. Like a boy at 
home during a short vacation, he bubbled over with enthusiasm 
and activity. The interesting plants were hailed with as keen a 
pleasure as though they were new; perhaps with even greater 
pleasure because they were old and prized friends. His light and 
wiry body kept pace with his enthusiasm, and to be with him for 



228 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

a day's tramp tried the endurance of the most experienced walkers. 
One could not be with him long in the field without catching the 
contagion and finding himself running about as eagerly as a boy 
after butterflies. 

He was preeminently a companionable man, delighting in his 
friends, very vivacious, and always looking at his experiences 
with the eyes of fresh youthfulness, as though his whole business 
was to have a good time. From the hard strain of work he always 
rebounded joyfully, never retaining the air of abstraction or weari- 
ness. This secured for him the warm friendship of Cambridge 
associates and of those whom he met in his travels; and his presence 
always brought good cheer. 

In 1848 Dr. Gray was married to Jane L. Loring, the daughter 
of Charles Greely Loring, a lawyer in Boston. In all of his travels 
Mrs. Gray was his constant companion, and established that fa- 
miliarity with his work and his associates that made her a constant 
help and delight. Their home life was charming, and although 
childless. Dr. Gray was passionately fond of children, always greet- 
ing them cordially, stopping to talk with them, and at times romp- 
ing with them in boyish abandon. 

Gray's reading was always omnivorous, and this, after all, he 
says, was the larger part of his education. In his early boyhood 
there was no great choice, and so everything was read that could 
be obtained. He says, "History I rather took to, but especially 
voyages and travels were my delight." At first very few novels 
were available, but an introduction to the Waverley novels made 
Scott his life-long favorite. Mrs. Gray, in her Letters of Asa 
Gray, writes: 

"In later life the novels were always saved for long journeys. 
The novel of the day was picked out, and one pleasure of a long 
day's ride in the train was to sit by his side and enjoy his pleasure 
at the good things. The glee and delight with which he read 
Hawthorne, especially the Wonder-Book and Tanglewood Tales, 
make days to remember. So he read George Eliot, and Adam 
Bede carried^ him happily through a fit of the toothache. Scott 
always remained the prime favorite, and his last day of reading, 
when the final illness was stealing so unexpectedly and insidiously 



ASA GRAY 229 

on, was spent over The Monastery, which he had been planning 
to read on his homeward voyage in 1887." 

Gray was of Irish ancestry, his great-great-grandfather having 
emigrated from Ireland to Massachusetts as a member of a Scotch- 
Irish colony composed of rigid Presbyterians, who desired to 
leave Ireland to escape various persecutions. This religious inheri- 
tance had not faded out when it reached Gray, and although to 
some at the time he seemed far from orthodox in his champion- 
ship of Darwin, he was always a theistic evolutionist. In the 
preface to Darwiniana he makes the following distinct statement 
of his religious views: 

"As to the natural theological questions which are here through- 
out brought into what most naturalists, and some other readers, 
may deem undue prominence, there are many who may be in- 
terested to know how these increasingly prevalent views and their 
tendencies are regarded by one who is scientifically, and in his 
own fashion, a Darwinian, philosophically a convinced theist, and 
religiously an acceptor of the ' creed commonly called the Nicene,' 
as the exponent of the Christian faith." 

A glimpse of the man and the estimate of him by his colleagues 
may be obtained from an extract taken from a letter written by 
his friend Dean Church to Mrs. Gray. 

"There is a special cachet in all Dr. Gray's papers, great and 
small, which is his own, and which seems to me to distinguish 
him from even his more famous contemporaries. There is the 
scientific spirit in it, but firm, imaginative, fearless, cautious, with 
large horizons, and very attentive and careful to objections and 
qualifications; and there is besides, what is so often wanting in 
scientific writing, the human spirit, always remembering that, 
besides facts and laws, there are souls and characters over against 
them, of as great account as they, in whose mirrors they are re- 
flected, whom they excite and delight, and without whose interest 
they would be blanks. The combination comes out in his great 
generalizations, in the bold and yet considerate way in which he 
deals with Darwin's ideas, and in the notices of so many of his 
scientific friends, whom we feel that he was interested in as men, 
and not only as scientific inquirers. The sweetness and charity, 
which we remember so well in living converse, is always on the 



230 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

lookout for some pleasant feature in the people of whom he writes, 
and to give kindliness and equity to his judgment. 

"And what a life of labors it was! I am perfectly aghast at the 
amount of grinding work of which these papers are the indirect 
evidence. . . . 

"For they [his religious views] were a most characteristic part 
of the man, and the seriousness and earnest conviction with which 
he let them be known had, I am convinced, a most wholesome 
effect on the development of the great scientific theory in which 
he was so much interested. It took off a great deal of the theo- 
logical edge, which was its danger, both to those who upheld and 
those who opposed it. I am sure things would have gone more 
crossly and unreasonably, if his combination of fearless religion 
and clearness of mind, and wise love of truth, had not told on the 
controversy." 

On November 18, 1885, Professor Gray's seventy-fifth birthday, 
there was an outpouring of expressions of admiration and affec- 
tion from American botanists that was remarkable. At the sugges- 
tion of the editors of the Botanical Gazette, the expression took the 
form of a silver memorial vase and personal letters of congratula- 
tion. The responses were so prompt and generous that the whole 
movement was really spontaneous, waiting only for the opportu- 
nity. The legend upon the vase read 

" 1810 November eighteenth 1885 

Asa Gray 

in token of the universal esteem of American botanists" 

Beautifully wrought upon the vase were appropriate representa- 
tives of the North American flora; and it was a keen pleasure to 
see with what almost boyish delight the venerable but ever youth- 
ful botanist recognized and named them. There were also greet- 
ings from 180 American botanists; in fact from all who could be 
notified of the anniversary; and James Russell Lowell contributed 
the following sentiment: 

"Just Fate, prolong his life well-spent 
Whose indefatigable hours 
Have been as gaily innocent 
And fragrant as his flowers." 



ASA GRAY 231 

Professor Gray's published reply to this overwhelming tribute 
was so characteristic in sentiment and in style that it must be 
repeated. Addressing the American botanists he said: 

"As I am quite unable to convey to you in words any adequate 
idea of the gratification I received, on the morning of the i8th. 
inst., from the wealth of congratulations and expressions of es- 
teem and affection which welcomed my 75th birthday, I can do 
no more than to render to each and all my heartiest thanks. 
Among fellow-botanists, more pleasantly connected than in any 
other pursuit by mutual giving and receiving, some recognition 
of a rather uncommon anniversary might naturally be expected. 
But this full flood of benediction, from the whole length and 
breadth of the land, whose flora is a common study and a com- 
mon delight, was as unexpected as it is touching and memorable. 
Equally so is the exquisite vase which accompanied the messages 
of congratulation and is to commemorate them, and upon which 
not a few of the flowers associated with my name or with my 
special studies are so deftly wrought by art that one may almost 
say 'the art itself is nature.' . . ." 

A little more than two years after this notable anniversary, on 
January 30, 1888, Asa Gray died, stricken with paralysis; and it 
was the common voice of American botanists that they had lost 
their leader and friend. 



^t 




Qcaa^u^ \o . io-e\^o2v^ 



JAMES DWIGHT DANA 

GEOLOGIST 

1813-1895 

By William North Rice 

• James Dwight Dana ' was born in Utica, New York, Feb- 
ruary 12, 1813. He was a descendant of Richard Dana, who is be- 
lieved to have emigrated from England to Massachusetts about 
1640. Among the numerous posterity of Richard Dana are in- 
cluded a remarkably large number of men of eminent achievement 
in science, literature, and politics, in the ministry and the law.^ 
The history of the family prior to the emigration of Richard Dana 
is uncertain. It appears probable that the family name is of Italian 
origin, and that some ancestor of Richard emigrated from Italy 

1 In the preparation of this sketch, the principal sources (aside from per- 
sonal memories of a revered teacher and friend, and from Professor Dana's 

wn works) have been the biography by President Oilman {The Life of 
James Dwight Dana, Scientific Explorer, Mineralogist, Geologist, Zoologist. 
New York and London, 1899), and the appreciative articles by Professors E. 
S. Dana {American Journal of Science, series 3, vol. 49, pp. 329-356), Le- 
Conte {Bulletin of the Geological Society of America, vol. 7, pp. 461-479), 
Williams {Journal of Geology, vol. 3, pp. 601-621), Farrington {Journal of 
Geology, vol. 3, pp. 335-340), and Beecher {American Geologist, vol. 17, 
pp. 1-16). 

2 Among the most eminent descendants of Richard Dana may be men- 
tioned Francis Dana, member of the Continental Congress, Chief Justice of 
Massachusetts; Richard Henry Dana, poet; Richard Henry Dana, Jr., jurist; 
Samuel Whittlesey Dana, United States Senator from Connecticut; John 
Winchester Dana, Governor of Maine; James Freeman Dana, chemist and 
minere'ogist; Samuel Luther Dana, chemist; Charies Anderson Dana, ed- 
itor, Assistant Secretary of War. 

333 



J 



234 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

to England. A number of Italians bearing the name of D^^ 
have had honorable careers in various intellectual professiij.. 
The intense vivacity of mind and body which always character? 
Professor Dana may have been due in some degree to his inhei,^ 
ance from the sunny land of Italy. 

The parents of James Dwight Dana were intelligent, energetic, 
and earnestly religious people, and the atmosphere of the home 
was thoroughly wholesome. "Honesty, virtue and industry seem 
almost to be our natural inheritance," said Professor Dana in 
after years, in grateful memory of the influences under which he 
and his nine brothers and sisters had been reared. There is, 
however, no evidence that the associations of his childhood home 
tended to inspire or cultivate an interest in scientific investiga- 
tion. One of his aunts, who was a member of the household in 
which his boyhood was passed, describes him as "a merry boy, 
always ready for a game of romps." She informs us that he 
began collecting specimens at an early age, and that "he had quite 
a cabinet before he was ten years old." How much significance 
belongs to these early efforts, it is impossible to estimate. 

The earliest influence tending to awaken into activity his scien- 
tific taste and talent was found in an academy which had been 
established in Utica by Charles Bartlett. The science teacher in 
that school, Fay Edgerton, was a graduate of Rensselaer Pol 
technic Institute, and was far in advance of his time in his meth' 
of scientific instruction. His students were taught in large deg 
by laboratory methods. Especially instructive and inspir 
were his short field excursions in term time, and his longer toi 
with his students in the summer vacations, in which they collected 
minerals, fossils, plants, etc., and acquired the mental habitudes 
which come from first-hand contact with nature. Mr. Edgerton 
was succeeded in his position by Asa Gray, the illustrious botanist. 
It does not appear, however, that Dana was ever a pupil of Gray,* 

1 According to M. M. Bagg (quoted by Gilman, p. i6), Gray commenced 
teaching in Utica in 1829; but a letter of Gray to Torrey {Letters of Asa 
Cray, p. 37) shows that Gray's work in Utica did not begin till 1832. This 
was after Dana had entered college. 



JAMES D WIGHT DANA 235 

iough their friendship and helpful mutual influence certainly 
jmmenced early in life. 

In 1830, Dana entered the Sophomore Class of Yale College, 
j.nd he was duly graduated from that institution in 1833. ^i^ 
standing in general scholarship was creditable though not brilliant. 
Those were the days of the fixed curriculum in which the staples 
were classics and mathematics. Dana's preparation in the classics 
had been defective, and in college he did not distinguish him- 
self in that department. He attained, however, a high grade in 
mathematics; and it is needless to say that he made the most of 
the rather scanty opportunities which an American college then 
afforded for the study of the sciences of nature. Undoubtedly the 
strongest influence in his college life towards the shaping of his 
future career was that of the elder Benjamin Silliman, whose 
pioneer work in chemistry and geology was already giving renown 
to Yale College. 

In the spring of 1833, Dana received an appointment as school- 
master in the navy. He was ordered to report June 15, at Nor- 
folk, Virginia, for service on the U. S. ship Delaware, in a cruise 
in the Mediterranean. The school for the instruction of midship- 
men on the ship was presided over by the chaplain. Dana's 
■ work was that of instructor in mathematics. The routine duties 
"'? his position left him much leisure, and he devoted a large por- 
jj '^ of his time to the study of crystallography. He had oppor- 
'' 'duties for observation of the geology of various localities on the 

fediterranean shores. The earliest of his long series of scientific 
^ydblications was a letter to Professor Silliman, describing Vesuvius 
as it appeared in July, 1834, which was published in the American 
Journal of Science in the following year. He returned to this 
country near the end of the year 1834, and retired from the naval 

service. 

The return from the Mediterranean cruise was the beginning 

of a period of perplexity. Already young Dana clearly heard the 

inward call to a distinctively scientific career, but in those days 

the opportunities to secure a livelihood in such a career were far 

' less abundant than at present. A great encouragement to the 



236 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

aspirations of the young scientist was his appointment as assist- 
ant to Professor Silliman in 1836. The routine duties of the posi- 
tion occupied but little time. He had the benefit of stimulating 
association with other scientific men, and the use of the library and 
the already respectable mineralogical collection of the college. 

His studies at this period were chiefly in mineralogy; and in 
1837 appeared the first of his great scientific works, the System 
of Mineralogy. It is certainly remarkable that a book represent- 
ing so large an amount of research should have been produced by 
a man only twenty-four years old, and only four years out of 
college. Successive editions of the work were published in 1844, 
1850, 1854, and 1868. In the fifth edition Professor Dana had 
the assistance of Professor George J. Brush. That edition in- 
cluded only descriptive mineralogy, but was more voluminous 
than the previous editions which had included crystallography 
also. A sixth edition, completely rewritten by Professor Edward 
S. Dana, the son of James D. Dana, was published in 1892. 

The four years from the summer of 1838 to that of 1842 stand 
strongly in contrast with the remainder of Professor Dana's career. 
In those years he had an experience of the adventures, the hard- 
ships, and perils, and no less of the joys, of the explorer of unknown 
lands and seas. The remainder of his life was in the main the 
quiet and uneventful life of the student. To him, as to his great 
contemporary, Charles Darwin, a period of world-wide travel, 
coming early in his career, with its opportunities of seeing most 
varied aspects of nature and life, was doubtless of immense value 
in storing his memory with material for scientific thought, and in 
leading him to broad views of cosmic processes. Most of all to a 
geologist is wide and varied travel an experience of inestimable 
importance. 

The United States Exploring Expedition, under th*? command 
of Lieutenant (afterwards Admiral) Charles Wilkes, sailed from 
Norfolk, Virginia, August 18, 1838. The expedition consisted of 
six vessels — the Vincennes, the Peacock, the Porpoise, the Relief, 
the Sea-gull, and the Flying-fish. Of these, the first two were 
sloops-of-war, and were the principal vessels of the little squadron. 



.i^iiti^it 



JAMES D WIGHT DANA 237 

The last two were pilot boats. Asa Gray had been appointed Bot- 
anist of the expedition, and it was largely through his influence that 
Dana was induced to join the scientific staff as Mineralogist and 
Geologist. The lifelong friendship of these two great men, which 
was so full of inspiration to both in their long scientific careers, 
had already begun. Various causes, however, led Gray to resign 
his position before the departure of the expedition. The limits of 
this article will not allow any consideration of Wilkes' memorable 
voyage along the coast of the Antarctic continent, of the important 
work done by the naval officers of the expedition in charting seas 
and islands previously unknown, or even of the work of the other 
naturalists. Only an oudine can be given of the journeys, explo- 
rations, and experiences in which Dana himself had a share. At 
the start, Dana was assigned to the Peacock, and he shared the 
fortunes of that vessel most of the time untO the shipwreck which 
ended her career. 

The expedition crossed the Atlantic to Madeira, where Dana 
had an opportunity for some study of the geology of the island. 
Then a short visit was paid to the Cape Verde Islands, after 
which the squadron sailed to Rio Janeiro, where it remained about 
six weeks. The long stay at Rio was for the purpose of making 
repairs and taking additional supplies. After leaving Rio, the 
voyagers doubled Cape Horn, and the ships assembled in Orange 
Harbor on the west side of Nassau Bay. From this point some 
of the ships sailed southward for exploration in the Antarctic 
regions, while the Relief, to which Dana had been transferred, 
was ordered to a cruise in the Strait of Magellan. Unfavorable 
and violent winds baffled for many days the attempt to enter the 
strait. The troubles of this part of the expedition culminated in 
a terrific storm of three days' duration, in which the ship lost all 
but one of her anchors and very narrowly escaped shipwreck. The 
RelieJ then sailed to Valparaiso, and in the course of a few weeks 
the Vincennes and the Peacock arrived at the same port. Dana 
and the other naturalists improved the opportunity to make some 
excursions into the Chilian Andes. From Valparaiso the squadron 
proceeded northward to Callao, and then sailed westward across 



238 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

the Pacific in the summer of 1839. The main work of the expedi- 
tion — the exploration and charting of the Polynesian archipela- 
goes — was now to begin. They reached first the Paumotu or Low 
Archipelago, where Dana had his first introduction to the problems 
of the coral islands. Next, Tahiti was visited, where Dana and 
others ascended Mount Aorai, and made important geological 
observations. After a visit to the Samoan Islands, the expedition 
proceeded to Sydney, Australia, where they arrived about the 
first of December. From this point Wilkes sailed southward with 
the Vincennes, the Peacock, and the Porpoise, and on January 16, 
1840, discovered the Antarctic Continent — the most important 
geographical result achieved by the expedition. When the navi- 
gators started on the Antarctic cruise, the naturalists were left at 
Sydney. After some weeks spent in the study of the geology and 
natural history of Australia, they proceeded to New Zealand, where 
the expedition reassembled in the spring of 1840. The Tonga 
and Fiji groups of islands were then explored. The murder of two 
of the officers of the expedition by the then savage Fijians was one 
of the tragedies of the voyage. In the early autumn of that year the 
explorers reached the Hawaiian Islands, where already the labors 
of American missionaries had been crowned by the development 
of a Christian civilization. The magnificent volcanoes of these 
islands afforded Dana the material for most important and fruitful 
study. In December, the Peacock, to which Dana was again 
attached, left Oahu on a long cruise in the Pacific, in which nu- 
merous groups of islands were visited. The ship narrowly escaped 
wreck by grounding on a reef among the Kingsmill Islands, whose 
cannibal inhabitants would have been far from hospitable to 
shipwrecked mariners. The cruise actually ended in the wreck 
and total destruction of the ship on the bar of the Columbia 
River, July 18, 1841. The lives of all on board were saved, but 
an important part of the scientific collections of the expedition 
was lost. A party of which Dana was a member then proceeded 
up the Willamette River and down the Sacramento to San Fran- 
cisco, then a village of a few shanties. In October of that year the 
surviving vessels of the expedition assembled at San Francisco* 



JAMES DWIGHT DANA 239 

and a brig, the Oregon, was purchased to take the place of the 
Peacock. The squadron returned to the Hawaiian Islands for 
supplies. After some study of the Kuroshiwo, or Japanese 
Current, the expedition made a short visit to the Philippine 
Islands, then proceeded to Singapore, and returned home by way 
of the Cape of Good Hope, visiting on the way Cape Town and 
Saint Helena. The arrival at New York was in June, 1842. 

In the next few years Dana's task was the preparation of reports 
of the scientific work of the expedition. He had undertaken, in 
the first organization of the scientific staff, the mineralogy and 
geology; but, in consequence of the retirement of one of the party 
at the beginning, and of another during the course of the expedi- 
tion, he was led to undertake also two parts of the zoology, viz., 
the study of the Crustacea and that of the corals. The report on 
Zoophytes appeared in 1846, that on Geology in 1849, the first 
part of the report on Crustacea in 1852, and the remainder in 
1854. The reports were issued in magnificent style, that on 
Crustacea forming two great quarto volumes, the others each one 
volume, and each report being accompanied by a folio atlas. It 
is, however, only in a very accommodated sense of the word that 
the scientific reports of the expedition can be said to have been 
published. The number of copies authorized by Congress to be 
printed was so small that they have been from the beginning 
inaccessible to most of the students who would have profited by 
their use, only a very few of the largest libraries possessing com- 
plete or nearly complete sets. This absurd policy contrasts 
strongly with the enlightened liberality with which the more recent 
scientific publications of the United States government have been 
distributed. For about two years after the return of the expedi- 
tion, Dana worked in Washington, but in 1844 he returned to 
New Haven, where he resided until his death. 

He married, June 5, 1844, Henrietta Silliman, a daughter of his 
teacher and friend, Benjamin Silliman. The home life of more 
than half a century which thus began was most happy. Mrs. 
Dana and four children survived him. The oldest son, Professor 
Edward Salisbury Dana, of Yale University, is a distinguished 



240 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

mineralogist, and was the editor— perhaps it should rather be said, 
the author— of the last edition of the System of Mineralogy. 

In 1846, Professor Dana became associated with his former 
teacher, Professor Silliman, as one of the editors of the American 
Journal of Science. The history of that periodical is indeed a 
remarkable one. Founded by the elder Silliman in 1818, it has 
continued ever since under the editorial charge of a single family, 
though a considerable number of the most eminent scientific men 
of the country have been for longer or shorter periods associate 
editors. Professor J. D. Dana was the chief editor from 1871 
until his death. His son, Professor E. S. Dana, succeeded him. 
In the earlier years the journal was entitled American Journal of 
Science and Arts. Gradually its scope came to be restricted to 
pure science, and in 1880 the words, "and arts," were dropped 
from the title. The successive volumes of the Journal form a his- 
tory of American scientific work for more than three-quarters of 
a century. The intelligence and liberality and the thoroughly non- 
partisan spirit with which it has been conducted, have made it a 
most potent and a most salutary influence in American science. 

In 1850 Dana was elected Silliman Professor of Natural His- 
tory in Yale College, and he remained a member of the faculty 
of that institution until his death. He did not, however, enter 
upon the work of teaching until the college year 1855-56, being 
occupied in the meantime in the preparation of the reports of the 
Exploring Expedition. In 1864, his title was changed from Pro- 
fessor of Natural History to Professor of Geology and Mineralogy. 
He was actively engaged in the work of teaching (with short 
interruptions due to ill health) until 1890. In 1894 he was form- 
ally recognized as Professor emeritus. During his term of service 
the litde college of the middle of the century grew into the great 
university of the close of the century. He was influential in the or- 
ganization of the Shefiield Scientific School, though his own teach- 
ing was always chiefly, and most of the time exclusively, in the 
college proper. 

Professor Dana's clearness of exposition, his enthusiasm for 
his subject, and his genial spirit made him an inspiring teacher. 



JAMES DWIGHT DANA 241 

His field excursions with his classes are gratefully remembered 
by multitudes of students whose interest in geology was merely 
incidental. The small number of advanced students who were 
destined to be themselves geologists, came to know more intimately 
the mind and heart of their master, and cherish his memory with 
reverent love. 

A certain amount of teaching is undoubtedly a help to the inves- 
tigator. The work of exposition is an aid to clear thinking. The 
human interest of imparting knowledge and awakening the intel- 
lectual life of others gives a new fervor to one's own intellectual 
life and a new zest to the work of acquiring knowledge. It is, 
however, the misfortune of many teachers to be so overloaded 
with routine duties as to have no time for the work of investiga- 
tion, of which they might otherwise be capable. It was the good 
fortune of Professor Dana to have enough of teaching and not 
too much. His teaching made him greater as an investigator, 
and left him time for investigation. 

The career of Professor Dana reminds us in various ways of 
that of Darwin. In the great duration of productive activity, in 
the number and variety of the subjects which engaged their atten- 
tion, in the adventurous world-wide exploration at the beginning of 
the career of each, and the half-century of peaceful home life that 
followed, the two careers were much alike. The experience of 
the two great scientists was alike also in the fact of impaired 
health, and of pathetic struggle to husband a scanty capital of 
physical vigor and endurance so as to make it yield the largest 
possible income of intellectual achievement. When about forty- 
five years of age, Dana found his health showing signs of break- 
down from the effects of overwork. In 1859-60 he was compelled 
to take a year of rest, which was spent in travel in Europe. The 
months of travel brought only partial restoration of health, and 
he was not able to resume his college duties till 1862. In Decem- 
ber of that year he wrote to Darwin: "I have worked to great 
disadvantage, from one to three hours a day, and often not at all. 
An hour's intercourse with the students in the lecture-room is a 
day's work for me." The two illustrious sufferers could well 



242 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

sympathize with each other. Professor Dana was compelled to 
drop his college work, for longer or shorter periods, in 1869, 
1874, and 1880, and in 1890 he finally relinquished the work of 
teaching. AU through the last four decades of his life he worked 
under the oppressive limitations of nervous exhaustion. He con- 
scientiously avoided all social excitements, very rarely attending 
even the meetings of scientific associations. By thorough self- 
control, by careful regimen as regards sleep and exercise, by the 
conscientious economizing of the short working periods which his 
weary head could bear, and by the watchful care of his wife, he 
was enabled to keep up his intellectual activity and productiveness 
beyond the age of four-score. 

In 1862 was published the book which has probably had, on the 
whole, a larger influence on the general intellectual life of the 
world than any other of Dana's writings — the Manual of Geol- 
ogy. Later editions of this work were published in 1871, 1880, 
and 1895. The fourth edition was the last important labor of his 
life, appearing only a few weeks before his death. In 1864, Dana 
pubhshed a smaller book entitled, Text-hook of Geology, of which 
several later editions have been published, and which has been 
very widely used in the colleges and high schools of this country. 

In 1872 was published Corals and Coral Islands— an elegantly 
illustrated book, in which were presented in semi-popular form 
some of the results of Dana's work in the Exploring Expedition. 
A second edition of this work was published in 1890. 

In the summer of 1887, Dana visited again the Hawaiian vol- 
canoes, which he had first studied almost a half-century before. 
Great changes in means of communication and in the condition of 
the Hawaiian Islands had taken place since 1840, and the journey 
was a far easier one than at the earlier date. It was nevertheless 
somewhat of an adventure for a man seventy-four years of age. 

In 1890 was published CJiaracleristks of Volcanoes. In this 
work the Hawaiian volcanoes are very fully described, and the 
general theory of vulcanism is discussed. In addition to the studies 
of the Hawaiian Islands in 1840 and in 1887, Dana had seen in 
his circumnavigation of the globe and in his European tours a 



JAMES DWIGHT DANA 243 

great variety of volcanic phenomena. The book was the fruit of 
manifold observation and mature thought. 

His intellectual activity and clearness of thought continued to 
the very end of his life. In the last months he corrected the proofs 
of the fourth edition of the Manual of Geology — the noblest of 
all his works. He had commenced a revision of the Text-hook 
of Geology, but the completion of that work was reserved for the 
hand of a friend and pupil. The Journal of Science for March, 
1895, contained a brief article on Daimonelix signed with the 
initials, J. D. D. On Friday, April 12, he wrote a letter to Mr. 
Frank Leverett, containing a clear discussion of the conditions of 
eolian work and the limits of its effects. Two days later, on the 
evening of Easter Sunday, he passed into the eternal rest. 

The appreciation of the work of Dana by other scientific men 
was testified by the honors which came to him in abundance. 
Amherst, Harvard, and Edinburgh gave him the degree of Doctor 
of Laws, Munich that of Doctor of Philosophy. He was Presi- 
dent of the American Association for the Advancement of Science 
and of the Geological Society of /tmerica, and Vice-President of 
the National Academy of Sciences. He was elected to membership 
in the Royal Societies of London, Edinburgh, and Dublin, and 
the Academies of Paris, Saint Petersburg, Vienna, Berlin, Giittin- 
gen, Mimich, Stockholm, and Buda-Pesth. He received the 
Copley Medal of the Royal Society of London, the Wollaston 
Medal of the Royal Geological Society of London, the Clarke 
Memorial Medal of the Royal Society of New South Wales, and 
the Walker Prize of the Boston Society of Natural History. 

The science to which the early years of Professor Dana's pro- 
ductive activity were chiefly devoted was mineralogy. The System 
of Mineralogy, published in 18^7, took rank at once as a standard 
treatise— rather, one might be justified in saying, the standard 
treatise of the science. 

In the first two editions, Dana followed the so-called " natural 
classification " of Mohs, in which the groups depended chiefly on 
conspicuous physical characters, such as hardness, luster, and 



244 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

specific gravity; and he proposed an original Latin nomenclature 
similar to that used in botany and zoology. In the third edition 
(1850), the " natural classification " was abandoned, with the frank 
statement that it was "false to nature in its most essential points;" 
and Dana's own Latin nomenclature was not even mentioned in 
the synonymy. It had become obvious that the primary basis of 
mineralogical classification must be found in chemistry, while, 
within the groups established on chemical grounds, subdivisions 
must be based largely on crystalline form. It was further recog- 
nized that the more comprehensive groups must be founded not 
on the metallic, or electropositive, constituents, but rather on the 
non-metallic, or electronegative, constituents, and very largely 
on the type of the chemical formula. For instance, the iron- 
holding minerals, or the copper-holding minerals, would form an 
utterly heterogeneous group ; but the sulphides, or the carbonates, 
or the silicates, would form a relatively homogeneous and consist- 
ent group. Among the sulphides, again, the monosulphides and 
the disulphides would form rational subdivisions. A system of 
classification based primarily on chemical principles as now under- 
stood, with subdivisions characterized by identity or similarity of 
crystalline form, recognizes all the true relations which were 
expressed in the so-called " natural system," and which the earlier 
forms of chemical classification conspicuously failed to recognize. 
In Part VI of his third edition, Dana outlined the "chemico- 
crystallographic classification" — a classification whose general 
plan has been almost universally adopted, though the progress of 
mineral chemistry has made possible great improvement in the 
details.^ This classification was proposed tentatively in the third 
edition, a merely provisional classification being used in the ar- 
rangement of the descriptive part of the book. The new classifica- 
tion was definitively adopted in the fourth edition (1858). 

The fourth edition introduced a remarkably elegant system of 
symbols for crystalline forms. The treatment of crystallography, 
in this, as in the previous editions, followed in general the method 

1 A classification essentially similar to Dana's was proposed two years 
later by Gustav Rose, in his Krystallo-chemisches Mineral-system. 



JAMES DWIGHT DANA 245 

of Naumann. In the sixth edition (edited by E. S. Dana), the 
system of Miller is followed, though the symbols of J. D. Dana 
adapted to the system of Naumann are also given. 

The fact is worthy of incidental mention that J. D. Dana con- 
structed a series of glass models of crystals as early as 1835 — 
probably the first models of this kind. 

The fifth edition of the System of Mineralogy is a monumental 
work in the thoroughness with which the literature of the science 
was ransacked to give completeness and accuracy to the synonymy. 
The changes made in the successive editions have kept pace with 
the progress of science ; and the book still stands, as it stood more 
than seventy years ago, at the head of the encyclopedic treatises 
on descriptive mineralogy. 

Dana's reputation as a zoologist rests chiefly upon the Reports 
on the Zoophytes, and on the Crustacea, of the United States 
Exploring Expedition. Each of these great works is illustrated 
with a magnificent folio atlas, many of the figures being colored. 
All the figvires of Crustacea and most of those of Zoophytes are 
from Dana's own drawings. More than two hundred new species 
of coral animals, and more than five hundred new species of 
Crustacea, are described. Besides the vast amount of detail work 
represented by the description of so many new species, these 
reports contributed to the progress of science by the advanced 
views on classification which they presented. 

The Report on Zoophytes especially was an epoch-making work 
in that department of science. The number of known species of 
coral animals was almost doubled by Dana's collections. More- 
over, most of the species previously described had been based on 
the skeleton (coral) alone, few naturalists having had any oppor- 
tunity to see the creatures alive or to study their soft parts. Nat- 
urally, therefore, the relations of the known species were but 
imperfectly understood. Dana's report, accordingly, did not con- 
fine itself to the species collected in the expedition, but included 
all species then known. It was thus a monograph of the entire 
group. The number of species of the coral animals recognized 



246 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

was 483, of which 229 were new. The Zoophytes were divided 
into the two orders, Actinoidea and Hydroidea; and the former of 
these orders was divided into the two suborders, Actinaria and 
Alcyonaria. The order Actinoidea, as defined by Dana, is equiva- 
lent to the class Anthozoa, or Actinozoa, as generally recognized by 
zoologists to-day; and his two suborders of Actinoidea exactly rep- 
resent the two orders into which most naturalists would divide the 
ckss to-day. In Dana's work, then, was published for the first time 
a classification involving both a correct delimitation of the group of 
Anthozoa (sea-anemones and coral animals), and a true discrimi- 
nation of its two main divisions. The advance of knowledge in the 
last half-century has made important changes in the details of the 
classification, but in its broad outlines Dana's classification has 
stood the test of time. 

The study of the Crustacea was in a more advanced state than 
that of the corals before Dana's work. There was no occasion, 
therefore, for a revision of the whole group in his Report on the 
Crustacea. It is, however, a striking proof of the diligence with 
which the work of collecting was prosecuted under manifold dif- 
ficulties that he catalogues six hundred and eighty species col- 
lected in the Expedition, of which over five hundred were new. 

The study of this group of animals suggested to Dana a striking 
generalization, which was first enunciated in the Report on Crus- 
tacea, but which was later discussed more fully in a number of 
papers, most of which were published in the Journal of Science 
(1863-66) — the principle of cephalization: 

In the Crustacea, as in the Arthropoda in general, each seg- 
ment of the many-jointed body bears typically a pair of jointed 
appendages, which are serially homologous, though appropriated 
to different functions. In the highest Crustacea, as the crabs 
and lobsters (Decapoda), the eight anterior segments bear append- 
ages cephalic {i. e., sensory or oral) in function; namely, two pairs 
of antenna, one pair of mandibles, two pairs of maxilla;, and three 
pairs of accessary mouth-organs (maxillipeds) ; while the next 
five segments bear the principal locomotive appendages. In a 
lower group represented by the sow-bugs and sand-fleas (Arthros- 



JAMES DWIGHT DANA 247 

traca), the second and third pairs of maxillipeds are represented 
by legs, so that these creatures have only six cephalic (sensory and 
oral) segments, and seven, instead of five, locomotive segments. 
In still lower Crustacea (Entomostraca) , the number of function- 
ally cephalic appendages is still less, even the antennae becoming 
sometimes organs of locomotion or adhesion. Moreover, in the 
crabs (Brachyura), which form the highest division of the Deca- 
poda, the posterior part of the body is greatly reduced in size, and 
most of its segments are destitute of appendages. The whole 
body seems almost, so to speak, absorbed into the head. The 
larger number of appendages appropriated to cephalic functions 
in the higher Crustacea is naturally correlated with a greater 
development of the cephalic ganglion. It was natural that the 
contemplation of facts like these should suggest to a mind so fond 
of generalization as was that of Dana the broad principle that, as 
"anteroposterior polarity" characterizes animals in distinction 
from plants, so the grade of different animal forms in comparison 
with each other is shown by the "degree of structural subordina- 
tion to the head and of concentration headward in body structure." 
The principle is an important and valuable one. Certainly, 
as we pass from the lower, and in general the earlier, types of ani- 
mal life, to the higher, and in general the later, types, there is a 
tremendous advance in cephalizadon. From a protozoan, desti- 
tute even of a mouth (the earliest cephalic feature to be developed), 
or from a sea-anemone, whose symmetry is radial rather than 
bilateral, and in which therefore there is but faint indication of an 
anteroposterior axis, to man, with his immense brain, there is a 
tremendous advance in "degree of structural subordination to 
the head." In Dana's appKcation of the principle of cephalization 
to zoological classification, there was much of ingenuity. But it 
cannot be denied that he sometimes gave undue weight to mere 
analogies. A notable example of this is his argument for the ordi- 
nal distinctness of man from other mammals, on the ground that 
his anterior limbs, instead of being locomotive in function, are 
used for prehension and manipulation. They are, according to 
his conception, cephalic organs — organs appropriated to the imme- 



248 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

diate service of the brain. Now, among the Crustacea, the 
Decapoda, as we have seen, have eight pairs of cephalic organs 
and five pairs of locomotive organs, while the Arthrostraca have 
six pairs of cephalic organs and seven pairs of locomotive organs, 
the second and third pairs of maxillipeds in the former group being 
homologous with the first two pairs of legs in the latter. In like 
manner, the last pair of oral (cephalic) appendages in Insects— 
the labium— is believed to be homologous with the first pair of 
legs in the Arachnoids. Dana's argument was, accordingly, 
that the distinction in regard to the use of the anterior limbs in 
man and other mammals was analogous to the cases cited among 
the Arthropoda, and that man must therefore be made at least a 
distinct order in the classification. There is of course no homol- 
ogy between vertebrate limbs and arthropodan appendages; and 
Dana's argument, based on a mere analogy, and not a very close 
analogy, has no force as viewed from the standpoint of zoology 
to-day. Viewing Dana's discussion of cephalization from the mod- 
ern evolutionary standpoint, one might make the general criticism 
that the distinction of high and low, which he emphasized, is 
of vastly less significance than that of generalized and special- 
ized. Low forms may be primitive, or they may be degenerate. 
A vertebrate destitute of limbs would naturally be regarded as a 
low, or degraded type. But the lamprey is destitute of fins be- 
cause it is a survival of a primitive type antedating the evolution 
of limbs, while the snake has lost the legs which its lizard ancestors 
possessed. Writing before he had adopted the theory of evolution, 
Dana of course failed to appreciate this distinction. 

Dana was not an early convert to the theory of evolution. It 
is interesting to compare, with reference to their attitude toward 
the theory of evolution, the three men who were the leading natu- 
ralists of this country in the middle of the nineteenth century- 
Gray, Agassiz, and Dana. Gray was ready to welcome the Dar- 
winian theory when first promulgated. In a letter to Dana in 
1857, he wrote the prophetic words, "You may be sure that before 
long there must be one or more resurrections of the development 
theory in a new form." One year later the prophecy was fulfilled 



JAMES DWIGHT DANA 249 

by Darwin and Wallace. Agassiz remained till his death a strenu- 
ous and bitter antagonist of the evolution theory. Dana at first 
opposed the theory, but later, with characteristic candor, gave it 
a somewhat qualified assent. 

About the middle of the nineteenth century, the majority of natu- 
ralists regarded the theory of evolution in any form as dead beyond 
hope of resurrection. The general conception of transmutation 
of species was supposed to have been buried in the same grave 
with the crudities of Lamarck and of the "Vestiges of Creation." 
Weismann says, "We who were then the younger men, studying 
in the fifties, had no idea that a theory of evolution had ever been 
put forward, for no one spoke of it to us, and it was never men- 
tioned in a lecture." Dana himself, in his Thoughts on Species,^ 
had formulated the somewhat metaphysical doctrine that "a 
species corresponds to a specific amount or condition of concen- 
tered force defined in the act or law of creation." This formula 
was supposed to apply alike to chemical elements and compounds 
— the species of the inorganic world — and to the species of plants 
and animals. The permanence of species seemed to follow a 
priori from this conception. Dana was also disinclined to the 
theory of evolution on theological grounds, since he was under the 
influence of a phase of natural theology then prevalent, which 
found the most convincing evidence of a personal God in the sup- 
posed breaks in the continuity of nature. Another cause of the 
lateness of Dana's accession to the evolution theory was the fact 
that the date of publication of the Origin of Species, approxi- 
mately coincided with the date of the breakdown of Dana's health. 
Oh this account he did not read Darwin's book for several years 
after its publication, and naturally failed to appreciate how greatly 
the status of the evolution theory was changed. We know from 
the correspondence between Dana and Darwin that Dana did not 
read the Origin till some time after February, 1863. 

In the second edition of the Manual of Geology (1871), Dana 
still maintained the permanence of species. " Geology," he de- 
clared, "has brought to light no facts sustaining a theory that 
1 American Journal of Scieiu-, scries 2, vol. 24, pp. 305-316. 



250 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

derives species from others." But in the second edition of the 
Texl-book of Geology, published in 1874, he took a somewhat 
qualified evolutionary position, in the followring statements: "The 
evolution of the system of life went forward through the deri- 
vation of species from species, according to natural methods not 
yet cleariy understood, and with few occasions for supernatural 
intervention. The method of evolution admitted of abrupt tran- 
sitions between species. For the development of man there was 
required, as Wallace has urged, the special act of a Being above 
nature." In the two remaining decades of Professor Dana's life, 
his faith in evolution became somewhat more decided. In the 
last edition of the Manual of Geology, he gave much fuller recogni- 
tion than before to Darwin's principle of natural selection, though 
holding more nearly a neo-Lamarckian than a strictly Darwinian 
view of the method of evolution. He still maintained that "the 
intervention of a Power above nature was at the basis of man's 
development." In the same paragraph he declared that "nature 
exists through the will and ever-acting power of the Divine Being," 
and that "the whole universe is not merely dependent on, but 
actually is, the will of one Supreme Intelligence." One is tempted 
to ask why, if all nature is thus divine, we need to assume for man 
a supernatural origin. A truer evolutionary theistic philosophy 
recognizes so fully an immanent God in the continuity of nature 
that it seeks no apparent breaks of continuity wherein to find him. 
Though Professor Dana's faith in the doctrine of evolution 
was, even to the end, a little hesitant, it must be recognized as a 
remarkable proof of his open-mindedness and candor that, at an 
age when most men's opinions are already petrified, he was able to 
make so radical a change, and frankly to adopt the views he had 
so long and so ably opposed. In 1863, Darwin wrote to Dana 
as follows: "Pray do not suppose that I think for one instant 
that, with your strong and slowly acquired convictions and im- 
mense knowledge, you could have been converted. The utmost 
that I could have hoped would have been that you might have 
been here or there staggered." But the unexpected happened; 
and in the course of the next decade Darwin could rejoice over his 



JAMES D WIGHT DANA 251 

friend's conversion. The accession to the ranks of the evolu- 
tionists of one whose learning was so vast and varied, whose think- 
ing was so conservative, and whose spirit was so devout, was a very 
potent factor in promoting the acceptance of the doctrine among 
thinkers outside the ranks of scientific specialists. 

Valuable as were the investigations of Professor Dana in miner- 
alogy and in zoology, his great work was in geology. The last 
three decades of his life were devoted almost entirely to that science. 
After the publication of the fifth edition of the System of Miner- 
alogy, in 1868, he scarcely published anything outside of the field 
of geology. No other science was so well adapted to the tastes 
and capabilities of a mind so strongly disposed to broad views of 
comprehensive relations. As Dana himself remarked, "Geology 
is all the sciences combined into one." In such a science such a 
mind might well find its chosen field. 

The Mamtal of Geology, has been since its first publication 
the one indispensable book of reference for any American geolo- 
gist. Apart from its unique character as a manual of American 
geology, it is unquestionably one of the best manuals of geology 
in general. But it must not be forgotten that Dana's contribu- 
tions to geology include more than one hundred and fifty books 
and papers of greater or less length and importance besides the 
encyclopedic Manual. 

Perhaps the most characteristic contribution of Dana to geology 
was in rendering more clear and definite the conception of the 
scope and significance of the science. There is a little exaggera- 
tion in Le Conte's statement that "geology became one of the 
great departments of abstract science, with its own characteristic 
idea and its own distinctive method under Dana." ^ Yet the state- 
ment contains an important truth. More or less clearly all geolog- 
ical investigators must have felt that the distinctive idea of geology 
is that the structures shown in the rocks of the earth's crust, 
whether on the large scale or on the small scale, whether seen in 
the panoramic view of the landscape or discerned by the micro- 
> Bulletin of the Geological Society of America, vol. 7, p. 463. 



252 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

scope, have their supreme significance as monumental inscriptions, 
the deciphering of which may reveal to us the history of the earth. 
Yet surely this conception had never been so cleariy formulated, 
and the whole treatment of the subject never so consistently ad- 
justed thereto, as in the writings of Dana. The portion of pre- 
vious manuals dealing with the distribution of the series of strata 
had generally borne some such title as "Stratigraphical Geology"; 
and very commonly the series had been traced backward, com- 
mencing with the most recent strata.' The phrase, "Historical 
Geology," which forms the title of that part of Dana's Manual, 
involves a distinct clarification of the general view of the science. 
Starting with this conception, of course he deals with the earliest 
formations first. In treating of each era, he endeavors to recon- 
struct, from the evidence afforded by the kinds and distribution of 
the rocks, the physical geography of the time. In accordance with 
this general principle, the sections of the Historical Geology in the 
Manual were not characterized as series, systems, and groups of 
strata, but as eras, periods, and epochs of time. The common 
use in recent geological writings of such phrases as "Silurian era," 
rather than "Silurian system," etc., is a testimony to the influence 
of Dana's mode of treatment.^ The key-note of Dana's concep- 
tion of geology as history is clearly sounded in his presidential 
address before the American Association for the Advancement 
of Science in 1855. The title of the address is significant — On 
American Geological History. In that address occurs the follow- 
ing passage: "Geology is not simply the science of rocks, for 
rocks are but incidents in the earth's history, and may or may 
not have been the same in distant places. It has its more exalted 
end, — even the study of the progress of life from its earliest dawn 
to the appearance of man; and instead of saying that fossils are 
of use to determine rocks, we should rather say that the rocks are 
of use for the display of the .succession of fossils." 

To Dana we owe the formulation of a doctrine now almost 
universally adopted by geologists— the doctrine of the permanence 

1 As in the manuals by Lyell and De la B&che. 

2 Williams, in Journal of Geology, vol. 3, p. 606. 



JAMES DWIGHT DANA 253 

of continents and oceans. It is of course a fact familiar to all 
students of geology that nearly if not quite the whole surface of 
our existing continents has been covered at some time by the waters 
of the sea. This naturally suggested the belief which was held by 
Lyell, the great master of geology in the middle of the nineteenth 
century, as it had been held in general by his predecessors, that 
continent and ocean have repeatedly changed places. Moreover, 
the strictly uniformitarian doctrine of Lyell was adverse to any 
notion of progressive change in any definite direction. Lyell, 
accordingly, conceived of a perfectly indefinite, kaleidoscopic 
interchange of continent and ocean in the course of geological 
time. The LyeUian doctrine finds beautiful expression in the 
familiar lines of In Memoriam: — 

"There roUs the deep where grew the tree. 
O earth, what changes thou hast seen! 
There, where the long street roars, hath been 
The stillness of the central sea." 

Dana, on the contrary, believed that our present continents 
and oceans were outlined as areas of relative elevation and depres- 
sion, respectively, in the crust of the globe, in the very beginning 
of geological time. The progress of geographical evolution has 
been, in the broadest view, a subsidence of the ocean bottoms, a 
withdrawal of the waters more and more into the deepening 
basins, and consequently a progressive emergence of continental 
lands. The substantial truth of this view, enunciated by Dana 
in 1846,^ hardly admits of doubt; though there has been an amount 
of oscillation, in connection with the progressive deepening of the 
oceans and emergence of the lands, which Dana seems not to 
have adequately appreciated. The greater density of the sub- 
oceanic masses in comparison with the subcontinental masses, as 
shown by pendulum observations, indicates that the distinction 
between continent and ocean depends on the heterogeneity of the 
material in the interior of the earth ; and the determining conditions 
must therefore have had their origin in the initial aggregation of 

1 American Journal of Science, series 2, vol. 2, p. 353. 



254 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

the part of the primitive meteoric swarm which formed the earth; 
or, perhaps, as suggested by Chamberlin and Sahsbury, in the 
changes attendant upon the beginning of the formation of the 
ocean. The study of the sedimentary formations which cover our 
existing continents shows that almost all of them were deposited 
in shallow waters, many of the strata, indeed, in waters so shallow 
that the layers of mud and sand were from time to time exposed 
by the receding tide or subsiding freshet, to dry and crack in the 
sun or to be pitted by raindrops. Scarcely any of the strata bear 
evidences of deposition in water of very considerable depth. Even 
the chalk of England and of Texas was probably not deposited 
in waters of oceanic depth. 

Another general topic in dynamical geology for whose elucida- 
tion we are greatly indebted to the writings of Dana is the process 
of mountain-making.^ That the main cause of mountain eleva- 
tion is the tangential pressure in the earth's crust resulting from 
internal contraction, is now somewhat generally acknowledged; 
though there may be doubt whether the main cause of contrac- 
tion is the cooling of the earth from an incandescent condition, 
as assumed in the commonly accepted form of the nebular theory, 
or the gravitational adjustment of an incoherent aggregation of 
planetesimals, as assumed in the more recent hypothesis of 
Chamberlin and Moulton. Whatever the cause or causes of 
internal contraction, its effect in causing crustal wrinkles would 
be the same. As, in Dana's homely illustration, the smooth skin 
of the plump, fresh apple becomes wrinkled when the apple dries 
and shrivels, so the earth's skin must wrinkle if the interior 
decreases in volume. The idea of the contractional origin of 
mountains was not original with Dana. A ghmmer of the idea 
appears in the writings of Leibnitz. Constant Prevost appears 

1 The views of Le Conte on this subject are in most points similar to those 
of Dana; but, while Le Conte's discussions have been of great value, the 
priority in the general development of the theory belongs to Dana. See the 
noble and generous tribute of Le Conte, in his obituary of Dana, read before 
the Geological Society of America, and published in vol. 7 of the Bulletin of 
the Society. 



JAMES DWIGHT DANA 255 

to have been the first to develop the idea into a definite scientific 
theory. But the elaboration of the theory into its present form 
is largely the work of Dana. His earliest discussion of the sub- 
ject appeared in the Journal of Science in 1847. In later years he 
returned to the subject again and again; and the theory, as 
shaped by his maturest thought, appears in the last edition of 
the Manual. In his earlier writings, his views of the origin of 
continents and mountains are developed on the assumption 
of a liquid globe. In later years he abandoned that view, and 
adjusted his theories to the more probable doctrine of a globe 
substantially soHd. 

Dana's conception of the origin of mountains may be formu- 
lated somewhat as follows: In the contraction of the earth's 
interior, the suboceanic crust is the chief seat of subsidence. 
As the suboceanic crust, in its subsidence, necessarily flattens, 
so that its profile continually approaches the chord of the arc, it 
exerts a tangential thrust towards the continented areas. The 
rather abrupt change in the radius of curvature, in passing from 
the oceanic to the continental areas, determines lines of weakness 
along the continental borders, which mark in general the location 
of the great mountain wrinkles. The crustal wrinkles will involve 
upward and downward folds — geanticlines and geosynclines (in dis- 
tinction from simple anticlines and synclines, which are foldings 
of strata on a much smaller scale both in breadth and depth). A 
gradually subsiding geosynclinal trough along the border of a 
continent may naturally be kept full of sediment deposited pari 
passu with the subsidence. Thus strata may accumulate in nar- 
row tracts to immense thickness, as in the case of the Appalachians, 
taken by Dana as a type of mountain structure, where the strata 
are more than six miles in thickness. The progressive subsidence 
carries the lower strata of the mass to a depth where they are 
affected by the internal heat of the earth, since the isogeotherms 
are nearly parallel with the surface. These water-loaded sedi- 
ments are softened in much greater degree by the high tempera- 
tures which they encounter than the nearly anhydrous crystalline 
rocks which they have displaced. The geosynclinal trough at last 



256 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

becomes so weak that the ever persistent tangential pressure 
crushes it together. The strata are thrown into alternating anti- 
clines and synclines, or one part forced over another in great 
thrust faults, while slaty cleavage and more decided forms of 
metamorphism may be produced. A mountain range thus pro- 
duced Dana calls a synclinorium. In such a process, the final 
crushing of the geosyncline is a movement relatively rapid in com- 
parison with the age-long accumulation of sediment in the sub- 
siding trough. Hence, in the history of any region, there are long 
ages of comparative tranquillity alternating with brief epochs of 
rapid geographical change — "revolutions," as Dana has somewhat 
poetically called them. These revolutions are the time boundaries 
of geological history, delimiting the eons and eras into which 
geological time is divided. Thus an evolutionary geology recog- 
nizes the truths in the two systems of catastrophism and uniformi- 
tarianism which it has displaced. 

While in most mountain regions the thick masses of strongly 
folded, thrust, and metamorphosed strata bear witness to the 
crushing of a geosyncline, Dana also recognized that a geanti- 
cline may result in a permanent elevation. Such a mountain 
range he proposed to call an anticlinorium. There is reason to 
believe that the actual history of most mountain ranges is complex. 
Thus, the Appalachian range was formed by the crushing of a 
geosyncline at the close of Paleozoic time, degraded nearly to 
base-level by atmospheric and aqueous action in Mesozoic time, 
and again elevated by a broad geanticlinal movement early in 
Cenozoic time. In these two phases of elevation it may serve to 
illustrate Dana's two types of mountain range — the synclinorium 
and the anticlinorium. Its present topography of ridge and valley 
is due to erosion subsequent to the Cenozoic elevation. 

There are unquestionably weak points in the theory of mountain- 
making as thus developed; and, in our ignorance of the conditions 
in the interior of the earth and of the forces there in action, it ill 
becomes us to be dogmatic. But the theory is certainly a beautiful 
one, and is worthy of a provisional acceptance as the most plausible 
explanation of erogenic processes yet suggested. 



JAMES D WIGHT DANA 257 

Dana has illustrated his conception of geographical evolution 
by the concrete example of the development of the continent of 
North America.^ The continent is pictured at the beginning of 
Paleozoic time, shovifing a V-shaped area of land composed of 
Archaean rocks, with the apex of the V in the region of Lake 
Superior, and its arms extending northeastward to Labrador and 
northwestward to the Arctic Ocean, while other linear areas of 
Archaean rock (protaxes) mark the positions of the Appalachian 
chain on the east and the Cordillera on the west. Between the Ap- 
palachian and the Cordilleran protaxis lies a vast Mediterranean 
sea of shallow water (the Mississippian Sea, as it has been appro- 
priately named), in which sedimentary deposits are gradually 
accumulating, while its northern shore-line along the Archeean V 
moves gradually southward, as the progressive oceanic subsidence 
allows strip after strip of dry land to emerge and to be annexed 
to the primitive nucleus of the continent. So the Paleozoic strata 
crop out in parallel bands through New York and westward. 
The tranquil progress is interrupted by the Taconic revolution 
(post-Ordovician), uplifting a mountain range in western New 
England and eastern New York, and probably other ranges now 
in ruins farther south; and later by the Appalachian revolution 
(post-Carboniferous), uplifting the Appalachian range from the 
Catskills to the mountains of Alabama. The eastern half of the 
continent becomes permanent dry land at the close of the Paleo- 
zoic, while the evolution of the western half — a newer territory 
geologically as well as politically — goes on through later time. 
The Sierra revolution (post- Jurassic) and the Laramide revolu- 
tion (post- Cretaceous), uplifting respectively the Sierra Nevada and 
the main ranges of the Rocky Mountains, serve as time bound- 
aries for the later ages of geological time, as the Taconic and the 
Appalachian revolutions for earlier ages. 

The picture is a noble one, and in its main outlines true, though 
the actual history was less simple than the student would naturally 

1 Notably in his presidential address before the American Association for 
the Advancement of Science, in 1855; most fully, of course, in the Manual of 
Geology. 



258 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

infer even from the last edition of the Manual. Dana recognizes 
indeed the occurrence of oscillations in the progressive emergence 
of the continent, but he seems not to appreciate adequately their 
magnitude and importance. In earliest Cambrian time, for in- 
stance, the area of dry land was far greater than in later Cam- 
brian or Ordovician time. In the earliest Cambrian (Georgian 
period), the Mississippian Sea was only a sound or strait, the 
greater part of the area of the Mississippian Sea of later Cambrian 
and Ordovician time being then dry land. While the progressive 
deepening of the oceans and emergence of the continents is unques- 
tionably a great truth, the oscillations were so considerable that 
an alternation of marine and terrestrial conditions over vast areas 
must be equally recognized. But we do not refuse the honor due 
to Copernicus, though he made the planetary orbits circular, 
instead of elliptical; and to Dana belongs no less the credit of the 
great concepdon of continental evolution, though he made the 
curve too simple. 

Dana's first introduction to the problem of coral islands was at 
the Paumotu Islands in 1839. The coral animals, whose skeletons, 
broken or comminuted by the waves, furnish materials for the 
reefs, live only in shallow water, seldom ranging much below a 
depth of one hundred feet. It is accordingly readily intelligible 
that the debris of these skeletons may accumulate to form fringing 
reefs, closely bordering the shore of a continent or island. But 
a more difficult problem is presented by the barrier reefs and 
atolls. The barrier reefs may be separated from the shore by a 
channel ten or fifty miles in breadth or even more, and hundreds 
of feet in depth. Still more startling are the atolls — rings of coral 
reef, which may be crowned with scattered islets or with a more 
or less complete crest of dry land, inclosing a comparatively 
shallow lagoon, and surrounded by water deepening rapidly to 
thousands of feet, and far from any other land. The supposition 
that the reef has actually been built up from a depth of a thousand 
feet or more, is obviously inconsistent with the fact that the animals 
live only in shallow water. When Dana arrived at Sydney in the 
latter part of the year 1839, his mind was full of the problem, 



JAMES DWIGHT DANA 259 

which he had not yet solved to his own satisfaction. Darwin 
had been at work at the problem three years eariier, and at Sydney 
Dana learned of Darwin's theory. It seemed to him then to 
explain the phenomena he had studied in the regions of barrier 
reefs and atolls which he had already visited; and the larger 
acquaintance with coral formations which he gained in the course 
of the next two years seemed to him only to bring ampler evidence 
of its truth. Although the original conception was Darwin's, 
Dana had the opportunity to study a vastly greater number and 
variety of coral formations than Darwin had ever seen, so that he 
was able to support the theory with a greater wealth of evidence 
than Darwin himself. Darwin welcomed most cordially so power- 
ful an ally. Writing to LyeU, after receiving a copy of the Report 
on the Geology of the Exploring Expedition, he refers to the 
substantial agreement of Dana's views with his own, and adds, 
" Considering how infinitely more he saw of coral reefs than I did, 
this is wonderfully satisfactory to me. He treats me most cour- 
teously." 

The theory of Darwin and Dana may be summed up in a single 
word — subsidence. If there occurs, along a coast of continent or 
island bordered by a fringing reef, a subsidence not more rapid 
than the upward growth of the reef, the coral growth and conse- 
quent reef formation will be most rapid on the outer margin of 
the reef, where the water is purest, and the supply of oxygen and 
of floating life available for food is greatest; and the channel 
between the reef and the shore will consequently become wider 
and deeper. Thus the fringing reef becomes a barrier reef. If 
an island is girt with a coral reef, the ultimate effect of a progres- 
sive subsidence will be to carry the original island entirely under 
water, leaving an atoll as a monument to mark its place of burial. 
The most important difference between Darwin's own conception 
of the theory and that of Dana was that Darwin, in the spirit of 
the Lyellian geology, thought of the Pacific area of coral islands 
as very likely marking the site of a drowned continent; while 
Dana, in accordance with his own doctrine of the essential perma- 
nence of continent and ocean, conceived the drowned lands to be 



26o LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

only volcanic peaks, such as may be formed by submarine volcanic 
action in regions remote from continental land. 

The history of the Darwinian theory has been a singular one. 
When first announced, it produced on most scientific minds the 
same impression of complete satisfaction that it produced upon 
the mind of Dana. The subsidence of large areas of the ocean 
bottom which it postulates, is sufficiently probable a priori; and 
the theory possesses that same charm of simplicity which charac- 
terizes Newton's conception of gravitation and Darwin's own 
theory of natural selection. Very naturally, therefore, for three or 
four decades, it was generally accepted as the one complete theory 
of barriers and atolls. Later researches, however, have shown 
conclusively that both barrier reefs and atolls may be formed with- 
out subsidence. At the southern extremity of Florida, three suc- 
cessive barrier reefs have been formed, all of which now have their 
crests almost at the same level, showing that there has been no 
crustal movement of any consequence. Chamisso long ago showed 
that an atoll might be formed on a submarine volcano, or on a 
shoal of any other origin, simply by the more luxuriant growth of 
corals on the margin than in the middle. Of course it was impossi- 
ble to believe that several hundred submarine volcanoes had been 
raised to within about a hundred feet of the same level; but Murray 
showed that no such assumption of coincidence was necessary. A 
submarine volcano that did not rise into the zone of coral growth, 
could be built up by the accumulation of skeletons of other kinds 
of marine life until it reached that zone ; while a volcano that rose 
a little above the sea-level might be degraded to a shoal by wave- 
action. 

But, while it is certain that both barrier reefs and atolls can be 
formed without subsidence, it still seems probable that there has 
been a very extensive subsidence in the central part of the Pacific 
Ocean, and that this .subsidence has been an important factor in 
the origin of the numerous atolls and barrier reefs of that region. 
In going northeastward from the zone of fringing reefs of the New 
Hebrides and Solomon Islands, one would traverse successively 
zones of barrier reefs, large atolls, small atolls, and blank ocean— 



JAMES DWIGHT DANA 261 

an arrangement which is strongly suggestive of a subsidence pro- 
gressively increasing towards the middle of the ocean. The asso- 
ciation of fringing reefs with active volcanoes and of barrier reefs 
with extinct volcanoes, as pointed out by Darwin, indicates that 
in some way the different kinds of coral formations are correlated 
with hypogene actions; and it is probable that the explanation of 
that relation lies in the theory that crustal elevation in any region 
diminishes the pressure on the rock masses in a condition of po- 
tential liquidity a few miles below the surface, thus lowering the 
melting-point, so that actual liquefaction takes place, and the 
molten materials find their way to the surface. The active volca- 
noes should therefore be in regions where the crust has been re- 
cently undergoing elevation, while in subsiding areas the volcanoes 
should be e.xtinct. The lagoons in the larger atolls often show a 
depth much greater than the limiting depth of coral growth. This 
is probably evidence of subsidence, since there are very strong ob- 
jections to Murray's notion that the lagoons are extensively widened 
and deepened by the solvent action of the sea-water. The core 
brought up from a bore eleven hundred feet deep, recendy made 
on the island Funafuti in the Ellice group, is said to show no im- 
portant change of character through its entire length. Tt appears, 
therefore, probable that a true coral reef rock extends down to the 
bottom of the bore and we know not how much farther. Such a 
thickness of reef could of course be formed only by subsidence. 
For these and other reasons it seems probable that Darwin and 
Dana were right in believing that the multitudinous barriers and 
atolls of the Pacific are evidence of subsidence of a vast area. It 
is hardly necessary to say that Dana's conception of the drowning 
of a multitude of oceanic volcanoes is more probable than Dar- 
win's conception of the drowning of a continent. 

Next to the study of the coral formations, the most important 
geological work done in the Exploring Expedition was in the study 
of volcanoes. Especially important was the detailed investigation 
of the Hawaiian volcanoes, though numerous extinct volcanoes 
were also studied in the course of the expedition. Dana's work 
contributed, with that of Scrope and Lyell, to the demolition of 



262 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

von Buch's theory of craters of elevation and the establishment of 
a true theory of the origin of volcanic cones. A volcanic cone is 
not a sort of blister on the earth's crust, formed by the uplifting of 
the strata by intumescent lavas beneath, but is simply a pile of 
erupted material. 

In the years from 187 1 to 1888, Dana was engaged in the inves- 
tigation of the so-called "Taconic Question." A great series of 
schists, quartzites, and crystalline limestones, extending from Can- 
ada through western Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, 
and southeastern New York, had been described by Ebenezer 
Emmons, in 1842,^ as the Taconic system, and by him and his 
followers was claimed to be older than the Champlain group of 
the New York geologists (now classified as Cambrian and 
Ordovician). Dana devoted much time to the investigation of 
the subject in the field. He also fortunately got hold of the 
notes of Rev. Augustus Wing, and thus rescued from unde- 
served oblivion the discoveries of a patient and conscientious 
investigator who had been too modest to publish his work. The 
result of the labors of Dana, Wing, Walcott, and others was the 
conclusive proof that the so-called Taconic system is not pre- 
Cambrian but metamorphosed Cambrian and Ordovician. 

The Taconic question was not merely, though it was primarily, 
a question of local stratigraphy. The settlement of the age of the 
Taconic rocks fixed the date of the first important epoch of oro- 
genic disturbance in the post-Archaean history of North America. 
The Taconic revolution stands as a time boundary between 
Ordovician and Silurian time. The settlement of the Taconic 
question was important, also, as establishing a perfectly clear 
case of somewhat highly crystalline rocks of Paleozoic age. It 
was thus a refutation of the belief of a school of geologists now 
extinct or nearly so, that all the crystalline schists and associated 
rocks are Archaean, and that a crystal is as good as a fossil to 
determine the age of a rock. 

When the first edition of the Manual of Geology was published, 
opinions were still divided in regard to the origin of the hetero- 
1 Geology of Neiv York, Part 2, pp. 135-164. 



JAMES DWIGHT DANA 263 

geneous mantle of clay, gravel, and boulders, covering much of 
the area of Canada and the northeastern United States, as v^ell as 
northwestern Europe, and commonly called "drift." In opposi- 
tion to the older diluvial theories, Agassiz had advocated the doc- 
trine that the drift was due to the action of a glacier of continental 
extent. Dana clearly indicated his sympathy with the views of 
Agassiz in his presidential address before the American Association 
for the Advancement of Science in 1855, and in the Manual in 
1862 the glacier theory of the drift was unqualifiedly adopted. 
Thenceforward the great influence of the Manual of Geology was 
unquestionably an important factor in the rapid progress of the 
glacier theory to substantially unanimous acceptance. 

Dana gave much attention to a study of the terraces and other 
phenomena connected vdth the melting of the ice sheet, as shown 
in the vicinity of New Haven and in the Connecticut valley. The 
results of these studies were given in a number of papers published 
in the years from 1870 to 1883. While these papers show much of 
conscientious observation, their conclusions must be considerably 
modified in the light of more recent studies of the Glacial period. 

The results of another study of Dana's own locality are given 
in an elegant little volume entitled The Four Rocks of the New 
Haven Region, published in 1891. In the careful study of East 
Rock, West Rock, Pine Rock, and Mill Rock, he showed unmis- 
takably that the trap-rock of these picturesque hills formed intru- 
sions in the Triassic sandstones. He was, however, in error in 
extending the same conclusion to the long series of ranges of trap 
hills from Saltonstall Ridge to Mount Holyoke. Though these 
hills are topographically similar to the New Haven "Rocks," and 
consist of similar material, it has been conclusively shown by 
Davis, Emerson, and others that the trap in them has the relation 
not of intrusions but of lava sheets outpoured upon the surface. 

With Professor Dana's profound faith in Christianity, he could 
not be indifferent to the relations of science and religion. Believ- 
ing that the opening chapters of Genesis contain the record of a 
divine revelation of the fact of creation, and, in some degree, of 
the order and method of creation, he could not be satisfied without 



264 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

asking and answering the question whether his scientific beliefs 
were in harmony with that revelation. He published in 1856 a 
scheme of reconciliation of Genesis and geology/ for whose main 
outlines he acknowledged indebtedness to Professor Arnold Guyot. 
He further expounded the scheme with much learning and inge- 
nuity in several later pubhcations, and seems to have retained his 
faith in it to the end of his life. It was one of the schemes of recon- 
ciliation in which the "days" of the first chapter of Genesis are 
regarded as symbolic of indefinite periods. We need not in this 
connection take time for its discussion. All these schemes of 
reconciliation belong to an obsolescent stage of religious thought. 
Intelligent and progressive theologians to-day generally believe 
that the reconciliation of scientific theories and Hebrew traditions 
is as unnecessary as it is impossible, and that Christian faith is in 
no wise dependent upon the scientific accuracy of Genesis or the 
inerrancy of Scripture in general. 

So long as science is progressive, the study of the works even of 
the greatest scientists must be largely a study of errors. Already 
we have outgrown some of the geological views which Professor 
Dana held to the end of his life, and which find expression even in 
the latest edition of the Manual; as, for instance, on the origin of 
many of the gneissoid rocks, the extent of climatic oscillations in 
the Glacial period, the conditions of the rivers during the forma- 
tion of post- Glacial terraces, the relations of the igneous to the 
sedimentary rocks in the Trias of Connecticut and New Jersey. 
But, when we consider the number and importance of the fruitful 
ideas in geological science of which we owe to Dana the origina- 
tion or the elaboration, and the breadth of view and the judicial 
temper and the just sense of perspective which gave to the System 
of Mineralogy and the Manual of Geology a character so authori- 
tative, we shall feel like assenting to the words of Professor John 
W. Judd, in a letter to Professor E. S. Dana on the occasion of his 
father's death: "Geologists and mineralogists all over the world 
will feel that the greatest of all the masters of our science has 
now passed away." 

I Bibliotheca Sacra, vol. 13, pp. 110-129. 



JAMES DWIGHT DANA 265 

The consideration of the life and the scientific work of James 
Dwight Dana has already made us acquainted with some of his 
most marked traits of character. Yet it may be worth while to 
conclude this sketch with an attempt at a picture of the man. 

The characteristic that most impressed all who came to know 
him, whether through the reading of his works or through personal 
intercourse, was his profound sense of .the sacredness of truth. 
With absolute sincerity he sought to know the truth and to com- 
municate to others the truth as it had revealed itself to him. ''No 
pride in what is wrongly called consistency wrought in him un- 
willingness to accept new light. Even to extreme old age he 
remained hospitable to new truth and ready to change opinions. 
It was said of a very learned man that his forte was science and 
his foible was omniscience. Dana had no such foible. He seemed 
to take pleasure in confessing ignorance or error. In the third 
edition of his System of Mineralogy, when he cast aside the clas- 
sification and the Latin binomial nomenclature of the former 
editions, he wrote in the preface: "To change is always seeming 
fickleness. But not to change with the advance of science is 
worse; it is persistence in error." He said to me, in speaking 
of the changes introduced in the third edition of the Manual oj 
Geology, "When a man is too old to learn, he is ready to die; or 
at least he is not fit to live." The frankness with which he changed 
his opinions and his teachings on the subject of evolution, when 
past threescore years of age, is a striking illustration of his loyalty 
to truth, and of the perennial intellectual youth which is the re- 
ward that truth gives to her loyal worshipers. The same exqui- 
sitely delicate sense of truth which made him so ready to'change 
opinions, made it easy for him to hold opinion in abeyance. He 
knew that he did not know some things, and he would not assert 
plausible conjectures as truths. Professor Farrington has pre- 
served some of the aphorisms which he uttered from time to time, 
and which might well be adopted as maxims by all students of 
science.^ " I think it better to doubt until you know. Too many 
people assert and then let others doubt." "I have found it best 
' Journal oj Geology, vol. 3, p. 335. 



266 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

to be always afloat in regard to opinions on geology." "I always 
like to change when I can make a change for the better." 

His liberality in the treatment of .difference of opinion was 
another phase of his devotion to truth. Sensible of the liability 
to error attending the beliefs of all men, he recognized that only 
by the criticism of opposing views could truth be reached. The 
pages of the Journal of Science were always freely open for the 
presentation of views most widely divergent from those of the 
editor. "More," he said, "could be learned by studying uncon- 
formities than conformities," and this he believed to be as true 
of tmconformable opinions as of unconformable strata.^ 

His loyalty to truth was in part an intellectual and in part a 
moral trait. Intellectually it was related to the clearness of his 
conceptions. It is the man who never knows exactly what he 
thinks that falls most easily into the vice of saying something 
different from what he thinks. But Dana's character was intensely 
ethical. And with him ethics was always sanctified and glorified 
by religious faith. His view, alike of nature and of human life, 
was profoundly theistic. Disloyalty to truth was infidelity to 
God. In his scientific investigation he always felt, like Kepler, 
that he was thinking God's thoughts after him. 

Dana was not only a theist but a Christian. Religion was a 
dominant principle in his life. The influences of his childhood 
home were strongly religious, and in his early manhood he made 
public profession of Christian faith. While residing in New Haven 
as assistant to Professor Silliman, he became a member of the 
First Congregational Church in that city. His letters written 
amid the perils of shipwreck and cannibals in the Exploring 
Expedition reveal the sincerity of his faith in the providential care 
of a Heavenly Father. His patience under the restraints imposed 
upon him by the impairment of his health, and the serene light 
which brightened the long evening of his life, were in part doubtless 
the effect of a naturally cheerful spirit, but surely in large part the 
effect of religious faith. A few months before his death he wrote 
to Professor J. P. Lesley: "I, too, feel age encroaching on old 
1 Farrington, loc. cit. 



JAMES DWIGHT DANA 267 

privileges. I used to have a spring in my walk, and get delight 
out of it. But for a little over a month, owing to a weakening of 
some strings, my heart has compelled me to take what I should 
before have called a creeping gait. Such encroachments are 
reminders that the end is coming. But it will be peace, rest, and, 
I believe, joy unending. Life were worth living if it were only for 
the end." One is reminded of Browning's noble lines — 

"Grow old along with me! 
The best is yet to be. 
The last of life, for which the first was made." 

As a thinker, Dana was eminently characterized by breadth of 
view. Though facts might be, as Agassiz so nobly said, "the 
words of God," they were meaningless unless they could be ar- 
ranged in sentences. Dana was eminently a generalizer and a 
systematizer. The Manual of Geology is for every American 
geologist the most indispensable book of reference for its encyclo- 
pedic array of facts. But the general conception of the meaning 
of geological fact with which the whole book is luminous is the 
greater glory. If Dana sometimes mistook analogy for identity, 
and sometimes grouped facts in^ pseudo-system, he only showed 
"the defects of his qualities." The only man who has made no 
unsound generalizations is the man who has never generalized 
at all. 

There is a certain intellectual kinship between the philosopher 
and the poet. The loftiest generalizations of science involve a 
flight of imagination approaching the poetic. The minds most 
gifted with the power to see the scientific meaning of natural phe- 
nomena are often most keenly sensitive to the inspiration of na- 
ture's beauty. Some of the descriptive passages in the Corals and 
Coral Islands, and gem-like sentences which flash here and there 
from the pages of the Manual of Geology, show a poet's sense 
of nature's manifold and resistless charm. 

Dana was fond of music, and played the flute and the guitar. 
In his early manhood he made some attempts at musical composi- 
tion. Among these efforts was the music for an ode to the ship 



268 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

Peacock, written during the Exploring Expedition by Dr. J. C. 
Palmer, the surgeon of the ship. In later years, however, the 
exacting demands of his scientific work left httle time for the culti- 
vation of an art which for him could be only a recreation. 

His personal appearance was at once attractive and impressive. 
The inspiring flash of his deep blue eyes and the exquisite sweet- 
ness of his smile will ever haunt the memory of all who had the 
privilege of his society. His hair, which had been hght brown in 
earlier years, turned white as he advanced in age, but ceased not 
to be abundant. His latest portrait is the most impressive. The 
thin, eager, vivacious, kindly face, encircled with its halo of silver 
hair, was inspiring in its dignity and sweetness. For him the 
hoary head was a crown of glory. He was of medium height or 
rather less, and light and slender. The quickness of all his move- 
ments was remarkable. Even in old age he walked uphill and 
down at a pace which the students who went on his geological 
excursions found it easier to admire than to emulate. The quick- 
ness of his physical movements was an expression of the same 
sensitiveness of nervous organization which made possible the 
marvelous vivacity of his mental working. 

The restraints imposed by the failure of his health isolated him 
from society in general. Yet he was delightfully companionable 
to those who had the privilege of entering the precincts of his 
quiet and secluded life. His conversation was enlivened with a 
delicate humor, and in controversy he could be sarcastic. The 
courtesy which endeared him to all who knew him was the expres- 
sion of real kindness of heart. His helpful interest in the work of 
young scientific men has left rich store of grateful memories. As 
son, brother, husband, father, friend, his life, in all the relations 
of most intimate affection, was pure and gentle. 

His was a genius to be admired, a character to be reverenced, a 
personality to be loved. 




/iMueyy..<.JL^..y/ 



SPENCER FULLERTON BAIRD 

ZOOLOGIST 

1823-1887 
By Charles Frederick Holder 

In the introduction to Professor G. Brown Goode's Bibliography 
of Professor Baird, published under direction of the Smithsonian 
Institution, I find the following lines referring to his portrait, 
which is slipped into, but not bound in the volume: "Professor 
Baird having refused to allow it to be inserted in this work, it 
will be distributed separately to as many recipients of the Bibli- 
ography as is practical to reach. Those who received it are re- 
quested to attach it permanentiy to copies of the book." 

Professor Goode doubtiess did not intend it, but he could not 
have written a more speaking panegyric on the character of Pro- 
fessor Baird had he tried, nor can I do better than to quote it, to 
illustrate what always impressed me as one of the most charming 
qualities of the great naturalist and organizer, — his modesty. 

This virtue does not always indicate greatness, but in this in- 
stance it did, and in an acquaintance with Professor Baird, which 
extended over many years, it always seemed to me to be a domi- 
nant factor in all the acts of his career. 

In the correspondence of my father, dating back to 1846, I 
find voluminous letters from Spencer F. Baird, asking for Dr. 
Holder's lists of the birds, mammals and plants of Essex County, 
Massachusetts, and offering his own lists of the same near Reading, 
Pennsylvania, in return, and out of this correspondence grew a 
friendship which held through life between the two men. My 
first impression of Professor Baird came in the fall of 1859 when 
we were on the way to the Florida reef. Professors Baird and 

269 



270 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

Agassiz having induced Dr. Holder ^ to throw up a lucrative prac- 
tice as a physician in Lynn, Massachusetts, and go to what in 
all probability was the most desolate spot within the confines of 
the government— Garden Key, or Tortugas, to study the fauna in 
the interests of science. We visited Professor Baird en route, and 
I well remember his strong, robust personality, his kindly respon- 
sive nature, the evident nobility of his character, his intense 
interest in nature, and a certain sweetness of character, difficult 
to associate with a man of heroic mold which found its expres- 
sion in his innate modesty and purity of life. If I should be called 
upon to paint a word-picture, to conjure up from the imagination 
a figure which should fully represent the typical American as he 
is, as he should be, to meet the ideals of a great and patriotic 
people, the form and features, the character, the virtues, and intelli- 
gence of Spencer F. Baird, would insensibly present themselves. 
He was a typical American of a heroic type, a man of many parts, 
virtues and intellectual graces, and of all the zoologists science 
has given the world, it can doubtless be said, he was most pro- 
lific in works of practical value to man and to humanity. 

Professor Baird belonged to the time of Agassiz, Huxley, Spen- 
cer and Darwin, being but sixteen years younger than Agas- 
siz, and came upon the field in a period notable for its activity 
in science along many lines. Reading, Pennsylvania, claims him 
as an honored son, where he was born February 3, 1823, and after 
several years of public schools he entered Dickinson College, from 
which he graduated at the age of seventeen. Like Agassiz and 
Darwin, he was a born genius, with predilection for scientific pur- 
suits and all his energies from early youth were expended along 
these lines of thought and practice. 

Like Agassiz, he studied medicine, but never completed his 
studies although he was given the degree of M.D. honoris causa 
from the Philadelphia Medical College. 

During his early college days he attracted wide-spread attention 
for his studies and observations in Nature, and when the true his- 

1 The late Joseph Bassett Holder, Curator of Zoology of the Museum of 
Natural History, N. Y., from its founding to 1888. 



SPENCER FULLERTON BAIRD 271 

tory of the Smithsonian and National Museum comes to be written 
it can be said that the foundation of the splendid museums of 
these institutions was largely laid by young Baird in this period. 
He was a powerful, robust specimen of young manhood, an assidu- 
ous collector with a strong intuition for the work, and with abnor- 
mal perceptions for one of his age; hence he accomplished much 
in his tremendous walks of from twenty to fifty miles a day across 
country, not only laying the foundation for an exalted scientific 
career, but for a constitution which served him well in later years, 
when he was obliged to renounce field-work and assume the head 
of the great lines of special scientific research which his active mind 
conceived, and brought into being. Professor Baird at this period 
not only made remarkable collections in a variety of fields, but 
he began an extraordinary system of exchanges with naturalists 
all over the country, which later on formed the basis for the fine 
and far-reaching system of exchanges which became a policy of 
the Smithsonian and National Museums. When he was twenty- 
two years of age, he was tendered the chair of Natural History at 
Dickinson College, and later his duties also included the chair of 
Chemistry and up to 1850 he was the recipient of many honors; 
in that year, when but twenty-seven years of age, being offered 
the assistant secretaryship of the Smithsonian Institution, which 
he accepted. 

The motto of James Smithson, the one which he gave to the 
Institution which bears his name, was "the increase and diffusion 
of useful knowledge among men," and that Professor Baird 
adopted this and followed it closely is evident to any one who 
will seriously study the quality of his life-work, as it differs 
from that of almost any scientist of the century. His original 
researches were brilliant and far-reaching, but his greatest work, 
his best energies were exerted along those lines that produce 
results of practical benefit to the human race. To illustrate 
my meaning, the works of Agassiz, his discoveries among fos- 
sil fishes, his elaborate books on glaciers and their causes were 
of inestimable value to science, but Professor Baird's work 
in the United States Fish Commission alone was of far more 



272 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

practical and immediate value to humanity now and in the 
future. 

His studies among food-fishes, his efforts to protect them, to 
regulate their catch, to discover new grounds in the interest of 
trade and commerce, carried on side by side with studies of a more 
scientific character, were in a direct Hne with the sentiment of 
Smithson: "the diffusion of useful knowledge among men." Pro- 
fessor Baird was, like Agassiz and Darwin, a strenuous type, an 
indefatigable worker, and the amount of work he produced was 
monumental. In twelve years, the period between 1858 and 1870, 
he produced works which would have been the normal output of 
a well rounded lifetime of an ordinary man. During this period 
he wrote the catalogue of North American Serpents; The Birds 
of North America; The Mammals of North America; The Review 
of North American Birds; The History of North American Birds 
in collaboration with Brewer and Ridgeway, besides innumerable 
reports and papers on a variety of subjects. For many years he 
was the editor of Harper's scientific department, and during this 
time he wrote the yearly encyclopedia called The Anmuil Record 
of Science and Industry. These titles tell at once the story of his 
wide range of thought, of his versatility, and stamp him as a natu- 
ralist of the widest range. It is not unusual to-day to meet men 
of the most distinguished attainments in certain branches of 
zoology, men who are masters of the cephalopods, we may say, 
to whom the fishes are a closed book. In a word, naturalists have 
taken Agassiz's advice literally and become speciahsts, but Baird 
belonged to the school that believed that a naturalist in the broad- 
est sense should have a good, even thorough knowledge of all the 
animal kingdom first, as a base upon which to stand, this accom- 
phshed, he should then take up some speciality and follow it to a 
logical and exhaustive finish. 

I have often accompanied Professor Baird in a round of the 
Smithsonian orthe Collection of the American Museum of Natural 
History and have been impressed by the remarkable range of his 
knowledge. One afternoon in New York, we were discussing 
taxidermy with John Bell, the friend and companion of Audubon; 



SPENCER FULLERTON BAIRD 273 

Bell was telling his experiences with the great naturalist and how 
he almost had a serious break with him. Bell was traveling with 
Audubon, and every day new species were found; one day Bell 
said that he made up a bird with the head of a snipe, the body 
of something else, the wings and legs of another. Audubon had 
been away for a week, and when he returned Bell displayed the 
bird, saying that he had mounted it at once as it was in bad con- 
dition. Audubon was completely mystified and proportionately 
delighted. He described the new bird and sent the account to 
Europe, and it was weeks before Bell, then a young man, had the 
temerity to confess. When he did Audubon fell into a rage, but 
finally laughed, and acknowledged the cleverness of his assistant. 
I noticed that Professor Baird was fully conversant with Bell's 
work, and doubtless had views of his own regarding taxidermy 
which were adopted in the National Museum. One could not 
easily exaggerate the versatility of Professor Baird, and the di- 
versity of his interests is well shown by even a casual glance at 
his journal while studying medicine in New York. This was in 
1848. One day we find him closeted with Audubon studying his 
drawings, then dissecting a fox for him. The next day he is with 
Le Conte, visits De Kay, and studies his report of the zoological 
survey of New York. The following day we find him studying 
drawing under Audubon, then he obtains bird skins from Peale 
and sends him snails, fossils and coins in return. 

In the morning he is studying the fine collection of Siberian 
fossils of T. A. Conrads and in the evening we find him taking 
tea with Isaac Lea that he may go over this gentleman's large 
collection of shells; straws which indicate the wide range of inter- 
est taken by the young naturaKst; and when it is remembered that 
he was noted for the profundity of his investigations and the thor- 
oughness of his work even to the minutest detail, the character 
of his life-work and its extent can be realized. 

In 187 1, General Grant appointed Professor Baird a commis- 
sioner of United States Fish and Fisheries, an honorary position 
which added greatly to his work. This move was epoch-making 
and marked the recognition by the government of Professor 



274 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

Baird's views on the economic value of animals, and the necessity 
of having laws to conserve animal life in the interest of humanity 
of to-day and to-morrow. The appointment of Baird to this 
unremunerative position marked an epoch in the development of 
economic science in America, and the growth and evolution of 
the United States Fish Commission alone shows better than any- 
thing else the comprehensive views of its chief and his remarkable 
grasp upon questions requiring the highest powers of a systema- 
tist. His work showed that he was an organizer and administra- 
tor of the highest rank. For twelve years he devoted his energies 
to the arduous labors of the United States Fish Commission. He 
constructed the entire framework of the new department, and or- 
ganized it under the following general plan: "To prosecute investi- 
gations on the subject of the diminution of valuable fishes with 
the view of ascertaining whether any and what diminution in the 
number of food-fishes of the coast and lakes of the United States 
has taken place, and, if so, to what cause the same is due and also 
whether any and what productive, prohibitory or precautionary 
measures should be adopted in the premises and to report the 
same to Congress. It is impossible to more than hint at the 
work of Professor Baird in this direction in this limited paper, 
but it was of far-reaching importance, and comprised a compre- 
hensive plan to prevent the depletion of fishes, either in sea or 
river. 

Experts were sent all over the country, hatching stations were 
established, and available fish were carried from one part of the 
country to another, and the interests of humanity conserved in 
many ways. As an illustration, the striped bass, which has been 
gradually disappearing on the Atlantic coast or at least assuming 
lesser proportions, were introduced into the Sacramento River and 
to-day it is the highest priced fish and the best in quality on the 
Pacific coast, being caught in large quantities and an economic 
factor of great value to the people of the coast. The bass have 
wandered five hundred miles to the south, having been caught at 
Redondo, and Terminal, opposite the island of Santa Catalina 
in Southern California. The famous rainbow trout of California 



SPENCER FULLERTON BAIRD 275 

was transplanted east and trout and other fish hatcheries estab- 
lished all over the country to ensure an adequate supply of food- 
fishes of all kinds. At the same time vessels searched the sea for 
new fishing-grounds contiguous to the coast that would be of 
value to fishermen, and the new bureau made of vital importance 
and value to the public. 

Professor Baird had the faculty of adapting liimself with 
unusual tact to subordinate positions, and when in command he 
gave evidence of executive ability equally remarkable. His 
desire to build up a national museum which should give the 
United States a standing second to none resulted in the establish- 
ment and exploitation of a number of expeditions, and by using 
the government, its consuls and various good oflBces, he suc- 
ceeded in sending agents, collectors and expeditions to the four 
quarters of the globe, which soon resulted in an enormous inflow 
of matter in every branch of science; no guilty man escaped. 
Even the author of Home Sweet Home was aided to a consulate, 
on the suggestion that he would also scour the country to which 
he was accredited for "bugs" and other things, and when he 
departed for his station he was taken for a naturalist with cans 
of alcohol, fishing-nets and various devices. For thirty-three 
years, from 1850 to 1883, Professor Baird gave his strength and 
ability to the upbuilding of the Smithsonian Institution, and 
what it is to-day, is mainly due to his genius for work. For 
twenty-eight years he was the principal executive ofl&cer of the 
Smithsonian. In training, tastes, line of thought, he differed 
very materially from his chief. Professor Henry, who in turn 
had little or no fondness for zoology, being a physicist. The 
two men represented the antipodes of thought and scientific 
habit, and it is to the credit of Professor Baird that his work 
with his chief was bar monious . In 1 8 7 8 upon the death of Henry , 
he succeeded him as secretary of the Smithsonian. Owing to 
the diversity of tastes of the two men, many of Professor Baird's 
ideas had been held in abeyance, but now, having full rein, his 
marvelous executive and administrative ability became more 
clearly apparent, and it was never better illustrated than when 



276 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

he was attempting to obtain appropriations for the institutions 

under his charge. 

The salary was always inadequate to the responsibilities of the 
situation, and it devolved on the head to present the claims and 
induce Congress to make liberal appropriations, a most difficult 
and disagreeable work for a man of his training, requiring tact 
and diplomacy of no ordinary character; but in this work he was 
remarkably successful, and his addresses to the committees of 
appropriations of the House and Senate were invariably received 
with attention, and his claims allowed. He had a remarkable 
faculty of inspiring confidence, while his innate modesty gained 
him friends among those who believed they knew a strong honest 
man, when they saw one. 

Baird never demanded more than was reasonable, and his policy 
was to educate the people in advance to the necessities of the situa- 
tion, so that congressmen as a rule gave his demands attention 
and their hearty support. Professor Baird never lost sight of the. 
fact that while the head of the Smithsonian Institution he was the 
custodian of a public trust, and a public servant. He was con- 
scientious in all his methods, and always drove a good bargain for 
the government and people. This was well known in Congress, 
and an influential senator is quoted as saying: "I am willing to 
vote the money asked for by Professor Baird, for he will get two 
dollars worth for every dollar we give him, one-half by direct pur- 
chase and one-half by gift." This statement while true does not do 
full justice to the remarkable administrative skill of the incumbent. 
He literally turned every branch of the government into a clearing- 
house for the National Museum and the Smithsonian Institution; 
the consulates, the agents of the government, surgeons, army offi- 
cers, ministers, soldiers, lighthouse keepers, revenue service, of- 
ficers of the army and marine corps, the engineer department, 
no branch of the service was overlooked by this indefatigable 
collector who had the power to interest everyone in his work and 
to induce them to send in animals, plants, minerals, fossils, fruits 
and flowers, or Indian implements from the localities in which 
they were stationed, while consuls and ministers were induced to 



SPENCER FULLERTON BAIRD 277 

arrange for exchange with foreign nations. In this way he had an 
enormous corps of enthusiastic helpers and aids which, if they 
had been paid, would have cost the government enormous and 
impossible sums. 

There is a feature of the life of Professor Baird which commends 
itself to many naturalists; this was his influence over young men 
and the cordial aid he always stood ready to give them. He was 
a remarkable organizer, and as such possessed a keen insight and 
discernment of a remarkable quality. He recognized the fact 
that the great museum he was building up was not for to-day, but 
for all time, and that new men would be required in the future 
and should be trained to fill the positions in the various depart- 
ments; hence he was always on the lookout for young men of 
promise and marked ability, and scores of the leading naturalists 
in the United States to-day owe their prominence to his good judg- 
ment; and the methods of study which he advocated. Dr. John 
Billings in his life of Agassiz, cites an illustration which bears on 
this point. The Institution had received some interesting Semitic 
inscriptions, and a young man named Mason who had been 
making studies along these lines called to see them. Professor 
Baird gave him a hearty welcome and listened quietly to his 
explanations. When Mason completed his work and was about 
to leave, Baird said to him, "I want you to give up your Semitic 
work and devote yourself to American ethnology. We have two 
continents awaiting some one, you are the one, you must stay 
with us." In this way America gained one of its greatest ethnolo- 
gists, and Dr. Otis T. Mason is still connected with the govern- 
ment Institution^-a living example of the good judgment of the 
late secretary. 

The sagacity, the positive genius of his discernment is shown in 
the selection of his assistant, the late Professor G. Brown Goode, 
who was appointed to share the administrative work, as his assist- 
ant, in 1887. Dr. Goode was already connected with the Fish 
Commission and he was given the charge of the National Museum. 
The two men were alike in their modesty and their many virtues, 
and their only serious difference during many years of arduous 



278 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

work is related by Miss Baird. Baird and Goode had been work- 
ing along some identical line in the museum in which both were 
interested. Baird in making a report upon it gave Goode the 
credit. Goode resented the implication and retorted with a mi- 
nority report insisting that the credit belonged to his chief. This 
perhaps is the only instance where Goode was even suspected of 
insubordination, or where the distinguished master of science was 
known to be unjust, in trying to shirk credit that doubtless be- 
longed to himself, or at least in part. A more speaking commen- 
tary on the fine sense of honor possessed by these two American 
gentlemen could not be imagined, for which I am indebted to 
T. D. A. Cockerell's life of Baird, in The Popular Science Monthly. 
In Washington Professor Baird's home was the rendevous of men 
of science throughout the city and country and the Sunday nights 
there were looked forward to by many with the greatest pleasure. 
The splendid building of the National Museum is a result of 
Professor Baird's business methods. Dr. Hall tells the story. An 
attempt had been made to induce Congress to appropriate money 
to build it without result, but finally the government consented to 
make an appropriation for the Centennial at Philadelphia. It 
was not believed possible in Congress for Philadelphia to return 
this money, it was not believed that so vast an exhibit could be 
made a financial success, hence Congress in reply to the importu- 
nities of Professor Baird said, that if Philadelphia returned the 
loan, he could have half of it for the much desired and needed 
building. This was enough for the energetic secretary, and he 
called a meeting of his subordinates and explained the situation. 
They must lend all their efforts to make the exhibition one that 
would redound to their credit, please the people and Congress. 
This was carried out. Philadelphia repaid the loan, and Congress 
in 1879 voted the appropriation and the new building was occu- 
pied in 1882 ; hence it is very evident that Professor Baird was the 
father of the National Museum. 

Professor Baird was a notable figure among the men of science 
of his time, and the world did not fail to recognize his signal ability, 
and the fact that he stood at the head of American naturalists. 



SPENCER FULLERTON BAIRD 279 

As early as 1850, he was honored by Dickinson College with a 
Degree of Doctor of Physics, and in 1875, ^^^at of Doctor of Laws 
from Columbia University. In 1878, he received the silver medal 
of the Acclimatization Society of Melbourne. In 1879, the gold 
medal of the Society of Acclimatization of France, and in 1880, the 
erster Ehrenpriez of the International Fischerei Ausstellung at 
Berlin, given him by his majesty the Emperor of Germany. From 
the King of Norway and Sweden he received in 1875 the decora- 
tion of Knight of the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olaf. 

Professor Baird was one of the early members of the National 
Academy of Sciences, and a member of its council, and but for 
his extreme modesty many more honors would have been conferred 
upon him. He was one of the early secretaries of the Society of 
the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He 
was a trustee in numerous institutions, among them the Corcoran 
Art Gallery, and Columbia University. He was also President of 
the Cosmos Society and many scientific societies in this country. 

Foreign societies vied with those of this country in doing him 
honor. He was a member of the Linnaean Society of London, the 
Zoological Society, Honorary Member of the Linnaean Society 
of New South Wales, and a member of all the leading Frenth, 
German and Italian scientific bodies. While this short paper 
can only be considered a glance at the fine picture presented by 
this well-rounded life, and of necessity devoted to his public works 
and utilities, I cannot pass by the social and home life of the great 
naturalist. Those who knew him will remember the genial hos- 
pitality, the firm grasp of his hand, the strong ring of his friend- 
ship, the fine sense of honor, and the full measure of the personal 
graces with which nature had invested him. 

To me he was that ideal, the type of the American gentleman of 
the old school which should be perpetuated. He was a type to be 
held up as an example of what an American boy can accomplish, 
what an American citizen can attain. His home life was an inspira- 
tion, and its charm was realized by a large contingent of friends 
and acquaintances from many lands, who shared in it, and the 
graceful hospitality dispensed by his gifted wife and daughter. 



28o LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

Professor Baird represented a sturdy American type. He came 
of a sterling people who came to this country in the seventeenth 
century. During the war of the Revolution his grandfather, the 
Rev. Elihu Spencer of Trenton, was so potent a factor for inde- 
pendence that the British put a price on his head, and both branches 
of the family were conspicuous for their services to the people, 
the state and their country. 

Professor Baird married Mary Helen Churchill in 1846, the 
only daughter of Sylvester Churchill, Inspector General, U. S. A. 
Mrs. Baird was a woman of high culture and marked intelligence, 
who had a strong influence upon her husband's life and work, 
while his daughter. Miss Baird, was in close sympathy and com- 
panionship with her distinguished father and was a constant and 
indispensable aid to him, in all of his many and diverse interests. 

The seaside laboratory at Woods Hole, the summer head- 
quarters of the United States Fish Commission, was of pecuhar 
interest to Professor Baird, as one of the results of his comprehen- 
sive grasp upon the great plan of zoological work in connection 
with the government, and it was here that he passed the last period 
of his active life. For some time he had been failing, and his 
physicians ordered a complete rest; Professor Langley assumed 
charge of the Smithsonian, and Dr. Goode of the National Museum, 
and the great organizer, the man who had reared the great insti- 
tution for the people, stepped aside into the shadow of a coming 
change. It was hoped that he would rally, that the wasted ener- 
gies would be restored, but this was not realized and in the summer 
of 1887, with intellect still clear and unimpaired, amid the scenes 
of his greatest triumphs at what his friend Major Powell fitly 
termed the greatest "biological laboratory of the world," reared 
by his hands, planned by him, he passed into history revered, 
mourned, honored as few men have been in this or any land. 

I shall not attempt to sum up the value of his work or its relation 
to the present or to posterity. I have sounded his virtues in passing 
as they have occurred to me in this brief review of his life, but it 
seems fitting to add the words of his well-beloved friend and 
colleague. Professor G. Brown Goode: "Future historians of 



SPENCER FULLERTON BAIRD 281 

American science will be better able than are we to estimate justly 
the value of the contributions to scientific literature which are 
enumerated in the biography; but no one not living in the present, 
can form an accurate idea of the personal influence of a leader 
upon his associates, and upon the progress of thought in his special 
department, nor can such an influence as this well be set down in 
words. This influence is apparently due not only to extraordinary 
skill in organization, to great power of application and concentra- 
tion of thought constantly applied, and to a philosophical and 
comprehensive mind, but to an entire and self-sacrificing devotion 
to the interests of his own work and that of others." 



OTHNIEL CHARLES MARSH 

PALEONTOLOGIST 

183 1-1899 

By George Bird Grinnell 

In the scientific world, the name of Marsh stands forth as that 
of a man of strong personality, of keen powers of observation, and 
of high attainments. He brought to the service of science great 
enthusiasm and zeal, and his learning placed him in the front 
rank of American anatomists and paleontologists. Like Baird, 
he was an explorer and collector, taking immense pleasure in his 
expeditions, in the vast collections of vertebrate fossils thus ac- 
quired, and in the elaboration of this rich material. His early 
success came through perseverance, concentration of effort, and 
hard and continuous labor. While others may reap greater fame 
in his chosen field, he was one of the illustrious trio who bla2ed 
the path to the broader domain, and it is in large measure due to 
his work as an enthusiastic pioneer that vertebrate paleontology 
has assumed its present importance in America. When Marsh 
died, science lost a devoted ally, American paleontology an emi- 
nent leader, and Yale University a distinguished son. 

From 1636 to 1881, that branch of the Marsh family living 
within the bounds of old Salem, Massachusetts, had occupied but 
four places of residence, all in that part of the town afterwards 
called Danvers, now Peabody, and in the house last built Caleb 
Marsh, whose son furnishes the subject of this sketch, was born 
November 8, 1800. In 1827, he married Mary Gaines Peabody, 
also a native of Danvers, and a descendant of Lieut. Francis 
Peabody, who established himself in Ipswich in 1635. After his 

283 



284 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

marriage, Mr. Marsh took up his residence in Lockport, New 
York, and here on Chestnut Ridge his eldest son, Othniel Charles 
Marsh, was born October 29, 183 1, in the eighth generation from 
John Marsh of Salem, the founder of the family in this country. 

In his third year, the boy had the misfortune to lose his mother, 
an admirable woman whose influence in her family was strong, 
and who bequeathed to her son qualities that brought him his 
highest success. After his mother's death, with an elder sister he 
was taken by his father to Danvers and placed in the care of an 
aunt, remaining two years in the home built by his ancestors in 
1766 but destroyed by fire in 1881. In 1836, Mr. Caleb Marsh 
returned to Lockport, and soon after married Miss Mary Latten, 
daughter of Judge Latten of that place. Six children were born 
of this second marriage. The family subsequently lived at Brad- 
ford, Massachusetts, but a few years later returned to Lockport, 
where the father died in 1865. 

Mr. Caleb Marsh was an industrious farmer, energetic and 
enterprising, with a keen interest in current events and marked 
ability in the acquisition of knowledge. Being endowed with a 
remarkable memory, his attainments, it is said, were such as to 
cause him to be regarded as a sort of village oracle. He was, 
however, both stern and impulsive, and not being always in sym- 
pathy with the tastes of his strong-willed son, he occasionally 
inflicted severe punishment on the boy. Brought up in the countrj', 
healthy in body and alert in mind, the sturdy lad was chiefly 
interested in out-of-door affairs, and early showed individuality 
and resolute character. Obliged, like most country boys, to 
make himself useful when quite young, he still found time to 
indulge his predilection for hunting and fishing. The robust 
health and vigorous constitution enjoyed until within a year or 
two of his death were doubtless due to the open-air life of these 
early years, while to habits of observation thus acquired he owed 
much of his scientific success. 

When Marsh was twelve years of age, his father purchased a 
farm in the western part of Lockport, close to the Erie Canal. At 
that time the enlargement of the canal was in progress, and great 



OTHNIEL CHARLES MARSH 285 

quantities of rocks were blasted out by the workmen. These 
limestones contained various minerals and fossils which so engaged 
the attention of the boy, that under the guidance of Colonel Jewett, 
a collector in that region, he soon became ardently interested in 
these specimens. So determined and absorbed was he in this 
undertaking that he absolutely refused to work on his father's 
farm, often spending whole days in adding to his store of minerals, 
and further provoking parental discipline. Indeed, from this 
time on he seems to have had no taste for farming. 

At the outset Marsh met with difficulty in gaining an education, 
for it was during the winter only that his father permitted him to 
attend school; yet inheriting an aptitude for learning and a reten- 
tive memory, it was necessary for him to read his lessons over but 
once in order to learn them, and he generally stood at the head of 
his class. He must have made good use of his time, for at the age 
of nineteen he taught during the winter in a district school, receiv- 
ing sixteen dollars a month for his services. With this money, he 
left Lockport for South Danvers, and spent the rest of the year 
185 1 at the old Marsh homestead. A diary kept during the 
months succeeding his arrival begins: 

"Danvers, June ist, '51. 
"Believing that a diary, with regular additions, will be highly 
advantageous in improving my style of writing, and penmanship, 
and also a valuable assistant to my memory, I shall now commence 
to note down the most important events of each day, in as plain 
and concise a manner as possible. 

"O. C. Marsh." 

This diary shows that during the formative period of his life, 
Marsh displayed the same energy, industry, and enthusiasm 
characteristic of his more mature years. Up to this time, however, 
there is no hint of pursuing further study; yet later, through the 
influence of a maternal aunt, who had enlisted the generosity of 
her brother (Mr. George Peabody of London) in his behalf, 
Marsh was induced to enter Phillips Academy, Andover, and, late 
in the autumn of 185 1, he became a student in the English Depart- 
ment of that institution. At first he showed little ambition to 



286 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

Bxcel in his studies, although he devoted some of the time to sub- 
jects relating to natural history, spending his leisure in exploring 
the surrounding country. The next winter, however, he took hold 
in real earnest, confessing that during the previous year he "was 
playing backgammon with the boys half the time. I changed my 
mind," he stated, "during an afternoon spent on Dracut Heights 
[Lowell]. I resolved that I would return to Andover, take hold, 
and really study." This resolve he carried out with characteristic 
energy, and while most of the boys took but three studies. Marsh 
took four. When asked why he worked so hard, he replied: "To 
make up for lost time; I have spent enough time shooting ducks 
to fit myself for college." 

Previous to 1852, he apparently came to no decision regarding 
an academic career. The encouragement of his father and aunt 
coupled with the liberality of his uncle, Mr. Peabody, turned the 
scales in favor of a higher education, and Marsh finally declared 
his intention of going to Yale College. Accordingly, in the spring 
of 1853, he began his preparation by entering the Classical Depart- 
ment of Phillips Academy as third junior, at the same time con- 
tinuing his studies in natural science. Three years later he was 
graduated from that institution as valedictorian of his class. In 
describing this period in Marsh's career, an intimate friend has 
written: 

"In Phillips Academy there were then two paths of glory; one 
was high standing in the class, the other was the Philomathean 
Society, a boys' debating club. 

"After Marsh really began to study, he stood first in class every 
term without exception. He studied intensely, but tried to make 
the impression that he achieved his success without any work at 
all. In the debating club, he also took hold strongly, although 
he was at this time a slow and halting speaker, and never in his 
life was anything of a rhetorician. His superiority in managing 
practical aSairs soon impressed all, and he became manager of 
the society and held the whole thing in his hands. But he was 
older than the rest of us, and was an experienced man of the 
world moving among a set of crude boys. 

"I remember an instance of his foresight and shrewd manage- 
ment — shrewd with a touch of cunning in it. The President of 



OTHNIEL CHARLES MARSH 287 

the society for the third term had been taken from the senior class 
for years, but one year the candidate was unpopular, a revolution 
started, and the middlers resolved to run a candidate of their 
own. Marsh, then a junior, threw himself into the movement 
with might and main. He said to me: 'We can elect the middler 
and next year I will be candidate; the precedent for the election 
of a middler will be established.' He worked with much energy 
and skill and caused the election of the middler, now Dr. Alex- 
ander McKenzie of Cambridge. The next year this President 
left school, and his place was supplied by the Vice-President, now 
Dr. Franklin Carter, ex-President of Williams College. Carter 
was the best candidate the seniors had for the third term presi- 
dency, and would have been a hard man for Marsh to beat. But 
Marsh, with some assistance from myself, persuaded the Vice- 
President to remain in his place and perform the President's 
duties during the remainder of the term. Then all the school 
politicians said that Carter had practically been the President for 
a term, and of course could not run again. This took him out of 
the way; the time for nomination approached; the seniors put up 
a weak fellow, but fought for him like tigers, not wanting their 
class to be defeated. Marsh organized the middlers with great 
skill, held the class firmly together, picked up the loose votes ly- 
ing around the school, and defeated the senior candidate by a 
majority of one. The excitement in the school was tremendous, 
and Marsh became a great hero. The foresight shown in pushing 
in a middle-class candidate a year before, and getting McKenzie 
and Carter on the shelf by previous elections so as to provide a 
weak opponent for himself was quite exceptional in one so young. 
"Marsh entered his senior year having gained all the honors of 
the PhUomathean, politics no longer pressed his mind, and he 
gave his entire time to study. He secured the valedictory and 
gave the address at the school exhibition, but his oration was quite 
ordinary. He had made a clean sweep of all the honors of Phillips 
Academy; there was no desirable honor which he did not get while 
there." 

During his school-days at Andover and throughout his college 
course he was a devoted student of mineralogy, and in the summer 
of 1852 displayed his unabated interest in the subject by arranging 
the collection of the Essex Institute at Salem, his vacation being 
given up to this work and to explorations in Massachusetts and 
New York State. It was during these years that various trips to 



288 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

Nova Scotia were made for the purpose of investigating the geol- 
ogy of that peninsula and of adding to his specimens. In 1855, 
with his intimate friend and classmate Park, he explored the 
famous Coal-Measure section at South Joggins, where he found 
the remains of a unique extinct animal, Eosaurus, the description 
of which was not published until seven years later. This important 
discovery eventually changed the course of his scientific career, 
these two vertebrae serving as the basis of his future work in verte- 
brate paleontology. 

The summer preceding his entrance to college was employed 
in field work in New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York, 
most of the time in company with his lifelong friend Van Name; 
the autumn of 1856 saw him a freshman at Yale. After his bril- 
liant career at the academy, where he had been the acknowledged 
leader in all society matters and class affairs, it was to be expected 
that he would meet with disappointment in his new surroundings. 
Some of his college instructors were apparently less able men than 
those under whom he had been studying, and failed to arouse the 
enthusiasm and earnestness inspired by his Andover professors. 
He was also exhausted by the intense work of the three preceding 
years and suffered a natural reaction; his scholarship therefore 
fell below the remarkably high standard previously maintained. 
Socially, too, he soon discovered a marked difference between the 
position of leading senior at Andover and that of freshman at 
Yale. He suffered some humiliations, but the experiences were 
doubtless beneficial, for his extraordinary success at Andover had 
perhaps given him too exalted an opinion of himself. 

In July, 1857, his uncle and benefactor, Mr. George Peabody 
of London, visited him for the first time at New Haven, and ex- 
hibited a keen interest in his scientific pursuits. This first visit 
doubdess laid the foundation for Mr. Peabody's subsequent liber- 
ality to Yale in bestowing the fund which finally resulted in the 
present Peabody Museum. 

While in college. Marsh gave much of his leisure to the study 
of the natural history of various parts of Connecticut, and his 
vacations were often spent in examining the geology and paleon- 



OTHNIEL CHARLES MARSH 289 

tology of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, a third scientific excur- 
sion to these provinces having been made in 1857, in company with 
three classmates (Abernethy, Clay, and Post) . 

In 1858, he again devoted the summer to collecting, this time in 
New York State; and in the following long vacation, when a 
junior, made his fourth trip to Nova Scotia, Post again accompany- 
ing him. A fifth expedition to this peninsula took place in i860, 
after graduation, and like those preceding it resulted in valuable 
additions to his scientific wealth. 

At the end of his collegiate course he ranked eighth in a class 
of one hundred and nine members, the largest and one of the ablest 
classes that had ever been graduated at Yale. He was given a 
high oration appointment and his attainments in classics were such 
as to entitle him to the Berkeley Scholarship, other honors coming 
in the guise of the Latin prize and an election to Phi Beta Kappa. 

In accordance with the terms on which the income of the 
Berkeley Scholarship is granted. Marsh remained two years 
longer at Yale as scholar of the house, studying mineralogy, 
geology, and chemistry at the Sheffield Scientific School. This 
graduate work led to the degree of M.A., conferred by Yale in 
1862. When the Civil War broke out, Marsh was offered a major's 
commission in a Connecticut regiment, but defective eyesight 
obliged him to decline this military honor. During the following 
summer occurred his final trip to Nova Scotia, where he explored 
the gold fields, then newly discovered. His observations were 
apparendy the earliest published on the subject and were embodied 
in his initial scientific paper: " The Gold of Nova Scotia " {Amer. 
Jour. Sci., Nov., 1861). Two additional contributions to mineral- 
ogy were subsequently published, but after 1867 his active interest 
in minerals ceased. 

The year 1862 witnessed the publication of an elaborate and 
detailed description of the enaliosaurian vertebrae found in Nova 
Scotia in 1855, the only specimens of the kind ever discovered. 
Previous to the appearance of this article, the fossil had been 
brought to the attention of the elder Agassiz, who at once recog- 
nized its value and importance, as shown by his letter to Professor 



290 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

Silliman, which appeared in the American Journal of Science for 
March, 1862. 

In the succeeding summer, Marsh refused the professorship 
cfifered him by his Alma Mater, and in November, 1862, started 
on his first European trip, visiting the International Exhibition 
in London and spending some time in the various museums of 
England. Later he entered Berlin University as a student of 
mineralogy and chemistry, under G. and H. Rose, respectively, 
and of microgeology under Ehrenberg. 

In the spring of 1863, his studies were continued at Heidelberg 
University, under the direction of Bunsen, Blum, and Kirschoff, 
and it was during this semester that he became a fellow of the 
Geological Society of London, his name having been proposed by 
Sir Charles Lyell. The following summer was devoted to an 
extended trip through Switzerland, during which a special study 
of glaciers was made. Returning to Berlin, he began researches 
in paleontology, a professorship in that branch of science having 
been instituted for him at Yale College. This subject was dili- 
gently pursued throughout the academic year, and further prep- 
arations for his prospective work were made in extensive collec- 
tions of books and specimens. He again studied at Berlin in 1864 
under the eminent scholars Beyrich, Peters, and Ehrenberg, and 
made various excursions to the Hartz Mountains and other parts 
of northern Germany. Several short papers giving the results of 
his investigations on invertebrates were presented to the Geo- 
logical Society of Germany, of which he had then recently been 
elected a member. The results thus obtained, however, were 
never fully published, and two brief notes on annelids, another on 
Ceratites, a description of the fossil sponge Brachiospongia, and a 
short paper on the color markings of Orthoceras and Endoceras 
constitute his principal articles dealing with invertebrate fossils, 
the series closing in July, 1869, with a paper on a new species of 
Proiichnites from New York. This paper virtually ended his 
miscellaneous contributions to science, and henceforth the study 
of vertebrate paleontology became his sole aim. 

In the summer of 1864, Marsh made extensive geological explo- 



OTHNIEL CHARLES MARSH 291 

rations in Switzerland and the Tyrol, which resulted in some dis- 
coveries of interest. Entering Breslau University later, he spent 
the winter studying under Roemer, Grube, and Goeppert. He 
was again at Berlin, in the spring of 1865, but soon after went to 
Paris, making frequent stops en route in order to visit various 
museums and important geological localities. A little later, while 
working in the British Museum, Marsh became acquainted with 
Dr. Henry Woodward, Keeper of Geology, the warm friendship 
that ensued lasting throughout life. 

After joining Mr. Peabody in Ireland for the purpose of salmon 
fishing, Marsh sailed from Queenstown for Boston in August, 
1865, and soon after his arrival in this country began a systematic 
study of American geology as then known, devoting the autumn 
to the investigation of characteristic localities in New York, 
Ohio, and Kentucky. 

That a fair idea may be gained of Marsh's early environment 
and subsequent training, prominence has here been given the 
events of his life leading up to the time of entering on the career 
in which he was to achieve signal success in many lines, and by 
means of which he earned a place among renowned scholars in 
the world of science. He was already a skilled explorer, an enthusi- 
astic collector, and a promising scientific writer when he accepted 
the Chair of Paleontology at Yale College, to which he was ap- 
pointed at Commencement, 1866. Equipped with the best prepa- 
ration afforded by the institutions of this country and of Germany, 
and endowed with ability, energy, and perseverance, he assumed 
the duties of a professorship apparently the first established in 
that branch of science. In the absence of Professor Dana, he 
began his college work by giving instruction in geology to the senior 
class, continuing this with succeeding classes for several years. 
But he did not wish to make his professorship a teaching one, 
and preferred to serve Yale without salary in order that his time 
might be devoted to research and exploration. During the last 
years of his life, however, he delivered a few lectures on vertebrate 
paleontology, and also directed the work of several graduate 
students. 



292 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

A just appreciation of the value and importance of vertebrate 
fossils had been acquired by Marsh during his studies and obser- 
vations abroad, and the supposed poverty of this country in such 
resources being generally admitted, his genius for collecting was 
called out anew to meet the deficiency. The years succeeding 
his return from Europe had been devoted to the careful study of 
the Cretaceous and Tertiary faunas of New Jersey, from which 
he had obtained some fossils of interest. He had also made scien- 
tific excursions into Canada and had investigated the geology of 
the Connecticut Valley and of New York. But it became apparent 
to him while on his first short trip to the Rocky Mountains in 
1868, that paleontological fields far wider than any in the East 
existed in the West, and he had the genius to comprehend their 
great possibilities and to realize what personal exploration of the 
West might yield. The initial journey over the then newly opened 
Union Pacific Railroad produced results of no small scientific 
interest, though not strictly pertaining to vertebrate paleontology. 
From an alkaline lake in Wyoming, he obtained living specimens 
of larval Siredons, or "fish with legs," as they were called, the 
remarkable development of which, observed by him after his 
return to the East, called forth the notable paper: On the Meta- 
morphosis of Siredon into Amhlystoma. 

On this trip he secured various interesting Tertiary fossils 
that had been thrown out during the excavation of a well in an 
ancient lake bed at Antelope Station, Nebraska. Among these 
specimens were the first of the equine mammals that were destined 
to play so important a role in the list of Marsh's brilliant discoveries. 
The paper describing his new and diminutive fossil horse {Equus 
parvulus) appeared in November, 1868. 

This preliminary investigation, confirming the work of Leidy 
on the vertebrate material collected by the Hayden Survey, con- 
vinced Marsh of the wonderful fertility of the western country in 
geological and paleontological resources, and he immediately 
began preparations for its systematic exploration. Owing to an 
Indian war in 1869, in the region he wished to explore, his plans 
were not fully matured until the following year. 



OTHNIEL CHARLES MARSH 



293 



Foremost among the successes of these early days was the series 
of private expeditions originating in 1870, with which Marsh's 
name is so closely identified. In the spring he made an extensive 
trip through the southern states, with special investigation of the 
phosphate beds of South Carolina and the Cretaceous deposits 
of Alabama, and on his return to New Haven organized the first 
Yale expedition, the party consisting of twelve students or recent 
graduates under the leadership of Marsh. This party started in 
June, and after an absence of five months returned to New Haven 
ladened with fossil treasures. Military escorts from various posts 
along the route insured their safety, and explorations in nu- 
merous Tertiary and Cretaceous deposits in Nebraska, Colorado, 
Wyoming, Utah, California, and western Kansas resulted in the 
discovery of over a hundred species of extinct vertebrates new to 
science — fossil horses, peculiar ungulates, carnivores, turtles, ser- 
pents, fishes, aquatic reptiles, toothed birds, and a single flying 
dragon, or pterodactyl. 

During the four years that ensued. Marsh annually led other 
expeditions scarcely less successful than the first, the later parties 
being made up chiefly of competent assistants, specially fitted for 
original research. Localities proving most fertile in vertebrate 
remains were repeatedly visited, and the fossils thus collected 
soon came to be estimated by tons rather than by hundreds or 
thousands of specimens. The difllculties under which Marsh 
labored and the zeal shown in the pursuit of his aim may be 
inferred from the fact that the regions traversed were wild and 
sometimes dangerous from hostile Indians. Sometimes there was 
suffering from lack of food and water — the usual difficulties of 
early western travel. There was then but one transcontinental 
railroad in the United States, and away from that, travel through 
a region practically unknown was slow and difiicult and involved 
a great expenditure of time and means. After 1874 no expeditions 
were undertaken on the previous grand scale. Although under 
the escort and protection of United States troops, accompanied 
by Indian and local guides, the heavy expense of these the first 
private scientific expeditions to the Great West was borne chiefly 



294 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

by Marsh, who during his life contributed more than a quarter 
of a million dollars to the sole object of completing his paleon- 
tological collections, in the acquisition of which he crossed the 
Rocky Mountains twenty-seven times. 

It was on his perilous expedition to the Bad Lands near the 
Black Hills in 1874 that Marsh was twice driven back by the 
Sioux Indians, who supposed him to be searching for gold rather 
than for bones. In endeavoring to appease the savages, he held 
various councils with Red Cloud and other chiefs, and at last 
gained permission to proceed with his party only by promising 
Red Cloud to take his complaints, with samples of his rations to 
the Great Father at Washington. The fulfilment of this promise 
together with an exposure of the frauds that Marsh had seen prac- 
tised upon the Indians led to his conflict with Secretary Delano 
and the Indian Ring, in which fight this department of the Govern- 
ment was thoroughly defeated, subsequent events substantiating 
all the charges made by Marsh. Later, Red Cloud presented 
his benefactor with an elegant pipe and tobacco pouch as tokens 
of his gratitude, sending with them the complimentary message 
that the "Bone-hunting Chief" was the only white man he had 
seen who kept his promises. A full account of Marsh's contest 
with the Indian Ring is embodied in A Statement of Affairs at the 
Red Cloud Agency and Report of the Special Commission appointed 
to investigate the Affairs of the Red Cloud Indian Agency, 1875. 

The large series of equine mammals collected by Marsh previ- 
ous to Huxley's memorable visit to this country in 1876, not only 
rendered the pedigree of the Equidae more complete, but was the 
means of convincing the British anatomist that the specimens in 
the Peabody Museum "demonstrated the evolution of the horse 
beyond question, and for the first time indicated the direct line 
of descent of an existing animal." In the life and letters of his 
father, Huxley's son tells of the visit to Yale and of the western 
wonders stored in its natural history museum. 

After examining these collections and weighing the evidence 
ofifered by the fossil remains, Huxley recast much of his New 
York lecture which treated of the genealogy of the horse based on 



OTHNIEL CHARLES MARSH 



295 



European specimens, and announced the fact that "through the 
Tertiary deposits of Western America Marsh tracked the succes- 
sive forms by which the ancient stock of the horse has passed into 
its present form." 

It was during his visit to New Haven in 1876 that Huxley 
made the jocxilar drawing which accompanies this sketch. He had 
been going over the horse material in the museum and at the end 




of a session sat down at a laboratory table with Marsh to discuss 
the fossils he had seen. As he talked, he began to sketch with his 
pencil on a sheet of brown paper, and presently said, "That is 
my idea of Eohippus." Then suddenly he added, "But he needs 
a rider " and with a few strokes of his pencil he completed the 
sketch as it stands to-day. There was some laughter over it, and 
then Marsh said, "But the rider must have a name. What shall 



296 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

we call him?" "Call him Eohomo," said Huxley, and Marsh 
wrote under the sketch the legend as it appears. 

The layman must understand that all this was pure fun; that 
the name Eohomo does not exist; that in the geological horizon 
from which Eohippus comes no tailless apes have yet been found. 
The whole thing was fun, and is not to be taken seriously. 

On the 1 6th of August Huxley left to join the "Alexander 
Agassiz" at Newport whence he wrote the following letter: 

"Newport, Aug. 19, 1876. 
"To Mr. Clarence King, 

"My dear Sir: In accordance with your wish, I very willingly 
put into writing the substance of the opinion as to the importance 
of Professor Marsh's collection of fossils which I expressed to you 
yesterday. As you are aware, I devoted four or five days to the 
examination of this collection, and was enabled by Prof. Marsh's 
kindness to obtain a fair conception of the whole. 

"I am disposed to think that whether we regard the abundance 
of material, the number of complete skeletons of the various 
species, or the extent of geological time covered by the collection, 
which I had the good fortune to see at New Haven, there is no 
collection of fossil vertebrates in existence which can be compared 
with it. I say this without forgetting Montmartre, Siwalik, or 
Pikermi — and I think that I am quite safe in adding that no col- 
lection which has been hitherto formed approaches that made by 
Professor Marsh, in the completeness of the chain of evidence by 
which certain existing mammals are connected with their older 
tertiary ancestry. 

"It is of the highest importance to the progress of Biological 
Science that the publication of this evidence, accompanied by 
illustrations of such fulness as to enable paleontologists to form 
their own judgment as to its value, should take place without 
delay. 

"I am yours very faithfully, 

"Thomas H. Huxley." 

During the years succeeding 1874, the rapid development of 
the West and the accessibility of many fossil fields to the railroads 
made it possible for small, less expensive parties to carry on the 
work of exploring for extinct vertebrates. After 1876, therefore, 
trained local collectors and others were annually sent into the field 



OTHNIEL CHARLES MARSH 297 

by Marsh, and these men working under his instructions packed 
the accumulated specimens on the ground and shipped them to 
New Haven. Not until 1879 did Marsh again personally visit the 
West, but his success in ferreting out new material was undi- 
minished. 

Marsh was appointed Vertebrate Paleontologist on the United 
States Geological Survey, July i, 1882. The experience gained in 
the preceding fourteen years of investigation of the geology and 
paleontology of the Rocky Mountain region and other parts of 
the West peculiarly fitted him for this position, which also relieved 
him from the personal expense attendant upon keeping parties 
in the field, although during his connection with the Survey he 
devoted aU the salary annually received from that source to the 
advancement of the work in hand. 

In making collections for the Survey he had two objects in view: 

"(i) To determine the geological horizon of each locality where 
a large series of vertebrate fossils was found, and 

"(2) To secure from these localities large collections of the 
more important forms sufficiently extensive to reveal, if possible, 
the life history of each." 

In the first of these objects he demonstrated his belief "that 
vertebrate fossils are the key to the geology of the western regions 
for all formations above the Paleozoic, and that most stratigraphi- 
cal questions can be solved by them alone" — a belief not shared 
by all paleontologists and geologists. The second object resulted 
in the vast collections he procured through various western parties 
exploring under his direction, for during the ten years' connection 
with the Siurvey he personally visited the West only four times. 
From the Jurassic, Cretaceous, and Tertiary formations he ob- 
tained series of fossils of the greatest scientific value, the following 
being especially noteworthy: 

"(i) An extensive series of gigantic Dinosaurs from Colorado 
and Wyoming, the largest land animals known, and found only 
in a single horizon of the Jurassic. 

"(2) A series of small primitive mammals from the same lo- 
calities, the discovery of which was of great importance. 



298 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

"(3) A large collection of the gigantic horned Dinosaurs of 
the Laramie, one of the most unexpected discoveries made in 
paleontology. 

"(4) From the same horizon, a large series of Cretaceous 
mammals, a discovery of still greater importance, as such fossils 
had long been sought in vain in various parts of the vsrorld. 

"(5) The discovery and full investigation of the remains of a 
new order of gigantic Eocene mammals, the Dinoceraia, known 
only in this country, and from a limited area. 

" (6) From the Miocene formation, a large series of the remains 
of another group of gigantic mammals, the Brontotherida, also 
unknown except in this country; and the investigation of all the 
important forms of this family." 

When Marsh was forced to relinquish field-work for the Survey 
in 1892, he stated that during the preceding ten years the number 
of large bones shipped from the West alone was over one thousand, 
averaging more than one hundred a year. Several hundred small 
boxes and parcels containing vertebrate fossils, many of them of 
great value, were also sent as part of the same collections made in 
the West by his division. The scientific value of this entire collec- 
tion Marsh believed to be far greater than that of any other collec- 
tion of fossils made by any geological survey in any part of the 
world. 

It has been stated elsewhere that "the methods of collecting 
and preparing these fossils for study and exhibition which he . . . 
introduced in the course of his long experience form the basis 
very largely of all similar work in almost every paleontological 
laboratory of the world, and it is a matter of common remark that 
nearly all the noted collectors and preparateurs have acquired 
their training under his influence." 

Marsh surely deserved all the praise accorded him at home and 
abroad for his skill in accumulating the vast amount of material 
going to make up the Government collections, as well as those 
belonging to him personally. A firm believer in the theory of 
evolution, he was naturally gratified over the light thrown on 
geological history by his western discoveries, for among the speci- 
mens acquired were many forms which filled gaps in the paleonto- 



OTHNIEL CHARLES MARSH 299 

logical series. In addition to the collection of fossil vertebrates, 
he made important contributions to the geology and natural re- 
sources of the regions explored. 

It was the understanding with Survey ofBcials that the material 
collected by Marsh should remain in his custody until thoroughly 
investigated and the results published. After his death, therefore, 
all specimens belonging to the Government were promptly trans- 
ferred from New Haven to Washington. He suffered some adverse 
criticism in his work of collecting for the Geological Survey, but 
the aspersions cast on his methods had no foundation in truth and 
were happily silenced by the correspondence which appeared in 
Science, January 5, 1900. 

Marsh's contributions to scientific literature were chiefly the fruit 
of three lines of investigation — mammals, birds, and reptiles — 
and modem text-books of geology and paleontology show how 
much he added to the prominence now accorded American forms. 
Though not an easy writer, he took great pains to express himself 
clearly and in correct English, and his papers exhibit none of the 
carelessness of expression that often mars the literary work of 
scientific men. The careful and methodical distribution of his 
writings to scientific centers throughout the world gave him emi- 
nence in practically every country. 

His work on the Tertiary formations, both East and West, was 
productive of numerous papers on fishes, serpents, birds, croco- 
diles, lizards, amphibians, ungulates, rodents, carnivores, insec- 
tivores, and primates. Most of the species of fossil horses dis- 
covered by him were described before 1876, yet the two editions of 
Polydactyle Horses were published in 1879 and 1892, respectively, 
and include the illustrations made for Huxley in 1876, to show the 
progressive adaptation in the teeth and limbs of extinct equine 
mammals. Recent examples of what Marsh considered atavism, 
however, cited in these papers, are not so regarded by some noted 
vertebrate paleontologists, who look upon them merely as deformi- 
ties or duplications, like the sixth finger in the human hand. 

The unearthing of various Miocene ungulates which he called 
Brontotherida formed the basis of many descriptions of genera and 



300 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

species, and enabled him to publish a restoration of the principal 
type, but the projected volume on this peculiar group was never 
completed. With a group of horned animals nearly equalling the 
elephant in size — the gigantic mammals from a restricted area in 
the Eocene — he v/as more successful, and the series of papers 
descriptive of these forms culminated in 1886 in his second mono- 
graph, that on the Dinocerata. These huge beasts existed in great 
numbers in central Wyoming, whtit many of them were entombed 
and preserved, and more than two hundred individuals now 
have representation in the Yale collection. 

Rivaling these investigations in the Tertiary deposits were 
those made in the Mesozoic of the West, which furnished material 
for numerous contributions to science from 187 1 on. Previous to 
this he had described a few remains of birds from the Cretaceous 
of New Jersey and from various Tertiary deposits in this country, 
but all pertained to comparatively small species and apparently 
belonged to families still existing. In a letter to Professor Dana, 
under date of November 29, 187 1, Marsh announced the dis- 
covery of his Kansas Cretaceous birds, although the fact of their 
possessing teeth was not learned until 1873. This announcement 
was soon followed by a preliminary description of Hesperornis 
regalis. Subsequent discoveries in the same region in Kansas, 
accompanied by the investigation of accumulating material and 
by the publication of results, finally led to the appearance, in 1880, 
of Marsh's first great monograph: Odontornithes, or The Extinct 
Toothed Birds of North America, a work which included complete 
restorations of two distinct types, Hesperornis and Ichthyornis, 
the one possessing teeth in grooves and the other teeth in sockets. 
It was published as one of the volumes of the U. S. Geological 
Exploration of the 40th Parallel, of which Clarence King was the 
chief. This work subsequently called forth the following letter 
from Darwin: 

"My dear Professor Marsh: I received some time ago your 
very kind note of July 28th, and yesterday the magnificent vol- 
ume. I have looked with renewed admiration at the plates, and 
will soon read the text. Your work on these old birds, and on 



OTHNIEL CHARLES MARSH 301 

the many fossil animals of North America, has afforded the best 
support to the theory of Evolution, which has appeared within 
the last twenty years. The general appearance of the copy which 
you have sent me is worthy of its contents, and I can say nothing 
stronger than this. 

"With cordial thanks, believe me, 

"Yours very sincerely, 
"Charles Darwin." 

In 1881, Huxley also paid a tribute to Marsh's discovery of 
these ancestral birds: 

"The discovery of the toothed birds of the cretaceous for- 
mation of N. America, by Prof. Marsh, completed the series of 
transitional forms between birds and reptiles, and removed Mr. 
Darwin's proposition that, 'many animal forms of life have been 
utterly lost, through which the early progenitors of birds were for- 
merly connected with the early progenitors of the other vertebrate 
classes,' from the region of hypothesis to that of demonstrable 
fact." 

This notable volume on toothed birds taken in connection with 
papers preceding and following it made Marsh easily the first 
authority on the extinct avian class in America, and to-day most 
of the knowledge of fossil birds in this country, from the Jurassic 
to the Post-Pliocene, will be found in his writings. 

Western Kansas which in 1870 also furnished the first ptero- 
dactyls found on this continent, on reexamination yielded a large 
series of specimens pertaining to forms of unusual size, which were 
described by Marsh in various papers from 187 1 to 1884. Not 
until 1876, however, was it found that, unlike European forms, 
one of the distinctive features of American types of Pterosauria 
was the absence of teeth, indicating a new group to which Marsh 
gave the name Pteranodontia. 

Investigations on American forms of this group have recently 
been continued at the Yale University Museum, and a forthcoming 
memoir on Pteranodon furnishes interesting proof of Marsh's keen 
insight and rare skill in interpreting the evidence afforded by 
incomplete specimens. In a discussion of the skull of this flying 
dragon, it is stated in regard to the crest: "In figuring this strange 



302 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

outgrowth . . . Professor Marsh gave an example of his excep- 
tional shrewdness in working from fragmentary material. As 
seen in [the] Plate, there remains only the basal portion of the 
great crest once borne by the type skull. From the evidence offered 
by this he was able to anticipate later discovery by figuring and 
describing an enormous crest that formed about one-third the 
entire length of the skull." It was during recent researches on 
these pterodactyls that the "enormous crest" mentioned in the 
quotation was disclosed in the matrix. The previous conjectural 
restoration of this part of the skull by Marsh is of interest in con- 
nection with a remark often made by him to one of his graduate 
students: "Young man," he would say, "remember that we don't 
any of us know much about this business." 

The Cretaceous chalks of western Kansas further yielded 
remains of numerous sea-serpents, described by Marsh in a series 
of papers also beginning in 187 1. Mosasaurs, though compara- 
tively rare in other parts of the world, were remarkably developed 
in eastern and western sections of the United States. Marsh 
cleared up many obscure points in the structure of these marine 
reptiles, and was the first to determine some of the essential 
characters of the skeleton. New genera and species of other types 
of swimming reptiles were established by him, among which were 
a few forms allied to Ichthyosaurus. 

Although Marsh's toothed birds and toothless pterodactyls, 
together with his fossil horses, may seem to constitute the more 
brilliant of his discoveries, yet probably the vertebrates that have 
added most to his fame are those comprised in the reptilian group 
called Dinosauria. Beginning in 1877, the notable discoveries 
of these monsters of antiquity in both Jurassic and Cretaceous 
deposits of the West, and later in the Triassic of the Connecticut 
Valley; the description and illustration of various suborders, 
families, genera, and species and the portrayal of their many pe- 
culiar characters were brought out in numerous papers contributed 
to the American Journal of Science, fourteen of which were re- 
printed in the Geological Magazine of London. In the Dinosaurs 
of North America, his third notable volume, which appeared in 



OTHNIEL CHARLES MARSH 



303 



1895, his long researches were compiled into a synoptic whole, 
yet the affinities and detailed treatment of these enormous lizards 
were reserved for the final monographs Marsh purposed to write. 
The volume under discussion, however, serves as the only monu- 
ment of this class of his writings extant. The work accomplished 
on other volumes is mainly represented by numerous costly plates, 
including restorations of principal forms. The Dinosaurs found 
in the Triassic of the Connecticut Valley offered Marsh the needed 
evidence that some of the so-called bird tracks, of which Yale 
possesses a fine series, were made by carnivorous forms of these 
terrestrial reptiles, the larger species of which were bipedal. 
Unfortunately, much of the knowledge of this diSicult group of 
extinct reptiles was held in Marsh's remarkable memory; his notes 
generally are not sufficiently amplified to make them available 
to others. 

It will thus be seen that while Marsh wrote a great number of 
what he considered preliminary papers and published three large 
volumes, he left a vast amount of unfinished work. Although he 
published various general articles late in his career, after 1895 he 
seemed to lose sight of the fact that time was passing, and that his 
indebtedness to the Government in the way of volumes on which 
large sums of money had been expended for illustrations was still 
uncanceled. Habits of procrastination grew on him, and this fact 
combined with a lack of facility in readily formulating his thoughts 
will account for most of his literary failures. Some provision for 
the continuation of his uncompleted work was made in the eighth 
article of his will, which reads: 

"The sum of Thirty thousand dollars which by the Terms of 
the First Family Trust of Mr. George Peabody, founded in 1867, 
I am authorized to dispose of by will, I hereby give and bequeath 
to said Corporation of Yale University in New Haven to be ex- 
pended by the Trustees of said Peabody Museum in preparing 
for publication and publishing the results of my explorations in 
the West." 

After 1892 no large collections were added to the Yale series 
until 1898, when active field-work was resumed under the direction 



304 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

of Marsh. A few fossil cycads had been previously received at 
New Haven, but the bulk of this collection was made during the 
summer and autumn of the latter year. More than seven hundred 
of these fossil trunks came from the Black Hills alone, and these 
taken in connection with the specimens since added constitute 
the most important series of the kind in the world. A few verte- 
brates were also obtained at about this time, notably the unique 
dinosaurian type Barosaurus and various remains pertaining to 
the largest turtles yet discovered. 

But Marsh did not confine his efforts entirely to the making of 
vast collections; he devoted much of his energy to the proper 
housing of them. During a visit to his uncle at Homburg in 1863, 
he broached the subject of establishing a museum of natural 
history at Yale, and before the visit was over Mr. Peabody had 
given him assurance that the building, with proper endowment, 
should become a reality. 

When in England, he had been strongly urged by Sir Charles 
Lyell to make a special study of the antiquity of man in America. 
With this in view, he commenced researches in the sepulchral 
mounds of Ohio. While thus engaged the idea of a museum of 
archaeology and ethnology at Cambridge presented itself to his 
mind, and his plans for establishing scientific museums at both 
Harvard and Yale were fulfilled in 1867, when he assisted Mr. 
Peabody in organizing gifts to these universities and to the Pea- 
body Academy of Science at Salem. In connection with the first 
of these Marsh was offered a professorship at Cambridge, a 
second offer coming in 1874, both of which were declined. He 
was appointed a trustee of the other two foundations and became 
Curator of the Yale Geological Collections, a position retained 
throughout life. The right wing of the Yale museum was com- 
pleted in 1875, and much to his regret remained the only portion 
of the building to be finished during his regime, although he used 
every effort to overcome this adverse condition. 

Early in 1898 by deed of gift Marsh presented all his scientific 
collections, including vertebrate and invertebrate fossils, fossil 
footprints, recent osteology, American archaeology, minerals, and 



OTHNIEL CHARLES MARSH 305 

fossil cycads, to Yale University. The acceptance of this splendid 
gift was recorded in the following resolutions offered by the Cor- 
poration of the University: 

"Yale University, 

"January 13, 1898. 

"The President and Fellows, having received a deed of gift 
from Professor Othniel C. Marsh, presenting to the University 
his very valuable collections now in the Peabody Museum, which 
represent the labor of many years on his part and also the ex- 
penditure of a large amount from his personal fortune, desire, as 
they accept the gift, to communicate to him, and to place on record, 
an expression of their grateful acknowledgment of his generosity. 

"In this grateful acknowledgment they are confident that all 
the graduates and friends of Yale will unite, when they learn of 
this most recent manifestation of his long-continued interest in 
the University, even as they already appreciate the unselfish de- 
votion of his time, his talents, and his energies, for more than 
thirty years, to the scientific researches which have given him such 
personal distinction and have brought such renown to the institu- 
tion. 

"Timothy Dwight, President." 

Although the collection of vertebrate fossils combined with that 
of recent osteology constitutes by far the most important of these 
gifts to Yale, yet science is also indebted to Marsh for his zeal in 
gathering together a large amount of material pertaining to archae- 
ology and ethnology. On his return from Europe in 1866, he saw 
the importance of beginning a collection of American antiquities, 
and both before and during his western expeditions large numbers 
of ancient implements found their way to New Haven. Purchases 
were also made from collectors in various states, and through the 
liberality of friends of Yale many specimens have at various 
times been added. No provision was originally made for installing 
specimens of this kind in the museum, and a room on the fourth 
floor was devoted to this purpose, but its size combined with other 
disadvantages precludes the possibility of making an adequate 
display of the large number of objects acquired, which have been 
greatly augmented since Marsh's death. Notable in this collec- 
tion are the thousands of specimens from the Province of Chiriqui, 



3o6 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

Republic of Panama. These antiquities came mainly from prehis- 
toric graves and represent the culture of Indians who in this 
respect ranked next to the Aztecs and the Peruvians under the 
Incas. The collection, said to be by far the most valuable and 
complete of the kind owned by any institution, has never been 
placed on exhibition, although received at the museum years ago. 
Another noteworthy series in the archaeological collection is made 
up of a large number of Egyptian scarabs, which an eminent 
authority has recently declared the most comprehensive in America. 
In recognition of his genius and of his zeal for science, Marsh 
won distinction both in this country and abroad. The apprecia- 
tion of his ability as a collector has steadily grown, until he holds 
a foremost place among makers of vast scientific collections. 
What has not been so fully recognized is his great ability as an 
anatomist and the unerring certainty with which he seized on the 
characteristic features of a specimen and its relation to other 
forms. 

Marsh was either a correspondent or an honorary member of 
many learned societies, the last honors of this kind coming to him 
in 1898, when he was elected correspondent of the Institute of 
France (Academy of Sciences) and foreign member of the Geolog- 
ical Society of London. Harvard University conferred upon him 
the degree of LL.D. in 1886, and he received an honorary Ph.D. 
from Heidelberg University the same year. At the time of his 
death he still held the position of Honorary Curator of Vertebrate 
Paleontology in the United States National Museum and of Verte- 
brate Paleontologist on the Geological Survey. 

He became a member of the American Association for the 
Advancement of Science in the summer of 1866, while attending 
the Buffalo meeting, reading his first paper before that body at 
Buriington the following year. Two years later he was elected 
Secretary of the Association, and in 1876 its Vice-President, 
succeeding the next year to the position of presiding officer. His 
celebrated Nashville address on the Introduction and Succession 
oj Vertebrate Life in America was delivered at the time of his 



OTHNIEL CHARLES MARSH 307 

retirement as Vice-President, and on leaving the office of Presi- 
dent he made a second address: History and Method of Paleonto- 
logical Discovery. In the first of these he showed his great knowl- 
edge of vertebrates by tracing in a masterly way the introduction 
and succession of the various types then known from this country, 
beginning with the lowest Devonian fishes and culminating in the 
highest primate — Man; while in the second he gave a comprehen- 
sive account of the progress of the science of paleontology from 
earliest times. 

In 1877, Marsh was awarded the first Bigsby medal by the 
Council of the Geological Society of London. In transmitting 
this medal to Marsh, the President of the Geological Society said 
in part: 

"The Medal is given in recognition of the great services which 
Prof. Marsh has rendered to the palaeontology of the Vertebrata. 
He has distinguished himself by studying the fossil remains of 
nearly every great group of the Vertebrata from the Palaeozoic, 
Cretaceous, and Cainozoic strata of the New World. The field 
of his research has been immense, but it has been very correct; 
and his descriptive and classificatory palaeontological work indi- 
cates his efiEective grasp of anatomical details, and his great power 
as a comparative osteologist." 

Marsh's first paper before the National Academy of Sciences 
was read by invitation at Northampton in 1869, and treated of 
his new western fossils. He was not elected to membership in 
the Academy, however, until 1874. Four years later he became 
Vice-President, and in May, 1878, on the death of the first Presi- 
dent, Professor Henry, he served as Acting President. While 
substituting in the later capacity, the first instance occurred in 
which the advice of the Academy was asked by direct act of Con- 
gress. This action related to a consideration on the part of the 
Academy of " the methods and expenses of conducting all surveys 
of a scientific character under the War or Interior Department, 
and the surveys of the Land Office," with a request to report to 
Congress "a plan for surveying and mapping the Territories of 
the United States on such general system as will, in their judgment. 



3o8 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

secure the best results at the least possible cost." By virtue of 
his office, Marsh held the chairmanship of the committee appointed 
to carry out the wishes of Congress, and that portion of the report 
concerning geological surveys and the appointment of a commis- 
sion on public lands became a law in 1879. Thus originated the 
present Geological Survey, with the designation by the Chief 
Executive of Clarence King as first Director. 

In 1883, Marsh succeeded Professor W. B. Rogers as presiding 
officer of the National Academy of Sciences, and for twelve years 
he led the deliberations of that body with dignity and ability. He 
took pride in the fact that from the time of his election as Vice- 
President in 1878, he never absented himself from a meeting of 
the Academy — a record that probably few members can boast. 
His resignation took effect in April, 1895. 

One of the most distinguished honors received by Marsh was 
the Cuvier Prize, awarded him by the Institute of France (Acad- 
emy of Sciences) in 1898 — a prize given every three years for the 
most remarkable work either on the animal kingdom or on geology. 
In submitting the report setting forth Marsh's claim to this dis- 
tinction, Professor Gaudry, after rapidly reviewing the researches 
of the principal American savants in paleobotany and in inverte- 
brate and vertebrate paleontology, announced that it was proposed 
to award the prize in 1898 to one of the paleontologists of the 
United States, Professor Marsh, who ''stands unquestionably the 
chief of the constellation of distinguished men who are giving their 
attention to fossil vertebrates." ^ The various phases of Marsh's 
work were dwelt upon in some detail, the report closing as fol- 
lows: 

"It is impossible to enumerate here all the creatures which the 
hammer of Mr. Marsh has drawn from the rocks and which his 
genius has restored. The discoveries which are now being made 
in the United States and in Patagonia open immense horizons be- 
fore paleontologists. We believe that we are honoring the mem- 
ory of Cuvier in awarding the prize which bears his name to 

1 " reste le seule chef inconteste de la pleiade d'hommes distingufe qui 
s'occupe des vert^bres fossiles." 



OTHNIEL CHARLES MARSH 309 

Prof. Marsh, one of the most skilful of those who are carrying for- 
ward the science whose foundations he laid." ^ 

Marsh was a frequent visitor to England, and attended many 
meetings of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, 
where he read numerous papers on his western researches. He 
paid a last visit in 1898, having been appointed a delegate from 
this country to the International Congress of Zoologists at Cam- 
bridge, subsequently attending the Association meeting at Bristol. 
He traveled extensively on the continent, and attended various 
congresses, both geological and zoological, in 1897 going as far 
as Russia as one of the delegates to represent the United States 
Geological Survey at the International Geological Congress at St. 
Petersburg. 

The conditions of Marsh's early life tended to the formation 
and growth of certain peculiarities which at times laid him open 
to criticism. When he entered college he was years older than his 
classmates — a man when they were boys. He had not, at the 
formative period of his life, been thrown with other boys of his 
own age, and subjected to that process of attrition by which 
angles are worn off. Absorbed in his work, he never married, 
and thus missed that further smoothing off of roughness which 
family life is likely to bring. 

His indomitable will brought him success and in later life, like 
many successful men, he was sometimes impatient, intolerant, 
and even autocratic. He took the ground that a region first in- 
vestigated by him became his by right of preemption — a notion that 
caused him numberless difficulties and brought little sympathy. 
He was a man of strong convictions — when attacked he would 
fight — and there were years in his scientific life when he permitted 

1 "II est impossible de rappeler ici toutes les creatures que le marteau de 
M. Marsh a tirees des rochers at que son g^nie a restaurees. Les decouvertes 
qui se font en ce moment, soit aux Etats-Unis, soit en Patagonie, ouvrent de- 
vant les paleontologistes des horizons immenses. Nous crayons honorer la 
memoire de Cuvier en attribuant le prix qui porte son nora au professeur 
Marsh, un des plus habiles continuateurs de la Science dont il a jet6 les 
fondements." 



3IO LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

controversy and the struggle for priority to mar his happiness 
and hinder his work. His fossils were priceless in his eyes, and he 
guarded them with extremest care. A man of less enthusiasm or 
of more liberal mind might have turned over certain subjects to 
able assistants; Marsh's failure in this respect caused in several 
cases a rupture of friendly relations. If his nature had been more 
conciliatory— if he had really cared more for peace — these troubles 
might have been avoided. He had one or two unfortunate experi- 
ences with visitors; hence was somewhat suspicious and disposed 
to think that strangers were trying to overreach him. On the other 
hand, he was a man of kindly nature, extremely jolly, and very 
fond of a joke even though it were directed against himself. He 
was generous, also, in the sense that if anyone made a special effort 
in his behalf he would in turn go out of his way to assist the one 
who had aided him. Marsh's peculiarities were many, some of 
them being so marked as to give his enemies an opportunity to 
speak ill of him, which sometimes resulted in grave injustice. 

His foibles and failings, however, sink into insignificance when 
compared with the many rare qualities that made his life success- 
ful. To a notable degree, he possessed the faculty of making 
even minor things seem worth while; he lent to his surroundings 
a strength and dignity that were almost unique. Since his death, 
the grievances of most of those who worked under him have been 
forgotten in admiration for his achievements. He had but few 
close friends in America, yet his relations with men of science in 
England were of the friendliest sort; however, Huxley's recorded 
estimate of him, that he was "a wonderfully good fellow, full of 
fun and stories of his western adventures," will find hearty indorse- 
ment in many minds, at home as well as abroad. Marsh was a 
keen judge of men, could instantly select the one that he felt would 
be of most use to him, and was seldom at fault in his estimate of 
character. He was efficient and shrewd, and an aggressive leader. 
The quiet humor displayed in parts of the diary to which refer- 
ence has been made constituted one of his most prominent charac- 
teristics. 

The last years of his life were shadowed by adversity, yet to the 



OTHNIEL CHARLES MARSH 311 

world he showed only his cheerful and optimistic spirit. The 
financial stress of the early nineties reduced his private income and 
unfavorable legislation at Washington cut off his salary from the 
Geological Survey, even his allotment from this source being finally 
discontinued. So straitened did he become for means with which 
to carry on his researches that he finally mortgaged his property, 
and in 1896, although he had served Yale for thirty years without 
compensation, he was at his own request placed on the list of 
salaried officers of the University. The vote passed by the Presi- 
dent and Fellows at this time shows the estimation in which Marsh's 
services were held: 

"The Corporation of Yale University desires to congratulate 
Professor Othniel Charles Marsh upon arriving at the thirtieth 
anniversary of his professorship in health and strength, and to 
wish him a continuance of the same for many years. 

"And they further desire to express to him their appreciation 
of and their profound sense of obligation for all that he has ac- 
complished in the advancement of science, as well as for the repu- 
tation of the University, by creating and building up under its 
auspices the department of Paleontology and by generally carry- 
ing on the elaborate and expensive system of original research, ex- 
ploration and discovery, by which he has enlarged the boundaries 
of scientific knowledge and has brought honor to the country, to 
the University, and to himself." 

An English friend, in describing Marsh in 1882, pictured him 
as "of middle height, with a robust well-knit frame and massive 
head. Ruddy and of a fair countenance, he has blue eyes which 
often twinkle humorously." Coming of a hardy race, he possessed 
a vigorous physique and his consciousness of health was always 
vivid. Long after middle life he could endure an amount of phys- 
ical strain that would have tired a younger man, and it was only 
within a year or two of his death that faith in his own length of 
days deserted him. While in Russia in 1897, trouble in the leg 
developed, virtually depriving him of the daily walks so necessary 
to his health. Lack of exercise, therefore, combined with the 
disturbance in the arterial system from which he suffered, rendered 
him unfit to cope with the disease that caused his death. He was 



312 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

seized with a chill on the eleventh of March, 1899, while working 
at the museum; pneumonia rapidly developed, and in a week, 
almost before those closest to him knew of his serious illness, he 
was dead. The tribute of a colleague in the University fittingly 
closes the story of his useful life: 

"The details of his work were so little known by his fellow 
townsmen and his personality was so unusual that an inadequate 
impression might easily exist as to the value of his intellectual at- 
tainments and the importance of what he accomplished. From 
the time when ... he collected minerals on the shores of the 
Bay of Fundy to the closing weeks of his life, he was ever the same 
eager, earnest student of science, amassing collections in many 
different lines with an indomitable energy characteristic of him- 
self. 

"Deprived of family ties which to most men bring the chief 
happiness of life and with but few close personal friends, he was 
ever bright and cheerful and devoted himself to science with a 
single heart. It is certainly not strange that, situated as he was, 
his intense personal ambition should have been often seK-centered. 
His standard of scientific accuracy was high and he demanded 
the same of others; he was none too tolerant of those who opposed 
his views and who encroached upon a field which he felt he had 
preoccupied. But whatever may have been his personal pecul- 
iarities. Professor Marsh was a great man; great in the thorough- 
ness of his intellectual attainments, great in his grasp of the broad 
principles of evolution, great in the tireless energy of his spirit. 

"Death came to him suddenly before he had completed all the 
labors he had undertaken. . . . Notwithstanding it is given to 
few men to erect such a monument as he has done." 




^/iTS/-^. 



EDWARD DRINKER COPE 

PALEONTOLOGIST 

1840-1897 
By Marcus Benjamin 

In the history of American science there will be found the names 
of many who have devoted their lives to the study of natural his- 
tory. Indeed, according to Goode, Henry Harriot who accom- 
panied Sir Walter Raleigh on his voyage to Virginia in 1584 and 
thereafter compiled a Brief and True Report of the New Found 
Land of Virginia, which is full of interest to the naturalist, was 
"the first English man of science who crossed the Atlantic." He 
is described as "a man of wide culture ... a botanist, zoolo- 
gist, and £inthropologist." From his time to the present there 
have been many who have followed in his footsteps and among 
them the names of Say, Leidy, Dana, Agassiz, Baird, and New- 
berry stand out conspicuously in the front rank, like planets among 
the stars. 

As knowledge grew, men more and more devoted themselves 
to specialities, and from naturalists there were differentiated those 
who studied living forms and those who occupied themselves with 
fossil life, and then zoologists and paleontologists were recognized, 
and now with the everlasting growth of knowledge there are 
ornithologists, ichthyologists, conchologists, lepidopterists, coleop- 
terists, carcinologists, and many others who devote themselves 
exclusively to some one of the almost infinite gradations into which 
natural science has resolved itself. 

The student of history who recalls the era when the great trans- 
continental surveys were made to locate a favorable possible 
railway route that should extend from the Atlantic to (he Pacific 

313 



314 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

will remember that each of these surveys was accompanied by a 
scientist whose duties were the collection of objects in natural 
history. These railway surveys were succeeded by the four great 
scientific surveys which flourished in the seventies of the nine- 
teenth century and were consolidated into the United States 
Geological Survey in 1879, and the practice of employing trained 
scientists in connection with their work continued. Among those 
who have gained high reputation in consequence of this develop- 
ment no one occupies a higher place than Edward Drinker Cope 
of whom also more than of his contemporaries, it may be said 
that he "possessed those brilliant mental qualities which are the 
natural endowment of genius." It is the pleasant mission of the 
following pages to present his contributions to science. 

The Cope family is a distinguished one in the annals of Phila- 
delphia, and in the charming romances that Dr. Weir Mitchell has 
written so delightfully about the early days in the Quaker City, 
the name Cope frequently occurs. He tells pleasantly in one of 
his books how during an epidemic of yellow fever in 1793, Mr. 
Cope heroically remained in Philadelphia when flight was con- 
sidered the best policy and devoted his attention to the victims of 
the plague. It was Mr. Cope also who four years later when the 
smallpox raged accepted the task of ministering to the wants of 
the destitute and carried food to the homes of the sufferers. 

According to the records of the family Oliver Cope came from 
Wiltshire, England, about 1687, and settled at Naaman's Creek 
in the extreme north of what is now the state of Delaware. The 
original grant of land is dated September 8, 1681, and recites 
that William Penn of Worminghurst in the county of Sussex, 
Esquire, in consideration of five shillings, etc., conveys to Oliver 
Cope of Awbry in the county Wilts tailor, two hundred and fifty 
acres of land within the province of Pennsylvania. 

Oliver's grandson was Caleb Cope, who, in 1761, removed to 
Lancaster and later settled in Philadelphia. While serving as 
burgess of Lancaster in 1776, the unfortunate Major Andr^, who 
had been captured at St. Johns, Upper Canada, by General Mont- 
gomery and sent with other British prisoners to Lancaster, arrived 



EDWARD DRINKER COPE 315 

in the little town. In spite of the popular excitement against these 
prisoners of war Caleb Cope offered them an asylum in his home 
and protected them against the vengeance of a mob which attacked 
his residence. He is said to have been a member of the Society 
of Friends and an opponent of the war against England. His son, 
Thomas Pim Cope, began a commerical career in Philadelphia 
in 1786, and four years later he established himself in the business 
of importing. His success was very great and soon warranted 
him in purchasing his own vessels. This venture likewise proved 
successful, and in 182 1 he inaugurated the first line of packets 
that ran between Philadelphia and Liverpool, which then con- 
tinued until about the beginning of the Civil War. His sons, 
Henry and Alfred, succeeded to the business, and in time the firm 
assumed the name of Cope Brothers. 

Edward Drinker Cope was the eldest son of Alfred Cope and 
his wife, Hannah Edge. He was born in Philadelphia on July 28, 
1840, while his father was yet active in business, but as the child 
grew to boyhood the family removed to Germantown and there 
the father, who was a man of cultivated literary taste, freed from 
the active interests of his commercial pursuits, lived in ease and 
devoted himself largely to the bringing up of his son. 

At a very early age the boy manifested an active and intelligent 
interest in nature; when only about seven years old during a sea 
voyage to Boston with his father he is said to have kept a journal 
which he filled with drawings of "jelly fish, grampuses and other 
natural objects seen by the way." When eight and a half years 
old he made his first visit to the Museum of the Academy of Natu- 
ral Sciences of his native city; this visit was "on the 21st of the 
loth mo. 1848" as entered in his journal. He brought away care- 
ful drawings, measurements and descriptions of several larger 
birds, as well as of the skeleton of an ichthyosaurus. His drawing 
of the fossil reptile bears the explanatory legend in Quaker style: 
"two of the sclerotic plates: look at the eye, thee will see these in 
it." At the age of ten he was taken upon a voyage to the West 
Indies. 

His contemporary and lifelong friend. Dr. Theodore Gill, in 



3l6 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

a memorial address delivered before the American Philosophical 
Society said: 

"While a school boy he relieved his studies of the classics and 
the regular course in which boys of his age were drilled by ex- 
cursions into the fields and woods. Reptile life especially interested 
him, and he sought salamanders, snakes and tortoises under rocks, 
stones, fallen trees and layers of leaves, as well as in the ponds 
and streams of his vicinage. The trophies of his excursions were 
identified from descripdons in the works in which they were 
treated, as well as by comparison with identified specimens in the 
museum of The Academy [of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia]." 

Professor Henry F. Osborn, his intimate friend and literary exec- 
utor, writes, "the principal impression he gave in boyhood was of 
incessant activity in mind and body, reaching in every direction for 
knowledge, and of great independence in character and action." 

His academic education was received in the Westtown Academy, 
a Quaker institution, where he came under the influence of Dr. 
Joseph Thomas and from whom he obtained a passing knowledge 
of Latin and Greek. In a letter written at this time he says: 

"I caught a large water snake or water wampum as they are 
called here — one of the Colubers in Brandywine, and brought it 
home. It was about as long as my leg, but very thick for its 
length, being somewhat more than two inches in diameter in one 
place. I afterwards found that it had eaten a large bull frog 
which somewhat increased its natural thickness. The people told 
me it would bite me, for everybody almost about here thinks 
water wampums are poisonous, and, indeed the way it struck at 
me scared me a little, but I soon convinced myself it was not, by 
examining its mouth which wanted fangs, and as all non- venomous 
have, it had four rows of small teeth in its upper, and two in its 
lower jaw, and two rows of scales under the tail." 

He does not appear to have had any instruction in any biological 
science and had no regular collegiate training, although for a year 
he studied anatomy in the laboratories of the University of Penn- 
sylvania under the illustrious Leidy, but after all, according to 
Osborn, "it is evident that he owed far more to paternal guidance 
in the direct study of nature and to his own impulses as a young 



EDWARD DRINKER COPE 317 

investigator than to the five or six years of formal education w^hich 
he received at school." 

Thus the boy grew to manhood, and of his appearance at that 
time Doctor Gill describes him as: 

"A young man, nineteen years old, about 5 feet 9 or 10 inches 
high, with head carried somewhat backwards and of rather ro- 
bust frame, stood before me; he had an alert, energetic manner, 
a pronounced, positive voice, and appeared to be well able to take 
his part in any trouble. His knowledge was by no means con- 
fined to herpetology, but covered a wide range of science, and his 
preliminary education had been good." 

In 1859, he visited Washington and joined the group of young 
naturalists who were associated together in the Smithsonian Insti- 
tution under Professor Baird. Their names are best recalled by the 
following stanza, improvised by one of their number, after a hotly 
contested argument on some disputed point in natural history: 

"Into this well of learning dip with spoon of Wood or Horn, 
For students Meek and holy silver spoons should treat with scorn. 

"If Gabb should have the gift of Gill 
As Gill has gift of Gabb, 
'Twould show a want of judgment still 
To try to Cope with Meek." 

In Washington he found not only congenial associates but also 
a place of abode, and he tells in a letter of how he "located on the 
sixpenny side of Pennsylvania Avenue near Sixth St." at $25 
a month. 

Later, on February i, 1861, he writes: 

"I have come to the conclusion that Washington is decidedly 
a second-rate place. Though there are two professors and a doc- 
tor in the boarding house, they are all unsatisfactory trifling 
people." 

Of his associates he says: 

"Two fairer men than Profs. Henry and Baird are, however, 



3l8 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

hard to find. Theodore Gill, a native of New York, with whom 
I have been acquainted for a considerable length of time, is an 
honorable and sincere young man, so far as I know him, though 
by education different enough from myself." 

His first scientific publication was in 1859, when he contributed 
a paper "On the Primary Divisions of the Salamandridse, with 
descriptions of Two New Species" to the Proceedings of the 
Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia. In this paper he 
presented important modifications of the systems previously 
adopted in this country. He continued his study of the serpents 
and made a catalogue of the specimens contained in the museum 
of the Academy in which he employed an improved system of 
his own. 

During the five years that followed he published frequent papers, 
describing new species and giving synopses or brief monographs 
of various genera of lizards and anurous amphibians. In these 
early papers he manifested the independence and critical spirit 
which were so characteristic of him later. On this point, Gill says: 

"Bold as was the criticism of such herpetologists as Dumeril, 
Bibron, and Gtinther, it was justified by the facts, and the young 
author's conclusions have received the endorsement of the best 
succeeding herpetologists, including even the latest author criti- 
cised." 

His only deviation from this special subject of reptiles was in 
1861, when he made a verbal communication on some cyprinoid 
fishes, and again in 1862 when he described a new shrew caught 
by himself in New Hampshire. Again I quote from Gill, who 
writes: 

"He never lost his interest in herpetology and continued to 
the end of his life to devote much attention to that department. 
His studies e.xtended to every branch of the subject, covering not 
only specific details and general taxonomy, but also the consid- 
eration of anatomical details, the modifications of different ort^ans 
geographical distribudon, chronological sequence, genetic relations 
and physiological consequences." 



EDWARD DRINKER COPE 319 

The time at the Smithsonian passed quickly and was well spent 
in hard work — work that was to tell so splendidly in the years yet 
to come. Partly as a rest from overwork and pardy for study, he 
went to Europe in 1863, and for a year he visited the great museums 
of England, France, Holland, Austria, and Prussia, systematically 
examining the collections of reptiles in the chief centers of science. 

The broadening influence of foreign travel soon manifested 
itself, and although herpetology was his first love and continued 
to be the favorite branch of science to his life's end, he began to 
develop wider interests and to extend his studies to various other 
subjects. 

The Civil War was in progress during his visit to Europe, and 
of special interest, therefore, in this connection is the following 
quotation from one of his letters. 

"I hear nothing but bad news from the United States. It is 
plain that we cannot carry on those works, or achieve the results 
which require the united systematic efforts of a whole people 
without a strong government which shall absolutely rule; but it is 
plain also that such arrangements, as far as I can see here, are 
the moral ruin and intellectual degradation of a great many 
people; hence the conclusion that the results to be obtained are 
not worth the loss incurred in obtaining them; hence the request 
of the Jews for a king instead of a judge, was a mistake. But as 
things are, I suppose we shall have a strong government; what my 
duty would be in case I were drafted, I am as much in the dark 
about as ever. It seems wrong to withdraw myself from any 
participation in government at all — yet if one begins it is hard to 
stop short of armies." 

Soon after his return to the United States he was called to the 
professorship of Natural Science in Haverford College and for 
three years, from 1864 to 1867, he lectured in that institution. 
It was while holding that chair that in 1865 he married Anne Pim, 
daughter of Richard Pim of Chester County, a distant cousin. 

Meanwhile his papers, which were increasing in number and 
which for the most part were published in the Proceedings of the 
Academy of Natural Sciences, more and more, according to Osborn, 
"showed the impulse of philosophical spirit, complete familiarity 



320 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

with the history of opinion and marked power of generalization." 
For the most part they dealt with recent herpetology and ichthy- 
ology and were demonstrative of the main evolution principles in 
these groups. 

In 1865 he first began to extend his studies among the mamma- 
lia, especially of the Cetacea, both recent and extinct, of the Coast 
Tertiary. It was also in this year that he described a fossil verte- 
brate for the first time — the Amphibamus grandiceps from the 
Coal Measures. Thereafter for many years he devoted his chief 
attention to exploration and research. During a portion of this 
time he made his home in Haddonfield, New Jersey, a place six 
miles southeast of Camden, and there he began the aceumulation 
of those great collections of specimens, the descriptions of which 
form perhaps his greatest contributions to science. In 1866 he 
began his studies of the fossil vertebrates found in the Cretaceous 
marls of New Jersey, where he procured the remains of dinosaurs, 
"describing especially the carnivorous Lcelaps and grouping these 
reptiles into three great suborders, Orthopoda {Hadrosaurus and 
Iguadon), Goniopoda and Symphopoda {Megalosaurus, Lalaps, 
Compsognathus) ." This was essentially his introduction into the 
field of vertebrate paleontology, "in which, until his death, he was 
considered by many as forempst in America, if not in the world." 

In 1867 he examined the Eocene and Miocene beds in the south- 
ern part of Maryland between the Potomac and Patuxent rivers, 
and there made a collection of fossil vertebrates and moUusks. 
There he found a dolphin with a long cylindrical muzzle which 
he describes as "one of the most singular known . . as it is 
new, species, genus and family." A year later he traveled through 
the marl country with Prof. O. C. Marsh and he writes: 

"Prof. Marsh has studied and traveled in Europe for three 
years, and is very familiar with their invertebrate fossils. We 
have procured three new species of Saurians, apparently of known 
genera; one a Mosasaurus, one a Gavial, and one of large size is 
very near the Cetacea." 

He visited the mountain region of North Carolina in 1869 and 
of this trip he writes from Raleigh, on December 11: 



EDWARD DRINKER COPE 321 

''I spent four weeks east of this city investigating the marl 
region, and collecting its fossils. This region is mostly Miocene, 
and the formation is more largely developed here than in any part 
of the United States, excepting perhaps Nebraska." 

Adding also: 

"I had pretty good success in my fossil collecting, and with 
more knowledge of the country could have done much better. I 
will however be able to make some valuable additions to paleon- 
tology, and will have all the vertebrate fossils obtained by the 
state survey, to determine. The majority of mammalia are ce- 
taceans, I have at least 15 species of these." 

Between the years 1868 and 1870, the plesiosaurs of the Creta- 
ceous of Kansas began to occupy his attention, and in 187 1 he 
visited these chalk beds and began his own explorations there. 
His work soon extended further westward. In 1872 for a time he 
was in Wyoming, and in 1873 he was in Colorado. 

From Fort Bridger, Wyoming, under date of October 12, 1872, 
he writes: 

"I found in my sixty-five days' exploration the remains of species 
of animals according to the following figures: species, quadru- 
peds, 32; birds, 2; crocodiles, 6; lizards, 4; snakes, i; turtles, 17; 
total 62; and 13-14 kinds of fishes." 

From the foregoing quotations some idea of his great activity 
may be had and yet it by no manner of means represents all, for 
his nights were spent in preparing papers describing new species, 
many of which were illustrated by drawings from his own pen, 
which were promptly sent to Philadelphia for publication. 

While not neglecting other interests, for a time, at least, his 
work in paleontology continued to be paramount, and led in 1872 
to his appointment as vertebrate paleontologist to the United 
States Geological and Geographical Survey of the Territories 
under Dr. F. V. Hayden, and during his connection with this 
survey he explored and collected in every state and territory west 
of the Missouri. 



322 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

It would be difficult, indeed, to follow his career in detail as he 
journeyed through the west, but it resulted in the discovery of 
many new types of fishes, mosasaurs, chelonians, and other rep- 
tiles which were described in short preliminary papers and then 
more fully in his larger Vertebrata of the Cretaceous Formations of 
the West (1875), which forms the second volume of the quarto 
series of the reports issued under the auspices of the Hayden 
Survey. 

Even larger than this is his famous "Book i " often facetiously 
called "Cope's Bible" which, however, properly bears the tide 
The Vertebrata of the Tertiary Formations of the West and is the 
third volume of the quarto series of the Hayden reports. It con- 
tains over a thousand pages and more than one hundred plates, 
and was published in Washington in 1883. According to Cope 
himself it included descriptions of "the vertebrata of the Eocene 
and of the Lower Miocene, less the Ungulata." He says: "There 
are described three hundred and forty-nine species, of which I have 
been the discoverer of all except thirty-two. They are referred to 
one hundred and twenty-five genera." In further detail he says: 

"The most important results which have accrued to paleon- 
tology through the researches here set forth, are the following: 
I. The discovery of the Laramie genus Champsosaurus in Ter- 
tiary beds. 2. The discovery of Plagiaulacidae in Tertiary beds. 
3. The discovery of the characters of five families and many 
genera and species of the Creodonta. 4. The discovery of the 
characters of the Periptychida: and its included genera. 5. Of 
the M eniscotheriidce . 6. Of the Phenacodontida and its genera. 
7. The discovery of the characters of the suborder of Condy- 
iarthra and of the phylognetic results of the same. 8. The dis- 
covery of the characters of the Pantolambidida; and 9. Of the 
suborder Taligrada and its implications in phylogeny. 10. The 
discovery of the A?iaptomorphidce of the Prosimiae. 11. The 
reconstruction of Hyracotherium ; and 12. Of Hyrachyus. 
13. The discovery of numerous Marsuplalia in the Lower Mio- 
cene. 14. The discovery of the phylogenetic series of the Canidae; 
and 15. The same of the ancestors of the Felidae." 

In his letter of transmittal Hayden well describes this volume 
"as one of the most important contributions to the rich field of 



EDWARD DRINKER COPE 323 

vertebrate paleontology of the Western Territories ever made in 
this country." As originally contemplated his work was intended 
to consist of four parts, namely: i. Puerco, Wasatch, and Bridger 
faunae (Eocene); 2. White River and John Day faunae (Lower 
and Middle Miocene); 3. Ticholeptus and Loup Fork faunae 
(Upper Miocene) ; and 4. Pliocene. Book i covered Part i and 
Part 2, including the marsupials, bats, insectivores, rodents, and 
carnivora of the Miocene only. The remaining parts were never 
published. 

In March, 1874, he wrote to his father: 

"I recently went over the reptiles and fishes of Wheeler's sur- 
vey with interesting results. I found one new group of fishes per- 
taining exclusively to the waters of the Western Colorado — the 
only one peculiar; all the rest are usual forms of the east." 

In July of the same year there will be found among his letters 
one, also written to his father, in which he says: 

"I have just returned from Washington, where I have con- 
cluded a contract with G. M. Wheeler, of the topographical engi- 
neers and director of the Geological survey of the territories west 
of the looth meridian. By this I engage to work on the geology 
and paleontology of the region he surveys until the work is con- 
cluded (about a year) at the rate of $2,500 per annum, and $30 
per month additional for provisions when in the field, and all ex- 
penses of expedition paid." 

He at once took the field and spent the time from July to October 
in New Mexico. I glean the following pertinent paragraphs from 
his letters. 

On September 15, from the " Eocene Lake Formation " he 
writes: 

"We began to find fossil bones. The first thing was a turtle, 
arid then Bathmodon (Cope) teeth! and then everything else rare 
and strange till by near sun down I had twenty species of verte- 
brates! all of the lowest Eocene, lower than the lowest at Fort 
Bridger. The most important find in geology I ever made, and 
the paleontology promises grandly." 



324 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

Twelve days later on September 27, writing from Camp Galli- 
nas he says: 

"I have over 75 species of Vertebrate fossils, many new. . . . 
The most remarkable are toxodonts of four species, and two new 
genera, which I call Calamodon and Ecioganus, varying from the 
size of a sheep to that of a cow. The order has never been found 
out of South America before, and is in structure between rats and 
hoofed animals, especially elephants." 

While on October 11, from "Camp N. W. from Nacimiento, 
New Mexico," he writes: 

"I have now some 90 species of vertebrates from this bed, six 
of them toxodonts. I have also discovered the deposits of another 
fresh water lake of much greater age, say lower Cretaceous, not 
many miles from here, which contains remains of saurians, — one 
like Laelaps; I have a tooth and a vertebra." 

The results of his summer's work in New Mexico were published 
in several preliminary bulletins and then finally collected to form 
a part of the volume on Paleontology which was published in 1877 
as the fourth in the quarto series of the reports of the U. S. Geo- 
graphical Surveys west of the One Hundredth Meridian, under 
Lieutenant George M. Wheeler. It bears the subtitle of The 
Extinct Vertebrata Obtained in New Mexico by Parties of the 
Expedition of 1874. 

Cope describes his work as follows: 

"Of stratigraphical results, I may mention three: first, the 
elucidation of the structure of the western slope of the Rocky 
Mountains and the plateau to the westward of them, in north 
western New Mexico; secondly, the determination of the fresh 
water character of the Triassic beds in that region; thirdly, the 
discovery of extensive deposits of the Lower Eocene, equivalent 
to the Suessonien of western Europe." 

The paleontological results were more numerous, and Cope 
refers to them in his letter of transmission as follows: 

"They are included in the determination of the faunae of four 
periods in basins vi'hich had not previously been explored, viz., 



EDWARD DRINKER COPE 325 

in the Trias, the Eocene, the Loup Fork epoch, and Post-pliocene 
of the Sandia Mountains. The first vertebrate fossils ever de- 
termined from the Trias of the Rocky Mountains are included 
in the report. The first discovered w^ere obtained by Professor 
Newberry while attached to Captain Macomb's expedition and 
one now described for the first time. The determination of the 
ages of the respective horizons necessarily follows the first deter- 
mination of the fossils." 

He continues: 

"An especial advantage enjoyed in the preparation of this re- 
port consists in the fact that the author obtained the fossils him- 
self and is thus familiar with their local relations. This is a point 
of much importance since the fragmentary condition in which 
the skeletons of extinct vertebrata are usually found, furnishes 
opportunities for error or doubt which greatly curtailed the value 
of the work. In the present instance the author has admitted no 
correlation of fragments without the clearest evidence, and where 
any uncertainty exists, has stated it." 

The number of specimens of extinct vertebrata obtained during 
the season of 1874 was as follows: Triassic, 4; Cretaceous, 13; 
Eocene, 87; Upper Miocene (Loup Fork), 30; and Post-pliocene, 
2, making a total of 136 specimens which now form part of the 
collections contained in the U. S. National Museum. 

His specimens increased to such an extent that subsequent to 
1874 he was obliged to devote more and more attention to working 
up the material that he had accumulated and consequently less 
time to field-work; although in 1876 he led an expedition to the 
Bad Lands of the Upper Cretaceous and returned again in 1877 
to further investigate the chalk deposits of Kansas. On both of 
these trips he was accompanied by Charles H. Sternberg, who has 
recently pleasantly described his experiences.^ 

For a time he maintained parties in the field, paying their 
expenses from his private purse. One of these expeditions was 
sent as far away as South America and returned with a valuable 
lot of material; however, for the most part they were confined to 

1 See Life of a Fossil Hunler, by Charles H. Sternberg, New York, 1909. 



326 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

the western territories and were under the direction of well-known 
fossil hunters such as Jacob L. Wortman and Charles H. Sternberg. 

Early in 1877 he gave up his residence in Haddonfield and 
thereafter his home on Pine Street in Philadelphia was used to 
store his ever-increasing collections; fornotwithstanding financial 
difficulties that came to him owing to unfortunate investments 
made from the ample fortune bequeathed to him by his father, 
he persisted in retaining his collections, refusing even to sell por- 
tions for which he was offered liberal sums, and at the cost of 
personal discomfort, held on to them and made his home, for much 
of the time, in the midst of them, having sold his residential home 
but keeping his museum. Gill says: "He filled a large house from 
cellar to topmost story with his collections and resided in an ad- 
joining one." 

Of this period, Sternberg tells how he had a standing invitation 
to eat dinner every Sunday with the Professor and his wife and 
daughter, a lovely child of twelve summers. He says: 

"I shall never forget those Sunday dinners. The food was 
plain, but daintily cooked, and the Professor's conversation was a 
feast in itself. He had a wonderful power of putting professional 
matters from his mind when he left his study, and coming out 
ready to enter into any kind of merrymaking. He used to sit with 
sparkling eyes telling story after story, while we laughed at his 
sallies until we could laugh no more." 

I may add that his work in connection with the exploration of 
the western territories resulted in the discovery of more than one 
thousand new species of extinct and as many recent vertebrata. 
It has been said that this work described in more than four hun- 
dred separate papers forms "a systematic record of paleontology 
in the United States." ^ 

1 Professor Oliver P. Hay is authority for the following statement: "Ac- 
cording to my examinations of the fossil vertebrates I find that there are 
something more than 3,200 species described from North America, and of 
these Cope has given name to i.iis- That is he has named that many 
species which, with our present knowledge, must be accepted as good. They 
are distributed as follows: Fishes, 227; Batrachians, 73; Reptiles, 320; Birds, 
8; Mammals, 487; Total, 1,115." 



EDWARD DRINKER COPE 327 

According to Osborn "as early as 1868 it may be said that he 
had laid the foundations for five great lines of research, which he 
pursued concurrently to the end of his life." Four of these per- 
taining to natural history, are fishes, amphibians, reptiles, and 
mammals. 

Very briefly I shall present opinions concerning his contributions 
in these branches of zoology. 

Of his knowledge of fishes, Osborn, his ever-faithful friend, says: 
"Cope's work in ichthyology would alone have given him high 
rank among zoologists." According to Gill, than whom no more 
competent authority is possible, "as early as 1864, Cope became 
interested in the fresh water fishes of the United States and from 
then on published descriptions and enumerations of many species." 
Some of the most interesting genera of North America were origi- 
nally made known by him. He was the first to describe the rich- 
ness of the cyprinoid and especially the catastomoid fauna of 
North Carolina. But his greatest work was on classification. 
Almost from the first he set aside the superficial characters which 
had been employed in the arrangement of fishes, sympathizing 
keenly with the morphological study which his colleague, Theo- 
dore Gill, was then actively developing. While in Vienna, in 1863, 
he purchased a large collection of fish-skeletons from all parts of 
the world which was most useful to him in his comparative study 
of the various forms. In 1870, he published a paper in which he 
maintained that the primary divisions of the Telostomi are indi- 
cated by their fin structure. He established the fundamental 
division of the living fishes into five groups, just as they stand at 
the present day, upon cranial and fin structure. In 1884 he pro- 
posed an Elasmobranch subclass, Ichthyotomi, based on the 
Permian Diplodus, which is firmly established, and in 1889 he 
proposed the suborder Ostracodermi which is also now accepted. 
His views with but slight modifications have received the ap- 
proval of A. Smith Woodward of the British Museum who is 
accepted as the best informed living student of extinct forms of 
fishes. CoDe continued his studies on fishes until the close of 
his life and his final opinions and additions to the taxonomy and 



328 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

phylogeny of fishes are contained in the syllabus of his university 
lectures in 1897. 

Passing to the amphibians it may be said that his studies in 
this branch of natural history are included in more than forty 
papers. These began with one on the Salamandridae written in 
1859. The classification of the Anura received his attention in 
1865 and 1866 when he outHned the larger Ecaudate or Anurous 
divisions, namely, the Aglossa; the Bufoniformia; the Arcifera; 
and the Raniformia. It was also in 1865 that he described the 
fossil amphibamus grandkeps from the Carboniferous of Ohio. 
This was his first extinct amphibian. Soon after, turning to the 
classification of the amphibians, he proposed the order of Stego- 
cephali to include the labyrinthodonts and smiliar great monsters 
of the past. This order has been universally adopted. From the 
Coal Measures of Ohio and the Permian deposits of Texas he 
obtained many new forms of fossil amphibians which he described 
and classified, and in 1884 he published the "Batrachia of the 
Permian Period of North America," in which he summed up his 
previous contributions. He must also be credited with the "Check 
List of North American Batrachia and Reptilia" (1875) ^"^^ '^'^^^ 
"The Batrachia of North America" (1899) which he contributed 
to the series of Bulletins published by the U. S. National Museum. 
The former includes a systematic list of the higher groups and 
also an essay on geographical distribution. The latter forms a 
volume of over 500 pages with 120 text figures and 86 full page 
plates. In it " 107 species are recognized and these are distributed 
under 31 genera." According to Dr. George Baur of the Univer- 
sity of Chicago: "There never has been a naturalist who has pub- 
lished so many papers upon the taxonomy, morphology and pale- 
ontology of the Amphibia and Reptilia as Professor Cope." 

His studies of the reptiles developed largely in connection with 
his western explorations, and according to Osborn may be grouped 
as: "First, his treatment of the reptiles of the Bridger and other 
fresh-water Terriary lakes in connection with the mammalian 
fauna; second, the continuation of his systematic description of 
the Kansas Cretaceous fauna; third, the brief papers upon the 



EDWARD DRINKER COPE 329 

herbivorous Dinosaurs of the Dakota (1877 and 1878) and the 
horned Dinosaurs (Monoclonius) of the Laramie formations; 
fourth, the numerous papers based upon the Reptilia of the Trias- 
sic, especially the Permian. The latter must be considered the 
most important and unique in their influence upon paleontology." 
They have also been described as his "most epoch-making contri- 
butions." Many of his papers on the reptiles were contributed to 
the Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society. Mention 
was made in the preceding paragraph of his two important works 
on batrachia and reptilia in the publications of the U. S. National 
Museum. To them may properly be added his "Catalogue of 
Batrachia and Reptilia of Central America and Mexico" (1887) 
also published by the National Museum. In it 197 genera are 
represented. These include 705 species which are divided be- 
tween 13s Batrachia and 570 Reptilia. His last large work, com- 
pleted a few months before his death, was on "The Crocodilians, 
Lizards, and Snakes of North America." It formed a monograph 
of 109s pages with 36 plates and 347 text figures, and was issued 
as an appendix to the Report of the U. S. National Museum for 
the year 1898. According to Cope this work, together "with my 
book on the Batrachia published in 1889, and Doctor's Baur's 
on the Testudinata (in preparation),'^ the access to North American 
herpetology becomes equal to that which the science of ornithology 
has long enjoyed." This work gives descriptions in full of all the 
species and their including categories. The classification which 
he had already elaborated in various memoirs is adopted, and as 
in the "Batrachia," the genera and their including groups of the 
entire world are diagnosed in analytical tables, but full descriptions 
are given only of the North American types. 

Professor Cope's most numerous and voluminous papers were 
devoted to mammals and more especially to fossil mammals. His 
conspicuous contributions in this domain are by common consent 
conceded to be those which have led to the development 
and establishment of certain fundamental principles which he 

1 The untimely death of Doctor Baur unfortunately prevented the publica- 
tion of his work. 



330 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

derived from his experience. The proposition that "the ancestors 
of the hoofed animals possessed bunodont or hillock-like teeth" 
was originally advanced by him and then was veriSed by the oppor- 
tune discovery of Phenacodus. It led to a reclassification by him 
of the Ungulates by foot structure. To Cope is due the chief credit 
in establishing the principle "that the primitive feet of hoofed 
animals were plantigrade, like those of the bear with serial unbro- 
ken joints," which according to Osborn constituted "the first 
distinct advance in mammalian classification since Owen demol- 
ished Cuvier's 'pachydermata.' " The same authority may be 
quoted as describing Cope's conclusions as ranking "with Huxley's 
best work among similar problems, and they afiford a basis for the 
phylogenetic arrangements of the hoofed orders which has been 
adopted by all American and foreign paleontologists." From his 
studies of the collections from the Basal Eocene he derived his 
"Law of Trituberculy," that is, "that all types of molar teeth in 
mammals originate in modifications of the tritubercular form." 
This generalization is of the utmost value, for upon it may depend 
the whole modern morphology of the teeth of the mammalia and 
the establishment of a series of homologies in the teeth of the most 
diverse types, applying even to the teeth of man. That " the hoofed 
orders converge towards the clawed types of Creodonta and Insec- 
tivora" is a law which he also laid down and demonstrated by a 
fortunate discovery in the field. He defined the primitive suborder 
of Carnivora, now universally adopted under his name of Creo- 
donta; and he added much to our knowledge of the whole order, 
especially of the true cats. The mechanical origin of the hard 
parts of the bodies of mammals, especially the teeth, vertebrae, 
and limbs received his consideration and he published many papers 
on this subject, which culminated in his memoir on the "Origin 
of the Hard Parts of the Mammalia" (1889). 

Fitting indeed, as a closing paragraph to these brief summaries 
of his specialties are the following words written by his friend and 
admirer, A. Smith Woodward of the British Museum: 

"One great feature of this systematic work, everywhere con- 
spicuous, is the attempt to define every term, whether specific, 



EDWARD DRINKER COPE 331 

generic, of family or higher rank, in a concise diagnosis. Before 
Cope's time, this method had rarely been applied to extinct ani- 
mals; even at the present day it does not prevail so widely as it 
ought to do. Cope, however, made all his definitions as precise 
as the variously imperfect materials would allow; and he naturally 
waxed wroth in his reviews of some contemporary literature 
which contained new names with nothing but an artist's drawing 
to justify their introduction into scientific terminology." 

The consideration of Professor Cope's philosophical writings 
naturally belongs here. He was never satisfied with the study of 
morphological details or simple taxonomy. As Gill says: "He 
aspired to know how animals came into existence; why they varied 
as they did, and what laws determined their being. His was an 
eminently philosophical mind, but at the same time with a decided 
tendency to metaphysical speculation." 

And so in 1869, at the very outset of his career he published a 
remarkable essay of 80 pages, On the Origin of Genera, in 
which he contended that while a large proportion of specific 
characters are adaptive, few generic characters are so, and the 
latter evolve separately by the force of "acceleration or retarda- 
tion" of one of several plans or types of development preordained 
by the Creator. He did not agree with Darwin that natural selec- 
tion was a sufificient factor for differentiation but returned to the 
Lamarckian principle of the effect of the use and disuse to explain 
variations; but he went further than Lamarck in that he denied 
that animals are passive subjects. With Hyatt, Ryder, and 
Packard he became one of the pioneers in the Neo-Lamarckian 
school of thought. 

In 1874, in a letter to his father, Cope wrote : 

"There are three forms of evolution doctrines: (i) That non- 
vital force evolves life; (2) that internal consciousness is the source 
of non-vital force and life; (3) that external or supernatural force, 
applied from without, maintains development. My studies have 
led me to the second position. The third is Professor McCosh's; 
the first that of the materialists." 

His progressive thoughts on evolution and other metaphysical 
problems may be found in such papers as "On the Hypothesis 



332 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

of Evolution," contributed to Lippincott's Magazine in 1871; 
"Evolution and its Consequences" (1872); "Consciousness in 
Evolution" (1875) and "The Origin of the Will" (1877) which 
appeared in the Penn Monthly in the years named. Of similar 
character were his studies "On Archaesthetism " (1882); "The 
Relations of Mind to Matter" (1887); and "The Theology of 
Evolution (1887), originally published in the American Natural- 
ists, as well as "What is the Object of Life?" (1887) which 
appeared in The Forum. 

Many of these are included in the series of twenty-one essays 
on evolution which he published in 1886 with the title of The 
Origin 0} the Fittest. In this volume of 467 pages he presents 
"the doctrine of evolution from a more modern standpoint than 
that of Darwin and which is at the same time more ancient, namely 
that of Lamarck." He shows essentially that organic structure 
or species are the result of movements long continued and inherited 
and that the character of these movements was originally deter- 
mined by consciousness or sensibility. Effort or use exerted by 
the living being on its own body is the reason, he contended, why 
variations occur for natural selection to play on. 

The London Athenaum said of this volume: 

"As many of the opponents of evolution are, consciously or 
unconsciously, swayed by the fear that the principle threatens the 
future of revealed religion, it is proper to add that Professor Cope's 
method of dealing with metaphysical evolution is hardly one to 
which any of the various synonyms of 'unorthodox' could be 
applied." 

Among his later essays worthy of special mention are the fol- 
lowing: "Evolution and Idealism" (1888); "The Relation of 
Will to the Conservation of Energy" (1888); "The Theism of 
Evolution" (1888); "On Inheritance in Evolution" (1889); "The 
Evolution of Mind" (1890); "Phylogeny of Man" (1891); "The 
Energy of Evolution" (1894); and "Psychic Evolution" (1897), 
all of which appeared in the American Naturalist. His papers on 
the relations of individuals during this period were for the most 
part contributed to the Monist and The Open Court, both of which 



EDWARD DRI]S[KER COPE 333 

are published in Chicago. They include the following: "The 
Marriage Problem" (1888), "Ethical Evolution" (1889), "On 
the Material Relation of Sex" (1890), "Foundations of Theism" 
(1893), "The Effeminization of Man" (1893), "The Present 
Problems of Organic Evolution" (1895), and "Primary Factors 
of Organic Evolution" (1896). These essays in time formed the 
basis of chapters or even constituted chapters themselves in the 
works that he subsequently published. Many of those that ap- 
peared in Chicago were collected and woven into the volume enti- 
tled The Primary Factors of Organic Evolution, which was pub- 
lished in 1896. This work he describes as "an attempt to select 
from the mass of facts accumulated by biologists, those which, in 
the author's opinion, throw a clear light on the problem of organic 
evolution, and especially that of the animal kingdom." 
The evidence presented is chiefly paleontological. He says: 

"In the search for the factors of evolution, we must have first 
a knowledge of the course of evolution. This can only be obtained 
in a final and positive form by investigation of the succession of 
life. The record of this succession is contained in the sedimentary 
deposits of the earth's crust, and is necessarily imperfect. Advance 
in knowledge in this direction has, however, been very great of 
recent years, so that some parts of the genealogical tree are toler- 
ably or quite complete. We hope reasonably for continued prog- 
ress in this direction, and if the future is to be judged of by the 
past, the number of gaps in our knowledge will be greatly lessened. 
In the absence of the paleontological record, we necessarily rely 
on the embryologic, which contains a recapitulation of it. The 
imperfections of the embryonic records are, however, great, and 
this record differs from the paleontologic in that no future dis- 
covery in embryology can correct its irregidarities. On the con- 
trary every paleontologic discovery is an addition to positive 
genealogy." 

Mention is appropriate at this place of his contribution of a 
paper on "Evolution in Science and Art" to the Evolution Series 
of the Brooklyn Ethical Association in 189 1. He also prepared 
one of the lectures in the series published over the title of Half 
Hours with Modern Scientists, and he was the author of the article 
on "Comparative Anatomy" contained in the Universal Cyclopedia. 



334 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

His last book, published in 1897, was on The Primary Factors of 
Organic Evolution. In it with his accustomed skill he gives the 
latest evidence for inheritance of acquired characters. 

Gill says of this work: 

" He evoked ' evidence from embryology,' ' evidence from paleon- 
tology,' 'evidence from breeding'; he considered the 'characters 
due to nutrition,' 'characters due to exercise of function,' 'char- 
acters due to disease,' 'characters due to mutilation and injuries,' 
and 'characters due to regional influence'; he enquired intothe 
conditions of inheritance,' and he fought against the 'objections 
to the doctrine of inheritance of acquired characters.' " 

This volume is of interest also as containing his views on many 
sociological and theological problems. 

A. Smith Woodward of the British Museum in a most admirable 
sketch of Cope that appeared in Natural Science for June, 1897, 
sums up his view on philosophy so satisfactorily that even if the 
statements are of the nature of repetition, I believe them worthy 
of presentation. 

"Cope believed that all organisms, impelled by some inherent 
growth-force, which he termed 'Bathmism,' varied in certain 
definite directions, and that all modifications ultimately depended 
on the mechanical conditions of the environment. Paleontology, 
according to him proved beyond all doubt that characters thus 
acquired were inherited. Still further, he promulgated the doc- 
trine, that this development of new characters takes place by an 
acceleration or retardation in the growth of the parts changed; 
that, in fact, the adult of an ancestral organism is the exact parallel 
of an immature stage in its descendant, which only advances or 
becomes degraded in certain characters during the latest phase of 
its growth. He was also the first to point out, as the result of 
these premises, that the genera of systematists, as commonly under- 
stood, are often polyphyletic. According to him, it is the species 
that are permanent, while genera are but our expression of various 
grades of organisation through which many species pass. The 
environment moulds species into genera, and genera into famihes; 
and a genus or a family by no means contains forms that are of 
necessity descended from a common ancestor. 

"Finally, and not unnaturally. Cope wandered into the domain 



EDWARD DRINKER COPE 335 

of mental phenomena, and applied his principles to these. He 
believed that consciousness preceded the form in which we are 
accustomed to witness its manifestation, namely organic tissue. 
His latest definition of life was: 'Energy directed by sensibility, 
or by a mechanism which has originated under the direction of 
sensibility.'" 

In the year 1878, Cope purchased the rights of the owners of 
the American Naturalist, a scientific periodical founded in 1866 
by Messrs. Hyatt, Morse, Packard, and Putnam, then in the 
splendid strength of their early manhood and fresh from the labora- 
tories of Cambridge where they had been students under the elder 
Agassiz. This journal was published in Salem, Massachusetts, 
but Cope transferred its place of publication at once to Philadel- 
phia where it was regularly issued by him at first in association 
with Professor Packard, and then alone, aided, however, by a staff 
of eminent specialists. Subsequent to 1887, he was its editor-in- 
chief and sole proprietor. This medium afforded him an outlet 
for his continuous stream of shorter articles and for the free expres- 
sion of his very independent opinions upon current scientific move- 
ments and topics. His last words appeared in the numbers issued 
after his death and the leading article on those remarkable mam- 
mals of South America, known as Toxodontia, in the June number 
for 1897, was from his pen. Twenty octavo volumes (12-31) 
form the record of his industry in this direction. 

With his retirement from Haverford College in 1867 Cope's 
professorial work was entirely discontinued for more than twenty 
years, although he gave lectures in his own home to special stu- 
dents and from time to time he delivered public lectures, showing 
the wonders of his western exploration to enthusiastic audiences. 

In 1873 he wrote: 

" Some one has just endowed a chair of natural history at Prince- 
ton College to be called the Henry chair, and Professor H. recom- 
mended me to Professor McCosh to fill it. The latter objected 
to my evolution sentiments, for those views are much condemned 
at Princeton. I have not much intention of fixing myself there, 
as the hours and work generally will probably require too much 
time, but I may find the University of Pennsylvania better, 



336 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

especially as it is nearer home. One or the other I will probably 
undertake." 

At the close of the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia in 
October, 1876, the success that had crowned the splendid efforts 
of the public-spirited citizens of that city led to further efforts on 
their part to organize a memorial that should be a permanent 
exhibition, a special feature of which was to be the Educational 
Department. Cope was made chief of the division of organic 
material and did much in the preliminary work of organization 
of what is now the Pennsylvania Museum in Fairmount Park. 

The loss of the greater part of his private fortune led Cope to 
consider the desirability of increasing his income, by some ap- 
pointment worthy of his ability. It was doubtless on that account 
that in a letter written to Dr. Persifor Frazer he says: 

"Some of my friends are exerting themselves to secure for me 
the place to be shortly vacated by Langley in the Smithsonian. He 
will in all probability become secretary of the Smithsonian Institu- 
tion and the place of Assistant Secretary will be vacant. G. 
Brown Goode will become director of the National Museum and 
Chief of the U. S. Fish Commission, but some one will be necessary 
to fill the other vacancy. The person must also be a naturalist, 
since Langley the secretary, is a physicist." 

In 1889, he was called to the chair of geology and mineralogy 
in the University of Pennsylvania, and in the actual charge of 
this professorship he continued until his death although in 
1895, the exact title of the chair was changed to that of "zoology 
and comparative anatomy." 

Gill says of him in that capacity: 

"Such a man naturally awakened the interest of apt pupils, 
and he was a facile and entertaining lecturer. From the stores 
of a rich memory he could improvise a discourse on almost any 
topic within the range of his varied studies. His views were so 
much in advance of those in any text-book that for his own con- 
venience, no less than for the benefit of his pupils, he felt compelled 
to prepare a 'syllabus of lectures on geology and paleontology,' 
but only 'Part III, Paleontology of the Vertebra ta' was published. 



EDWARD DRINKER COPE 337 

It appeared in 1891 and is still a valuable epitome of the classifica- 
tion of the vertebrates, recent as well as fossil, giving in dichoto- 
mous tables the essential characters of all the groups above families 
and also the names of all the families." 

The honors that came to him were many and well earned. 
Haverford College gave him the degree of Master of Arts in 1870, 
and the University of Heidelberg on the occasion of the celebra- 
tion of the five hundredth anniversary of its foundation conferred 
on him the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. The Bigsby gold 
medal of the Geological Society of London was bestowed on him 
in 1879, and in 1891 the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadel- 
phia gave him its Hayden Memorial medal. He became a member 
of the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia in 1861, and 
was a curator of that Academy in 1865-73, corresponding secretary 
in 1868-76, and a member of the Council in 1879-80. In 1866 
he was chosen to membership in the American Philosophical 
Society, and in 1872 was elected to the National Academy of 
Sciences. His connection with the American Association for the 
Advancement of Science began with his election in 1868, and in 
1875 ^^ w^s advanced to the grade of fellow. The Section on 
Biology made him its presiding officer in 1884, and in the following 
year he delivered a retiring address on "Catagenesis." His name 
had been frequently urged upon the Association for its highest 
honor, but it was not until the Springfield meeting in 1895 that 
this well-merited appreciation came to him. In 1864 he 
was elected a corresponding member of the Zoological Society of 
London, and in 1881 he was chosen a foreign correspondent of 
the Geological Society of London. While attending the Inter- 
national Geological Congress held in 1878 in Paris, he was nomi- 
nated for membership in the Geological Society of France, to which 
he refers in a letter to his wife as "quite an honor." The Royal 
academies of Bavaria and Denmark, as well as other learned 
societies in Europe, testified to their appreciation of his attain- 
ments by enrolling his name among their foreign correspondents. 

A personal description of the man taken from a sketch by Miss 
Helen Dean King follows. Doctor King was his assistant for a 



2iS LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

time and knew Professor Cope well. Her appreciation does full 
justice to the man: 

"Professor Cope was a man of quick decision, boundless energy, 
and great independence in thought and expression. He had keen 
and accurate powers of observation and a marvelous memory 
embracing the most minute details. Strong in his convictions, he 
was fearless in his criticism of men and institutions when he was 
convinced that he was upholding the right; yet he was ever ready 
to admit a mistake or correct an error when it had been proven 
that he was in the wrong. He possessed tireless perseverance — 
an attribute always essential to good scientific work — and when 
absorbed in his investigations he was completely forgetful of his 
own personal comfort, going for long periods without food or rest." 

Of more than passing interest is the following letter written by 
him on February 3, 1873. It describes the complimentary dinner 
given in New York city to Prof. John Tyndall, on the eve of his 
departure for England, after a successful lecture tour in the princi- 
pal cities of the United States: 

"It was a good assembly of five hundred, mostly naturalists, and 
though the dinner was good, there was more reason and soul and 
no conviviality in the usual sense; Evarts, the lawyer presided, 
and Tyndall, Draper, Barnard, etc., spoke for science, and Beecher 
and Doctor Bellows for theology. The whole subject was well- 
handled and I was particularly pleased with Beecher, whose 
acquaintance I afterwards made. Bellows was not afraid of his 
audience and told them plain gospel. He told Tyndall that on 
his departure he should have as many of his prayers as he would 
believe in, and alluded generally to prayer in a very effective and 
graceful manner. Tyndall in his remarks spoke largely of a sense 
of duty, which he considered important." 

Of his own beliefs, I venture to quote an extract from a letter 
written by him in 1886: 

"I learned several things in the time I have lived. Nothing 
affords so much satisfaction to the mind as the consciousness of 
havmgdone right, not but that the best people must have regrets 
for having also done wrong on some occasions. Then we can take 
comfort in the knowledge that God knows our incapacities and our 
defects, and pities and helps us; the latter especially if we try to 
help ourselves. But there are many triilers in the world, people 



EDWARD DRINKER COPE 



339 



who avoid doing anything of any value or importance. It is very 
desirable not to be compelled to live with such people. Any one 
who feels the seriousness of life and the certainty of its termination, 
will not waste it." 

The last letter that he ever wrote contains so much that is perti- 
nent to this subject that I cannot forbear from including a large 
portion of it. He wrote, using the familiar style of the Quakers, — 
the style of his ancestors and of the faith in which he was born: 

"Dear Aunt Jane: I understand that to-morrow is thy birthday 
and I wish to send my greetings. 

"I do not expect to leave the world yet awhile, but I shall do so 
when the time comes with the full belief that it will be a change 
greatly for the better. 

" The relation of the Supreme to men is that of father to children, 
and if we keep the relation true, He (?) will not fail. To be sick 
is good for us sometimes. It corrects our perspective of human 
life, and sets things in a proportion which we must sometimes see. 
In active life we have our special pre-occupation of mind, and see 
chiefly those things. 

"So we do our work; and must do it; but to take a pause some- 
time is good. This applies to me, for I have many enterprises 
going on that need close attention, and other things cannot receive 
much attention. 

"May physical comfort attend thy coming years; mental peace 
thee knows how to have, and may it remain." 

In February of 1897, Cope's health became seriously affected 
by a nephritic disorder which it is said "might possibly have been 
remedied by a surgical operation," but this he would not submit 
to. He soon grew worse and, in March, he wrote to his wife, 
saying: 

"I went to my lecture Tuesday and was the worse for it. I am 
well cared for by the Doctor and Miss Brown; and between my 
spells of pain, I can do some work that enables me to pass the 
time as pleasantly as may be under the circumstances. My pur- 
suits are fortunately such that they are not suspended by imprison- 
ment in the house. This is fortunate for me, as I find inaction 
very unpleasant, until I am actually disabled and then it comes 
natural. 



340 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

"Apparently healthier men than I die about us. . . . My 
trouble will probably finish me in the course of time, if it goes on, 
but it can be eradicated by a surgical operation, and that I will 
probably h ave to undergo sooner or later. gives me a remark- 
able case of a permanent cure of a worse case than mine by some 
surgery." 

And then a week later he again wrote to his wife pathetically: 
"The sky looks beautiful out of the window, and I dare say that in 
a few days the country will be charming. I am anxious to get out, 
but cannot yet awhile." 

Steadily he grew worse and worse, and then on March 31, he 
wrote with cheerful optimism in that last letter sent to his aunt: 

" I have been confined to my room, barring a few walks out, for 
five weeks to-day; some of the days confined to bed. 

"I have suffered great pain and am now recovering slowly from 
the depression caused by powerful drugs taken for relief. My 
dangerous symptoms have passed away, but the morphia-bella- 
donna combination makes the strongest constitution stagger. The 
mental depression is dreadful so that nothing in life is in any degree 
enjoyable, except an occasional draught of ice water. So I pity 
everybody I hear of that is sick, and am glad to see so many people 
well. To be well seems to me now to be something extraordi- 
narily fortunate." 

He continued on until April 12, and then in the room which he 
had so long used as a study, surrounded by the objects of his life- 
long attentions, the end came and he passed into the future. 

Once he wrote: 

"I dare not deny a future life, and as we all probably wish it, 
in case it should be happy, we may seek for phenomena which 
indicate the existence of such a state of happiness in the human 
mind in this world. ... If we believe in a development into a 
future life, we must believe that as many have gone before us, 
that future state must be well populated. If this be true I see no 
difficulty in supporting that communication, and hence prayer, is 
a reasonable thing." 

The peace that passeth all understanding and the knowledge of 

the future are now his. 




J:, ^i/tZjC^^y',^c^ 




WILLARD GIBBS 

PHYSICIST 

1839-1903 

By Edwin E. Slosson 

Bacon says there are two kinds of men of science, the ants and 
the spiders. The ants are the men of experiment who collect facts 
and use them. The spiders are the men of theory who spin cob- 
webs from their own minds. He condemns both extremes, and, 
thanks in part to his exposition of the need of combining theory 
and practice, the two species are becoming less distinct. The 
practical man is more and more recognizing the importance of 
theory, and the theorist is paying better heed to experimentation. 
Nevertheless, the two mental types persist, and it is usually 
possible to tell to which any scientist, however great, inclines. 
The practical man uses a general law as a vaulting-pole to assist 
him in jxmiping from one fact to another. The theoretical man 
uses facts as stepping-stones to reach a general law. The practi- 
cal man receives his inspiration from mixing with men and per- 
ceiving their needs. He produces immediate results and he gets 
an immediate reward in popularity, praise and wealth. The 
nature of his work is apparent to everybody, and his achieve- 
ments are appreciated, indeed often overestimated, by his con- 
temporaries. The theorist, on the contrary, is heard of more 
often after his death than during his life, for he is apt to be 
something of a recluse, following his own thread of thought 
without allowing his attention to be distracted by the shouts of 
the crowd who cannot imderstand his work or his temperament, 
and are always calling him in directions that to them seem 

more profitable. 

341 



342 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

Of American scientists Count Rumford and Prof. Willard 
Gibbs, are the best examples of these two tendencies, and since 
each was able to make his life the expression of his personality in 
a very unusual degree, they form as remarkable a contrast in life 
as in temperament. The former was a man of the court, the latter 
of the college. The one was a rover, an adventurer, whose changes 
of fortune would form a theme for a romance; the other lived a 
cloistered life, absolutely devoid of dramatic incident, the intellec- 
tual life in its purest form. Rumford took great delight in the 
honors, decorations and titles heaped upon him as he journeyed 
from country to country, and the applause of street crowds was 
sweet to his ears; the influence of women was a potent factor in his 
life. Gibbs was shy and modest, a celibate, and was little known 
personally except to some of his colleagues of the faculty. Anyone 
of ordinary culture can read understandingly all of Rumford 's 
papers. Gibbs' work is a sealed book to all but a few of mathe- 
matical mind and training. 

Rumford's work had always a practical purpose, even when he 
was evolving a general law, and he hastened personally to apply 
the scientific principles he discovered to the conveniences of daily 
life. Gibbs paid no attention to the invention of useful articles, 
or to the promotion of manufactures. Rumford used general prin- 
ciples as guides to his further experimentation; Gibbs left entirely 
to others the experimental verification of the laws he logically 
deduced. Rumford carried on researches of the most varied 
character; Gibbs confined his life-work to a few closely allied 
studies. Rumford's discoveries were the result of his alert observa- 
tion and shrewd wit; Gibbs made his deductions by slow and sure 
process of rigid mathematical analysis. 

It would be useless to discuss which type of scientist is the more 
useful, and it would be unjust as well as futile to blame the one 
for not being the other. We do not find fault with a great general 
because he is not also a great poet, and there is need for as wide a 
diversity of gifts in the advancement of science. The theorist and 
the utilitarian often fail to understand and to appreciate one 
another; such narrowness cannot be ascribed to the two men here 



WILLARD GIBBS 343 

contrasted, for in their case it was a concentration of personal 
powers, not a narrowness of mind that made their work so 
diverse. Gibbs did not despise applied science, nor did Rum- 
ford neglect theory. Each did most what he could do best, the 
work he was fitted by nature to do, and what, in the state of science 
at the time, was most needed. In the days of Rumford, when 
physical science was in its infancy, one who devoted himself to its 
prosecution had to justify such research by constantly showing 
its value to mankind. Experiments had to be crude because 
facilities were lacking. But in the time of Gibbs, a hundred years 
later, the technique of experimentation had reached great perfec- 
tion, the usefulness of scientific research had been demonstrated, 
and there were plenty of workers in well-equipped laboratories, 
but deep abstract thinkers were rare. Ants were numerous and 
busy, but spiders were hard to find. 

Chemistry is in a peculiar state. It started as a practical 
science and its advance has been so rapid that the theoretical has 
never caught up with it. By a century of very successful experi- 
mental work there have been accumulated a larger number of 
verified facts than was ever before at the disposal of a science, 
but there is an almost complete lack of guiding theories and corre- 
lating hypotheses. Hundreds of thousands of chemical com- 
pounds have been made and studied; their melting-points, boiling- 
points and solubilities have been determined; their properties and 
reactions are known ; but why they look and behave as they do no 
one can tell. The chemist who mixes together two compounds 
can guess only by means of vague and uncertain analogies how 
they will act. Whether a given salt will be more or less soluble 
in hot water than in cold, whether two solutions of salts when 
mixed will- precipitate a solid, evolve a gas or remain unchanged 
he has no way of determining for sure except to try and see. 

A successful chemist needs the memory of a politician; he has 
to exert himself continually to enlarge his circle of acquaintances, 
and to remember as much as possible about their behavior under 
all circumstances. He envies his brother physicist, who needs only 
carry in his head a neat little collection of formulas to be able to 



344 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

say exactly what will result from any given combination of forces. 
The law of gravitation converted the chaos of forty centuries of 
astronomical observations into a cosmos, but chemistry is still 
without a Newton. The astronomer can calculate with great 
accuracy the forces acting between two planets in conjunction 
and what would be their movements in consequence; the physi- 
cist can do the same for two magnets, but the chemist has no meas- 
ure of the forces acting between two elements, in fact, he cannot 
even tell in many cases whether there will be any reaction when he 
puts them together under new conditions. 

The astonishing progress of physics during the last half century, 
resulting in the transformation of modern life through new methods 
for the utilization of heat, light and electricity, is chiefly due to 
the use of the greatest of all scientific generalizations, the law of 
the conversion of energy. But although this forms the basis 
of chemistry as much as of physics, chemists have had to get 
along without its aid because there was no known way of applying 
it to chemical phenomena in general. The physicist starting from 
a few well-established fundamental principles makes use, in draw- 
ing deductions from them, of the most powerful intellectual tool in 
the hands of man, but the chemist is confined to the slower process 
of inductive reasoning from multitudinous observations, of which 
very few are capable of expression in quantitative form so as to be 
utilizable mathematically. Physics and chemistry have not been 
on speaking terms, for they talked different languages. It was 
largely due to Willard Gibbs and others working along the line he 
indicated that they are being brought together, and the wedded 
sciences have already proved fruitful. The new science, physical 
chemistry, in which the methods of physics are applied to the prob- 
lems of chemistry, has within the few years of its existence made 
very rapid progress and has already solved many old puzzles and 
brought to light many new truths. We are not yet in sight of 
any fundamental principles which shall bring together all the 
complicated phenomena of chemistry, but we owe to Willard 
Gibbs the first step toward accomplishing this by drawing from 
the laws of thermodynamics rules explaining a great variety of 



WILLARD GIBBS 345 

chemical reactions. When we realize the deplorable condition 
of chemistry as a purely empirical science with its unwieldy 
accumulation of facts, we can appreciate what a service to the 
science has been his genius for generalization and mathematical 
deduction. 

To devote's one life to abstract studies in which the world at 
large can see no practical value requires not only an exceptional 
tenacity of purpose and the sacrifice of personal aims on the part 
of the individual, but also that he be exceptionally situated in 
order that his mind may be free from cares and distractions which 
would interfere with the necessary concentration and continuity 
of thought. Willard Gibbs was the right man in the right place. 
His life, training and circumstances were the best possible for the 
perfect development of his peculiar genius. He had the best 
education that America and Europe could give him, and a perma- 
nent position in Yale University which required of him merely 
the teaching of four or five advanced students in his own field of 
work. Although he received little support from the college, 
he inherited a modest competence, sufiBcient to provide for his quiet 
tastes and keep him from uncongenial occupations. For his 
research he required no large and expensive laboratory. The only 
apparatus he needed was pencil and paper, and a small upper 
room in the comer of the Sloane Physical Laboratory was his 
workshop. Here until late at night he continued year after year 
his solitary search for truth for its own sake, without any of those 
external stimuli such as the hope of fame or fortune or the pressure 
of necessity which most men need to spur them to such arduous 
exertion. 

Four hundred paces north of this on High Street stands a plain 
square brick house with the two wooden Ionic pillars characteristic 
of many New Haven houses. Here in his sister's family he made 
his home and between these two points he walked daily with as 
much regularity as Kant at Konigsburg. Except for his student 
years in Europe and occasional summer vacations in the moun- 
tains, his life was practically confined to this narrow range. 

Josiah Willard Gibbs was the fifth to bear that name which 



346 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

started from the marriage, in 1747, of Henry Gibbs with Katherine, 
daughter of the Honorable Josiah Willard, Secretary of the Prov- 
ince of Massachusetts. The grandfather of Henry Gibbs, Robert 
Gibbs, fourth son of Sir Henry Gibbs of Honington, Warwickshire, 
came to Boston about 1658. 

Professor Gibbs inherited both his scholarly tastes and his 
disposition from his father, Josiah Willard Gibbs, a distinguished 
philologian, who was Professor of Sacred Literature in Yale 
Divinity School from 1824 to 1861. He was born in Salem, 
Massachusetts, in 1790, and was graduated from Yale in 1809, his 
father, grandfather and great-grandfather having been graduates of 
Harvard. What is said of him is quite as descriptive of his greater 
son. "The elder Professor Gibbs was remarkable among his 
contemporaries for profound scholarship, for unusual modesty 
and for the conscientious and painstaking accuracy which charac- 
terized all his published work." He married Mary Anna Van 
Cleve, the daughter of John Van Cleve of Princeton, New Jersey, 
and the great-great-granddaughter of Rev. Jonathan Dickinson 
(Y. C., 1706), the first President of the College of New Jersey. 

Until 1846, Professor Gibbs occupied the house of President 
Day on Crown Street near College Street, and there all his children 
were born. The President meantime lived on the Campus in a 
house belonging to the College. When he retired from the Presi- 
dency he took possession again of his own house, and Professor 
Gibbs built on High Street. 

His fourth child and only son, the subject of this sketch, was 
born February 11, 1839. An attack of scarlet fever when he was 
two years old left him with a somewhat delicate constitution, 
which was the cause of much anxiety to his parents and required 
of him through life a careful attention to health and regular habits. 

He owed his preparation for college to the Hopkins Grammar 
School, of New Haven, and he generously repaid his obligation 
to this school by serving as one of its trustees for twenty-two years 
until his death. For seventeen years he was Secretary and Treas- 
urer of the Hopkins School, and was diligent and efficient in the 
management of its financial afi'airs. 



WILLARD GIBBS 347 

In 1854 he entered Yale College, where he distinguished himself 
by his proficiency in Latin and Mathematics, and maintained 
high standing in all his classes. In his Sophomore year he took 
the Berkeley Premium for Latin Composition; in his Junior year 
the Bristed Scholarship, the Third Prize for Latin Examination 
and the Berkeley Premium again; in his Senior year the Clark 
Scholarship, the De Forest Mathematical Prize and Latin Ora- 
tion. He was also elected for excellence in scholarship to the Phi 
Beta Kappa Society. 

After his graduation from Yale College in 1858, he remained for 
five years in New Haven, doing graduate work in physics and 
mathematics, for which he received the degree of M.A. in 1861 
and Ph.D. in 1863. He was then made tutor in Latin and "Natu- 
ral Philosophy," but the task of keeping large classes of Sopho- 
mores in order and getting hard work out of them was not one for 
which such a shy and modest young man was suited, and after 
three years of somewhat discouraging effort, he went abroad 
to continue his studies in mathematical physics. He had lost his 
father in 1861, three years after graduation. 

His first winter was spent in Paris, and in 1867 he went to 
Berlin to study under Magnus. The winter of 1868-69 ^^^ spent 
in Heidelberg under Helmholtz and Kirchho£f, and in March he 
went to the Riviera for a few weeks and returned to America in 
June, merely passing through Paris on the way. Most of all his 
teachers he was influenced by Clausius, the great German physi- 
cist, and one of the founders of the science of thermodynamics. 
In this field, by extending the fundamental laws of heat and me- 
chanical energy discovered by Sadi Carnot and Clausius to the 
most varied departments of physics and chemistry, Gibbs made 
his chief contributions to human knowledge. He expressed his 
admiration for Clausius in an obituary notice contributed to the 
American Academy of Science and Art. Clausius' conception of 
entropy was by him raised to the rank one of the most important 
of physical properties, and at the head of his principal paper, 
like a scriptural text, appears the law of Clausius: "The entropy 
of the world tends to a maximum." 



348 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

In July, 187 1, two years after his return to America, he was 
elected Professor of Mathematical Physics at Yale, a position which 
he held to the time of his death thirty-two years later. 

It was at first an empty honor, for the university to which he 
was attached was slow to recognize his genius. For the first ten 
years of his professorship he received no salary whatever and little 
more than half the regular salary for several years thereafter. The 
most important service that a university can do to the world is 
the early recognition and encouragement of men of exceptional 
ability who are willing to devote their lives to the extension of 
human knowledge, yet this is the service most likely to be neglected. 
Yale has no name upon her roll of honor that stands for more origi- 
nality and profundity in science than that of Gibbs, but it is a mere 
chance that it was not lost to her. When the Johns Hopkins 
University was started, Gibbs was invited to join its facility, and, 
as the story goes, had already written a letter of acceptance intend- 
ing to mail it the next morning, but Professor Thatcher happening 
to call on him that evening he mentioned what he had done and 
referred to the envelope on the mantelpiece before them. His 
friend begged him to hold it for a few days, and then hurried out 
to urge upon the authorities of the university the importance of 
retaining Gibbs in the institution. Some hasty councils were held, 
a small salary promised and Gibbs, gratified by this unexpected 
token of appreciation, was glad to agree to remain in New Haven. 
This intervention Professor Rowland of the Johns Hopkins was 
accustomed to call "the greatest crime of the century," believ- 
ing that Gibbs would have found greater scope for his powers and 
would have exerted a wider influence in a university having a 
larger corps of graduate students than Yale had at that time. But 
it is hard to conceive of Gibbs in any other environment than 
that of Yale, and it is doubtful if his peculiar genius would have 
thrived elsewhere. 

In 1873, when he was thirty-four years old, he published his 
first paper, a discussion of the methods for the geometrical repre- 
sentation of the thermodynamical properties of bodies. The 
most common of such graphical methods is the volume-pressure 



WILLARD GIBBS 349 

diagram, as in the indicator cards for testing the efficiency of 
steam-engines. In this the pressure of a gas is measured on one 
line and its volume on a line at right angles to the first. A point 
upon this diagram gives the state of the gas in regard to pressure 
and volume, a line represents any change of state, and the areas 
included measure the amount of work done on it in producing the 
change. But of course such a diagram on a plane surface in two 
dimensions cannot always clearly show the effects of changes in 
other physical properties, as, for example, temperature. For this 
a solid model in three dimensions is necessary, and the direct 
representation of more than three such variables is impossible 
because we cannot geometrically construct models of more than 
three dimensions. But Gibbs showed that by choosing volume, 
energy and entropy as the three physical properties of a body to 
be represented by the rectangular coordinates, a geometrical sur- 
face is formed which gives a complete graphical representation 
of all the relations between volume, temperature, pressure, energy 
and entropy for all states of a body, whether single or a mixture 
of different states. 

The value of such graphical methods lies in the fact that they 
give at a glance a clear and definite conception of complex rela- 
tions, such as cannot be obtained, at least by the ordinary mind, 
from the study of a table of figures or an algebraic formula. A 
mass of experimental data, very incomprehensible in themselves 
and even apparently improbable becomes quite clear on being 
plotted upon a diagram, and new points of interest become ap- 
parent, and promising Unes of research are suggested. The use 
of geometrical representations, many of which originated with 
Gibbs, has been of great value in the development of the science 
of physical chemistry. 

American scientists took little notice of " Gibbs' thermodynami- 
cal surface " as it is called, but in England it attracted the attention 
of Clerk Maxwell who in his Theory 0} Heat devotes considera- 
ble space to it, and constructed with his own hands a plaster of 
Paris model of such a surface for water in its three states of ice, 
liquid and vapor. A cast of this was sent to Gibbs, who was much 



3SO LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

pleased at this mark of appreciation from such a high authority, 
although he personally took little interest in the construction of 
such models, for to his mind they were superOuous. He did not 
think in mathematical formulas like Maxwell or in mechanical 
models like Kelvin, but seemed to have some peculiar method of 
his own for conceiving complex relations between quantities. The 
model is yet preserved in the Sloane Laboratory of Yale, the orig- 
inal in the Cavendish Laboratory of Cambridge. Students, who 
knew the story of plaster surface and Gibbs' extreme modesty, 
used to take a secret delight in asking questions about it. He 
would reply that "it came from Europe," and, further pressed, 
that it was "made in England." 

In 1876 and 1878, Professor Gibbs published in two parts in 
the Transactions of the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences 
a paper entitled, "On the Equilibrium of Heterogeneous Sub- 
stances," to which may be accurately applied the much abused 
term "an epoch-making work," for it laid the foundation of the 
new science of physical chemistry. It was a triumph of creative 
intellect, rarely equaled in the history of science for originality, 
completeness and vigor of demonstration. It often happens in 
science that certain discoveries are, as it were, "in the air," and 
it is almost a matter of chance which individual catches them and 
by first putting them into concrete form, gets the whole credit for 
having originated them. The way of the new idea is usually so 
throughly prepared by the gradual development of current thought 
that its coming in some form is inevitable. America would cer- 
tainly have been discovered within a few years if Columbus had 
failed, and the world would not have been long without the steam- 
engine if Watt had never lived. But Professor Gibbs' work in 
physical chemistry was not the product of such a general trend 
of thought. The materials of the new science had not been col- 
lected. He laid down laws for phenomena that had not then been 
observed, and gave in advance solutions to problems that had 
never been formulated. It is a signal refutation of the theory of 
Bacon that science can only progress by the slow accumulation 
of miscellaneous facts, from which in the course of time could be 



WILLARD GIBBS 351 

drawn general laws. On the contrary, it has been found that a 
science develops the most rapidly when, even in its infancy, there 
is a definite theory capable, to use Gibbs' phrase, of "giving shape 
to research." 

As has been said, Professor Gibbs had no direct forerunner; it 
is also true that he had no immediate followers. For over ten 
years this paper was almost completely neglected, and it was not 
until some of the laws he enunciated had been independently 
discovered by European chemists, that attention was drawn to 
it, not by himself to estabhsh a barren claim to priority, but 
by others because in his work these empirical laws were to be 
found more succinctly expressed, and also logically connected 
in a complete and consistent system of general principles. 

The paper "On the Equilibrium of Heterogeneous Substances" 
was translated into German by Ostwald in 1892, sixteen years 
after the publication of the first part, and put into French by Le 
Chatelier in 1899; in both instances for the expressed purpose of 
promoting the development of the science of physical chemistry 
in which they were the teachers. Ostwald introduces the paper 
with these words: 

"The contents of this work are to-day of immediate importance 
and the interest it arouses is by no means historical. For, of the 
almost boundless wealth of results which it contains, or to which 
it points the way, only a small part has, up to the present time, 
been made fruitful. Untouched treasures in the greatest variety 
and of the greatest importance to the theoretical as well as to the 
experimental investigator still lie within its pages." 

Le Chatelier uses much the same language: 

" Gibbs was able by a truly extraordinary effort of the scientific 
imagination and logical power to posit all the principles of the new 
science and to foresee all its ulterior applications. ... To Gibbs 
belongs the honor of having fused the two sciences into one, chemi- 
cal mechanics, of having constituted a completely defined body of 
principles, to which additions may be made in the future, but from 
which the progress of the science can take nothing away. 

"His method, like that of Newton, Fresnel and Ampere, consists 
in starting with a small number of first principles or hypotheses, 



352 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

and searching out all the necessary consequences of those princi- 
ples, without ever introducing in the course of the reasoning any 
new hypotheses or relaxing the rigor of the reasoning." 

Since most readers will be obliged to form their opinion of the 
value of Gibbs' work upon authority instead of personal judgment 
it may be useful to quote a third estimate, that given by Professor 
Larmor in the article on "Energetics," in the supplementary 
volumes of the Encyclopcsdia Brilannica: 

"This monumental memoir made a clean sweep of the subject, 
and workers in the modern experimental science returned to it 
again and again to find their empirical principles forecasted in 
the light of pure theory, and to derive fresh inspiration for new 
departures." 

That Gibbs' paper was so long neglected, and is even at the 
present day not studied by many chemists, is due chiefly to two 
causes: first, it is exceedingly abstract, complex and difficult to 
comprehend, and, second, being published in the Transactions of 
the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences, it was not readily 
accessible to all who might have found it profitable. This memoir, 
which is likely to be more studied a hundred years from now than 
it is to-day, is to be found among papers on subjects of such local 
and transitory interest as the winds of New Haven and plans for 
a bridge, never built, between New York City and Blackwell's 
Island. Still we must remember that the service which the Connec- 
ticut Academy rendered him no other agency stood ready to 
render or could have rendered as well, under conditions permitting 
the careful elaboration and printing of the work, and for this the 
Academy deserves the hearty thanks of all friends of science. All 
of his work has now been made available by the publication, in 
1906, of The Scientific Papers of J. Willard Gibbs, in two volumes 
by Longmans Green & Co. 

It will not be out of place to relate here an incident of his student 
days at the University of Berlin, the humor of which did not 
escape him then and which has certainly lost none of that quality 
since. The conversation took place at a social gathering to which 
he had been invited. 



WILLARD GIBBS 353 

Professor X: "Sie haben eine Akademie der Wissenschaften 
in New Haven, nicht wahr ? " (You have an Academy of Science 
in New Haven, have you not ?) 

Gibbs (innocently) : " Ja wohl ! Davon bin ich Mitglied." (Yes 
indeed. I am a member of it.) 

Professor X: "Ach! so. Die Mitgliedershaft wird wohl ziem- 
lich ausgebreitet sein." (The membership must be rather exten- 
sive.) 

American scientists are much given to complaining that their 
work does not receive due recognition in Europe. This is doubt- 
less true of the ordinary run of scientific papers, but this case, like 
some others, shows that really important work may be better 
appreciated abroad than at home. If American chemists had 
begun research twenty-five years ago on the lines indicated by 
Gibbs, they would have led the world in the development of 
physical chemistry, which now they, in imitation of European 
scientists, have recently taken up. Yale graduates who went 
abroad to study chemistry were sometimes first set to study the 
work of Gibbs whom they had never knovm at college. 

But at the time when it was published there were few chemists 
in this country sufi5ciently familiar with higher mathematics to 
understand and utilize Gibbs' work. As we have seen, chemistry 
differed from physics in having no general laws capable of mathe- 
matical expression, and the chemist got along very well in his work 
if he knew arithmetic as far as percentage, so that he could calculate 
his analyses. It was not likely then that he would take the trouble 
to master a mathematical paper covering 300 pages and including 
over 700 equations, in which only a few simple chemicals such as 
salt, water, sulphur and hydriodic acid, are mentioned by way of 
illustration. But now as Le Chatelier says, "the algebraist with 
his formulas has drawn the attention of the chemists with their 
crucibles and conquered their contempt for integrals." 

It is difl&cult to convey to the lay reader any clear idea of the 
contents of the paper "On the Equilibrium of Heterogeneous Sub- 
stances." Perhaps some insight may be afforded by using the 
words of the Dutch chemist, Bakhuis Roozeboom, who was one 
of the first to realize the importance of the work. He says that it 



354 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

deals with "the sociology of chemistry." Previously chemists had 
been absorbed in the recognition of chemical substances as indi- 
viduals and in studying their transformations, but Gibbs dis- 
cusses their behavior in the presence of each other. He shows 
under what conditions of temperature and pressure different sub- 
stances, and the same substances in different states, can exist 
together and what effect changes of these conditions will have 
upon the composition of such mixtures. Chemists used to confine 
their attention as much as possible to those reactions that went in 
one direction and resulted in a practically complete change into 
new compounds. They regarded incomplete and reversible reac- 
tions with the same aversion as pre-Darwinian botanists did, 
varieties which did not fit into their system of classification. Now 
chemists find the most interesting and most common reactions are 
those that proceed only partially in one direction when they are 
checked by the opposite tendency and an equilibrium established. 
The study of the effect of the conditions, such as temperature, 
pressure and relative amount of the components, upon such an 
equilibrium is one of the most fruitful lines of investigation now 
being carried on. 

The best known of the formulas of this paper is that called 
" Gibbs' Phase Rule." It is usually expressed in this form: 

F=C+2^P. 

Where P denotes the number of phases (or distinct and separa- 
ble masses of matter, such as chemical elements or compounds or 
solutions or mixtures of gases), C denotes the number of compo- 
nents (or chemical substances forming the constituents) and F 
denotes the number of degrees of freedom (or the number of the 
three variable factors, temperature, pressure and volume, which 
must be arbitrarily fixed in order to define the condition of the 
system). For example, let us take water alone, in which case C= i. 
If we have water only in the form of a gas (steam or vapor) , there- 
fore in one phase, P = i; therefore F=2, that is, we must give two 
of the variables, say, the pressure and the temperature, before we 
can know the third, the volume. If we hav^ water in contact 



WILLARD GIBBS 355 

with its vapor, we have two phases P=2, and therefore F=i, 
that is, if anyone of the three conditions are decided upon, the 
other two must follow. When we consider water, ice and vapor 
altogether P = 3, and therefore F = o, that is, none of the variable 
conditions can be chosen arbitrarily, for water, ice and vapor can 
exist together at only one temperature (nearly 0° Centigrade) 
and one pressure (4.6 millimeters of mercury). If the temperature 
is lowered, all the water freezes; if the temperature is raised, all 
the ice melts; in any event one of the phases disappears. 

By the use then of this simple little arithmetical rule involving 
after the determination of the factors only the addition and sub- 
traction of numbers usually less than three, the behavior of the 
most complicated mixtures under all possible changes of condition 
is made known when once a few data are obtained by experiment, 
and it has found application in many widely diverse fields of 
science and industry. The reader who is sufficiently interested in 
the subject to follow it further is referred to the two books on the 
Phase Rule by Bancroft and by Findlay. The Dutch chemists 
were the first to make use of Gibbs' work, and Roozeboom, Van 
der Waals, Van't Hoff, Schreinemakers and others have within 
the last few years by the aid of the Phase Rule and other laws of 
equilibrium immensely increased our knowledge of such difficult 
matters as solutions, alloys and crystallizations. As examples 
of its practical applications may be mentioned its use in the study 
of sedimentary deposits, the metallurgy of iron and the igneous 
rocks. The Stassfurt salt deposits which supply the world with 
potash for fertilizers are composed of a curious and complicated 
mixture of various sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium 
salts in layers aggregating a thousand feet in thickness. Professor 
Van't Hoff and his pupils have been for the last eight years engaged 
upon this problem, and have worked out the conditions under 
which these strata were deposited by the evaporation of sea water 
in a land-locked sea. Iron has been most useful to man because 
it is really several metals in one. By the addition of minute quan- 
tities of carbon it can be changed from soft, malleable wrought- 
iron, to hard, brittle cast-iron, or to steel which can be tempered in 



356 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

many different ways. But the cause of these remarkable changes 
and the conditions by which they were produced were not under- 
stood until the application of the Phase Rule to the subject of the 
iron carbides, and many disasters have occurred from unexpected 
weaknesses in structural iron which in the future we shall be better 
able to avoid. The igneous rocks, such as granite, basalt and 
porphyry, which form the principal part of the earth so far as we 
know it, are composed of mixed silicates which were too numerous 
for the mineralogist to name and too complex for the chemist to 
classify. Now, however, they are being studied very successfully, 
and the geologist, being given by the use of the Phase Rule, the 
conditions of heat and pressure under which they were formed, will 
be able to explain more satisfactorily the building of the world. 

I have devoted so much space to this paper of Gibbs as an 
example of the effect of theory upon scientific research that it will 
be necessary to dismiss briefly his later, and, in part, equally impor- 
tant work. Between 1881 and 1884, Professor Gibbs developed 
and taught his system of Vector Analysis, a new algebraic method 
of treatment of physical quantities, like force, momentum and 
velocity, which have direction as well as magnitude and can there- 
fore be represented by lines. This work is in many respects an 
improvement on the Quaternions of Sir William Hamilton, which 
has never been a favorite method of analysis with physicists. It 
was printed in 1881—84 for private circulation among mathema- 
ticians by Professor Gibbs, but was published in more complete 
form by his pupil, Dr. E. B. Wilson, only in 1901. 

In 1886, Professor Gibbs as Vice-President of the Section of 
Mathematics and Astronomy of the American Association for the 
Advancement of Science, gave an address on "Multiple Algebra," 
a development of the methods of Grassman. An astronomical 
paper on a new method for the determination by the employ- 
ment of Vector Analysis of elliptic orbits from three complete ob- 
servations was published by the National Academy of Science 
three years later; reprinted by Buchholz; translated into German 
and incorporated in the last edition of Klinkerfues's Theoretische 
Astronomie. 



WILLARD GIBBS 357 

He devoted much attention to the electromagnetic theory of 
light, originated by Clerk Maxwell, which he defended against 
the elastic ether theory by showing its adequacy for explaining 
the phenomena of refraction and dispersion of light. The discovery 
by Hertz of the electric waves now used in wireless telegraphy has 
since given experimental proof of the correctness of Maxwell's 
theory. Gibbs also made important contributions to the theory of 
galvanic cells, by which can be calculated the electromotive force 
due to differences in the concentration of the dilute solutions of 
the cells or in the pressure in the case of gas batteries. 

His final work was on the Elementary Principles of Statistical 
Mechanics in which he attempts the gigantic task of applying 
mathematical methods to the study of the motions of very complex 
systems too minute and complicated for detailed observation, as, 
for example, the vibrations of the molecules of a solid due to heat. 
This work has not yet been sufficiently studied for its importance 
to be fully understood, for it was published in 1902, as one of the 
Yale Bicentennial volumes. It is thought that the intense applica- 
tion and protracted labor required for the preparation of this work 
hastened his death, which occurred after a few days' illness on 
April 28, 1903, at the age of sixty-four. He was never a strong 
man and, like Kant, it was only by great carefulness of his health, 
and severe restriction of his activities and diversions that he was 
able to accomplish so much original work. 

He was of medium height and slight figure, with delicate fea- 
tures, and bright blue eyes that twinkled quizzically when he had 
got a student cornered. His hair and full beard at the time of his 
death were pure white. He was punctual at every appointment, 
fulfilling every duty imposed upon him, however uncongenial, 
with the utmost conscientiousness. Yale knew him as "the man 
who never made a mistake." At the meetings of the Yale Mathe- 
matical Club which he founded and invariably attended, he lis- 
tened with patience and consideration even to the most amateurish 
efforts. He was always ready to give his time and attention to any 
student coming to him for assistance, and would devote the whole 
of the lecture hour and as much more as necessary to the explana- 



358 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

tion of any point, however simple, if he found that one of his pupils 
failed to understand it, even at a time when he refused an offer 
of five dollars an hour for doing outside work. His customary 
remark at the end of every demonstration was: "Is it proved?" 
He was once asked what he meant by this, and explained that 
different minds required different degrees and kinds of proof. 
That this is true to a much greater extent than he realized is shown 
by the fact that some students, not particularly apt in mathematics, 
found his lectures difl&cult or impossible to follow. This was due 
to his complete absorption in his subject and his failure to com- 
prehend that others could not take as long steps as he could. The 
tendency of his mind toward generalization, in which lay his unique 
power, was shown by a remark frequently upon his lips, "The 
whole is simpler than its parts." 

His lectures were conversational, though usually well prepared 
and straightforward, never twice alike, so students often took what 
was nominally the same course a second year. Occasionally if a 
new idea occurred to him in the course of a lecture, he would for- 
get his students and work it out on the blackboard. He carried 
few notes to the class room, and those merely the chief formulas. 
If he forgot a step in writing out a demonstration, he would stand 
and softly whistle, occasionally darting nervously across the room 
to fix the radiator. On leaving the class room he was apt to come 
back two or three times to see if he had not forgotten something. 

His students were never neglected because they were few or 
because they interrupted his research work. Except in the very 
first years his courses occupied on an average of seven hours a 
week, and they were always freshly prepared and original. Some- 
times with a single student before him, in such a subject as the 
electromagnetic theory, he would sit for two hours at a time in 
his characteristic posture, his hands folded and forefingers 
touching, developing his own system and extending it into new 
fields. 

To those who were prepared for them, his lectures were most 
inspiring on account of their clear and logical demonstrations, 
their comprehensiveness and their pertinent and graphic iJlustra- 



WILLARD GIBBS 359 

tions. One of his pupils, Prof. H. A. Bumstead, in a sketch of 
Willard Gibbs, published in the American Journal of Science, 
speaks of his lectures as follows: 

"No necessary qualification to a statement was ever omitted, 
and on the other hand it seldom failed to receive the most general 
application of which it was capable. His students had ample 
opportunity to learn what may be regarded as known, what is 
guessed at, what a proof is and how far it goes. Though he 
disregarded many of the shibboleths of the mathematical rigorists, 
his logical processes were really of the most severe type; in power 
of deduction, of generalization, in insight into hidden relations, 
in critical acumen and in utter lack of prejudice, and in the philo- 
sophical breadth of his view of the object and aim of physics, he 
has had few superiors in the history of the science, and no student 
could come in contact with this severe and impartial mind without 
feeling profoundly its influence in all his future studies of nature. 
In personal character the same great qualities were apparent, 
unassuming in manner, genial and kindly in his intercourse with 
his fellow men, never showing impatience or irritation, devoid of 
personal ambition of the baser sort or of the slightest desire to 
exalt himself, he went far toward realizing the ideal of the unselfish 
Christian gentleman. In the minds of those who knew him, the 
greatness of his intellectual achievements will never overshadow 
the beauty and dignity of his life." 

Perhaps Professor Gibbs would have been more successful as 
a teacher if he had followed the custom of university professors in 
making use of the labors of his students and working with them, 
but he never took them into his confidence, and he rarely let any- 
one know what he was engaged upon until his work was complete 
and ready for publication. His work was solitary; he had no need 
of the stimulus of conversation or correspondence with men 
interested in the same subjects. He left comparatively few notes, 
and these are brief and elliptical, for he carried his work in his 
head until well thought out. Even then he was reluctant to give 
it publicity. 

One of his students captivated by his system of Vector Analysis, 
told him that he thought it could be thrown into a form that could 
be more widely useful and even introduced into sophomore mathe- 



360 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

matics. But Gibbs replied: "What is the good of that? It is 
complete as it is." 

He had such confidence in the results of his theoretical deduc- 
tions that he took little interest personally in their experimental 
verification, yet he was fertile in suggestions of profitable lines of 
research, and had a keen perception of practical difficulties which 
would be encountered. In his lectures he not infrequently would 
spend considerable time in describing the apparatus by which some 
crucial experiment might be performed. Though he was so exclu- 
sively occupied with the theoretical side of his subject, he was by 
no means wanting in mechanical ingenuity. As a boy his favorite 
amusement was the making of mechanical toys, and after leaving 
college and before entering on his professional work he devised 
and patented an automatic car-brake. 

It must be noted also that all his work, even the most abstract, 
had a definite practical purpose. He studied mathematics for 
its usefulness in the interpretation . of nature, never as a mere 
mental amusement nor for the exercise and display of intellectual 
power. As he once remarked in a discussion at the Mathematical 
Club, "A mathematician may say anything he pleases, but a 
physicist must be at least partially sane." In an address on 
"Values" on the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the 
founding of the club he said that the difference between the great 
man and the lesser men in science lies in their relative power of 
perceiving the important thing, which is not necessarily the 
hardest thing. The great man sees clearly what is most needed 
at the time and does that. 

Conscientiousness, caution, modesty and unselfishness were 
the prominent features in his character. He was so careful to 
give due credit to the work of his predecessors that he often read 
into a paper much more than its author had thought of. He had 
a just appreciation of the value of his own discoveries, but shrank 
from any form of praise or publicity. In 1901 the Copley Medal 
of the Royal Society of London, which is awarded for the most 
important scientific work done in any country, was given to 
Willard Gibbs, but he deprecated the congratulations of his 



WILLARD GIBBS 361 

friends who had read the announcement, with the remark: "Better 
not say anything about it. Very likely it is an error." To a friend 
who spoke of seeing one of his letters on electromagnetic theory 
in Nature he said, "Oh, did they really publish it?" Professor 
Ostwald of Berlin tried to get him to come to Europe to be lionized, 
but he persistently refused. 

Although the recognition of his achievements was so long 
delayed, yet before his death he had received honors from many 
parts of the world. Besides the Copley Medal of the Royal 
Society, he received the Rumford Medal of the American 
Academy of Science and Arts; he was awarded honorary 
doctorates from the universities of Erlangen, Princeton, 
Christiania and Williams College; he was elected to honorary or 
corresponding membership in the American Academy of Boston, 
the National Academy of Washington and the Royal Society of 
London, the Berlin Academy and the French Institute, as well 
as learned societies in Haarlem, Gottingen, London, Cambridge, 
Manchester, Amsterdam and Bavaria. 

As an estimate of the character of Prof. Willard Gibbs, no 
more appropriate words can be used than those in which he has 
unconsciously revealed his own personality and ideals in, pay- 
ing a tribute to the character of a colleague. In his obituary 
sketch of Prof. Hubert Anson Newton, he concludes a discussion 
of his mathematical and astronomical work with these sentences: 

"These papers show more than the type of mind of the author; 
they give no uncertain testimony concerning the character of the 
man. In all these papers we see a love of honest work ; an aversion 
to shams, a distrust of rash generalizations and speculations based 
on uncertain premises. He was never anxious to add one more 
guess on doubtful matter in the hope of hitting the truths, or what 
pass as such for a time, but was always willing to take infinite 
pains in the most careful test of every theory. To these qualities 
was joined a modesty which forbade the pushing of his own claims; 
and he desired no reputation except the unsought tribute of 
competent judges." 

In an exceedingly interesting series of articles on "Josiah 
Willard Gibbs and his Relation to Modern Science," published 



362 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

in the Popular Science Monthly, May, 1909 et seq., Dr. Fielding 
H. Garrison defines the characteristics of his genius in the 
following language: 

" Ostwald, in his interesting Biologic des Naturforsckers, has 
divided men of science into two classes: The classicists (Klas- 
siker), men like Newton, Lagrange, Gauss, Harvey, who, deal- 
ing with a limited number of ideas in their work, seek formal 
perfection and attain it, leaving no school of followers behind 
them, but only the effect of the work itself; and the romanticists 
(Romaniiker) , who like Liebig, Faraday, Darwin, Maxwell, 
are bold explorers in unknown fields, men fertile in ideas, leav- 
ing many followers and many loose ends of unfinished work 
which others complete. In the logical perfection of his work 
and in his unusual talent for developing a theme in the most 
comprehensive and exhaustive manner, Gibbs was emphatically 
the Klassiker. But in the scientific achievement of his early 
manhood he showed something of the spirit of the Romantiker 
also. His mathematical theory of chemical equilibriiun was, 
far in advance of any experimental procedure known or con- 
templated at the time of its publication, and, although some 
of his predecessors, like James Thomson, Massieu, Horstmann, 
had come within sight of the new land and even skirted its 
shores, Gibbs, with the adventurous spirit of the true pioneer, 
not only conquered and explored it, but systematically sur- 
veyed it, Hving to see part of his territory occupied by a thriving 
band of workers, the physical chemists. Cayley, in his report 
on theoretical dynamics in 1857, expressed lus conviction that 
the science of statics ' does not admit of much ulterior develop- 
ment.' The work of Gibbs has added to it the immense field 
of chemical equilibrium and wherever 'phases,' 'heterogeneous 
systems,' 'chemical and thermodynamic potentials,' or 'criti- 
cal states ' are mentioned he has left his impress upon modern 
scientific thought. It is not without reason then, that Ostwald 
has called this mathematician ' the founder of chemical energet- 
ics,' asserting that 'he has given new form and substance to 
chemistry for another century at least.' " 





m4^ 




SIMON NEWCOMB 

ASTRONOMER 

1835-1909 

By Marcus Benjamin 

"To him the wandering stars revealed 
The secrets in their cradle sealed; 
The far-off, frozen sphere that swings 
Through ether, zoned with lucid rings; 
The orb that rolls in dim eclipse 
Wide wheeling, round its long ellipse, — 
His name Urania writes with these. 
And stamps it on her Pleiades." 

These lines written by Oliver Wendell Holmes on one of Har- 
vard's most eminent men of science apply with even greater force 
to Simon Newcomb, who by common consent had achieved the 
reputation of being the foremost astronomer of his time and easily 
succeeded to the honor of being the world's Nestor of Science on 
the death of Lord Keh-in. Sir Robert S. Ball, formerly Astrono- 
mer Royal of Ireland and now Director of the Astronomical 
Observatory in Cambridge, England, wrote of him: "Science has 
sustained one of the most severe blows of recent years. America 
has lost her most eminent man of science, and not since the death 
of Adams has the world been deprived of so illustrious an investiga- 
tor in theoretical astronomy." He was, says the same writer, 
"the most conspicuous figure among the brilliant band of contem- 
porory American astronomers." 

Simon Newcomb was the sixth in descent from Simon Newcomb 
who was bom in Massachvisetts, in 1666, and died in Lebanon, 

363 



364 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

Connecticut, in 1745. His paternal ancestors moved to Canada 
in 1761, and in Wallace, Nova Scotia, on March 12, 1835, the 
famous astronomer was born. His father was John B. Newcomb, 
who followed the precarious occupation of a country school-teacher, 
seldom remaining in the same place for more than one or two years, 
and he is described by his son as being "the most rational and 
dispassionate of men." From his Reminiscences we learn that 
of his father's family none acquired "great wealth," held "a 
high official position," or did "anything to make his name live in 
history." Simon Newcomb's mother was Emily Prince, a descend- 
ant of a long-lived New England family, that was widely connected, 
and she included among her ancestors Elder William Brewster, 
who came over in the Mayflower. 

The story of the courtship of these two is of special interest. 
In his search for her whom he believed would make him a fitting 
wife, John B. Newcomb had gone on a visit to Moncton, New 
Brunswick, and there attracted by the strains of music from a 
church, he entered the building and found a religious meeting in 
progress. His eye was at once arrested by the face and head of a 
young woman playing on a melodeon, who was leading the sing- 
ing. He sat in such a position that he could carefully scan her 
face and movements. As he continued this study the conviction 
grew upon him that here was the object of his search. He soon 
made her acquaintance, paid her his addresses, and became her 
accepted suitor. He was fond of astronomy, and during the months 
of his courtship one of his favorite occupations was to take her 
out of an evening and show her the constellations. It is even said 
that among the day-dreams in which they indulged, one was that 
their first-born might be an astronomer. 

Of his mother, Newcomb wrote: "She was the most profoundly 
and sincerely religious woman with whom I was ever acquainted, 
and my father always entertained and expressed the highest 
admiration for her mental gifts, to which he attributed whatever 
talents his children might have possessed." Her strength was 
unequal to her surroundings, and she died at the early age of 
thirty-seven years. 



SIMON NEWCOMB 365 

During his boyhood days, owing to the nature of his father's 
vocation, the movings of the family were frequent, although until 
he was four years of age Simon lived in the home of his paternal 
grandfather, about two miles from the village of Wallace. Here 
he was taught the alphabet by his aunts and he says, himself: "I 
was reading the Bible in class and beginning geography when I 
was six." In greater detail perhaps, he writes: 

"I began to study arithmetic when I was five years old, and 
when six, I am told, I was very fond of doing sums. At twelve I 
was studying algebra, and about that time I began to teach. I 
remember that I was thirteen when I first took up Euclid. There 
was a copy of it among my father's works." 

After the boy had grown to manhood his father wrote for him 
an account of his early life from which the following extract is 
taken: 

"At fifteen you studied Euclid, and were enraptured with it. 
It is a little singular that all this time you never showed any self- 
esteem; or spoke of getting into employment at some future day, 
among the learned. The pleasure of intellectual exercise in 
demonstrating or analyzing a geometrical problem, or solving an 
algebraic equation, seemed to be your only object. Your almost 
intuitive knowledge of geography, navigation, and nautical matters 
in general caused me to think most ardently of writing to the 
Admiral at Halifax, to know if he would give you a place among the 
midshipmen of the navy; but my hope of seeing you a leading 
lawyer, and finally a judge on the bench, together with the pos- 
sibility that your mother would not consent, and the possibility that 
you would not wish to go, deterred me." 

Newcomb in his Reminiscences of this period writes: 

"Among the books which profoundly influenced my mode of 
life and thought during the period embraced in the foregoing 
extracts were Fowler's Phrenology and Combe's Constitution of 
Man. It may appear strange to the reader if a system so com- 
pletely exploded as that of phrenology should have any value as a 
mental discipline. Its real value consisted, not in what it taught 
about the position of the 'organs,' but in presenting a study of 
human nature, which, if not scientific in form, was truly so in 



366 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

spirit. I acquired the habit of looking on the characters and 
capabilities of men as the result of their organism." 

Referring to the small collection of books in the possession of 
his paternal grandfather he says: "Among those purely literary 
were several volumes of the Spectator and Roderick Random. Of 
the former I read a good deal. Three mathematical books were 
in the collection, Hammond's Algebra, Simpson's Euclid, and 
Moore's Navigator." These works were literally absorbed by 
him, and he also mentions Mrs. Marcet's Conversations on Natural 
Philosophy and Lardner's Popular Lectures on Science and Art, 
as books that greatly interested him during this period of his 
youth. 

His desire for learning had exhausted the slender resources of 
his paternal home and so at the age of sixteen, while on a visit to 
his grandparents, in Moncton, he went to study with one Doctor 
Foshay, who lived in the village of Salisbury, fifteen miles on the 
road to St. John. An agreement was made with the physician 
which read as follows: 

"S. N. to live with the doctor, rendering him all the assistance in 
his power in preparing medicines, attending to business, and doing 
generally whatever might be required of him in the way of help. 
The Doctor, on his part, to supply S. N.'s bodily needs in food and 
clothing, and teach him medical botany and the botanic system 
of medicine. The contract to terminate when the other party 
should attain the age of twenty-one." 

This contract so gladly made soon became unsatisfactory and 
young Newcomb found himself 

"Physician, apothecary, chemist and druggist, 
Girl about house and boy in the bam." 

With greater exactness he says: "I cared for the horse, cut wood 
for the fire, searched field and forest for medicinal herbs, ordered 
other medicines from a druggist in St. John, kept the doctor's 
accounts, made his pills, and mixed his powders." 

This unfortunately left little time for reading and study and 
soon he began to realize that his growing years were being wasted. 



SIMON NEWCOMB 367 

He therefore determined to run away. After careful preparation 
he chose September 13, 1853, as the day on which to leave. In a 
short letter addressed to the doctor, he wrote: 

"When I came to live with you, it was agreed that you should 
make a physician of me. This agreement you have never shown 
the slightest intention of fulfilling since the first month I was with 
you. You have never taken me to see a patient, you have never 
given me any instruction or advice whatever. Beside this, you 
must know that your wife treats me in a manner that is no longer 
bearable. I therefore consider the agreement annulled from your 
failure to fulfill your part of it, and I am going off to make my own 
way in the world. When you read this, I shall be far away, and 
it is not likely that we shall ever meet again." 

He successfully eluded pursuit and made his way to Salem, 
Massachusetts, where he found his father who "after the death 
of my mother had come to seek his fortune in the ' States.' " From 
Massachusetts they proceeded to the eastern part of Maryland, 
where at Massey's Cross Roads in Kent County, early in 1854, 
he began his independent career as a teacher of a country school. 
A year later he got "a somewhat better school at the pleasant 
little village of Sudlersville." 

In the summer of 1854 he made his first visit to Washington, 
and "speculated upon the possible object of a queer old sandstone 
building, which seemed so different from anything else, and heard 
for the first time of the Smithsonian Institution." Books of all 
kinds, especially those on mathematics, were eagerly sought and 
quickly mastered. Study resulted in research and then came re- 
sults, culminating in the preparation of a paper on "A New Demon- 
stration of the Binomial Theorem" which he sent to Secretary 
Henry, asking if he deemed it worthy of publication. In replying 
Professor Henry pointed out its "lack of completeness and rigor" 
although one part of the work "was praised for its elegance." 
Newcomb says of Henry's letter that "while not so favorable as 
I might have expected, it was sufficiently so to encourage me in 
persevering." 

A change of schools in 1856, brought him within an easy ride 



368 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

on horseback to the city of Washington where soon "the Smith- 
sonian Library was one of the greatest attractions" and from which 
he began to borrow the works of the great masters. There for 
the first time he saw the four volumes of the Mecanique Celeste 
by Laplace, "the greatest treasure that my imagination had ever 
pictured." And then he called on the Secretary and told him of his 
ambitions. He says of this interview: "When I found Professor 
Henry he received me with characteristic urbanity, told me some- 
thing of his own studies, and suggested that I might find something 
to do in the Coast Survey, but took no further steps at that time." 

On leaving the Smithsonian he made his way to the office of 
the Coast Survey and there asked if a knowledge of physical 
astronomy was necessary to a position in that office. Other visits 
to Professor Henry followed, and at one of these he received a 
letter to Julius E. Hilgard, then assistant in charge of the Coast 
Survey office. He prompdy availed himself of this opportunity 
and of his reception Newcomb wrote: "I found from my first 
interview with him that the denizens of the world of light were up 
to the most sanguine conceptions I ever could have formed." 

Towards the close of the year he received a note from Mr. Hil- 
gard saying that "he had been talking about me to Professor Win- 
lock, superintendent of the Nautical Almanac, and that I might 
possibly get employment on that work." This possibility was 
not one that could be safely disregarded, and on the last day of 
December, 1856, he started for Cambridge where the office of the 
Nautical Almanac then was. At that time there was no vacancy 
on the staff but he had not long to wait, for he writes: 

"I date my birth into the world of sweetness and light on one 
frosty morning in January, 1857, when I took my seat between two 
well-known mathematicians, before a blazing fire in the office of 
the Nautical Almanac at Cambridge, Mass. I had come on from 
Washington, armed with letters from Professor Henry and Mr. 
Hilgard, to seek a trial as an astronomical computer. The men 
beside me were Professor Joseph Winlock, the superintendent, 
and Mr. John D. Runkle, the senior assistant in the office." 

From 1857 to 1861, Newcomb remained in Cambridge as 



SIMON NEWCOMB 369 

computer in the office of the Nautical Almanac. It may be said 
that this office was established near Harvard University so as to 
be able to profit by the technical knowledge of experts, especially 
that of Prof. Benjamin Peirce, then generally accepted as the 
leading mathematician of America. The office remained in Cam- 
bridge until 1866 when it was removed to Washington. New- 
comb's idea of the work may be understood best perhaps by his 
own presentation of the subject. He says: 

"Supply any man with the fundamental data of astronomy, the 
times at which stars and planets cross the meridian of a place, and 
other matters of this kind. He is informed that each of these 
bodies whose observations he is to use is attracted by all the others 
with a force which varies as the inverse square of their distance 
apart. From these data he is to weigh the bodies, predict their 
motion in all futvire time, compute their orbits, determine what 
changes of form and position these orbits will undergo through 
thousands of ages, and make maps showing exactly over what 
cities and towns on the surface of the earth an eclipse of the sun 
will pass fifty years hence, or over what regions it did pass thou- 
sands of years ago. A more hopeless problem than this could not 
be presented to the ordinary himian intellect. The men who have 
done it are therefore in intellect the select few of the human race. 
The astronomical ephemeris is the last practical outcome of their 
productive genius." 

Newcomb, gifted with that appreciation of opportunities that 
indicates the man of genius, was quick to realize the advantages 
of a closer relation to the University in Cambridge and therefore 
enrolled himself as a student of mathematics in the Lawrence 
Scientific School where he pursued studies in that and kindred 
branches of learning under the eminent Benjamin Peirce. He 
received the degree of Bachelor of Science in 1858, and thereafter 
for three years was continued on the rolls of the University as a 
resident graduate. 

The eclipse of the sun that occurred in i860 was total in certain 
parts of British America, and it had fallen to Newcomb to com- 
pute the path of the shadow and the times of crossing certain 
points in it for the records of the office of the Nautical Almanac. 
It was therefore but natural that he should be selected to accom- 



370 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

pany the party sent to Saskatchewan by the Almanac office and 
in his Reminiscences he described with much interest the trip to 
the then far-away northwest. The expedition failed of success for 
"the weather was hopeless. We saw the darkness of the eclipse 
and nothing more." He consoled himself, however, with the fol- 
lowing thought: 

"It was much easier to go back and tell of the clouds than it 
would have been to say that the telescope got disarranged at the 
critical moment so that the observations failed." 

In 1 86 1 he learned of a vacancy in the select corps of professors 
of mathematics in the U. S. Navy, and in August, 1861, he made 
formal application for an appointment to the Hon. Gideon Welles, 
then Secretary of the Navy. His letter was brief and concluded 
with: 

"I would respectfully refer you to Commander Charles Henry 
Davis, U. S. N., Professor Benjamin Peirce, of Harvard University, 
Dr. Benjamin A. Gould, of Cambridge, and Professor Joseph 
Henry, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, for any informa- 
tion respecting me which will enable you to judge of the propriety 
of my appointment." 

Great was his satisfaction when a month later he found in the 
post-office "a very large official envelope containing my commis- 
sion duly signed by Abraham Lincoln, President of the United 
States." He promptly reported to Washington where he was sent 
to the Naval Observatory and was assigned to work on the transit 
instrument. With this appointment his greater life-work began, 
in the prosecution of which he continued until within a very few 
days of the end of his life. 

It is a far cry from that long-ago Naval Observatory with its 
primitive facilities to the now excellent equipment and attractive 
building on the observatory grounds on the hills northwest of 
Washington. Newcomb has described the work as follows: 

"The custom was that one of us should come on every clear 
evening, make observations as long as he chose, and then go home. 
The transit instrument was at one end of the building and the 
mural circle, in charge of Professor Hubbard, at the other. He 
was weak in health, and unable to do much continuous work of 



SIMON NEWCOMB 371 

any kind, especially the hard work of observing. He and I 
arranged to observe on the same nights; but I soon found that there 
was no concerted plan between the two sets of observers. The 
instruments were old-fashioned ones, of which mine could deter- 
mine only the right ascension of a star and his only its declination ; 
hence to completely determine the position of a celestial body, 
observations must be made on the same object with both instru- 
ments. But I soon found that there was no concert of action of 
this kind. Hubbard, on the mural circle, had his plan of work; 
Yarnell and myself, on the transit, had ours. When either Hub- 
bard or myself got tired, we could ' vote it cloudy ' and go out for 
a plate of oysters at a neighboring restaurant." 

He soon found that "no system of work of the first order of 
importance could be initiated until the instrumental equipment 
was greatly improved." The clocks, perfection in which is almost 
at the bottom of good work, were quite unfit for use; the other 
instruments were antiquated and defective in many particulars. 
Slowly, however, the pressing needs were supplied and new instru- 
ments, notably a great transit circle, were obtained through the 
indefatigable zeal of James M. Gilliss, who was in charge of the 
observatory. Meanwhile the task of editing, explaining, and pre- 
paring for the press the new series of observations made by himself 
and his colleague with the old transit instrument, devolved on him. 

In 1863, in consequence of the death of Prof. J. S. Hubbard of 
the professorial corps, Newcomb was given charge of the mural 
circle. Of this new undertaking he says: " I soon became conscious 
of the fact, which no one had previously taken much account of, 
that upon the plan of each man reducing his own observations, 
not only was there an entire lack of homogeneity in the work, but 
the more work -one did at night the more he had to do by day." 
That he possessed the confidence of his superior is evident, for on 
presenting the case to Superintendent Gilliss that official quickly 
appreciated the fact that work done with the instruments should 
be regarded as that of the observatory, and reduced on a uniform 
plan, instead of being considered as the property of the individual 
who happened to make it. Newcomb adds: "Thus was intro- 
duced the first step toward a proper official system." 



372 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

The new transit circle arrived in October, 1865, and to his great 
delight, Newcomb was also given charge of it. Then it was 
that he began the work of determining the error in the right ascen- 
sion of stars which he believed had crept into the modern observa- 
tions made in Greenwich, Paris, and Washington and which 
prevented stars that were on opposite quarters of the heavens from 
agreeing. For more than three years this undertaking occupied 
his close attention, and in 1869 he found after working up his 
observations that the error he had suspected in the adopted posi- 
tions of the stars was real. This investigation was conspicuously 
valuable in developing the fact that very diflQcuIt mathematical 
investigations were needed to unravel one of the greatest mysteries 
of astronomy, that of the moon's motion. Before, however, passing 
to the consideration of his scientific work more in detail it should 
be mentioned that he continued at the observatory until 1877, 
when he became senior professor of mathematics in the U. S. 
Navy with the relative rank of captain. 

The year 1877 was perhaps the most important one in New- 
comb's hfe. With all the strength of his powerful intellect, with 
all the accumulated experience that constitutes wisdom, with the 
prosperity that comes with success, and with an appointment 
that placed him at the head of a great scientific bureau he was 
indeed at the very zenith of his career. On September 15, 1877, 
he was assigned to the charge of the Nautical Almanac office, 
and of this appointment he says: "the change was one of the hap- 
piest in my life." He adds: 

"I was now in a position of recognized responsibility, where my 
recommendations met with respect due to that responsibility, 
where I could make plans with the assurance of being able to 
carry them out, and where the countless annoyances of being 
looked upon as an important factor in work where there was no 
chance of my being such would no longer exist. Practically I had 
complete control of the work of the office, and was thus, meta- 
phorically speaking, able to work with untied hands." 

He found the office in a rather dilapidated old dwelling-house, 
not very far away from the observatory, in one of those doubtful 



SIMON NEWCOMB 



373 



regions on the border line between a slum and the lowest order 
of respectability. All of the computers did their work at their 
homes. He promptly hired an office in the top of the Corcoran 
Building, then just completed, and there he gathered around him 
his various assistants. He began his work with a careful examina- 
tion of the relation of prices to work, making an estimate of the 
time probably necessary to do each job. On the staff were several 
able and eminent professors at various universities and schools, 
who were being paid at high professional prices. Soon he found 
it possible to concentrate all the work in Washington, thereby 
effecting a reduction in the expenses of the ofiSce. "These econo- 
mies went on increasing year by year, and every dollar that was 
saved went into the work of making the tables necessary for the 
future use of the Ephemeris." 

The program of work which he laid out included a discussion 
of all the observations of value on the positions of the sun, moon, 
and planets, and incidentally on the bright fixed stars made at the 
leading observatories of the world from the year 1750 on, and this 
work is described more in detail later in this sketch. Another 
valuable undertaking was the compilation of the formula for the 
perturbation of the various planets by each other. 

For twenty years he continued in charge of this office, and as 
each passing year went on its way with its record of results it 
carried with it the gratifying assurances that the work under his 
supervision was more and more surely reaching its successful 
culmination. When the day for his actual retirement came he 
left the ofiBce with the satisfaction of knowing that his work had 
gained the appreciation of his colleagues at home and abroad, for 
no honors such as were conferred upon him had ever come to an 
American scientist. 

The plaudit "well done, good and faithful servant" was surely 
his. Director Maurice Loewy who was long in charge of the 
observatory in Paris wrote: 

"His activity has embraced the most diverse branches of 
astronomy. Not only has he given a great scope to the intellectual 
movement of this country, but he has also contributed in a very 



374 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

successful manner to elevate the level of the civilization of our age, 
enriching the domain of science with beautiful and durable con- 
quests." 

While a young man in Cambridge, Newcomb determined to 
devote his life to the prosecution of exact astronomy, and the first 
problem which he took up was that of the zone of those minor 
planets, called asteroids, which revolve between the orbits of 
Mars and Jupiter. This investigation, published in i860, under 
the title On the Secular Variations and Mutual Relations oj the 
Orbits of the Asteroids showed that the orbits of these bodies "had 
never passed through any common point of intersection" and 
hence were not fragments of a larger body that had met with some 
catastrophe as had been generally believed. "The whole trend 
of thought and research since that time," says Newcomb, "has 
been towards the conclusion that no such cataclysm as that looked 
for ever occurred, and that the group of smaller planets had been 
composed of separate bodies since the solar system came into 
existence." 

His own statement of "the great problem of exact astronomy" 
to which he gave so much of his life and thought is as follows: 

" It is well known that we shall at least come very near the truth 
when we say that the planets revolve around the sun, and the satel- 
lites around their primaries according to the law of gravitation. 
We may regard all these bodies as projected into space, and thus 
moving according to laws similar to that which governs the motion 
of a stone thrown from the hand. If two bodies alone were con- 
cerned, say the sun and a planet, the orbit of the lesser around the 
greater would be an ellipse, which would never change its form, 
size, or position. That the orbits of the planets and asteroids do 
change, and that they are not exact ellipses, is due to their attrac- 
tion upon each other. The question is, do these mutual attrac- 
tions completely explain all the motions down to the last degree of 
refinement ? Does any world move otherwise than as it is attracted 
by other worlds ? 

"Two diflEerent lines of research must be brought to bear on the 
question thus presented. We must first know by the most exact 
land refined observations that the astronomer can make exactly 
how a heavenly body does move. Its position, or, as we cannot 



SIMON NEWCOMB 375 

directly measure distance, its direction from us, must be deter- 
mined as precisely as possible from time to time. Its course has 
been mapped out for it in advance by tables which are published 
in the Astronomical Ephemeris, and we may express its position by 
its deviation from these tables. Then comes in the mathematical 
problem how it ought to move under the attraction of all other 
heavenly bodies that can influence its motion. The results must 
then be compared, in order to see to what conclusion we may be 
led." 

It is not easy to understand the obstacles that had to be over- 
come in a series of investigations in which in the solution of so 
complex a problem as that Newcomb undertook. The general 
treatment is indicated by Bostwick ' in the following statement: 

" If the universe consisted of but two bodies — say, the sun and 
a planet — the motion would be simplicity itself; the planet would 
describe an exact ellipse about the sun, and this orbit would never 
change in form, size, or position. With the addition of only one 
more body, the problem at once becomes so much more difiicult 
as to be practically insoluble; indeed, the 'problem of the three 
bodies' has been attacked by astronomers for years without the 
discovery of any general formula to express the resulting motions. 
For the actujdly existing system of many planets with their satel- 
lites and coimtless asteroids, only an approximation is possible. 
The actual motions as observed and measured from year to year 
are most complex. Can these be completely accounted for by the 
mutual attractions of the bodies, according to the law of gravita- 
tion ? Its two elements are, of course, the mapping out of the lines 
in which the bodies concerned actually do move and the calcula- 
tions of the orbits in which they ought to move, if the accepted laws 
of planetary motion are true. The first involves the study of 
thousands of observations made during long years by different men 
in far distant lands, the discussion of their probable errors, and 
their reduction to a common standard. The latter requires the 
use of the most refined methods of mathematical analysis; it is as 
Newcomb says, 'of a complexity beyond the powers of ordinary 
conception.' " 

The practical impossibility of ever completing this remarkable 
series of studies is almost obvious, for in magnitude that task is 

1 A. E. Bostwick, American Review of Reviews, August, 1909. 



376 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

one probably not exceeded by any ever before attempted by an 
astronomer, and yet Newcomb persisted, although in many cases 
he was obliged to confine himself to a correction of the reductions 
already made and published. The number of meridian observa- 
tions on the sun, Mercury, Venus, and Mars alone numbered 
62,030, and these were contributed by the observatories at Green- 
wich, Paris, Konigsberg, Pulkowa, Cape of Good Hope, and 
elsewhere. Says Newcomb: "The job was one with which I do 
not think any astronomical one ever attempted by a single person 
could compare in extent." 

It was this elaborate task of "bringing this great problem of the 
solar system well-nigh to completeness of solution" that consti- 
tuted Newcomb 's life-work and in connection with which his 
name will go down in history. It involved "an almost complete 
reconstruction of the theories of the motions of the bodies of the 
solar system" and "at its foundation the complete revision of the 
so-called constants of astronomy." Such is the testimony of his 
successor in the office of the Nautical Almanac, who further adds: 

"The distance of the earth from the sun; the displacement of the 
earth in its orbit by the attraction of the moon ; the displacement of 
the stars due to the motion of the earth combined with the motion 
of light, which involves the velocity of light and space; the yearly 
precession of the equinoxes; the obliquity of the ecliptic; the 
dimensions and the masses of the planets; all had to be worked 
into a homogeneous system to be used as a basis for the tables of 
the sun and planets." 

The moon early attracted his attention and it held him until 
the end. Almost his very first observations at the Naval Observa- 
tory in Washington "showed that the moon seemed to be fall- 
ing a little behind her predicted motion." He soon found that 
other astronomers had found similar "inequalities" and therefore 
he determined to ascertain the cause of this phenomenon. He 
studied the records of other astronomers and after satisfying him- 
self that the error had occurred prior to 1750, he searched the old 
records of Europe and in Paris, and in Pulkowa found evidence 
that traced the error back to before the year 1675, which in the 



SIMON NEWCOMB 377 

elapsed time had with slight accretions amounted to sufficient to 
vitiate in a marked degree the records of astronomy. The compila- 
tion necessary to correct this error required years to perform, and 
although the corrections were promptly applied to work in prog- 
ress it was not until 1878 that he was able to publish his Reduc- 
tions and Discussion of (he Moon before 1750. 

Later when release came to him from official duties he returned 
to that subject and with the aid of a grant from the Carnegie 
Institution given him in 1903 and later, he devoted his leisure to a 
further investigation of this subject, culminating in a memoir on 
The Motion of the Moon, the final words of which were dictated 
by him after he had been stricken with the fatal illness that 
stretched him upon a bed of suffering and from which he never 
arose. 

The sun and the moon and the planets yielded their secrets to 
the call of his mighty intellect, and science has profited to the 
benefit of humanity in consequence of the life of Simon Newcomb. 

As Newcomb grew in reputation his advice was sought for 
many purposes, and his knowledge taken advantage of not only 
by our government but also by those abroad. Of these experi- 
ences, therefore, brief mention must be made. 

In 1869 he was one of the party sent to Des Moines, Iowa, to 
observe the solar eclipse that passed across the United States in 
that year. He prepared the detailed set of instructions issued by 
the Naval Observatory to observers in towns at each edge of the 
shadow-path to note the short duration of totality. He was also 
a member of the party sent to Gibraltar to observe the eclipse that 
occurred in December, 1870. The day of the eclipse was cloudy 
so that the observations made were not of very great value. He 
made the trip from England to Gibraltar as the guest of the Eng- 
lish official party, and among other guests was Prof. John Tyndall. 

Of this period he wrote: "My continued presence on the observ- 
atory staff led to my taking part in two of the great movements 
of the next ten years, the construction and inauguration of the 
great telescope and the observations of the transit of Venus." 

Concerning the first of these events Newcomb has told pleas- 



378 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

antly in his Reminiscences of its origin. At a dinner party where 
several Senators were present the mortifying statement was made 
that there was no large telescope in Washington. This fact so 
interested Senator Hamlin of Maine that provision was made 
almost immediately by Congress for the construction of a suitable 
instrument. The necessary money was appropriated and to 
Newcomb was assigned the duty of negotiating the contracts, and 
later of supervising the construction of the object-glass. The 
great 26-inch lens was made by Alvan Clark and Sons, and on 
November 10, 1873, the first observations made with it, — those 
on the satellites of Neptune, — were begun. It is interesting to 
add that the famous discovery of the satellites of Mars by Asaph 
Hall in August, 1877, was made with this instrument. According 
to Newcomb: "The success of the Washington telescope excited 
such interest the world over as to give a new impetus to the con- 
struction of such instruments." Pleased with their success the 
Clarks were ready to undertake much larger instruments, and it 
may be said that a 30-inch telescope for the Pulkowa Observa- 
tory in Russia, the 36-inch telescope of the Lick Observatory in 
California, and, finally, the 40-inch of the Yerkes Observatory 
in Williams Bay, Wisconsin, were the outcome of the movement. 

A description of the second event will occupy but a few words. 
In 1 87 1 Newcomb was appointed secretary of the commission 
that was created by Congress for the purpose of observing the 
transit of Venus on December 9, 1874, and under whose direction 
the expeditions sent by the United States government were organ- 
ized. He also had much to do with equipping the expeditions 
that were sent to observe the transit in 1882, and he took charge 
of the party that went to Cape of Good Hope. His comment on 
the occasion is as follows: "The sky on the day of the transit was 
simply perfect. Notwithstanding the intensity of the sun's rays, 
the atmosphere was so steady that I have never seen the sun to 
better advantage. So all our observations were successful." 

Early in 1874, the announcement was made that James Lick, 
of San Francisco, had transferred his fortune to a board of trus- 
tees in order to carry out certain public benefactions, one of which 



SIMON NEWCOMB 379 

was the procuring of the greatest and most powerful telescope 
that had ever been made. Newcomb was soon consulted in regard 
to this interesting proposition, and in December, 1874, he was 
invited to visit the European workshops as an agent of the Lick 
trustees. This duty he promptly accepted, and after failure to 
negotiate satisfactory arrangements abroad, he finally advised 
that the making of the great 36-inch lens be given to Clark and 
Sons. From its inception, therefore, until its inauguration, 
Newcomb was the principal scientific adviser of the trustees of 
the Lick Observatory, and recommended for their consideration, 
Edward S. Holden, who was chosen their first director. 

Of almost identical nature was his relation to the construction 
of the 30-inch object-glass for the Pulkowa telescope. In 1878, 
Otto Struve, the director of that observatory, began correspondence 
with Newcomb concerning the building of a large refracting teles- 
cope. Struve came to the United States on Newcomb's suggestion 
in 1879, and together they visited the workshops of the Clarks in 
Cambridge. After due consideration Struve decided to place the 
contract for making the object-glass with the American firm, and 
thereafter, until its completion, Newcomb was frequently consulted 
in regard to it. In 1887, in appreciation of this work, the Emperor 
of Russia ordered Newcomb's portrait to be painted and placed 
in the Government gallery of famous astronomers in Pulkowa. 
Two years later Newcomb received a rare vase of jasper on a 
pedestal of black marble, six and a half feet high, which "in recog- 
nition of these deserts, His Majesty, the Emperor, graciously 
sends as a present for you from the observatory of Pulkowa." 

In 1884 he was invited to accept the professorship of mathe- 
matics and astronomy in the Johns Hopkins University, which 
place he held until 1893, when he resigned, but again returned to 
that chair in 1898, and two years later was made emeritus. In 
reference to his work it has been said that "no American would 
have been more worthy of succeeding Sylvester. As an astronomer 
his name has long shone with a lustre which fills with pride every 
American breast." Johns Hopkins was keenly appreciative of 
his services to that university, and in 1901 Newcomb was one of 



380 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

the two to receive the first award of the Sylvester prize. This prize 
is a handsome bronze medallion of the late Professor Sylvester 
framed in oak. In making the award President Oilman said: 
"The second copy of this tablet is now offered to Professor Simon 
Newcomb, a distinguished astronomer, who has been a friend of 
the University from its inception, and who guided the mathemati- 
cal department for many years." 

When it was decided to hold a World's Fair in St. Louis in 
commemoration of the purchase of Louisiana, an International 
Congress of Arts and Science was advocated by a distinguished 
group of educators and scientists, who on the acceptance of their 
plan at once recommended "that Simon Newcomb be named for 
President." In his history of the congress. Doctor Rogers says: 
"The choice for president of the Congress fell without debate to 
the dean of American scientific circles, whose eminent services 
to the government of the United States and whose recognized 
position in foreign and domestic scientific circles made him par- 
ticularly fitted to preside over such an international gathering of 
the leading scientists of the world." 

Of his remarkable success in securing the presence of the great- 
est men in the world in every domain of science there is abundant 
testimony. Nor is there need to discuss the work of the congress 
here, for the eight octavo volumes published after the event tell 
the story with exactness. Space, however, may be given to the 
opening words with which on the theme of "The Evolution of 
the Scientific Investigator," Newcomb at the very culmination 
of his splendid career opened the congress in the presencte of per- 
haps the most distinguished audience ever gathered in the new 
world, — an audience which indeed testified by their presence to 
the homage which they proudly rendered to him whom they recog- 
nized as the world's first scientist. He said: 

"As we look at the assemblage gathered in this hall, com- 
prising so many names of widest renown in every branch of learn- 
ing—we might almost say in every field of human endeavor,— the 
first inquiry suggested must be after the object of our meeting. 
The answer is, that our purpose corresponds to the eminence of 



SIMON NEWCOMB 381 

the assemblage. We aim at nothing less than a survey of the 
realm of knowledge, as comprehensive as is permitted by the limi- 
tations of time and space. The organizers of our Congress have 
honored me with the charge of presenting such preliminary view 
of its field as may make clear the spirit of our undertaking." 

It must be remembered always that Newcomb's great work was 
on the mathematical astronomy of the solar system, involving as 
it did the preparation of the most exact possible tables of the mo- 
tions of all the planets. These researches were published by 
the Nautical Almanac OflBce in eight quarto volumes entitled 
Astronomical Papers of the American Ephemeris. But this 
was by no manner of means all; for a volume at least would 
be necessary to merely mention his other very many addresses, 
memoirs, and papers. The titles of 376 of these have been care- 
fully collected by Dr. R. C. Archibald and were published in 1905. 
Concerning these Prof. Arthur Cayley, formerly president of the 
Royal Astronomical Society of Great Britain, has said: "Professor 
Newcomb's writings exhibit, all of them, a combination on the 
one hand of mathematical skill and power, and on the other of 
good hard work, devoted to the furtherance of astronomical 
science." 

During the years of his active connection with Johns Hopkins 
University, he was properly editor-in-chief of the American Journal 
of Mathematics, and during the rest of the time — from the founda- 
tion of the journal in 1878 to 1884, and subsequent to 1900 — he 
was an associate editor. His literary activity was very great and 
but few important works of reference have been published with- 
out articles from his pen. He was one of the contributors to John- 
son's Cyclopedia, and became the "astronomical mathematical 
editor" of that work for its edition published in 1900, as the 
Universal Cyclopedia. He wrote a number of articles, including 
that on Astronomy, for the tenth edition of the Encyclopczdia 
Britannica, and was one of the "associate and advising editors" of 
the Encyclopedia Americana, and he was an associate editor of 
the Dictionary of Psychology and Philosophy. His magazine 
articles contributed to the Atlantic, Popular Science Monthly, 



382 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

Harpers, North American Review, Forum, and other similar 
journals were many and valuable. 

In book form he should be credited with the following works, 
many of which have passed through several editions and at least 
one, his Popular Astronomy, was republished in England and 
translated into the German, Russian, and Norwegian languages. 
The list includes Popular Astronomy (New York, 1878); School 
Astronomy, with Edward S. Holden (1879) ; Briefer Course (1883) ; 
Elements of Astronomy (1900); Stars; A Study of the Universe, 
translated into Dutch, Bohemian, and Japanese (1901) ; Astronomy 
for Everybody (1902); Compendium of Spherical Astronomy 
(1905) and Side Lights on Astronomy (1906) ; also a series of text- 
books comprising 4/^e&ra (1881); Geometry {i^?>i); Trigonome- 
try and Logarithms (1882); School Algebra (1882); Analytic 
Geometry (1884); Essentials of Trigonometry (1884); and Cal- 
culus (1887). 

Of the text-books the following story is told concerning their 
origin: "One evening Professor Newcomb found his daughter 
Anita, now Mrs. McGee, poring over an algebra which he thought 
too abstruse for a beginner. 'Put it aside,' he said, 'I will write 
you something to study.' He began at once and wrote a lesson 
for her, and after this, wrote every evening her lesson for the 
next day. A complete algebra was the result. This was finally 
published, and a whole series of mathematical books followed." 

Very early in life Professor Newcomb developed an interest in 
political economy and it was his habit to refer to astronomy as 
his "profession" and to political economy as his "recreation." 
A wise man knows the value of diverting his thoughts from his 
"profession" to his "recreation." At first the application of 
mathematics to public questions seems to have appealed to him 
most and he wrote on finance. Many of his earlier articles were 
published in such prominent reviews as the North American and 
the old International; some of these papers were anonymous. 
As years came to him, however, he broadened his views until 
he became an accepted authority in many branches of political 
economy. His opinions were highly valued and eagerly sought 



SIMON NEWCOMB 383 

for, and in consequence they were given to the world in book 
form. 

Professor Irving Fisher who fills so acceptably the chair of 
political economy in Yale University, has described with such 
skill Newcomb's contributions to political economy that I venture 
to include his brief analysis. He says: 

"It is true that Newcomb sought not so much to add to economic 
science as to restate what was already known, but in so doing he 
struck out in many new paths. Perhaps his chief contribution 
was the distinction between a ' fund ' and a ' flow ' — , a ' fund ' 
relating to a point of time and a 'flow' relating to a period of 
time. This distinction he applied especially to the societary cir- 
culation which he expressed in one equation between the circula- 
tion of money and the reverse flow of goods. He was apparently 
the first to state this equation and thereby to formulate accurately 
the so-called 'quantity theory of money.' He also applied the 
distinction between a 'flow' and a 'fund' to expose the fallacy of 
the wage-fund. The same distinction many of us have found 
extremely fruitful in the analysis of capital and income. Among 
other problems to the solution of which Professor Newcomb con- 
tributed may be mentioned the problem of the standard of deferred 
payments and the perennial problem of Labor and Capital. In 
general. Professor Newcomb was an advocate of laissez /aire, but 
he distinguished sharply between the government policy of 'letting 
alone' and that of 'keeping out.' 

"In Methodology Professor Newcomb maintained that Econom- 
ics was a science and should be treated by scientific methods. 
One of the most stimulating discussions in his Elements of Political 
Economy is that concerning the nature of scientific method. He 
points out that a scientific law merely expresses what would happen 
under certain hypothetical conditions." 

Of his writings on this subject the following are the more impor- 
tant: A Critical Examination of our Financial Policy during the 
Rebellion (New York, 1865); The A. B. C. of Finance (1877); 
A Plain Man's Talk on the Labor Question (1886); Principles of 
Political Economy (1886); and The Problem of Economic Educa- 
tion (1893). 

As further evidence of his remarkable versatility may be men- 
tioned his stories: The Wreck of the Columbia (1896); The End of 



384 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

the World (1903), which was translated into Japanese; and his 
novel His Wisdom, the Defender (1900); and finally The Reminis- 
cences of an Astronomer (1903). 

No American was ever more conspicuously honored than Simon 
Newcomb. Decorations, medals, and degrees were gladly con- 
ferred on him. The much prized red ribbon of the order of the 
Legion of Honor in the grade of "ofl&cier" was given him by the 
French government in 1896, and in 1907 he was advanced to the 
rank of "commandeur." The German Emperor made him a 
Knight in the Prussian order of Merit for Science and Art, and 
on his last visit to Europe, Professor Newcomb was received at 
luncheon by Emperor William. In 1874 he was awarded a gold 
medal by the Royal Astronomical Society of London, and in 1878 
the great Huyghens gold medal was given to him by the Haarlem 
Society of Sciences under the auspices of the University of Leyden. 
This medal, it is interesting to add, is awarded biennially to the 
individual, who by his researches and discoveries or inventions 
during the previous twenty years, has, in the judgment of the 
Society distinguished himself in an exceptional manner in a par- 
ticular branch of science. Although awarded every two years it 
is distributed among the various sciences, so that it is only once in 
twenty years that it is given to an astronomer. In 1890 he re- 
ceived the Copley medal from the Royal Society of London for 
his contributions to gravitational astronomy. This award is 
regarded as the most important of all those given by the Royal 
Society and ranks as the "blue ribbon" of Science in England. 
The first American recipient of this medal was Benjamin Franklin. 
Newcomb was the first to receive the Bruce gold medal awarded 
by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. It was conferred on 
him in 1898 "as a recognition of services to astronomy." 

The appreciation of his work by the Emperor of Russia in 
ordering in 1887 that his portrait be added to the gallery in Pul- 
kowa, followed in 1888 by the gift of a jasper vase, as well as his 
award of the Sylvester prize of the Johns Hopkins University in 
1901, have already been mentioned. To these tokens of recogni- 
tion may be added the facts that in 1889 the Imperial University 



SIMON NEWCOMB 385 

of Tokio, in Japan, officially presented him with two bronze 
vases of exquisite workmanship and design; also in 1895 he re- 
ceived the Astronomical Journal prize of $400 for the "most 
thorough discussion of the theory of the rotation of the earth, with 
reference to the recently discovered variation of latitude." And 
finally that the Imperial Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg 
in 1897, gave him the Schubert prize of 900 roubles. 

Universities gave him their highest degrees and he held the fol- 
lowing honorary doctorates: George Washington, LL.D., 1874; 
Yale, LL.D., 1875; Leyden, Nat.Ph.D., 1875; Harvard, LL.D., 
1884; Heidelberg, Ph.D., 1886; Columbia, LL.D., 1887; Edin- 
burgh, LL.D., 1891; Padua, Phil.Nat.D., 1892; Dublin, Sc.D., 
1892; Princeton, LL.D., 1896; Cambridge, Sc.D., 1896; Glasgow, 
LL.D., 1896; Oxford, D.C.L., 1899; Cracow, LL.D., 1900; 
Johns Hopkins, LL.D., 1902; Christiania, Math.D., 1902; and 
Toronto, LL.D., 1904. It may be added to this generous list of 
universities with which he was affiliated that he was always active 
in all matters that pertained to the progress of his own Harvard, 
the alumni of which testified to their appreciation of his interest 
by choosing him as one of their representatives on the Board of 
Overseers of that university, a place that he held at the time of 
his death. 

In 1872 he was elected an associate member of the Royal 
Astronomical Society of London, and in 1877 he was made a foreign 
member of the Royal Society of London; holding also honorary 
fellowship in the similar societies in Edinburgh, 1881, Dub- 
lin, 1882, and Sydney, Australia, 1901. He held correspond- 
ing, associate or honorary membership in all of the great acade- 
mies of science, including those in Sweden, 1875; Bavaria, 
1876; Gottingen, 1888; Brussels, 1891; Rome, 1895; St. Peters- 
burg, 1897; Amsterdam, 1898; Milan, 1899; Vienna and Berlin, 
1904. 

Conspicuous among the honors which tell of the appreciation 
of a man by his colleagues was the recognition received in 1887 
by Newcomb in his election as one of the eight members of the 
council of the Astronomische Gesellschaft, an international astro- 



386 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

nomical society that meets once in two years. In 1874 he was 
elected a corresponding member of the Institute of France and 
on June 17, 1895, was chosen one of the eight foreign associate 
members of the Academy of Science of the Institute of France, in 
succession to the illustrious Helmholtz. This was the greatest 
honor that came to him; for indeed there is none higher, and since 
Franklin, Newcomb was the first native American to receive this 
greatest of all scientific honors. 

In the United States his services to science likewise received 
conspicuous recognition. In 1869 he was elected a member of the 
National Academy of Sciences which he served as vice-president 
in 1883-89 and as foreign secretary in 1903-09. He was elected 
to the American Philosophical Society in 1878, and was its senior 
vice-president at the time of his death; and he was an associate 
fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Among 
the societies to which he was chosen president are the following: 
American Association for the Advancement of Science (1876), 
Society for Psychical Research (1885), Political Economy Club of 
America (1887), American Mathematical Society (1896), and 
Astronomical and Astrophysical Society of America (1899). In 
his own home city he had been elected president of the Philosophi- 
cal Society of Washington in 1879 and 1880, and again in 1909; 
and in 1907 of the Cosmos Club. 

With wise judgment Newcomb in his will bequeathed to the 
United States for deposit and public exhibition in the National 
Museum, his foreign decorations, medals, prizes from scientific 
bodies, diplomas and certificates from universities and learned 
societies, so that for all time, they might testify to the recognition 
his genius had gained for him. Merit is quickly appreciated in 
this great republic of ours, and to none does it yield its rewards 
more readily than to those who follow science. Eloquent indeed 
are these silent evidences of recognition, for they will ever show 
that even the humblest may aspire to the greatest honors, if only 
he prove himself worthy. 

Happy also was Newcomb in his home life. In 1863 he married 
Mary Caroline Hassler, daughter of Dr. Charles A, Hassler of 



SIMON NEWCOMB 387 

the U. S. Navy and granddaughter of F. R. Hassler, the first 
superintendent of the U. S. Coast Survey, and also great-grand- 
niece of David Rittenhouse of Philadelphia, famous as an astrono- 
mer in the early history of this country. And to their home in 
Washington — for that city v^^as always their home — came many 
friends. Henry, with whom he "became very intimate," and 
other men of science were frequent visitors, but soon others came 
once, and then again, and so the circle grew. Men prominent in 
official life, like Garfield; statesmen, like Sumner; and officers 
high in the military service, like Sherman, were his friends. As 
his fame increased persons of distinction from all parts of the 
world when they visited Washington made it their pleasure to 
pay their respects to the astronomer. In his Reminiscences he 
tells how in the centennial year Do|it Pedro d' Alcantara, then Em- 
peror of Brazil, sought him, and in recent years the Hon. James 
Bryce, the present Ambassador from Great Britain, received his 
hospitality. But after all it was among the younger men that his 
influence was most beneficial. He was quick to recognize ability 
and equally quick to insist on its recognition. It was Holden, his 
"assistant on the great equatorial," who on his recommendation 
became the first Director of the Lick Observatory, and he refers 
to George W. Hill who was his subordinate on the Nautical 
Almanac as "the greatest master of mathematical astronomy 
during the last quarter of the nineteenth century." To his con- 
temporaries he was always just and to his subordinates consid- 
erate. 

He took his work seriously and he believed in telling the truth, 
that is, the absolute scientific truth, not what might have occurred 
or possibly what might have occurred, but absolutely what did 
occur as he saw it without any attempt at circumlocution or 
embellishing circumstances. The simple, plain, scientific state- 
ment of fact was all that he was willing to give, and it was what 
he demanded in return from those with whom he was associated. 
He had not much time for the trivial, and yet whatever he under- 
took no detail was ever disregarded as being insignificant,. It 
seemed wise to the members of the Cosmos Club to place him in 



388 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

oflfice as their president without the usual preliminary elections to 
the subordinate offices of manager and vice-president, and during 
the year of his incumbency he showed the utmost interest in the 
duties of the place, aiding materially in the progress of the Club 
by his many suggestions and excellent advice. His trips abroad 
were elaborately planned, and he always made careful preparation 
by reading volume after volume on the countries to be visited. A 
thorough study of his subject in the beginning led to a better 
appreciation of it afterwards. 

Industry and persistency, combined with an intellect that 
enabled him to grasp the elements of a problem and conquer them, 
were the dominant traits of Newcomb's character. To these 
should be added the fact that he found his pleasure and recreation 
in pursuits that to many would have been hard work, but to him 
they were relaxation. Whatever came to him he did well and as 
genius may be defined as that quality of mind that develops its own 
environment then surely among the great men of the world. New- 
comb was one of the very greatest. 

Newcomb's last days were typical of his life, for they exhibited 
in a marked degree the characteristics of his genius. In the autumn 
of 1908 he returned from a trip abroad strengthened in mind and 
in body, eager to bring to a conclusion his great work on the Motion 
of the Moon, the completion of which had been so long deferred. 
A meeting of the Overseers of Harvard called him to Cambridge 
and on his return the symptoms of the fatal malady began to show 
themselves. Several visits to specialists in Baltimore failed to 
give him relief, but the disease was definitely diagnosed as cancer 
and located so as to make an operation impossible. When New- 
comb was told that recovery could not be expected he asked to 
be brought home at once, and with that wonderful power of con- 
centration, in moments of freedom from pain, he dictated the 
final words of his last contribution to science. On June 16 it 
was finished and then turned over to the printer. But the end 
was not yet, and for a month longer he continued to work prepar- 
ing chapters for his biography and putting his business affairs in 
final shape. 



SIMON NEWCOMB 389 

And then on July 11, 1909, he passed away, and now he abides 

"Where truth and joy and beauty ever are, 
Beyond the sunset and the dying day. 
Beyond the moonrise and the evening star." 

As befitting his high rank of rear-admiral in the U. S. Navy he 
was given an official funeral, which was attended by President Taft 
and escorted by representatives of scientific bodies and the 
Ambassadors of France and Germany; they buried him in 
Arlington, where only those who have served their country are 
permitted to lie. Among the Nation's great dead he is at rest. 




V^irvixrnyujvvL, 



GEORGE BROWN GOODE 

ZOOLOGIST 

1851-1896 

By David Starr Jordan 

The untimely death of George Brown Goode left a great break 
in the ranks of the scientific men of America. One of the most 
accurate and devoted of students, the ablest exponent of museum 
methods, a man of the most exalted personal character. Doctor 
Goode occupied a unique position in the development of American 
science. 

George Brown Goode was born in New Albany, Indiana, on 
February 13, 1851, and died of pneumonia at his home on Lanier 
Heights in Washington City on September 6, 1896. According to 
Dr. Marcus Benjamin, to whom I am indebted for many of the 
details of this sketch : 

"Doctor Goode was of Colonial descent. His family lived in 
Virginia, and he traced with pride his paternal line to John Goode, 
who came to that colony prior to 1660, and settled four miles from 
the present site of Richmond, on an estate which he named 
'Whitby.' John Goode was one of the advisers of Bacon in 1676, 
in the first armed uprising of the Americans against the oppression 
of royal authority. On his mother's side he was descended from 
Jasper Crane, who came to New England before 1630, and after- 
wards settled near the present site of Newark, New Jersey. 
Doctor Goode's father was Francis Collier Goode, who married, 
in 1850, Sarah Woodruff Crane, and their distinguished son was 
bom at the home of his maternal grandfather." 

In 1857, Mr. Goode's parents moved to Amenia, in New 
York state, where the boy passed his early youth, and where he was 

391 



392 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

prepared for college. In due time young Goode was matriculated 
in Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, where he 
graduated in 1870, at the too early age of nineteen. 

The fixed curriculum of the college gave him little opportunity 
for the studies in which he was chiefly interested, and his standing 
in the conventional branches on which the higher education was 
then supposed to depend was not unusually high. He was, how- 
ever, regarded as "a man exceptionally promising for work" in 
natural history. 

Goode spent part of the year of 1870 in graduate work in 
Harvard, and there fell under the stimulating influence of the 
greatest of teachers of science, Louis Agassiz. Before the year 
was over he was recalled to Middletown to take charge of the 
Museum of Natural Science then just erected by Orange Judd. 
His work in Judd Hall was a prelude to his reorganization of the 
National Museum in Washington, an institution which will 
always show in its classification and arrangement the traces of 
his master hand. 

In 1872, he first met Professor Baird in Eastport, Maine, and 
in 1873, while at the meeting of the American Association for 
the Advancement of Science, in Portland, Maine, he renewed this 
acquaintance. Professor Baird with his characteristic insight 
into the ambitions and possibilities of promising young men, — 
one of his notable qualities, — invited Goode to aid in the work 
of the newly organized Fish Commission. At that time Pro- 
fessor Baird was Assistant Secretary of the Smithsonian Institu- 
tion, in charge of the National Museum, and also United States 
Fish Commissioner. The organizations were managed in similar 
fashion and all their activities directed to the same high ends. 
Very soon Goode was brought into the service of them both. 
In the summer he was employed by the Fish Commission in in- 
vestigations and explorations along the Atlantic Coast. In the 
winter he divided his time between Wesleyan University and the 
National Museum, until the former institution was reluctantly 
compelled, in 1877, wholly to give him up. Till that date his only 
compensation for work done in Washington was found in dupli- 



GEORGE BROWN GOODE 393 

cate specimens of fishes and other animals, which in turn were 
presented by him to the museum in Middletown. 

Miss Lucy Baird writes (in a letter to Mr. T. D. A. Cockerell, 
who sends me this item): " From the time of their first meeting a 
warm personal attachment sprang up between them which deep- 
ened every year up to the time of my father's death. From the 
time when Mr. Goode became associated with the Museum work, 
my father's burdens in connection therewith became greatly less- 
ened, as year by year, Mr. Goode's ability in that line developed. 
No cloud ever obscured their harmonious relations, I can recall 
but one difference between them and that was on an occasion when 
some idea had been carried out in connection with the Museum 
work, — an achievement in which they both felt a natural pride, 
each was determined that all the credit belonged to the other. 
They argued so strongly that they absolutely grew a little hot in 
discussing the matter. My father wished Mr. Goode to take all 
the credit, and Mr. Goode insisted that he had only developed what 
my father had created. . . If my father," continues Miss Baird 
"had had no other title to the gratitude of the scientific world, 
it would have cause to remember him with gratitude for having 
afforded the facilities for the development of Mr. Goode's genius, 
though that, in time would have made itself known without aid." 

In 1887 he became Assistant Secretary of the Smithsonian 
Institution, in charge of the National Museum. On the death of 
Professor Baird, he became for a time United States Fish Com- 
missioner, holding the office without pay until a change in the law 
permitted the appointment of a separate salaried head. In his 
later years Mr. Goode devoted his whole energies to museum 
administration, a kind of work for which no one in the world has 
ever shown greater aptitude. Two important publications, 
Museums of the Future and Principles 0/ Museum Administration, 
admirably embody his views and experiences in this regard. His 
appreciation of the importance of such work is characteristically 
shown in his dedication of an interesting genus of deep-sea fishes 
to "Ulysses Aldrovandi, of Bologna, the founder of the first natu- 
ral history museum." 



394 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

His interest in museum administration caused a large amount 
of "exposition work" to be intrusted to his hands. An exposition 
is a temporary museum with a distinctly educational purpose. 
It can be made a mere public fair on a large scale, or it can be 
made a source of public education. In Goode's hands an ex- 
hibition of material was always made to teach some lesson. He 
had charge, under Professor Baird, of the Smithsonian exhibits 
in the Centennial Exhibition of 1876, in Philadelphia. He served 
as United States Commissioner in the Fisheries Exhibition held 
in Berlin in 1880, and in London in 1883. He was a member of 
the Board of Management of the government exhibit in the 
World's Columbian Exposition of 1893, and also prepared the 
general plan of classification adopted for the Exposition. He was 
equally active in minor expositions held in New Orleans, Cincin- 
nati, Louisville, Atlanta, and elsewhere. He was also concerned 
in the Columbian Historical Exposition held in Madrid 1892-93, 
and for part of the time acted as Commissioner-General for the 
United States. His services in that connection were recognized 
by the conferment of the order of Isabella the Catholic, with the 
rank of Commander. From the Fisheries Exposition in London 
he received a medal in honor of his services to the science of ich- 
thyology. 

Goode was always deeply interested in the historical and bi- 
ographical side of science, and in the personality, the hopes, and 
the sorrows of those who preceded him in the study of fishes 
and other animals. This showed itself in sympathetic sketches of 
those who had to do with the beginnings of American science as 
well as with the dedication of new genera, to those who had done 
honor to themselves by honest work in times when good work was 
not easy, and was not valued by the world. Among these thus 
recognized by him was Thomas Harriott, of Roanoke (an asso- 
ciate of Raleigh), who published the first work in English on 
American natural history. 

His interest in the biographical side of science led him to the 
scientific side of biography. From boyhood he was interested in 
genealogy. His own family records were published by him under 



GEORGE BROWN GOODE 



395 



the title of Virginia Cousins. This has been regarded as a model 
genealogical monograph. Doctor Goode believed that the way 
to do any piece of work is to do it thoroughly. While errors are 
inseparable from all work in science, and no man can ever find 
out the whole truth about anything yet whatever we really know 
can be thrown into workmanlike shape. Nothing crude or inco- 
herent in form at least, ever left Goode's pen. 

Goode was one of the founders of the American Historical 
Association, and a member of its executive council from 1889 
till his death. He contributed to its Proceedings, in 1889, his 
valuable paper on the "Origin of the National Scientific and 
Educational Institutions of the United States." He was also a 
member of the Southern Historical Society, organized in 1896. 
Much of his leisure during his last two summers was given to the 
preparation of the material that is used in the volume entided 
The Smithsonian Institution, 1846-96, which was his project, and 
is a monument to his knowledge of science in this country during 
the first half century of the existence of the Smithsonian Institution. 

Goode was one of the founders of the Society of the Sons of 
the American Revolution in the District of Columbia, and after 
filling various offices was, in 1894, made President. He was also 
Vice-President of the Society of the Sons of the Revolution, and 
Lieutenant-Governor of the Society of Colonial Wars in the Dis- 
trict of Columbia. 

He was very prominent in the organization and conduct of 
scientific societies, which he regarded as valuable agencies in the 
spread of scientific knowledge. He had been President both of 
the Philosophical Society and the Biological Society of Washing- 
ton. He was elected to the American Association for the Advance- 
ment of Science in 1873, and to the National Academy of Sciences 
in 1888. He was also a member of the Zoological Society of 
London. His work in science was recognized in 1886 by the de- 
gree of Ph.D. from the University of Indiana, his native state. 
It was the fortune of the present writer to accept as a thesis from 
him the "Catalogue of the Fishes of the Bermudas," and to move 
the granting of this degree. His relation to general culture and 



396 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

executive work was recognized by Wesleyan University by the 
degree of LL.D. conferred in 1888. 

The writer first met Mr. Goode in 1874, while he was en- 
gaged in work for the United States Fish Commission in Noank, 
Connecticut. He was then a young man of scholarly appearance, 
winning manners, and a very enthusiastic student of fishes. In 
figure he was of medium height, rather slender, and very active. 
His countenance was intellectual, and he seemed always to have 
a very definite idea of what he wished to do. 

Our first meeting was in connection with an effort on his part 
to find the difference between the two genera of fishes called 
Ceratacanthus and Alutera. At this time I was greatly impressed 
with the accuracy and neatness of his work, and especially with 
his love of what may be called the literary side of science, — a side 
too often neglected by scientific men. He detested an inaccuracy, 
a misspelled name, or a slovenly record, as he would have despised 
any other vice. Indeed, in all his work and relations, moral purity 
and scientific accuracy were one and the same thing. He had 
inherited or acquired "the Puritan conscience," and applied it 
not only to lapses of personal integrity, but to weaknesses and 
slovenliness of all sorts. Hence he became in Washington not 
only a power in scientific matters, but a source of moral strength 
to the community. His influence is felt in the Museum, not only 
in the wisdom of its organization, but in the personal character 
of its body of curators. The irresponsible life of Bohemia is not 
favorable to good work in science, and the men he chose as asso- 
ciates belong to another order. 

As to Doctor Goode's moral influence and youthful character- 
istics the following extracts from a private letter of Prof. Otis T. 
Mason will be found valuable: 

"Two characteristics of the man fixed themselves upon my mind 
indelibly: I found him to be intensely consciencious and I could see 
that he was a young man who not only wished to live a correct 
life himself, but abhorred the association of evil men. 

"Another characteristic which forced itself upon me was his 
devotion to the museum side of scientific investigation. He wrote 



GEORGE BROWN GOODE 397 

a beautiful hand, and on one occasion he told me that it was just 
as much the duty of a scientific investigator to write a good hand 
and spell his names correctly, so that there would be no mistake 
in the label, as it was for him to make his investigations accurately. 
You will find if you will look over some of the specimens which he 
marked at that time, beautiful numerals, clear and distinct, so that 
there is no mistaking one from the other. 

"Again, I discovered the pedagogic feeling to be very strong in 
him, and the interests of the public no less than of the investigator 
were constantly before his mind. Indeed, there was nothing 
about Doctor Goode in his admirable management of the Museum 
in later years that did not make its appearance to some extent 
when he had the work to do with his own hands. The germ of 
our present discipline manifested itself in the discipline which he 
exerted over his own conduct when he was junior assistant instead 
of director. 

"About the time that Doctor Goode came to the Museum, I 
undertook to arrange the ethnological collections. I can remember 
the delight which it gave him to consider a classification in which 
the activities of mankind were divided into genera and species 
subject to the laws of natural history, of evolution, and geographic 
surroundings. The development of the Department of Arts and 
Industries has been the result of these early studies." 

Doctor Goode had a wonderful power of analyzing the relations 
or contents of any group of activities, or of any objects of study. 
This showed itself notably in his two catalogues of collections 
illustrating the animal resources of the United States. These cat- 
alogues were written with reference to the arrangement of material 
for the exhibits of the Smithsonian Institution and the United 
States Fish Commission at the Centennial Exhibition at Phila- 
delphia. 

Doctor Gill says, in his admirable biographical sketch: 

"It was the ability that was manifested in these catalogues and 
the work incidental to their preparation that especially arrested 
the attention of Professor Baird, and marked the author as one 
well adapted for the direction of a great museum. For signal 
success in such direction special qualifications are requisite. Only 
some of them are a mind well trained in analytical as well as syn- 
thetic methods, an artistic sense, critical ability, and multifarious 
knowledge, but above all the knowledge of men and how to deal 



398 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

with them. Perhaps no one has ever combined, in more harmo- 
nious proportions, such qualifications than G. Brown Goode. In 
him the National Museum of the United States and the world at 
large have lost one of the greatest of museum administrators." 

The most striking character of Doctor Goode's scientific papers 
was perhaps their scholarly accuracy and good taste. He never 
wrote a paper carelessly. He was never engaged in any contro- 
versy, and he rarely made a statement which had later to be 
withdrawn. Yet no one was more ready to acknowledge an error, 
if one were made, and none showed greater willingness to recog- 
nize the good work of others. The literature even of the most 
out-of-the-way branch of zoological research had a great fascina- 
tion for him, and he found in bibliography and in the records of 
the past workers in science a charm scarcely inferior to that of 
original observation and research. In his later years administra- 
tive duties occupied more and more of his time, restricting the 
opportunities for his own studies. He seemed, however, to have 
as great delight in the encouragement he could give to the work 
of others. 

The great work of his life — Oceanic Ichthyology — was, however, 
written during the period of his directorship of the National 
Museum, and published but a month before his death. Almost 
simultaneous with this were other important publications of the 
National Museum, which were his also in a sense, for they would 
never have been undertaken except for his urgent wish and encour- 
agement. If a personal word may be pardoned. The Fishes of 
North and Middle America (of Jordan and Evermann) which 
closely followed Oceanic Ichthyology, would never have been 
written except for my friend's repeated insistence and generous 
help. 

In the earlier days of the scientific activities of the Smithsonian 
Institution, there was scarcely a young naturalist of serious pur- 
poses in the land who had not in some way received help and en- 
couragement from Professor Baird. With equally unselfish effect- 
iveness and lack of ostentation. Doctor Goode was also in different 
ways a source of aid and inspiration to all of his scientific contempo- 



GEORGE BROWN GOODE 399 

raries. The influence of the National Museum for good in the 
United States has been great in a degree far out of proportion to 
the sums of money it has had to expend. It has not been a Wash- 
ington institution, but its influence has been national. 

The first recorded scientific paper of Doctor Goode is a note on 
the occurrence of the bill-fish in fresh water in the Connecticut 
River. The next is a critical discussion of the answers to the 
question "Do snakes swallow their young?" In this paper he 
shows that there is good reason to believe that in certain viviparous 
snakes, the young seek refuge in the stomach of the mother when 
frightened, and that they come out when the reason for their 
retreat has passed. 

The first of the many technical and descriptive papers on fishes 
was the "Catalogue of the Fishes of the Bermudas," published 
in 1876. This is a model record of field observations and is one 
of the best of local catalogues. Doctor Goode retained his interest 
in this outpost of the great West Indian fauna, and from time to 
time recorded the various additions made to his first Bermudan 
catalogue. 

After this followed a large number of papers on fishes, chiefly 
descriptions of species or monographs of groups. The descriptive 
papers were nearly all written in association with his excellent 
friend, Doctor Tarleton H. Bean, then Curator of Fishes in the 
National Museum. 

In monographic work, Doctor Goode took the deepest interest, 
and he dehghted especially in the collection of historic data con- 
cerning groups of species. The quaint or poetical features of such 
work were never overlooked by him. Notable among these mono- 
graphs are those of the Menhaden, the Trunk-fishes, and the 
Swordfishes. 

The economic side of science also interested him more and more. 
That scientific knowledge could add to human wealth or comfoi^t 
was no reproach in his eyes. In his notable monograph of the 
Menhaden, the economic value as food or manure of this plebeian 
fish received the careful attention which he had given to the prob- 
lems of pure science. 



400 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

Doctor Goode's power in organizing and coordinating practical 
investigations was shown in his monumental work on the Ameri- 
can fisheries for the Tenth Census in 1880. The preparation of 
the record of the fisheries and associated aquatic industries was 
placed in his hands, by Francis A. Walker, Superintendent of 
the Census. Under Doctor Goode's direction skilled investigators 
were sent to every part of the coast and inland waters of the coun- 
try. A general survey of the aquatic resources, actual and possible, 
of the United States was attempted, and statistics of every kind 
were secured on a grand scale. His directions to field agents, still 
unpublished, were models in their way, and no possible source of 
information was neglected by him. The results of all these special 
reports were received and condensed by Doctor Goode into seven 
large quarto volumes, with a great number of plates. The first 
section of the Natural History of Aquatic Animals was a contri- 
bution of the greatest value. Although the information it gives 
was obtained from many sources, through various hands, it was 
so coordinated and unified that it forms a harmonious treatise, 
while at the same time the individual helpers are fully recog- 
nized. 

All these works, according to Doctor Goode, belong to Lamb's 
category of "books which are not books." His expressed ambition 
to write a book not of this kind, one that people would buy and 
read, found actuality at last. In 1888, appeared his American 
Fishes, a popular treatise on the game and food-fishes of North 
America, a work without a rival because of its readableness, its 
scientific accuracy, and the excellence of its text. The work is 
notable for its quotations, which include almost all the bright 
things which have been said about fishes by poets and anglers 
and philosophers from the time of Aristotle to Izaak Walton and 
Thoreau. In this book more than in any other Doctor Goode 
shows himself a literary artist. The love of fine expression which 
might have made a poet of him was developed rather in the collec- 
tion of the bright words and charming verse of others than in the 
production of poetry of his own. While limiting himself in this 
volume to fragments of prose and verse in praise of fishes and 



GEORGE BROWN GOODE 401 

their haunts, it is evident that these treasures were brought forth 
from a mind well stored with riches of many fields of literature. 

The most important of Doctor's Goode scientific studies had 
relation to the fishes of the deep sea. In all this work he was asso- 
ciated with Doctor Bean, and the studies of many years were 
brought together in the splendid summary of all that is known of 
the fishes of the ocean depths and the open sea. This forms two 
large quarto volumes — text and atlas — published under the name 
of Oceanic Ichthyology, shortly before Doctor Goode's death. The 
exploration of the deep sea has been mostly undertaken within 
the last twenty years. The monumental work of the Challenger, 
under the direction of the British government, has laid the founda- 
tion of our knowledge of its fauna. The Travailleur and the 
Talisman, under French auspices, and the Investigator, under 
direction of the government of India, have added greatly to our 
stock of information. The great work of Goode and Bean includes 
the results of these and of various minor expeditions, while through 
the collections of the Albatross, the Blake and the Fish Hawk 
they have made great additions to the knowledge of the subject. 
Indeed, the work of the Albatross in deep-sea exploration is second 
in importance only to that of the Challenger. In the work of the 
exact discrimination of genera and species, this work shows a 
distinct advance over all other treatises on the abyssal fishes. 
The fact of the existence of definite though large faunal areas in 
the deep seas was first recognized by Doctor Goode, and has been 
carefully worked out in a memoir still unpublished. In Oceanic 
Ichthyology and the minor papers preceding it, Goode and Bean 
had made known numerous new forms of deep-sea fishes, naming 
in the last-mentioned work alone one hundred and fifty-six new 
species and fifty-five new genera belonging to the abyssal fauna of 
the Atlantic. 

But Doctor Goode's interest and sympathy were not confined 
to the branch of science in which he was a master. He had a broad 
acquaintance with general natural history, with crustaceans, 
reptiles, birds, and mammals. On all these groups he published 
occasional notes. Doctor Gill tells us that "the flowering plants 



402 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

also enlisted much of his attention, and his excursions into the 
fields and woods were enlivened by a knowledge of the objects 
he met with." "Anthropology," Doctor Gill continues, "natu- 
rally secured a due proportion of his regards, and, indeed, his 
catalogues truly embraced the outlines of a system of the science." 

Doctor Goode was, as already stated, always very greatly inter- 
ested in bibliography. No work to him was ever tedious, if it 
were possible to make it accurate. He had well under way the 
catalogues of the writings of many American naturalists, among 
others those of Doctor Gill and the present writer. Two of these 
are already published under the Smithsonian Institution as Bulle- 
tins of the United States National Museum, being numbers of a 
series of "Bibliographies of American Naturalists." The first 
contained the writings of Spencer Fullerton Baird (1883). An- 
other is devoted to Charles Girard (1891), who was an associate 
of Professor Baird, though for his later years resident in Paris. 
A bibliography of the English ornithologist, Philip Lutley Sclater 
(1896), has been issued since Doctor Goode's death. 

Doctor Gill tells us that "a gigantic work in the same line had 
been projected by him and most of the material collected; it was 
no less than a complete bibliography of Ichthyology, including 
the names of all genera and species published as new. Whether 
this can be completed by another hand remains to be seen. While 
the work is a great desideratum, very few would be willing to 
undertake it or even arrange the matter already collected for publi- 
cation. In no way may Ichthyology, at least, more feel the loss 
of Goode than in the loss of the complete bibliography." 

Doctor Goode was married on November 27, 1877, to Sarah 
Lamson Ford Judd, daughter of Orange Judd, the well-known 
publisher, and the founder of Orange Judd Hall at Wesleyan 
University, in which Doctor Goode's career as a museum admin- 
istrator began. The married life of Doctor and Mrs. Goode 
was a very happy one; the wife and four children are still hving. 

As to personal qualities of Doctor Goode, I cannot do better 
than to quote the following words of two of his warmest friends. 
Doctor S. P. Langley wrote: "I have never known a more perfectly 



GEORGE BROWN GOODE 403 

true, sincere and loyal character than Doctor Goode's; or a man 
who with better judgment of other men, or greater abihty in 
moulding their purposes to his own, used these powers to such 
uniformly disinterested ends, so that he could maintain the disci- 
pline of a great establishment like the National Museum, while 
retaining the personal affection of every subordinate." "His 
disposition," says Doctor Theodore Gill, "was a bright and sunny 
one, and he ingratiated himself in the affections of his friends in 
a marked degree. He had a hearty way of meeting intimates, 
and a caressing cast of the arm over the shoulder of such an one 
often followed sympathetic intercourse. But in spite of his gentle- 
ness, firmness and vigor in action became manifest when occasion 
called for them." 

Of all American naturalists. Doctor Goode was the most method- 
ical, the most conscientious, and, in his way, the most artistic. 
And of them all no one was more beloved by his fellows. Neither 
in his Hf e nor after death was ever an unkind word said of him. 




^^y-^^cA-C^/s*-*--*. ^-A^ 



HENRY AUGUSTUS ROWLAND 

PHYSICIST 

1848-1901 

By Ira Remsen 

Some persons are interesting on account of their ancestors, and 
some ancestors are interesting on account of their offspring. 
While it appears that some of the forbears of the subject of this 
sketch were interesting in their own right it is certain that they 
are interesting to the world at large chiefly because of their rela- 
tionship to the distinguished physicist, Henry A. Rowland. It 
may help us to learn of what stock he sprang. His paternal great- 
grandfather, Rev. David S. Rowland, was a graduate of Yale 
and pastor of the First Congregational Church at Windsor, Con- 
necticut. The son of David S. was named Henry Augustus. He 
was a graduate of Dartmouth College and succeeded his father as 
pastor of the church at Windsor, Connecticut. Of him it is said, 
"He was a man of sense and worth, who did not hesitate to speak 
what he regarded as the truth with freedom and plainness." 

Next came the father of the physicist. He also received the 
name Henry Augustus. His biographer states that he was an 
"ardent, resolute, almost impetuous boy, a leader of sports on 
land and on water, his irrepressible spirits breaking out in his 
intercourse with his friends and companions, and in spite of every 
restraint, in laughter and frolic." "He was from very early years 
familiar with the gun and the fishing-rod, and all kinds of wood- 
craft and country sports." He was graduated from Yale in 1823, 
became a clergyman, and successively had charges at Fayetteville, 
South Carolina, New York, Honesdale, Pennsylvania, and New- 
ark, New Jersey. The evidence is clear that he was a man of 

40s 



4o6 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

unusual ability, of the highest character, of high spirits, and of 
great moral courage. He married Harriet Hayes of New York, 
a gentle lady of sweet character and good mind. She lived to the 
age of 8i, while her husband died in the fifty-fifth year of his age. 
It was at Honesdale, Pennsylvania, in 1848, that the next 
Henry Augustus Rowland was born. Here he lived until 1855, 
when the family moved to Newark, New Jersey. He attended the 
Newark Academy. Mr. S. A. Farrand under whose teaching he 
came writes in regard to him: 

"Henry A. Rowland entered the classical department of the 
Newark Academy in September, 1861, and began his preparation 
for the academic course in college. I remember him as a rather 
quiet boy of winning personality. He did well in all his studies 
excepting Latin, with which he found difiiculty from the beginning. 
This was surprising, for he was a bright, willing boy, showing 
indications of unusual ability and yet was constantly dragging in 
this study. After a year of this experience I took him from his 
class in Latin and for some months heard him recite alone, in order 
to get a better opportunity to study his mental action and discover, 
if possible, his difficulty. I found no lack of ability, but so strong 
an aversion to Latin, while at the same time finding pleasure in 
other studies, that he could not control his mind and force it to do 
good work upon the repugnant task. 

"I advised his mother to let Henry drop the distasteful study 
and to direct his education along those lines so distinctly marked 
in his nature. But this was before scientific studies had won their 
present prominence in our colleges. Classical traditions were 
strong in the family, his father, grandfather,^ and great-grand- 
father having been graduates of Yale, and clergymen. His 
mother had no other thought than that Henry, with his superior 
ability, would follow in the succession and keep up the traditions 
of the family. For him to turn away from this and give himself 
to scientific studies seemed like throwing away her boy, and was 
not to be considered. He must continue his classical studies, 
and he would certainly grow to like them. He did continue them 
for a year or two more, during which time Mrs. Rowland and I 
had several conferences concerning the matter. Henry's dislike 
increased and was intensified by the addition of Greek to his 
studies. I had a deep sympathy with him, for he was struggling 

1 His grandfather was in fact a graduate of Dartmouth. 



HENRY AUGUSTUS ROWLAND 407 

manfully to do that which to him was impossible. Finally, I said 
to his mother that my convictions were so strong that his educa- 
tional development should proceed in different lines, that if he 
must continue his classical studies I preferred that he should do so 
in some other school. 

"Mrs. Rowland decided to make one more effort, failing in 
which she would follow my advice. Henry was accordingly sent 
to Phillips Academy, Andover, Mass., where, after a brief period of 
torture with Latin and Greek, he was permitted to drop them, 
greatly to his delight and my own. 

"From that moment he was happy, and continued to rise and 
shine with a clear and still clearer light." 

In a letter to his mother written at Andover, he says: "I am 
not lazy at all now and am more punctual than most of the other 
boys." But the aversion to the study of ancient languages con- 
tinued and after one year spent in the effort he was allowed to 
enter the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute at Troy, New York. 
Here the atmosphere was more congenial. Soon after the year's 
work had begun, he wrote: "I am getting along finely and like 
it first rate. We study Algebra, Geometry, and French and, as I 
said before, are going to commence Drawing on Thursday." 
This was in 1865. Next year he wrote: "We have descriptive 
Geometry and Chemistry now besides Drawing. We are quite 
busy, but still have lots of fun snow-balling every afternoon before 
and after Chemistry." That science did not claim all his attention 
is evident from this passage taken from a letter written in 1867: 
"I am now reading Prescott's Philip Second of Spain, and have 
nearly got through the first volume. It is very interesting." But 
the ruling passion appears in the next sentence: "My steam 
engine is getting along finely but I do not have much time to work 
on it." Shortly after this he wrote: " I am going to read a paper on 
steam illustrated by experiments as soon as I can get the appara- 
tus prepared. We are very busy and I have not been able even 
to look at my tools yet." 

After three years spent at Troy, during which time he evidendy 
did excellent work in most of his studies he decided for some 
reason that is not clear to go to the Shefi5eld Scientific School and 



4o8 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

• 

take the course in Mechanical Engineering. Apparently he was 
not admitted to the regular course but was admitted as a special 
student in Chemistry. A very interesting letter written by him to 
his mother in 1868, soon after his arrival at New Haven, has been 
preserved. This is so significant that the principal part of it is 
here given: 

"You probably all think that I am careless about the future 
but there is no one who thinks more about it than I do, and this 
is the reason why I do not like to talk about it. I feel as if it was 
my duty and vocation to be an investigator in science and I felt 
something like a Jonah when I came here to study mechanical 
engineering. I know I am best fitted for it and it is only a question 
of dollars that decided me. Besides that I have such a liking for 
experiment that I cannot think it was given to me to be a torment 
all my life as it would be if I did anything else. As to the practical 
part of it, I can only say that what other people have done / can 
do and other people have made their living by it (or something 
similar) and therefore I can do it." 

Of his work at New Haven, Prof. George J. Brush writes: 

"While here he showed himself to be an exceedingly intelligent 
and persistent student, interested not only in the regular course in 
analytical and general chemistry, but in many subjects not included 
in the course. Professor Johnson, with whom I have just been 
conversing about Rowland, recalls R's great enthusiasm in mak- 
ing metallic lithium by electrolysis. We saw in him a man of 
unusual ability and great promise, but his stay here was too brief 
for us to gain anything more than this general impression." 

He spent only one year at New Haven and then returned to 
Troy. In 1870, he received the degree of Civil Engineer. He was 
now out in the world. What next? The only thing that offered 
itself was a job at surveying, and at this he went. During the 
next year an opportunity presented itself to him of going to Cali- 
fornia. In a letter written June, 1871, he says, in regard to this: 
"There is nothing I should like better if I had time to devote to a 
year of pleasure, but I have other work before me." From the 
autumn of 187 1 to the summer of 1872, he taught chemistry 



HENRY AUGUSTUS ROWLAND 409 

and perhaps also physics at Wooster, Ohio, and in the autumn of 
1872 he returned to Troy to teach physics. He seems to have 
enjoyed his experience at Wooster for he writes soon after his 
arrival at Troy: "I got away from Wooster all right and those 
who were most concerned seemed to be sorry to lose me. Nearly 
all my class came to see me before I left which was quite encourag- 
ing. I felt quite sorry to leave them but it was necessary." He 
was now only 24 years old, and it may be imagined that he did 
not find the work at Troy altogether easy. To his mother he 
writes: "I have been here 8 days now and am beginning to get 
used to it. There are 65 students under my instruction and I have 
to keep a pretty tight rein on them. They are very much inclined 
to cut up and I shall have to be pretty strict with them and not 
let them commence." 

It wOl be of interest to learn what Rowland had been doing in 
the way of invention and investigation previous to the time of his 
appointment to the position at Troy. His tastes began to show 
themselves very early in his life. When only three years of age 
he made a model of a clock from an old raisin box. In his four- 
teenth year he made an electric machine out of an old bottle, and 
also Leyden jars to work with it. At the same time, further, he 
invented a method of making electromagnets by winding bare 
wire with layers of paper. In a note-book kept by him I find the 
following records: 

"February, 1863: Uncle Forsyth gave me some money and I 
bought four cells of a galvanic battery (Bunsen cells). I had 
previously made some out of zinc and copper plates. Made motor 
etc. to go by it." 

"November, 1864: Made shock machine." 

"January, 1865: Made furnace to melt iron or manganese. 
Made manganese." 

"July, 1865: Made large electric motor." 

"October, 1865: Made astatic galvanometer. Needle hung 
by a new method." 

"November, 1865: Made electrometer. Also polariscope by 
reflection from black glass." 

"May, 1866: Made Ruhmkorff coil giving one-third inch sparks 
by winding iron wires wide apart with paper between. Made 



4IO LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

vacuum tubes by boiling mercury in tubes and sealing them up 
while boiling." 

"June, 1866: Obtained a law that the mechanical equivalent 
of electricity is equal to its quantity multiplied by its intensity." 

A note added in 1900, reads: 

"By 'intensity' I meant tension or potential. Therefore the 
above is correct." 

"February, 1868: Made very delicate astatic galvanometer. 
Used it for magnetic permeability experiments." 

"September, 1868: Invented dynamo armature. The first con- 
tinuous current armature ever made." 

While in his seventeenth year, in the early autumn of 1865, 
Rowland wrote a letter to The Scientific American and much to 
his surprise this was printed. He says of it: "I wrote it as a kind 
of joke and did not expect them to publish it." This was his first 
appearance in print. Six years later he sent another paper to 
The Scientific American — this time a serious one. It was a criti- 
cism of an invention which was in conflict with the law of the 
Conservation of Energy. In this communication he displayed 
those qualities of mind which appeared in all his later work. Just 
after he returned to the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute he pub- 
lished an article on "Illustrations of Resonances and Actions of a 
Similar Nature." This appeared in the Journal oj the Franklin 
Institute. 

No attempt will be made in this article to give a complete 
account of Rowland's scientific work, but it is necessary to refer 
to his most important contributions. One of his early experiences 
was discouraging, but out of it came encouragement. He had 
been for some time engaged in a research on the magnetic per- 
meability and the maximum magnetization of iron, steel, and 
nickel, when he brought his results together and sent the article 
to a well-known American scientific journal for publication. He 
writes to his sister June 9, 1873: "I have just sent off the results 
of my experiments to the publisher and expect considerable from 
it; not, however, filthy lucre, but good, substantial reputation." 



HENRY AUGUSTUS ROWLAND 411 

The article was rejected by the editor of the American Journal 
and again rejected after revision. The fault was not with the 
article, for, when it was sent to Clerk Maxwell, in England, the 
highest authority, its value was at once recognized, and it was sent 
to The Philosophkal Magazine for immediate publication. It 
appeared in that Journal in August, 1873, and through it Rowland 
became favorably known to the scientihc world. Professor Men- 
denhall has said of it: "It hafe always seemed to me that when 
consideration is given to his age, his training, and the conditions 
under which his work was done, this early paper gives a better 
measure of Rowland's genius than almost any performance of 
his riper years." It was this work that led to his selection in 1875 
to be the first professor of physics in the Johns Hopkins University. 
The story has been well told by President Oilman in his The 
Launching of a University. The main point is this, that after a 
talk with General Michie, who was then professor of physics in 
the United States Military Academy, Mr. Oilman telegraphed 
to Rowland to meet him at West Point. Mr. Oilman says: "He 
came at once, and we walked up and down Kosciusko's Oarden, 
talking over his plans and ours. He told me in detail of his corre- 
spondence with Maxwell, and I think he showed me the letters 
received from him. At any rate, it was obvious that I was in 
confidential relations with a young man of rare intellectual powers 
and of uncommon aptitude for experimental science. When I 
reported the facts to the trustees in Baltimore they said at once, 
' Engage that young man and take him with you to Europe, where 
he may follow the leaders in his science and be ready for a profes- 
sorship.' And so we did. His subsequent career is well known." 

Rowland decided to go to Berlin to get in contact with the 
great physicist Helmholtz. Helmholtz was not at first inclined 
to receive the young American into his laboratory, but Rowland 
told him of an experiment he wanted to perform, and described 
the method he proposed to follow, and he was admitted. The 
object of the experiment was to learn whether any magnetic 
effect is produced when an electrically charged body is set in 
rapid motion. Rowland showed that there is an effect and the 



412 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

result is of fundamental importance to electrical theory. Maxwell, 
who was fond of versifying, writes in regard to this experiment: 

"The mounted disk of ebonite 

Has whirled before nor whirled in vain, 
Rowland of Troy, that doughty knight, 

Convection currents did obtain, 
In such a disk, of power to wheedle 
From its loved north the subtle needle. 

Other less skilful experimenters have failed to get the effect 
described by Rowland but, finally, after his death, it was shown 
beyond a question that he was right. He never for a moment 
doubted it. 

At the end of the year spent in Europe, Rowland came to Balti- 
more to make preparations for the opening of the university in 
the autumn of 1876. It was some time in the summer that he made 
his first visit to the city that was to be his home for the next twenty- 
five years — the rest of his life. On this occasion, the writer, who 
had been appointed professor of chemistry on the same day that 
Rowland had been appointed professor of physics, also visited 
Baltimore, and the two who were to be so long and so intimately 
associated met for the first time. We spent a few very hot days in 
talking over plans with President Oilman. It was arranged that 
Rowland was to have for his laboratory some back rooms of the 
two dwelling-houses which were to serve as the temporary seat 
of the Johns Hopkins University. He said, "All I want is the back 
kitchen and a solid pier built up from the ground." He got in 
fact a number of small rooms but they were a sorry lot. Such 
changes as he asked for were made. While in Europe he had 
ordered apparatus freely — the best that could be had — not for 
lecture experiments, but for scientific work of the greatest refine- 
ment and importance. The equipment of the "laboratory" was 
all that could be desired — all that was desired by the man who was 
to work in it, who was to make the kitchen and the "back building" 
famous. 

I remember that first meeting very clearly. The impression 



HENRY AUGUSTUS ROWLAND 413 

that Rowland made on me was not favorable. Knowing that, in 
the natural course of things, we were to be thrown much together, 
I could not help wondering whether this was to be a pleasant or an 
unpleasant experience. I had my doubts. We were both, in 
those days, somewhat high-strung. It soon became evident that 
we should not always agree, and that between us there were likely 
to be heated conversations, but let me say at once that in a short 
time we came to know each other as well as two men can know 
each other, and for twenty-five years we were intimate, most inti- 
mate, friends. We understood each other and were ready to make 
such allowances as must always be made between friends if friend- 
ship is to continue. Strangers and casual acquaintances had a 
wrong conception of Rowland. This is easily understood. He 
• was apt to put his worst foot forward. He made no attempt to 
conciliate — rather the contrary. It took time to get over this first 
impression, but those who knew him best learned that he had 
many most attractive traits of character. He was a staunch 
friend, incapable of anything mean. He was absolutely sincere. 
He was generous and affectionate. He had the highest ideals and 
tried eamesdy to attain them. On the other hand, he despised 
sham and, whenever he detected it he did not hesitate to express 
his opinion in strong language — not always strictly parliamentary. 
Indeed it must be said that he appeared to derive a certain amount 
of pleasure from this kind of activity, and he no doubt often gave 
offense by it. He was a merciless critic, and no doubt the world 
offered him abundant opportunity for the exercise of his powers. 

But let us now return to Baltimore where Rowland began work 
on the foundations of the Johns Hopkins University in the autumn 
of 1876. The little faculty of the University at that time felt that 
the best thing they could do was to lay emphasis on graduate 
work- and especially on research. Rowland had this in mind in 
ordering apparatus in Europe, and in a short time he had probably 
the best collection of apparatus for research in America. It should 
be said here that the policy of the faculty was, in fact, the policy 
of President Oilman. We all agreed. To some of us, probably to 
all the younger members, the President said repeatedly, "Do your 



414 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

best work whatever it may be," and no body of workers coxild have 
been more free to work out their own salvation. The atmosphere 
was exacdy suited to Rowland. He could not brook restraint. 
He had to do things in his own way. He was not fitted for the 
ordinary routine duties of a professor. He was an investigator, 
and to the work of investigation he turned at once. 

He soon devised a method for the redetermination of the 
Mechanical Equivalent of Heat. This fundamental constant 
had been determined by others. Rumford laid the foundation 
for the work in observations made in boring cannon in the ordnance 
foundry at Munich, Bavaria. His attention was arrested by the 
well-known fact that the metal became hot in consequence of the 
friction caused by the boring. He then attempted to determine 
the amount of heat produced by a certain amount of work, or in 
other words to determine the relation between the amount of 
work done and the amount of heat evolved. Joule of Manchester, 
much later, took up this problem and with the aid of more refined 
apparatus and methods obtained a much more satisfactory result. 
Rowland used a modification of the method of Rumford. He 
obtained a figure for the Mechanical Equivalent of Heat that 
differed somewhat from those obtained by his predecessors and 
for twenty-five years this has stood the test of criticism. While he 
was engaged in the work he received a visit from a well-known 
chemist. After Rowland had explained what he was doing the 
visitor asked this question: "Suppose you should find that you 
get the same result as Joule, will you consider that you have 
wasted your time?" To which Rowland replied, "No. If my 
result should be the same as Joule's, that will prove that Joule 
was right." 

I wish I had a picture of the surroundings in which this impor- 
tant work was carried on. The original back kitchen was not ade- 
quate. It happened that the university had come into possession 
of a small old building on a near street. This had been used as a 
grocery store. In the rear was a most disreputable looking room, 
dirty, small, dilapidated. Here the delicate apparatus was set up 
and here the experiments were carried on day by day, and it is 



HENRY AUGUSTUS ROWLAND 415 

certain that the work could not have been done better if it had 
been done in a palatial laboratory. The remark made by Garfield 
that " Mark Hopkins at one end of a log was a good enough college 
for him" might be appropriately modified to suit this case, "Row- 
land in a back kitchen is a good enough physical laboratory for 
the highest type of work." 

The research on the Mechanical Equivalent of Heat was pub- 
lished in full by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the 
expense of publication being met by a fund established by Rum- 
ford, and in this connection it may be noted that this same Ameri- 
can Academy awarded the Rumford prize to Rowland. Later, 
in 188 1, the article describing his results was crowned as a prize 
essay by the Venetian Institute. 

In 1881 Rowland was appointed a delegate of the United States 
to the International Electrical Congress that met at Paris. Realiz- 
ing the importance of the accurate measurement of electrical 
quantities he made a thorough study of the fundamental quantity,' 
the ohm. This work was afterward repeated and extended at the 
request of the United States Government. The results are of 
great important and are generally accepted. 

Perhaps the best known achievement of Rowland is the concave 
grating. In order to study light from different sources it is neces- 
sary to analyze it. This is most readily accomplished by means 
of a prism. As is well known when sunlight is allowed to pass 
through a prism it emerges in the form of a spectrum. The 
white light of the sun is thus shown to be made up of lights of 
different colors — the well-known colors of the solar spectrum. 
Now every light has its own characteristic spectrum, and by 
observing the spectrum much can be learned in regard to the 
nature of the source of the light. By such observations, for ex- 
ample, it is possible to tell what chemical elements occur in the 
atmosphere of the sun and of the fixed stars. Light can be ana- 
lyzed also by allowing it to faU upon a surface upon which a large 
number of parallel lines have been ruled very close together. Such 
plates are called diffraction gratings. Rowland felt that much 
progress could be made in this line of work if only larger and more 



4i6 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

satisfactory gratings could be made, and he set himself to work at 
this problem. In order to get good gratings a screw as nearly 
perfect as possible must be made. But to make such a screw is 
an extremely difficult matter. By a simple and ingenious device 
the difficulties were largely overcome and, with the aid of the 
historic screw which resulted, gratings far superior to any that 
had previously been known were made. By the motion of the 
screw the plate which rested upon it was moved slowly and regu- 
larly forward while a diamond point moved across its surface. 
The first gratings made were plane, but soon it occurred to the 
inventor that, if the lines should be ruled upon a concave surface, 
it would be possible to photograph spectra directly without the 
use of prisms and lenses and with much better results in every 
way. I happened to be with Rowland when the idea of the con- 
cave grating occurred to him. We were on our way from Balti- 
more to Washington to attend a meeting of the National Academy 
of Sciences. He was very quiet and we sat together almost the 
whole way without a word passing between us. This, however, 
was not unusual. We talked when we wanted to and, as often 
happened, we didn't want to. Well, in this instance I think I 
noticed that my friend was brooding more intently than usual. 
Just before we reached Washington he threw up his hands and 
said, "It will work. I'm sure of it." These words were not 
addressed to me but to space. I naturally wanted to know what 
he was talking about, but at first he could not bring himself to 
explain. Presently, however, he told me that he intended to go 
back at once to Baltimore to make preparations for ruling 
gratings on concave plates. He was positive he could do it and 
he saw at once the great advantages of this form of apparatus. 
My recollection is that he gave up the meeting of the National 
Academy and returned on the next train to Baltimore. At all 
events, it was not long before the first concave grating was ready 
for use and Rowland's maps of the solar spectrum in course of 
preparation. In a notice of his work recently written by a leading 
English physicist reference is made to the maps in these words: 
"The beautiful maps issued at a later date by Rowland, . . . 



HENRY AUGUSTUS ROWLAND 417 

are striking evidences of the value of the grating; the additions to 
our knowledge arising from this one discovery are already enor- 
mous; much has been achieved which, without it, would have 
been impossible." 

When he went to Paris in 188 1 he took some of his photographs 
and gratings with him. In a letter to President Oilman, Professor 
John Trowbridge of Harvard gives an interesting account of 
Rowland's reception. A part of that letter should be quoted here: 

"Rowland invited Mascart, Sir W. Thomson, Wiedemann, Ros- 
setti, and Kohlrausch to his room at the Hotel Continental in 
Paris, and showed them his photographs and gratings. It is need- 
less to say that they were astonished. Mascart kept muttering 
'Superbe' — 'Magnifique.' The Germans spread their palms and 
looked as if they wished they had ventral fins and tails to express 
their sentiments. Sir W. Thomson evidently knew very little 
about the subject, and maintained a wholesome reticence, but 
looked his admiration for he knows a good thing when he sees it, 
and also had the look that he could express himself upon the whole 
subject in fifteen minutes, when he got back to Glasgow. 

"In England, Rowland's success was better appreciated, if 
possible, than in Paris. He read a paper before a very full meet- 
ing of the Physical Society — De la Rive, Professor Dewar of 
Cambridge Professor Clifton of Oxford, Professor Adams (of 
Leverrier fame), Professor Carey Foster, Hilger, the optician, 
Professor Guthrie, and other noted men being present. I was 
delighted to see his success. The English men of science were 
actually dumbfounded. Rowland spoke extremely well, for he 
was full of his subject, and his dry humor was much appreciated 
by his English audience. When he said that he could do as much 
in an hour as had hitherto been accomplished in three years, there 
was a sigh of astonishment and then cries of 'Hear! Hear!' Pro- 
fessor Dewar arose and said: 'We have heard from Professor Row- 
land that he can do as much in an hour as has been done hitherto 
in three years. I struggle with a very mixed feeling of elation and 
depression: elation for the wonderful gain to science; and depres- 
sion for myself, for I have been at work for three years in mapping 
the ultra violet. ' De la Rive asked how many lines could be ruled 
by Rowland. The latter replied: ' I have ruled 43>ooo to the inch, 
and I can rule 1,000,000 to the inch, but what would be the use? 
No one would ever know that I had really done it.' Laughter 
greeted this sally. The young American was like the Yosemite, 



4i8 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

Niagara, Pullman palace car— far ahead of anything in England. 
Professor Clifton referred in glowing terms to the wonderful instru- 
ment that had been put into the hands of physicists, and spoke of 
the beautiful geometrical demonstrations of Rowland Professor 
Dewar said that Johns Hopkins University had done great things 
for science, and that greater achievements would be expected of it. 
Captain Abney wrote a letter which Rowland ought to show you, 
for, after having been read at the meeting, it was given to him." 

What about Rowland as a teacher? It has already been said 
that he was not well fitted for the routine work of a routine pro- 
fessor. He would not have made a good college professor. This 
is not intended as a reflection upon the good college professor 
who in my opinion is a very good and useful man. Nor is it in- 
tended as a reflection upon Rowland. He was cut out for other 
work. In one sense he was one of the best and most successful 
teachers ever connected with the Johns Hopkins University. No 
teacher of physics in this country has ever trained as many men 
who have risen to places of importance and influence. He cared 
little for those who had not the desire to learn. That was the first 
condition to be satisfied. He cared little for the dullard or the 
clumsy. He could tell whether the student he was dealing with 
had anything in him. If he had not, he would not "waste his time 
over him" as he expressed it. But let him show promise and 
there could be no better guide and friend than Rowland. All his 
students respected him. Of course they did. His assistants also. 
They could not help it. Sometimes he was a little harsh in his 
treatment of his assistants, but they knew that at heart their chief 
was true and they always stood loyally by him in spite of occasional 
provocations. He owed much to his assistants and he was always 
ready to acknowledge his debt. They relieved him of many duties 
that were distasteful to him and, although he was the director of 
the laboratory, much of the work of directing fell to their hands. 
And they did not murmur, for they knew that in this way they 
were contributing to the success of his work. 

He lectured regularly on such subjects as he thought ought to 
be presented to the students, and often in these lectures made 
valuable suggestions for researches. One of them being taken up 



HENRY AUGUSTUS ROWLAND 419 

led to the discovery of the Hall "effect." The student who did 
this work is now Professor Hall of Harvard. He did not follow up 
his students and they did not therefore acquire the bad habit 
of relying upon him for daily advice. On the contrary, he 
would give them Just enough suggestion to get them started 
and then, to use his own words, "neglected them" so that they 
were obliged to cultivate self-reliance or fail. The treatment 
was not adapted to the weak but was admirably suited to the 
strong. One of his most distinguished students writes : 

"Even of the more advanced students only those who were able 
to brook severe and searching criticism reaped the full benefit of 
being under him; but he contributed that which, in a university, 
is above all teaching of routine, the spectacle of scientific work 
thoroughly done and the example of a lofty ideal." 

His lectures were not eloquent. Words did not come freely to 
him. There was a lack of finish and elegance in his talks, but, on 
the other hand, he could say forcibly and clearly what he wanted 
to say. There could be no doubt as to his meaning. Whatever 
subject he happened to be lecturing upon the subject that was 
uppermost in his mind at the time would be sure to come to the 
front. For example, he once undertook to build a sail-boat and 
became much interested in water-waves, and the part they play 
in determining the speed of a boat. It is said that during this 
period there were daily references to water-waves in his lectures, 
and, occasionally, as he told me, when, for one reason or another, 
he was not well prepared on his subject proper he would take up 
the hour by discussing the subject of sail-boats in a scientific way- 
no doubt to the advantage of his hearers. In some of his few ad- 
dresses of a semi-public character there are passages that deserve 
to be remembered. Generally speaking these addresses made an 
unusually strong impression. Let me quote from one. He says: 

"But for myself, I value in a scientific mind most of all that love 
of truth, that care in its pursuit, and that humility of mind which 
makes the possibility of error always present more than any other 
quality. This is the mind which has built up modern science to 
its present perfection, which has laid one stone upon the other with 



420 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

such care that it to-day offers to the world the most complete 
monument to human reason. This is the mind which is destined 
to govern the world in the future and to solve the problems pertain- 
ing to politics and humanity as well as to inanimate nature. 

"It is the only mind which appreciates the imperfections of the 
human reason and is thus careful to guard against them. It is 
the only mind that values the truth as it should be valued and 
ignores all personal feeling in its pursuit. And this is the mind 
the physical laboratory is built to cultivate." 

This passage is thoroughly characteristic of Rowland in form 
and substance. He felt, and felt intensely as usual, that natural 
science was the only subject really worthy of study except in so 
far as study of other subjects might contribute to the advance- 
ment of science. He retained to the end his abhorrence of the 
ancient languages and would , not listen to arguments in their 
favor. He could not understand how anyone could spend his life 
in studying them. He could not understand how their study 
could be of the slightest benefit to the world. He was entirely 
sincere in this. He was incapable of insincerity. It must be 
acknowledged that this was his blind side. But why complain? 
A man who has the keenness of vision possessed by Rowland can 
afford to have a blind side, and the world can afford to be blind 
to the imperfection. 

Though the man has been revealed to some extent in what has 
already been said, there are some traits which have not been 
touched upon. He was tall and hthe and quick in motion. His 
head would attract attention anywhere on account of the size of 
the brain above the ears and the size and strength of the lower 
jaw. Withal it was a head of refinement. His face had an intent 
expression which was increased by his near-sightedness. Probably 
his expression would have been described as severe by those who 
did not know him well. It was a masterful expression and was 
therefore a true index of his character. 

In 1890 he married Miss Henrietta Harrison of Baltimore. 
The marriage was an unusually happy one. Of the three children 
of this marriage two are boys and one a girl. It is perhaps too 
early to speak with confidence of the future of these children. The 



HENRY AUGUSTUS ROWLAND 421 

older son, named Henry, seems to have inherited his father's 
tastes. Whether he has inherited the mental power and the 
strength that are necessary to make another Rowland, no one can 
tell. 

Outside of the laboratory he had many interests. He was 
devoted to his family, and was very happy in the home circle. 
The depth of his affection was evident to those who knew 
him well, and it was evident to many who did not know him well 
and who considered him cold and austere. His conduct seemed 
incongruous. The matter becomes clear, however, if we take the 
only correct view of it. He was undoubtedly capable of all the 
finer feelings. His affection was true and deep, but he was ex- 
tremely critical and he could, of course, easily find something to 
criticise. Having found it he expressed his opinion vigorously 
and with little regard for the feeling of his victim. As has been 
said before in this article he was apt to put his worst foot forward, 
and many did not wait or did not have the opportunity to see the 
other and better one. He had many friends, but few intimates. 
A friend, Professor Mendenhall, who has written an admirable 
account of Rowland says: 

"His criticisms of the work of others were keen and merciless, 
and sometimes there remained a sting of which he himself had 
not the slightest suspicion. 'I would not have done it for the 
world,' he once said to me after being told that his pitiless criticism 
of a scientific paper had wounded the feelings of its author. As 
a matter of fact he was warm-hearted and generous, and his 
occasionally seeming otherwise was due to the complete separation, 
in his own mind, of the product and the personality of the author. 
He possessed that rare power, habit in his case, of seeing himself, 
not as others see him, but as he saw others. He looked at him- 
self and his own work exactly as if he had been another person, 
and this gave rise to a frankness of expression regarding his own 
performance which sometimes impressed strangers unpleasantly, 
but which, to his friends, was one of his most charming qualities." 

He read a good deal. In eariy life history interested him very 
much. He was fond of poetry in some forms, but he confined his 
attention to a few authors. In his later years, however, he became 



422 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

more and more absorbed in scientific subjects, and his interest in 
general literature became less. He retained, however, his fond- 
ness for music. He rarely failed to attend the concerts of the 
Boston Symphony Orchestra. Classical music was his principal 
hobby in this line. This is hard to understand in view of the fact 
that he had not a musical ear. He could not whistle nor hum the 
simplest air in tune. 

Rowland inherited a love of sports from his father. His special- 
ties were fishing, sailing, and horseback riding. The only kind 
of fishing that appealed to him was trout-fishing. I have had 
abundant opportunity to become acquainted with his skill, for 
summer after summer we have gone off together in pursuit of 
this delightful fish and of the joys of nature that its pursuit brings 
with it. His tackle was always in good trim, and he seemed to have 
an instinct that guided him aright while I was bungling along in 
the ordinary human way. He could cast a fly most enticingly. 
He never failed to get more and bigger fish than I, unless, as some- 
times happened the fish were guilty of contributory negligence. 
In short, Rowland as a fisherman showed the same traits as Row- 
land the physicist, — intelligence, skill, patience, perseverance. It 
is further of interest to note that those fishing trips always brought 
the memory of his father clearly back to him. Some of the tackle 
he used had been used by his father, and often he found occasion 
to quote his father's counsel in matters pertaining to the art of 
fishing. 

After his marriage, the fishing trips were given up and sailing 
took its place. He had practiced this art early and was passionately 
fond of it throughout life. He had a small sloop built in Balti- 
more according to his own design. It was taken from Baltimore 
to Mt. Desert with the aid of a professional skipper. In this boat 
that had accommodations for only two, he and I have cruised up 
and down the coast of Maine from Rockland to Eastport in all 
sorts of weather. We did all the work, prepared our own meals as 
far as they were prepared, and made our own beds as far as they 
were made. He had the reputation of being a reckless sailor and 
the people of Mt. Desert expected him to get in trouble. But he 



HENRY AUGUSTUS ROWLAND 



423 



never did. In my opinion, and no one had as good opportunity 
to judge, he was a skilful and careful sailor. He knew what his 
boat could do, and he never took chances, when I was with him 
at least, and we never got into trouble. 

He had learned sailing without much aid from others, and was 
singularly ignorant of the technical terms. He told me that he 
could never remember which was starboard and which port. I 
had acquired this elementary knowledge and was rather proud to 
be able to tell him. Whereupon he put an " S " on one side of the 
cockpit and a "P" on the other. But in spite of this constant 
reminder I am quite sure that with his eyes shut he could not have 
told which side "S" was on. And so with pennants. He never 
provided himself with them, because, as he said, "I don't know 
how to use them." Another peculiarity is the fact that his boat 
never had a name. He spoke of her as the "Spectrum," but that 
name did not appear on her. The essential thing to him was the 
boat. The boat was just as good without as with a name, and he 
got just as much fun out of the sailing without a knowledge of 
the lingo and the frills as with. 

I have left the riding to the last, though it played a more im- 
portant part in his life than either fishing or sailing. He took up 
riding after he came to Baltimore and never became as expert at 
it as at these. He was not graceful in his movements and was not 
a graceful rider. He seemed, however, to catch the essentials and 
soon he was known as a fearless and skilful rider. He joined the 
hunting club of Baltimore and for years rarely missed a meet. 
On one occasion in the early period of his history as a rider, he 
entered himself and horse as a competitor in a "gentleman's 
steeple chase." It was a difficult race. He won. I drove him 
out and back. His success gave him great satisfaction. As he 
was near-sighted and always wore eye-glasses he sometimes got 
into difficulty in riding through woods, but neither he nor his 
horse was ever seriously hurt. His passion for riding after the 
hounds is well illustrated by an experience he had in England of 
which Professor Trowbridge tells in the letter already referred to: 
"I introduced Rowland to a fox-hunting gentleman, an old acquain- 



424 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

tance of mine, and I imagine Rowland got enough of English 
fox-hunting, for on my return from Birmingham, one evening, I 
found him stretched on the bed, a symphony in brown and red 
mud, his once glossy hat crushed into nothingness, his top-boots, 
once so new, a mass of Warwickshire mud. He dryly remarked 
that he guessed there wouldn't be any trouble about getting his 
hunting-suit through the custom-house now. He came very near 
breaking his neck, having been thrown on his head before he 
'could calculate his orbit,' as he remarked." In the last years 
of his life he rode regularly though not after the hounds. He felt 
the importance of outdoor exercise for his health, and fortunately 
he enjoyed it. He did not care to ride in the park or along the 
broad frequented roads. Cross-country was his preference. At 
one period I rode with him daily, and learned more about riding 
than I had learned in all my previous existence. He had his 
doubts as to my ability to do some of the things he wanted to do. 
It must be confessed that I had my own doubts. Once we were 
flying along through the woods when with httle warning we came 
upon what appeared to me a preternaturally and unnecessarily 
wide ditch. Without a moment's hesitation his horse made the 
leap. Mine followed and by good fortune I retained my seat and 
looked comfortable on the other side. Rowland turned to me and 
said simply: "Remsen, my respect for you has gone up." On 
another occasion my horse refused a fence which his had taken 
nicely. I tried it a second time without success and was about to 
give it up when Rowland called out: "Don't spoil the horse. 
Make him take it." He took it — in time. 

One of his greatest pleasures in life was his annual visit to his 
country home at Seal Harbor, Mt. Desert, Maine. Some years 
ago he bought a small piece of ground on a rocky hill with a mag- 
nificent view and on it he built a comfortable, modest house. Here 
he went every summer with his family, and spent most of his time 
out of doors either sailing or walking, though he was not over fond 
of walking unless he wanted to get somewhere. For twelve or 
more years he knew that he had an incurable disease and that his 
life could not be a long one. This was one reason, perhaps the 



HENRY AUGUSTUS ROWLAND 425 

principal one, why he gave so much time to exercise in the open 
air. This led him also to read a good deal on medical subjects, 
and especially on anything pertaining to his own malady. We 
often talked of this, but I never heard him repine. He accepted 
his fate cheerfully though he felt keenly the fact that. his family 
would not be adequately provided for, and this caused him during 
the last few years of his life to give much time to working out a 
beautiful and important system of telegraphy. The Rowland 
octoplex printing telegraph has since became widely known and 
is in use in some places. By this system it is possible to send 
simultaneously four messages in both directions over a single 
wire and have them appear printed. The sending is accomplished 
by means of an apparatus that looks and works like an ordinary 
type-writer. It is a wonderful machine. At the last Paris Exhibi- 
tion it won the Grand Prix. 

In politics he was too radical to be effective. His ideals were 
so high as to be practically unattainable. Consequently he was 
entirely out of sympathy with the existing order of things. He 
took every opportunity to tell those in high positions what he 
thought of them. I remember being at a dinner party one evening, 
at which the late Mr. James G. Blaine and Rowland were present. 
Now in the mind of Rowland, the idea of protection of industries 
was as a red, extremely red, flag to an active bull. In this particu- 
lar case Mr. Blaine represented the obnoxious idea and Rowland 
straightway charged upon him in dead earnest. If the object of 
his antipathy had responded in kind, the scene would have been 
exciting in the highest degree. But he did not. I do not remember 
how it happened, but in a few minutes the atmosphere was clear 
and the company began to breathe freely again. When the party 
broke up Blaine walked away with his arm thrown over Rowland's 
shoulders. A litde later Rowland said to me: "That Blaine strikes 
me as a pretty good fellow." 

In matters pertaining to religion he was philosophic, not 
emotional. He accepted the underlying principles of the Chris- 
tian rehgion and in general his life was in conformity therewith. 
He lived correctly not because he feared punishment hereafter, 



426 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

not because he had been commanded to, but because he clearly 
saw that this was the right thing to do. He was as free from any- 
thing that could fairly be called sin as anyone I have ever known. 

Rowland received many honors from learned societies and uni- 
versities at home and abroad. He was Honorary Member of 
the Royal Society of London, of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, 
of the Royal Academy of Sciences, Berlin, of the Cambridge 
Philosophical Society, of the Physical Society of London; Corre- 
sponding Member of the Royal Society of Gdttingen, of the Acad- 
emy of Sciences in Paris; Foreign Member of the Royal Swedish 
Academy of Stockholm; Associate Fellow of the American Acad- 
emy of Arts and Sciences; Member of the National Academy of 
Sciences; and a member of nine other learned societies. He was 
awarded the Rumford Medal of the American Academy in 1884, 
the Matteucci Medal in 1897. He received the Honorary Degree 
of Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins in 1880 — the only time this degree 
has been conferred honoris causa by Johns Hopkins — and the 
degree of LL.D. from Yale, in 1895, and from Princeton in 1896. 
He was made an officer of the Legion of Honor in 1896. 




i^,/fr ^A-..-^ 



^ 



WILLIAM KEITH BROOKS 

ZOOLOGIST 

1848-1908 
By E. a. Andrews 

In the history of zoology in America the advent of Louis Agassiz 
may be taken to mark a transition period from the days of the great 
pioneers, Audubon, Wilson and others, who revealed the marvels 
of wild life in a new country, to the present epoch of intensive 
investigation of problems common to life the world over. 

Of those who came in the footsteps of Agassiz was William Keith 
Brooks who in the field of marine zoology added to the pioneer 
work of explorer his own philosophical treatment of the most 
fundamental problems of life and linked the past thought of the 
fathers of zoology to the methods of investigation not possible 
until now. In the words of a great living zoologist and president 
of a great University, "He was the wisest of American zoologists" 
and "the greatest American zoologist, at least from the viewpoint 
of philosophical thinking." In his life we find much of his great- 
ness due to Nature, — to what was innate in him and much to 
Nurture, — to what his opportimities brought him. 

William Keith Brooks was born in Cleveland, Ohio, March 
25, 1848, the second of a family of four boys, and he enjoyed the 
helpful home life found in a relatively new country where his father, 
Oliver Allen Brooks, was one of the early merchants, having come 
to Cleveland from Burlington, Vermont, in 1835. 

His mother, a refined and gentle woman, who was Ellenora 
Bradbury Kingsley, the second of three daughters, the only 
children of the Reverend Phinheas Kingsley, of Rutland, Vermont, 
died when the boy was but fourteen years old, yet we may ascribe 

427 



423 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

to her one of the most powerful elements that made him develop 
as he did. Not only was she "a lady of rare qualities and keenly 
sympathetic with her children's dispositions" so that she trained 
him in his early years of greatest plasticity in the love of truth that 
led him to freedom, but, it may well be that some of his best traits 
came from the maternal side by direct inheritance. For William 
Keith was not the only son with appreciation of the ideal and the 
beautiful. The oldest, Oliver Kingsley Brooks, early showed an 
aptitude for art and was one of the first students and a very pro- 
ficient one in the Cleveland School of Art. The youngest, Edward, 
has shown artistic ability of a high order, achieving a reputation 
as an original designer of furniture and household decorations. 
The subject of this sketch did not take instruction in drawing till 
his studies in zoology led him to the need of illustrations, when 
he received instruction from his brother Oliver, nevertheless in 
later life so successful was he in making ink drawings of the 
marine creatures he knew so well that a Baltimore artist Judged 
his success in life to be largely due to his artistic skill. This taste 
for drawing came by inheritance from their mother, and as an 
index of clear mental images this was no mean gift. Both the 
parents of William Keith Brooks came from Vermont, and the 
following account will show a sturdy New England ancestry. 

Prior to 1634 Thomas Brooks came from England to America 
and settled first in Watertown and then in Concord, Massachusetts. 
John Kingsley came from Hampshire, in England, and settled in 
Dorchester, Massachusetts, in, or before, 1638. From these two 
early settlers came the families that united as the parents of William 
Keith Brooks. 

It will but emphasize his puritanical origin to enumerate the 
ancestors whose biblical names recall ideals and training of long 
ago. On the Brooks side the line of descent from Thomas Brooks 
ran through Joshua, through Noah, through a second Joshua the 
son of Noah, and through a third Joshua, who all lived in Con- 
cord, Massachusetts. Their simple useful lives contained little 
prophecy of the time when, in 1907, their descendant, one Wil- 
liam Keith Brooks, LL.D., sought relief from the tedium of 



WILLIAM KEITH BROOKS 429 

too constant attendance upon the meetings of an Interna- 
tional Zoological Congress to take a trolley trip from Boston 
to Concord! 

A fourth Joshua Brooks served at the battle of Concord, but 
lived at Lincoln, now a part of Concord, Massachusetts. His son, 
the fifth and last Joshua Brooks, removed from Lincoln to Burling- 
ton, Vermont, and it was his son, Oliver Allen Brooks, who re- 
moved to Cleveland, Ohio, after the family had been but so short 
a time outside the bounds of Massachusetts. 

On the mother's side the line of descent ran from John Kingsley 
through Eldad who lived in Dorchester, Massachusetts, and then 
through three men, John, Amos, and Isaiah Kingsley, who repre- 
sented the family for some one hundred years at Windham, 
Connecticut. The next in descent, Phinheas, the son of Isaiah 
Kingsley, removed when ten years old, with his father, to Vermont. 
But here again the family remained but one generation in this 
state, for the second Phinheas Klingsley removed to Ohio. 

Thus on one side seven, and on the other six, generations lived 
in Massachusetts and in Connecticut ill a brief sojourn in Ver- 
mont led them on to Ohio where Ellenora Bradbury Kingsley 
and Oliver Allen Brooks became the parents of William Keith 
Brooks. 

In dearth of facts one may speculate that some of the excellencies 
that were given birth in him may have been due to summation of 
ancestral traits handed on by the Keith family, for may it not be 
significant that not only was the grandmother of William Keith 
Brooks on his mother's side a Pamel Keith, who was born in 1786, 
in Massachusetts, and lived to the age of 82 years, but his grand- 
mother on the paternal side was a Melinda Keith, of Pittsford, 
Vermont, born in 1787. It was this name, "Keith," that was to 
be singled out by his best friend and helper, his wife, the "woman 
who understood," as a poet has it, for his special personal name. 

The boy was educated in the Public Schools of Cleveland, 
attending a grammar school known as the Eagle Street School, 
and after that going to the Central High School, when fifteen, for 
at least three years. Here his rank was from 80 to 100, with 



430 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

highest standing in Latin, Rhetoric, English Composition, and 
Botany. The Principal and the Vice-Principal of the school were 
then Dr. Theodore Sterhng and Sidney A. Norton, and in talking 
over the influences that had molded his life, Professor Brooks, 
when fifty years old, emphasized his debt of gratitude to the earnest 
and broad-minded teachers in the PubUc Schools of Cleveland. 

But powerful as were the home influences and the school train- 
ing there seems to have been an innate searching for truth that led 
the quiet, reticent, "shy," gentle, thoughtful child to make original 
observation and to look at many things from unusual points of 
view. He was not satisfied with the obvious or conventional 
explanation: his mind was unusual. Thus to a teacher who asked 
him, "If the third of six, be three, what would the fourth of 
twenty be?" he replied, "Five" — for, said he, "I don't see that 
altering the value of six alters the value of twenty." 

His interest in natural history was that of the normal child, an 
interest in actions and in life and not in the collection of curious 
objects. But while he was no born naturalist in the sense that 
some are, who early learn to hoard up "specimens," he was fond 
of observing birds, and a back-yard pond as well as home-made 
aquaria served for delightful observations that left a lasting 
impress. 

Passenger pigeons were then plentiful, myriads darkening the 
sky, and stray ones came to the pond to drink. Then there were 
the aquatic insects and snails with marvelous transformation and 
developments. The fundamental nature of reflex and mechanical 
acts in living things was indelibly learned by the sight of a dragon- 
fly that, though reduced by accident to little but head, still con- 
tinued to eat what was set before it, though the food passed at once 
into empty air. 

His father was a practical man who believed in all kinds of 
wholesome recreation for his boys, but was not himself given to 
scientific interests. In the neighborhood, however, were boys 
who collected insects, fossils, the then common Indian remains, 
shells and other objects. In fact in the yard of the Tuttle boys, 
their father had built them a frame structure they called the 



WILLIAM KEITH BROOKS 431 

"Museum" and the "Laboratory," and in it they did simple 
chemical and electrical "stunts" and kept their collections. Some 
of these older boys helped make the artificial pond in Brooks' 
yard and went there to sail their hand-long "yachts." All who 
had any bent toward natural history owed a lasting debt to the 
old-fashioned, all-round naturalist and leading physician, Dr. 
Kirdand, who had a real knowledge of the habits and lives of 
birds, bees, fishes and of flowers and was never tired of stimulating 
and aiding any youngster who showed a real interest in such things. 
They all loved and reverenced him, though some might make 
forays upon the fossil-collections in his barn. 

One whom he must have looked up to in natural history interest, 
as friend of his elder brother, and also, by chance, his Sunday 
School teacher at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, was Albert H. 
Tuttle, now Professor of Biology in the University of Virginia. 
From his attendance upon this church and his docile and con- 
scientious learning of Sunday School verses he stored up an ac- 
quaintance with the forms of theology that abided with him, 
though he rebelled at the pressure of society that would too early 
force upon his own children dogmas he wished them to judge 
when matured. 

For good physical reasons the boy was not given to violent 
athletic sports, though winning a prize for excellence in calis- 
thenics, since he had a most perfect harmony of nerve and muscle 
and a strong sense of form, rhythm, and spacial relations. 

He early read the works of Charles Darwin and gained an 
abiding conviction of the impregnable nature of the evidence for 
evolution and of the wide reach of the principle of natural selec- 
tion. It should not be forgotten that this was in a period when to 
many good people the names of Darwin and Huxley were as 
ApoUyon, and even amongst zoologists the new views were as yet 
not universally accepted and their leader in America, Louis Agassiz, 
in 1863, believed that naturalists were pursuing a phantom in 
their search for material gradations amongst animals and trans- 
mutations of lower into higher forms. 

In the fall of 1866 his father consented and the studious youth 



432 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

went to Hobart College, Geneva, New York, and here a most 
potent influence acted to fashion the ultimate philosophy of his 
life. Eagerly seizing the opportunities offered by the college 
library he read and pondered the works of Bishop Berkeley with 
results that came to the surface in later life. Hobart thus became 
a formative force that he acknowledges in the dedication of his 
life-work in philosophic thought, his Foundations of Zoology, in 
the words: "To Hobart College; where I learned to study, and, I 
hope, to profit by, but not to blindly follow, the writings of that 
great thinker on the principles of science, George Berkeley, I have, 
by permission, dedicated this book." 

While the environment given him by Hobart was so potent, it 
was brief in extent of time, for at the end of the sophomore 
year he left Hobart and entered Williams College, Williamstown, 
Massachusetts, where he graduated in 1870. At WilUams College 
he took active interest in the famous Lyceum of Natural History 
that sent an expedition across South America. He was marked 
amongst his fellows as an unusual individual, was known as "the 
philosopher" and became the center of interest as the man with 
a microscope. In his room assembled those who appreciated his 
ability to lead in the intellectual interpretations of nature and to 
make her facts clear and of absorbing interest. A noted zoologist, 
who as lower classman was once in Brooks' room tells an anecdote 
that shows Brooks' peculiar originality. It might be called an 
application of the microtome method and runs as follows: Wishing 
to demonstrate a cross-section of a human hair and finding it 
impossible to cut one thin enough. Brooks shaved his face and 
then engaged the boys in talk till such time as he thought his 
beard grown a little, when shaving again he got the desired slices 
in the lather. 

At Williams, Sanborn Tenney taught Botany and Zoology and 
Brooks stood high in his natural history studies but also in Greek 
and especially in mathematics, and when he graduated at the age 
of 22 he was undecided which of these abstract studies he should 
follow. 

He was an independent and thorough scholar, but took no 



WILLIAM KEITH BROOKS 433 

interest in prizes and marks; preferring to apply himself deeply 
to topics that interested him even if night work should force him 
to miss morning exercises. On graduating he was elected to Phi 
Beta Kappa. 

Returning to Cleveland his future became a perplexing problem. 
Postgraduate work was not then in vogue and every young man 
who had obtained the A.B. degree was expected to enter a profes- 
sion or begin self-support. But Brooks desired a higher education, 
and satisfaction of his mental rather than of his physical self. 
His step-mother did not favor further studies and at one time 
Brooks entered his father's counting-house, but the tedium of 
routine that had no immediate ideal in view for him was not to 
his nature and he gave it up after inventing a simple calculating 
contrivance that is said to have been used with satisfaction and 
practical benefit. 

The only means to his goal seemed then, as so often now, the 
life of a teacher, and for three years, 1870-73, he taught as one 
of the Masters in the De Veaux College, a school for boys at 
Niagara, New York. Here he practiced the art of simple exposi- 
tion that made his subsequent university lectures so unusual. 
Being free to enjoy the woods along the rapids and to contemplate 
the majesty of the falls he was in an environment stimulating to 
thought and aspirations. 

But from this stepping-stone the young man who would be a 
zoologist must go to Louis Agassiz, to gain the best training the 
country had to offer to the investigator of life. In 1873 Brooks 
was one of those fortunate ones who shared contact with the re- 
markable enthusiasm of Agassiz, the Master, in the well con- 
ceived but inadequately matured experiment, the Summer School 
on the Island of Penikese, in Buzzards Bay. The anatomy of 
fishes and the vitality of the ancient creature, Limulus, were 
impressed upon Brooks. Brooks was not daunted by the confu- 
sion due to the incomplete state of the buildings, but got directly 
at the essentials. With characteristic optimism he was found dis- 
secting a shark in his wash-basin on his bed as a table. In the 
second year of the School, in 1874, Brooks with other great pupils 



434 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

of the lamented Master went again to Penikese to nurture the new 
conception of a summer school for teachers, both men and women. 

At Cambridge the museum of Agassiz was of less value to him 
than the contact with McCrady whose work on the jellyfish of 
Charleston, South Carolina, and whose philosophical discussions 
alike roused in him keen response. In Boston, aided by Alpheus 
Hyatt, who gained for him the position of Assistant in the Boston 
Society of Natural History for the years 1874 and 1875, he learned 
the collections of mollusk shells by heart and could pick them out 
in the dark. 

A fellow zoologist, who was a good friend of Brooks through 
forty years, recalling the striking quality of Brooks' work as a 
student and his impressive earnestness, says that: "His mind was 
ever on the problems of his work." 

When, on June 30, 1875, he received the degree of Doctor of 
Philosophy from Harvard College, he had already begun to pub- 
lish natural history articles in popular magazines and brief reports 
of his own discoveries in anatomy and embryology of marine 
animals. Two of his earliest communications were presented in 
1874 and 1875 at the Hartford and the Detroit Meetings of the 
American Association for the Advancement of Science. 

He was recognized as a man of great promise and as in those 
days there was but little real university work on this side of the 
Atlantic it wa£ natural for his friends to wish that he might study 
abroad. Indeed, Prof. E. S. Morse had urged upon Brooks' 
father that he be sent to Europe, but the kind and indulgent 
parent had to realize that the project was one that could not be 
financed. 

That year of 1875 was one of the great moment in the life of 
Doctor Brooks; in it he gained his first real insight into research 
work at the seaside, and in it he aided in a successful Summer 
School for teachers. The latter was at his home in Cleveland, the 
former in the laboratory of Alexander Agassiz at Newport, Rhode 
Island. 

In Cleveland the Kirtland Natural History Society was chosen 
as godfather to the new project in which Brooks was a leading 



WILLIAM KEITH BROOKS 435 

spirit, but there was some opposition and lack of financial support 
till Andrew J. Rickoff, Superintendent of Public Schools, urged 
the use of the Central High School Buildings, during vacation, 
as all the three projectors, Albert H. Tuttle, Theo. S. Comstock, 
and William K. Brooks, were formerly pupils of that school. The 
school started with but three pupils, school-teachers, all women, 
from Indianapolis; but soon, after unexpected and most generous 
pecuniary aid from Leonard Case, twenty-five enthusiastic teachers 
attended the lectures, excursions and laboratory meetings. In 
Brooks' "splendid work of that summer," as Comstock has re- 
cently recalled it, we see the characteristic faith and confidence 
that led him to success even when at first, from lack of buildings, 
he thought they must hold field sessions only or use Doctor Kirt- 
land's bam, relying upon "enthusiasm and contact with nature to 
somehow work out results," or when there were but three pupils, 
to say "three teachers well trained, means the sowing of seed 
which shall yield a harvest none can measure." 

Going then to Newport he began his memorable research on 
the transparent marine animal Salpa. Meantime he eked out his 
resources by instructing some lads from New York in the mysteries 
of marine life which he knew so well how to make vivid and full of 
meaning. 

As this was the beginning of an interest which with characteris- 
tic persistence he kept vividly burning till his death, his work on 
Salpa may well receive more extended notice here. When in 1908 
his eyesight made it difficult for him to longer use the high powers 
of the microscope he rejoiced that he had what he thought his last 
piece of observational work so far finished that a summer of writing 
would make his completed drawings ready for the printer. This 
last monograph on the embryology of Salpa remains unfinished, 
as cruel sickness robbed him of that summer of writing. 

But his first investigations on Salpa came to pass because 
Salpa was abundant in the clear waters of Newport and Alexander 
Agassiz suggested he should study them. So clear and translucent 
are these organisms that Brooks was able to make out the anatomy 
of the live animals by patient microscopic study without dissection. 



436 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

He found the accepted views of great European authorities were 
not correct, that they had not seen all there was to be seen and had 
hence made false inferences. Though he says "this was my first 
effort in the field of Marine Zoology" the results were of great 
importance. 

To understand his interest in Salpa and the peculiar way his 
mind worked upon its problems we must recall first that it is one 
of the quiet bag-like creatures, the Tunicates, whose embryology 
had shown them to be essentially like, and hence in the new views, 
blood relations of, the Vertebrates: and second that it was first in 
Salpa that the remarkable phenomenon of "alternation of genera- 
tions" had been extended to animals. 

So great was the interest in Europe in those problems centering 
in the Tunicates that Brooks defends his first publication of his 
results without all his evidence in illustrations, by the remark that 
students of Salpa were finding new facts so rapidly that one who 
held back his discoveries till his illustrations should be printed 
might well find his discoveries no longer new. 

It was the poet-naturalist Chamisso who in voyaging around the 
world with Kotzebue, deduced for Salpa, in 1814, the phenom- 
enon of "alternation of generations." This was universally 
accepted and Salpa was described as having two generations or 
different successive individuals with different modes of reproduc- 
tion in each life-cycle. That is, there were solitary Salpas and 
chain Salpas found in the water, and the solitary ones were seen 
to make the chains of individuals by a budding or a non-sexual 
process. The individuals of the chains, however, had eggs and 
sperm and gave birth to solitary Salpas having a true sexual origin, 
but themselves again sexless. Thus there was said to be an alterna- 
tion of sexless and of hermaphrodite individuals and a sequence 
of non-sexual and of sexual modes of generation. 

Brooks found the same facts but, in addition, the real origin of 
the eggs— not in the chains but in the solitary individuals, which 
not only budded forth the chains but put an egg into each individ- 
ual of the chain. 

Hence he claimed then that there was no true alternation of 



WILLIAM KEITH BROOKS 437 

sexless with hermaphrodite states. For the eggs found in the 
chains which produce sperm and are therefore males, are not 
produced by these chains but are produced by the solitary 
Salpas and put into the male chains to be carried and nursed 
by them. 

The life-cycle he held was thus but an alternation of females and 
budded out males. While "alternation of generation" did exist 
in some animals, it did not in Salpa where the phenomenon was 
first described, — a paradox such as Brooks was ever fond of. 

By careful microscopic observation Brooks added new facts to 
the known anatomy of Salpa, and by keen interpretation boldly 
opposed the received opinions of the leading zoologists. Later 
when the refinement of technique made it possible, he reexamined 
and reiterated his views and was led on to many years of patient 
toil upon various problems of anatomy and of embryology in 
Salpa and its allies. Much of this work appeared in his great 
monograph, the Genus Salpa, 1893, in which he devoted some 303 
quarto pages and 46 plates to his facts and theories. 

In 1876 we find Brooks again at the laboratory of Alexander 
Agassiz, and now ready to dedicate himself at the age of 28 to the 
service of the fortunate school or institution that would prize him 
as a man who, having profited by the best training in zoology his 
country could give, had both successfully initiated a summer 
school after the ideals of Agassiz, and had made discoveries which 
he illuminated with the point of view of a genius. 

It was not the old college, rich in traditions but hampered by 
customs and fears, but the new foundation laid by Daniel Coit 
Oilman, with its motto " Veritas vos liberabit"; that drew to it the 
rare spirits who were to embody its ideals. The opening of the 
Johns Hopkins University with Professor Huxley's address, 
February 22, 1876, was doubtless a welcome event to Doctor 
Brooks, the philosophical zoologist. Twenty Fellowships, each 
yielding $500, were to be awarded to men who could develop 
research: of 152 applicants, 107 were deemed eligible and re- 
ferred to specialists for election. Brooks was one of the twenty 
chosen. 



438 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

But even when President Oilman was still in California and 
wrote East for advice as to the best man in America to hold the 
chair of zoology in the new University to be formed in Baltimore, 
Brooks was the man recommended strongly. 

Preliminary preparations for Natural History work were made 
by Dr. Philip R. Uhler, Associate in Natural History, but he did 
but pave the way; the coming of Huxley's ideals in the mind of 
Prof. Henry Newell Martin, established the courses of instruction 
in Biology and in Physiology, but in the organization of the new 
work Brooks was at once made Associate in Natural History or 
in Biology, and he gave independent lectures on the anatomy of 
Invertebrates from January to the end of the year, 1877, for gradu- 
ate students, while assisting Professor Martin in the first General 
Biology course in April and May of 1877. It is significant that 
Brooks also gave sixteen public lectures on "The Theories of 
Biology." In a sense the methods of this laboratory became a 
mingling of the ideals of Huxley and of Agassiz, the former trans- 
lated by Martin, the latter by Brooks. 

Later on we find him lecturing on embryology, comparative 
anatomy and osteology and upon morphological problems of 
more and more special nature with increasing remoteness from 
the needs of the beginner in zoology to whom, however, he gave 
some of his lectures and personal supervision down even to 1907. 
But his main influence was with the graduate students whom he 
trained, as Associate in Zoology, Associate Professor in Compara- 
tive Anatomy, Associate Professor of Morphology, Professor of 
Animal Morphology (in 1891), Head of the Biological Laboratory 
after the resignation of Professor Martin in 1893, Professor of 
Zoology, and Henry Walters Professor of Zoology, as the title 
changed from time to time. The Johns Hopkins University thus 
became his mental home, his stimulating environment for more 
than half his lifetime, through all the productive years from 1876 to 
his death in 1908. 

To comprehend his unfolding here, we must recall both what he 
brought to the University and what the University held for him. 
What he seemed when he first came has been recently recalled by 



WILLIAM KEITH BROOKS 439 

one of the very few here who marked him then, Prof. Basil L. 
Gildersleeve, who says: 

"The very first lecture I heard him deliver, when he came here 
a young man, revealed to me at once his uncompromising demand 
of scientific evidence and his marvellous power of generalization. 
His popular talks, simple in their form as simple could be, opened 
vistas of startling significance to those who had learned to think at 
all. His thoughts did not so much wander through eternity as 
explore eternity with a measuring rod. To outsiders like myself 
who were not familiar with the patient process of his scientific 
research, the word 'genius' seemed to explain everything. He 
seemed to us one of those rarely gifted beings, in whom child- 
like sensitiveness is paired with immediate insight, nay, is one 
with it." 

What opportunity the Johns Hopkins gave this gifted being 
cannot be realized, nor his life-work estimated without due 
emphasis upon the marine laboratory which he created and of 
which he was the Director. 

He thus outlines his policy in one of his reports as Director: 

"In natural science the policy of the University is to promote 
the study of life, rather than to accumulate specimens; and since 
natural laws are best studied in their simplest manifestations, 
much attention has been given to the investigations of the simplest 
forms of life, with confidence that this will ultimately contribute 
to a clearer insight into all vital phenomena . . the ocean is 

now as it has been in all stages of the earth's history, the home of 
life." 

And the gain he had from his contact with the sea is indicated 
in these lines taken from a manuscript headed: 

" The Gastrula Stage. What does it mean ? " " For many 
years it was my good fortune to spend my summer months upon 
our southern sea coast, studying with a microscope the steps in 
the wonderful process of evolution, or unfolding of animals from 
their eggs, and the memory of the time which was thus spent will 
always be the most vivid and suggestive impression of my life." 

Coming to Baltimore, a city at the head of the Chesapeake Bay, 
with his experiences at Penikese and Newport, and his own suc- 
cesses in the Summer School of Cleveland fresh in mind, it was 



440 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

necessary that Brooks should turn to the Chesapeake Bay to 
make his environment supply his needs. 

Accordingly, we find him in the spring of 1878 making a pre- 
liminary survey in search of a suitable spot for a Summer School 
in which to study the problems of life in the sea. Unfortunately 
the low sandy shores and reputed unwholesomeness of the mouth 
of the Bay offered but poor substitutes for the cold rocky shores of 
Newport, but he, as ever, made the best use of what was available. 
With a small sum granted by the University in 1878, he opened 
the first session of the "Chesapeake Zoological Laboratory," at 
Fort Wool, Virginia. 

An artificial heap of stones, making an island of six acres extent, 
covered by fortifications and twenty miles from the ocean, was 
indeed a strange location for a marine laboratory, but lying in the 
Bay, three miles from one shore and one and a half from the other 
it had the advantage of some fifteen miles of tide-water sweeping 
by back and forth; though, to be sure, communication with the 
mainland was not always convenient. Here some seven workers 
made up the tentative laboratory that was in session eight weeks, 
and here Brooks had the opportunity to study the ancient animal 
forms Lingula and Amphioxus. 

Though with but crude and scanty apparatus and relying upon 
occasional brief aid of tugboats for dredging expeditions, the party 
did good work which was published with the financial aid of citi- 
zens of Baltimore, Shoemaker, Garret, Pratt, Uhler, Oilman, 
Martin and others, as The Scientific Results of the Chesapeake 
Zoological Laboratory. 

The history of the laboratory henceforth is Brooks' history, 
and we cannot refrain from recounting its annual periods of 
activity. In the second year, 1879, Crisfield, Maryland, the 
great oyster center, was selected in order that Brooks might aid 
the Maryland Fish Commission in the study of the oyster. Some 
eleven members of the laboratory lived there, having three barges 
as their laboratory, from June 25 to August 8, when even their 
enthusiastic endurance was forced to yield to the native mosquito, 
whom the inhabitants endured only by making "smudges" in 



WILLIAM KEITH BROOKS 441 

the street and by moving over into the houses on the lee side. 
Returning then to Fort Wool, the second session was completed 
September 15. 

But it was patent that the fauna of the Chesapeake Bay would 
not furnish the material needed for the problems Brooks was 
keen to study: the well-known richness of the fauna of Beaufort, 
North Carolina, drew him thither. With an annual appropriation 
of $1,000, and some $4,500 for a steam launch, built for him at 
Bristol, Rhode Island, and for other apparatus. Brooks in 1880 
took a party of six to this rather remote village where they opened 
their laboratory from April 23 to September 30, more than five 
months of the year, in the residence known as the Gibbs house and 
bearing the distinction of being "built of cypress and put together 
with copper nails." 

The success of this venture brought back a party of twelve in 
1881, but some of these were students just* finishing college work, 
drawn by this year's announcement that there would be an "Ele- 
mentary seaside school" with fees of $25, and board and lodging 
available from $20 to $30 per month, and daily lectures by Dr. W. 
K. Brooks and Dr. S. F. Clarke. This session lasted from May 2 
to the end of August. 

Again in 1882, Brooks made one of a party of eight at Beaufort, 
from May i to the end of September. Seven months of the year 
at the sea-shore laboratory and the rest in the laboratory in Balti- 
more! 

However, being appointed by the Governor, Oyster Commis- 
sioner, Brooks was obliged in 1883 to remain in the Chesapeake 
and opened the laboratory at Hampton, Virginia, occupying part 
of the new machine shop of the Hampton Institute from May i to 
October i. This proved an unfavorable location for the forms 
of life that Doctor Brooks was interested in, though the visiting 
Englishman, William Bateson, there enjoyed the opportunity to 
add to his famous studies of the problematical worm Balanoglossus. 
It was there also that the equipment of the laboratory was en- 
larged by the purchase of a fast sloop yacht which, though black 
enough as to paint, mingled with its usefulness something of the 



442 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

traits of a white elephant, for its racing spars and deep center 
board were difficult to manage. 

With both sloop and steam launch ten students returned again 
to Beaufort in 1884, when the laboratory was opened June i to 
September 19, though the ilhiess of Doctor Brooks obliged him to 
return after a month and to leave the laboratory in the care of 
Dr. H. W. Conn. But the next year Doctor Brooks was again 
there with eleven students for the fifteen weeks from May 23 to 
September 15. 

These hot summer days at Beaufort were free from convention, 
and some may recall their earnest leader in his room absorbed in 
microscopic study, clad in a drying bathing suit that was not of 
ideal fit. 

In all his work Doctor Brooks avoided indirectness and para- 
phernalia, and did much with his own hands that might have been 
relegated to a subordinate. He became a licensed pilot to run 
the steam launch in and out of Beaufort Inlet and later took the 
risks of acting as pilot to the schooner from Baltimore on the 
voyage now to be described, though her keel scraped the bar in 
the trough of the ground-sweU. 

Rich as were the results of all these years of work at Beaufort, 
the fauna there did not satisfy all the demands of one devoted to 
the fundamental problems of the lower animals that make and 
dwell amidst coral islands. To such tropical life Brooks now 
made a daring journey. Starting May 10, 1886, from the wharf 
in Baltimore, in a small Bay schooner that was chartered by the 
day, the party of seven after head winds and various mishaps and 
a stop at Beaufort to take on laboratory furniture, did not reach 
their destination, Green Turtle Cay, Abaco, Bahama Islands, till 
June 2. Here they spent a memorable month of rare experience, 
and some lingered on till later. Of this voyage Doctor Brooks 
wrote to the Baltimore Sun: 

"We had been shut up for nineteen days in a little schooner, 
smaller than those in which Columbus made his first voyage, in 
a hold which did not allow us to stand erect, with no floor except a 
few rough boards laid on the ballast of broken stone." 



WILLIAM KEITH BROOKS 443 

But immediately he says: 

"We had found an endless source of pleasure and profit in the 
examination of the marine animals which drifted by us in the float- 
ing sargassum of the Gulf Stream, and we had seen for ourselves 
what we had so often read, that the ocean is the home of animal 
life, and that the life of the land is as nothing when compared with 
the boundless wealth of living things in mid-ocean." 

In search of better opportunity to study the problems of floating 
life in the ocean. Doctor Brooks made a second expedition to the 
Bahamas in 1887, and established a laboratory for twelve students 
some three miles from Nassau, on the island of New Providence, 
from March i to July i. But the steady growth in value of the 
marine laboratory, was destined to a rude shock following the 
financial losses to the Johns Hopkins University that made re- 
trenchment necessary in all directions. After ten successful ses- 
sions the "Chesapeake Zoological Laboratory" was suspended, 
and its outfit dispersed. 

Doctor Brooks, however, turned to the United States Fish 
Commission for aid and becoming Naturalist in charge of the 
Station at Woods Holl, Massachusetts, continued his work there 
with some of his students in the summer months of 1888; while 
in 1889 and 1890 they also were somewhat aided by the same 
Government bureau. But in 1891 the University was again able 
to promote his researches and sent him with some fourteen others 
to Jamaica, West Indies, May 26 to September i. Here he estab- 
lished a successful laboratory at Port Henderson, on the shore of 
the harbor opposite Kingston and Port Royal. Though he hoped 
that the English plan for a Columbus Marine Station might aid 
him in future years, that plan did not materialize and henceforth 
Professor Brooks' energies were more given to work in Baltimore 
upon material that was obtained for him and less to personal study 
in new marine laboratories. 

In 1892 he sent three of his students to investigate the edge of 
the great submerged table-land which borders the Gulf Stream 
on the east and they studied at Alice Town, North Bimini, while 
in 1893 others went back to Port Henderson, Jamaica, as did others 



444 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

again in 1896. Meantime Brooks took some six students to 
Beaufort again in 1894 and sent four there in 1895. Finally in 
1897 a party of twelve in charge of Prof. James Ellis Humphrey 
spent two months at Port Antonio, Jamaica, with the lamentable 
loss from yellow fever of their leader as well as of the talented 
zoologist, Dr. Franklin Storey Conant. 

Since then the establishment by the Government of a permanent 
laboratory at Beaufort and of the Carnegie Station on the Dry 
Tortugas, have given facihties which Brooks was not slow to 
utilize for his own work and that of his students. 

From this long recital we should learn that Brooks' " Chesapeake 
Zoological Laboratory" evolved to fit the conditions and was 
never crystallized nor hampered by rule or tradition; it was a free 
organism, choosing its own environment, and even dropped its 
outgrown name in 189 1, to become the "Marine Laboratory." 

Through the history of this laboratory as through the history 
of the university of which it was a part, ran a vein of good manage- 
ment which makes it remarkable for the great results achieved by 
little financial outlay, but with great labors of love and enthu- 
siasm. 

The researches carried on by Professor Brooks were the natural 
outcome of the above experience at the seaside or rather the prob- 
lems he was interested in, led him to select the above environment. 
Beginning his publications with observations upon the embryology 
of moUusks, he long continued to make new discoveries in that 
group of animals, publishing several monographs upon marine 
and fresh-water mollusks, upon the squid and upon the mollus- 
coidea. He was early interested in the Polyzoa and fresh-water 
sponges about Cleveland. The Marine Crustacea with their 
clear-cut problems of homology and of metamerism necessarily 
appealed to his mind, and his discoveries in this group, his works 
on "Lucifer," the " Stomatopods," and the " Macrura," are 
amongst the most valuable and well known of his contributions 
to knowledge. But amongst the still lower forms of life, the 
Hydroids and jellyfish, he found his love of beauty of form most 
satisfied. A monograph of American jellyfish in progress many 



WILLIAM KEITH BROOKS 445 

years was never completed though the long years of patient work 
and remarkable pen drawings were largely given the light in many 
important publications. His work on Salpa as previously related 
bore upon the problem of Vertebrate origin, but most of his work 
dealt exclusively with the fundamental problem of animal mor- 
phology as represented in non-vertebrate groups. Yet he at one 
time lectured upon anthropology and when visiting Nassau he 
seized the opportunity to study the remains of the Indians who 
welcomed Columbus and whose tragic fate deeply impressed him. 
But with the exception of this monograph upon the "Lucayan 
Indians" most of his new facts were gathered outside the field of 
Vertebrate groups. 

His work contains much thought, and he can scarce be called a 
prolific writer of small papers. It would be difiicult to enumerate 
many more than 1 50 titles in the thirty years of most active work 
from 1876-1906. 

But besides these technical papers he had meanwhile contrib- 
uted many popular articles as well as theories, essays, and reviews. 
As early as 1877, his Provisional Hypothesis of Pangenesis was a 
bold and thoughtful attempt to make more acceptable the Pan- 
genesis of Darwin, and his book Heredity in 1883 elaborated the 
like view that variations are handed down chiefly through the 
males. These views modified his conceptions of the place of 
woman in society and yet it was characteristic of his balance of 
mind that he wished to submit his theoretic conclusions to the 
test of experiment and thus to find out how far woman could profit 
by sharing the higher education of men. 

Some of his most deeply and well-thought-out essays and lec- 
tures were brought together in book form in his Foundations oj 
Zoology (Macmillan Co., 1899 and 1907), which must ever 
remain his chief contribution to philosophical thought. The work 
preeminently expresses his remarkable balance of mind; part of 
his purpose was "to show to them who think with Berkeley," 
that "it is a hard thing to suppose, that right deductions from true 
principles should ever end in consequences which cannot be 
maintained or made consistent"; that, "in my opinion, there is 



446 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

nothing in the prevalence of mechanical conceptions of life, and 
of mind, or in the unlimited extension of these conceptions, to 
show that this hard thing to suppose is true." And some of his 
point of view is paraphrased by an English reviewer as follows: 

"But supposing the mechanical conception of life to be estab- 
lished, and admitting that the argument from contrivance would 
thereby lose its force, the attempted proof of the existence of a 
designer would not on that account be supplanted by disproof. 
Further, whatever the scientific account of nature may ultimately 
be, it can throw no light upon the primal cause or final purpose 
of the whole or of any part. Science tells us what takes place, 
and how it takes place, she discovers the succession of events and 
gives us a reasonable confidence in the steadfastness of that suc- 
cession, but she refuses to admit any necessity therefor, and as to 
any cause that lies behind the veil of the physical universe, she re- 
mains for ever dumb." 

But Professor Brooks was no mere dreamer and theorist hold- 
ing himself aloof from the practical needs of his fellow-beings. 
His opportunities for carrying on his own researches did not lead 
him to neglect doing his best for his pupils and for the community 
in which he lived; and his best was to show them his ideals and 
to let practical execution develop their own powers. In 1879 
he took part in a course of elementary teaching in Biology for 
teachers in Baltimore, giving fifteen Saturday morning lectures 
with three times as much laboratory work in which he was aided 
by Dr. S. F. Clarke. The fifteen teachers who applied, and six 
of them were women, were led to study such animals as amoeba, 
hydra, sponge, starfish, sea-urchin, earthworm, leech, crawfish, 
crab, grasshopper, mussel, oyster, and squid. 

The laboratory directions he drew up were sought for and used 
by Prof. Alpheus Hyatt in his work with teachers in the Boston 
Society of Natural History, and also by Walter Faxon in his work 
with undergraduates at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at 
Harvard, so that Brooks finally in 1882 made a book, his Handbook 
of Invertebrate Zoology, which was a most valuable and original 
text-book to aid the student at the sea-shore. He also took part in 
1882 in an attempt to aid the employees of the Baltimore and 



WILLIAM KEITH BROOKS 447 

Ohio Railroad, giving a lecture "Upon some methods of locomo- 
tion in animals" in which after clearly describing the locomotion 
of several non-vertebrates he led to a brief exposition of the princi- 
ples of natural selections and ended with the application that each 
to succeed should "make yourselves a little different from your 
neighbors" and that the one lesson which natural science teaches 
is "whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might." 

His wish to aid the community also found expression in the 
establishment of a public aquarium in Druid Hill Park, but 
the time was hardly ripe and so the aquarium became a black- 
smith shop. 

But to the practical man Brooks gave the greatest boon in his 
work upon the oyster industry of Maryland. Finding in 1878 
new and remarkable scientific facts regarding the American 
oyster he entered upon a thorough study of the problems of the 
oyster industries that meant so much to the state of his adoption. 
Realizing that the oyster was peculiarly adapted to reclaim for 
mankind the waste material swept into the Chesapeake by the 
rivers that drain so vast an area and carry off the wealth of the 
soil, and that the methods of fishing were primitive and waste- 
ful, while legislation favored a few he pointed out in his Report 
as Oyster Commissioner what principles should be followed out, 
what legislation enacted, in order to greatly enrich the whole 
commxmity. Though his recommendations were then rejected 
as being too ideal for the times, yet by lectures and discussions 
and by his popular book The Oyster published in 1891, and revised 
in 1905, he so kept the matter in the public eye that in 1906, 
legislation in the right direction was finally obtained and the future 
wealth of the state will be derived in part from his scientific 
beliefs and keen foresight. So deeply did the success of the oyster 
industry impress itself upon Professor Brooks that from 1882 he 
lived always in the eager hope of practical realization from his 
application of sound judgment upon extensive scientific observa- 
tions. In fact when urged strongly to head the zoological depart- 
ment of a new university in the north, his desire to see the oyster 
industry restored to prosperity by the application of science to the 



448 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

welfare of the community was no small determining factor in 
keeping him in Baltimore. From this interest in practical work 
arose the labors of his pupOs in studying and advancing the oyster 
industries of New England, New Jersey, Oregon, Louisiana, the 
Carolinas, and Maryland. 

But to appreciate the labors of Professor Brooks both in practical 
and in theoretical knowledge we must know of his great physical 
handicaps. Born with heart anatomy incomplete from the stand- 
point of the average man. Brooks well knew his limitations in effort. 
At college, he believed death would overtake him at any time with 
exertion that his fellows might find of no harm. On his fortieth 
birthday he congratulated himself to have brought it so far, since 
at birth he was given but a few days of life as his probable fate. 
No insurance company would take his risk and soon or later the 
strain upon the internal adjustments of his organism must prove 
too great. Yet when overcome by death, November 12, 1908, 
after months of painful sickness. Professor Brooks had completed 
more than sixty years of life with a congenital heart defect said to 
be rarely carried to manhood. His colored drawings of stomato- 
pods made in the heat of the Dry Tortugas in 1906, show no trem- 
bling of the hand but the old love of form and of color. Amongst 
his ancestors were seven who exceeded three score and ten; that 
Professor Brooks' life fell short is no wonder. 

He was fond of pipe and cigars and at times chewed tobacco to 
relieve some suppressed irritation and produce the necessary quiet. 
He was by no means one who saved himself in work or who was 
careful of exposure and of diet, so that in his life of rough living 
at the shore he repeatedly was the prey to fevers and diseases as 
well as subject to many of the minor ills of the fiesh which he bore 
with a fortitude that might to strangers seem indifference. 

Deeply interesting but baffling must be the association in 
this man of such an incomplete and partly embryonic machinery 
of life with great balance and equalization of mental traits and 
the perennial spirit of child faith. But here is a special case 
of the intricate problem of mind and body whose answer we 
shall lack till, as Professor Brooks used to say, "we find out." 



WILLIAM KEITH BROOKS 449 

In personal appearance Professor Brooks was not tall, short 
in the limbs, of abundant flesh but of refined and small boning. 
With long, straight hair, he was conspicuous at Harvard and in his 
first years in Baltimore for his rich brown beard that added to his 
appearance of reserve force and emphasized the keen beauty of 
his seeing eyes. To the young student he seemed something 
sphinx-like. 

The portrait by Thomas C. Corner, presented by some fifty of 
his pupils on his fiftieth birthday, represents him as they knew him, 
sedentary in habit, deliberate in all motions, rather careless of 
appearance, and long rapt in meditations to be broken by an 
individual uplift of the eye when about to express some matured 
thought or long-delayed answer. 

His habits in work were evidently imposed by his physique and 
by his circumstances of life. After a day of lectures and laboratory 
work he might spend the evening with his family and later, when 
the household was at rest, write and study far on into the night 
with his feet wrapped warmly to gain the needed conditions for 
intense brain activity. In vacation time he might work all day 
or all night with his microscope, or rise early and work with inter- 
vals of short sleep. In his last years he found night work no 
longer possible and then turned to music to console and cheer his 
lonely evenings, repeating on a mechanical piano his favorites, 
such as the Fifth Symphony, the Overture to Tannhauser and 
some fugues of Bach. 

In his lectures he did not use notes, and made blackboard 
drawings vnth great care and symmetry. By imagining himself 
in the place of the phenomenon he wished to describe, he often 
made vivid and lasting impressions as in acting out the homologies 
of front and hind limbs, or in conceiving himself incased in rubber 
to make the locomotor organs of a squid, or clothed in the germ 
layer of a chick embryo. Prof. W. H. Howel has said of Brooks' 
lectures, "but the clearness, the orderliness, and the attractiveness 
with which he could present a subject was really unrivaled, as far 
as my experience goes. He seemed to have such a complete con- 
trol of his mental processes, he thought so well and so clearly and 



450 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

expressed his thoughts in such appropriate language, that every 
student with a spark of interest in the subject was delighted; it 
was a treat to hear him lecture." 

His methods were always extremely simple and direct, and he 
believed in doing himself what he wanted to have done well. In 
the laboratory he laboriously cut endless sections, sharpening his 
own microtome knife, and made so little use of others' aid that his 
chief researches are peculiarly his own in all their execution. 
Electric bells and speaking-tubes were not often used, and his res- 
onant enheartening voice as he summoned the janitor seems still 
to pervade his work place. 

In reading technical works and in preparing lectures he often 
wrote abstracts with pen copies of illustrations in cheap note-books, 
5^x8^ inches, folding lengthwise and convenient to carry in the 
pocket. Often these were written only on one side of the page, 
but later reversed and used again for some different topic. Rarely 
were dates given to MSS. and drawings, for time was of lesser 
moment to him than the ideas with which he grouped his materials 
in his own mind. He made no lists of his own works and no at- 
tempts to use clerical aid. 

But it should not be inferred that he was too wedded to old-time 
simplicity. He soon learned to write his manuscripts on the type- 
writer, with characteristic deliberateness and continuousness. 
And though long preferring the direct and simple styles of micro- 
scope adjustment he used for his later Salpa work Zeiss's most 
refined apparatus and was proud to prepare series of sections of 
extreme fineness. 

Professor Brooks found time for wide reading and was fond of 
the best in literature and careful in his own writings to seek for 
expression in simple English. His library contained well-worn 
favorites, but he was anything but a collector of books. For the 
pet dog that chewed his Shakspere he had but praise as showing 
good taste, but the pup that destroyed cheap novels was a rascal. 

He was ever fond of a good joke, and took delight in an anecdote 
of unexpected and subtle turn. Though so devoted to his work 
as to be shut off from much social life, he was very fond of his 



WILLIAM KEITH BROOKS 451 

friends and neighbors and glad to converse when he had a topic 
to develop or a congenial companion to listen to, but was often 
absorbed and so lacking in small talk as to seem unapproachable. 

The topics of the day had pecuhar aspects to him. In the Japan- 
ese War it was the unfortunate people of Manchuria who greatiy 
excited his sympathy. The subject that interested him deeply 
was part of him and came to the surface in place of mere common- 
places; when giving lectures on the oyster problem he could talk 
of nothing else; when wrestling with philosophical problems he 
might give to his first met friend such sayings as "the term 'super- 
natural ' is due to a misconception of nature, nature is everything 
that is." 

Professor Brooks' anger rarely came to the surface, but he had 
strong natural likes and dislikes which underwent unexpected 
change as evidence accumulated. Bad politics, speciousness, and 
dishonesty and oppression aroused his long-continued animosity. 
He never forgave the superior ofiBcer who would defraud the state 
by having him sign receipt for wages in excess of what he received. 

He had full sympathy for servants and those of restricted educa- 
tion and did many a deed of kindness known to few. In the period 
of his own greatest relief from poverty and acme of academic 
renown he was found bringing daily bottles of milk from his coun- 
try home that the motherless children of the faithful laboratory 
servant might share his own advantages. 

His sympathies extended beyond his fellow-man to animals 
and even to the plants he grew and tended as companions rather 
than as specimens. For long years his close companion and 
friend was the grand St. Bernard dog, "Tige," whom Professor 
James of Harvard has referred to as "that noble dog." Following 
his master from college Hfe to Baltimore and through many of his 
wanderings by the shore this constant comrade falling prey to 
some heart disease was truly mourned and never forgotten, though 
other dog friends, many and varied, later came in his stead. 

Professor Brooks was preeminently suited for the happy domes- 
tic life he led as he could ignore the petty frictions of daily life 
and though absorbed in his work yet rule with wisdom and firm- 



452 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

ness in all that concerned the actualities of existence. In his 
earliest days at Johns Hopkins he and some others who made the 
nucleus of the biological department took up their abode at 
"Brightside," a boarding house on the shore of Lake Rowland a 
few miles from the city. This led to his marriage, June 13, 1878, 
to Amelia Katharine, daughter of Edward T. Schultz and Susan 
Rebecca, daughter of David E. Martin. In after years he made 
his home permanently at "Brightside" since the owner, Mrs. 
Posey, bequeathed this most beautiful estate to her favorite niece, 
Mrs. Brooks. 

So it came to pass that after years of struggle in a city home 
where even his most ingenious lamp hot-water apparatus would 
not make his favorite plants thrive in the window-case. Professor 
Brooks gained space and light in the country and was even able 
to have a diminutive greenhouse for the objects of his experiments 
and of his horticultural relaxation. 

Happy as he was with his great trees and self-reared plants, it 
is well to recall that there were shadows to the bright cloud which 
many another would not have lived under so cheerfully. But he 
bravely suppressed natural revolt at extra family burdens laid upon 
him and by aid of his excellent business instincts was enabled to 
remove debts, enlarge and perfect the property while carrying out 
his ideals for his children. Recalling his own hard won university 
education he sent his son, Charles Edward Brooks, to the Johns 
Hopkins University, where he received the A.B. degree in 1900, 
and the Ph.D. degree in mathematics, in 1904. His daughter, 
Menetta W. Brooks, he also sent through Vassar College. 

His determination to give his children this higher education 
ran counter to a year of needed rest and change in Europe, and he 
worked on till it became too late. 

In his trips to the sea his family went also if anywise possible, 
and when absent from them Professor Brooks' anxiety made 
direct inroads upon his health. Through the long years of Mrs. 
Brooks' invalidism. Professor Brooks had grievous burdens of 
love to bear, and his devotion was most pathetic. She died in the 
spring of 1901. 



WILLIAM KEITH BROOKS 453 

His son being born in 1879, and his daughter in 1881, Professor 
Brooks' great pride in and love for his children and his devotion to 
his wife were well-known and potent elements in the life of most 
of his students who in the evening readings at Professor Brooks' 
house were taken so generously into its elevating influence. 

A review of the names of the sixty men who came together at 
the end of 1908 to do honor to the memory of their late master 
would show that no small part of the work of Professor William 
Keith Brooks had been to train and influence many of the leaders 
in zoology. As Dr. A. G. Mayer has well said, "The spirit of his 
simple faith in research he has passed on to those whose lives were 
enriched by knowing him and who now follow where he led in the 
study of Science." 

His influence over his pupils was peculiar — they recognized 
him as a leader in ideals while fully aware of his faults. One 
writes: "No man ever worked in a more single-minded and lofty 
spirit." Another says: "Like all great teachers he knew that the 
primary purpose of teaching is inspiration and illumination and 
that information is only of secondary importance." A third has 
pictured his influence as follows: "But Brooks' particular influence 
was due chiefly, I imagine, to the fact that all of us recognized in 
him a certain independence and profundity of thought. He was 
interested in the large problems of Biology. Concerning these 
problems he thought continually and deeply and along lines of his 
own. Those who were brought into close association with him, 
as students, appreciated this fact and at once accepted him as an 
intellectual guide and master. Matters of laboratory technique 
they might have to acquire from other sources, but from him they 
obtained the stimiilus to real thinking." 

Many of us might subscribe to the statement of one that "there 
are few men to whom I feelso much beholden," and very many are 
voiced in the words of another: "I owe Dr. Brooks a large debt of 
gratitude for what he did for me. I have often wondered why he 
let me do some of the things I did without any protest. Maybe 
he felt that sense would come after a while." 

His contact with his pupils was not only in the laboratory and 



454 LEADING AMERICAN MEN OF SCIENCE 

lecture-rooms but in the unconventional months at the seaside and 
in the intimacy of his evening reading at his home where the stu- 
dents were welcomed to his family circle and enjoyed Brooks' 
exposition of technical papers, philosophical writings, travels of 
naturalists, or even Kingsley's Water Babies and a poem of Hood. 

Professor Brooks was not given to self-seeking and canvassing 
for academic preferments and honors, but his worth was not 
without recognition. Very early, when but thirty-six years old, 
he was elected member of the National Academy. Williams 
College in 1893, and Hobart in 1899, and the University of Penn- 
sylvania in 1906, bestowed upon him the honorary LL.D. degree. 

He was chosen a member of the American Philosophical Society 
in 1886, and of the Academy of Natural Sciences in 1887. He 
was a member of the Boston Society of Natural History, the 
American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Maryland Academy 
of Arts and Sciences, and the American Society of Zoologists while 
a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of 
Science and of the Royal Microscopical Society. He was editor 
of the quarto series of Memoirs from the Biological Laboratory 
published by the Johns Hopkins University, and one of the editors 
of the Journal of Experimental Zoology and of the Studies from 
the Biological Laboratory of the Johns Hopkins University. He 
was Lowell Lecturer in 1901, and gave one of the chief addresses 
in 1907 before the International Zoological Congress in Boston. 

For his scientific discoveries on the oyster he was awarded, in 
1883, the medal of the Soci^te d'Acclimatation of Paris and for his 
work on the stomatopods of the Challenger Expedition received 
a Challenger Medal. He also received a medal for an address at 
the St. Louis Exposition of 1904. 

If in reviewing the life of this man who has been called "a sub- 
limely simple man of rare and subtle culture" we ask what quali- 
ties of mind and character and what training have guided his con- 
tributions to the advance of science in America we must first 
clearly realize that in him the inborn overcame the obstacles of 
his experience however important may have been the circumstances 
of his life in shaping his self-expression. If with Professor Brooks 



WILLIAM KEITH BROOKS 455 

we speak of inherent properties as nature and of superinduced 
changes of experience as nurture, in the life of Brooks we must 
emphasize the great importance of his nature ; the childlike excel- 
lencies and deep thought-power given him from his origin while 
on the other hand the value of his nurture should not be over- 
looked. One of his early companions has recently said: "In all 
his training at home, in school and at college he was rigidly sur- 
rounded with influences adverse to original research or to scientific 
study." But we must not forget the formative power of his 
mother's influence, his church and school training, his college 
life and contact with great naturalists and later his rich oppor- 
tunities at the Johns Hopkins and its seaside laboratories. 

His talents were inborn and overcame obstacles and assimilated 
opportunities; but other opportunities might have made a very 
different result. His life was reactive to environment, but the 
environment acted as a stimulus and he reacted after his kind 
and was not passively molded by circumstances. 

When all is said, William Keith Brooks was able to leave his 
mark on the development of science in America not so much by 
any "mystery" of "genius" as by stubborn labor, conscientious 
application to duty, by pertinacity of purpose, by concentration 
of his forces upon what he could do, by wisely seizing opportunities 
for self-expression, by living much in the ideal world so that he 
was not crushed by the weight of daily burdens and above all by 
being able to keep much of his child spirit even to the end. 



INDEX 



Abb^, Prof. Cleveland, 140 

Abel, Niels Henrik, 17 

Abiogenesis, 194 

Acoustics, see Sound, phenomena of 

Actinaria, see Actinoidea 

Actinoidea, 246 

Actinozoa, see Actinoidea 

Adams, Dr. J. F. A., 201 note 

Agassiz, Alexander, 159 

Agassiz, Jean Louis Rodolphe, birth 
and inheritance, 148; early love 
for science, 149; academic career, 
149-151; personaUty, 150; reli- 
gious attitude, 151; association 
with Von Martins, 152; honors, 
153, 154; poverty, 153, 154; 
dream of a fossil fish, 153; be- 
friended by Humboldt, 154; mar- 
riages, 154, 157; visits to England, 
155; interest in glaciers, 155, 168; 
lectures in America, 156; pro- 
fessor at Harvard and at Charles- 
ton Medical School, 157, 158; 
influence on science, 157; begins 
Contributions to the Natural His- 
tory of the U. S., 159; voyages in 
The Hassler and The Bibb, 161; 
laboratory at Penikese Island 
161; opposition to Darwinian 
theory, 168, 194 and note, 248; 
death, 169; association with Dr. 
J. B. Holder, 147; qualities as a 
scientist, 148; lecture courses at 
Harvard, 178; weight of brain, 
196; theory of glacial drift, 263; 
also 109, 193, 263, 267, 270, 271, 
272, 277, 289, 313, 433, 435, 437, 

438 
Agassiz, Mrs. Elizabeth Graves 

Gary, 157, 158, 167 
Albatross, The, 401 
Alcantara, Dom Pedro d', 387 
Alcyonaria, see Actinoidea 
Aldrovandi, Ulysses, 393 
Alexander, Prof. Stephen, 128 



Alternation of generations, 436 

Amblystoma, Metamorphosis of Sire- 
don into, by O. C. Marsh, 292 

American Fishes, by G. B. Goode, 
400 

American Journal of Mathematics, 
381 

American Journal of Mineralogy, 109 

American Journal of Science, 89, 
109, 110, IIS note, 177, 193, 23s, 
240; 243, 255, 289, 290, 302 

American Naturalist, 332, 335 

American Ornithology, by Alexander 
Wilson, 51, 61, 62, 64-66, 68 

Amphibia and Reptilia, pubUca- 
tions on, by E. D. Cope, 328 

Amphioxus, 440 

Anatomy, Wyman's definition of, 
178 

Anderson, John, 161 

Anderson, Robert, 101 

Anhinga anhinga, see Snake-bird 

Animal Mechanics, by Bell and 
Wyman, 173 note, 191 

Annual Record of Science and In- 
dustry, 272 

Antarctic continent, discovery of, 
238; see also Wilkes Exploring 
Expedition 

Anthozoa, see Actinoidea 

Anthropoid Apes, by Robert Hart- 
mann, 188 note 

Antichnes, 255, 256 

Anticlinorium, type of mountain 
range, 256 

Apgar, Prof. 163 

Appalachians, type of mountain 
structure, 255, 257 

Arago, Dominique Franpois, 114 

Archeological collections of O. C. 
Marsh, 305 

Archibald, Dr. R. C, 381 

Arkansas River, expedition to ex- 
plore the sources, 61 

Asteroids, see Astronomy 

457 



458 



INDEX 



Astronomy, 372, 374, 376, 388; see 
also Newcomb, Simon 

Atolls, see Coral reefs 

Audubon, John James, birth, 71; 
descent and early education, 72; 
sent to America, 73; drawings of 
birds, 73, 74; extravagant tastes, 
73; return to France, 74; marriage, 
74; business career, 74, 76; meet- 
ing with Wilson, 76; applies for 
position on Lewis and Clark ex- 
pedition, 76; financial calamity, 
77; drawing portraits and teach- 
ing, 77, 80; first idea of publishing 
bird drawings, 78; friends and 
enemies, 79; publishes one hun- 
dred plates, 80; success in Edin- 
burgh, 81; visits to America, 81; 
letter press begun and work com- 
pleted, 82; settles in New York 
city, 82; preparation of Quadru- 
peds of North America, 82; physi- 
cal failure, 83; death, 84; attitude 
toward \Vilson and comparison 
with, 67, 69, 84-86; merits of his 
work, 84-87; assistance of Mc- 
Gillivray in preparation of Synop- 
sis, 85; personality, 71, 77, 80, 83, 
87; also 272, 273, 427 

Audubon, John Woodhouse, 83 

Bache, Prof. Alexander Dallas, 132, 

134 
Bachman, Rev. John, 81-83 
Bacon, Francis, Lord Verulam, 341, 

350 
Bahama Islands, expeditions to, 442, 

443 

Baird, Spencer FuUerton, birth, con- 
temporaries, and education, 270; 
Secretary of Smithsonian Institu- 
tion, 271, 275; other scientists 
compared with, 271, 275; list of 
works between 1858 and iSyo, 
272; versatility, 273; Commis- 
sioner of U. S. Fish and Fisheries, 
273; quaHties as organizer, 277; 
honors at home and abroad, 279; 
domestic fife, 279; death, 280; also 
80, 83, 87, 313, 317, 392-394, 398, 
402 

Bakewell, Robert, 105 

Bakewell, Thomas W., 76 

Balanoglossus, 441 



Baldwin, Loammi, 11-13 
Bald^vin apple, origin of, 13 
Ball, Sir Robert S., 363 
Ballistics, Science of, 18 
Bancroft, Edward, 355 
Banks, Sir Joseph, 19, 97 
Barosaurus, 304 
Barrier reefs, see Coral reefs 
Barton, Benjamin S., 63, 95 
Bartram, William, 57, 61, 64, 68 
Bateson, William, 441 
Batrachia, publications on, by E. D. 

Cope, 328, 329 
Baur, Dr. George, 328, 329 
Bavaria, Duke of, 20, 41 
Bavaria, experiences of Count Rum- 
ford in, 20, 27, 28; see also Munich 
Beaman, Miss Mary, 163 
Bean, Tarleton HoiTman, 399, 401 
Beaufort, North Carolina, marine 

laboratory at, 441, 442, 444 
Beck, Dr. Romeyn, 121 
Bee, Cell of the, assertion concerning, 

by Lord Brougham, 197 
Bell, John G., 83, 272 
Bell, Sir Charles, 173 note 
Benjamin, Dr. Marcus, 391 
Berkeley, George, Bishop, 432 
Berkeley scholarship, Yale, 289 
Berlin, Fisheries Exhibition at, 

1880, 394 
Berthelot, Pierre Eugfene Marcellin, 

17 

Beyrich (Berlin), 290 

Bigelow, Dr. Jacob, 13 

Bigsby gold medal, 307, 337 

Billings, Dr. John Shaw, 277 

Birds, Kansas Cretaceous, 300 

Birds of America, by J. J. Audubon, 
84 

Birds of North America, by Baird, 
Brewer, and Ridgeway, 272 

Bihb, The, 161 

BibUographies of American Natu- 
ralists, 402 

Black, Dr. Joseph, 98, 99 

Blaine, James Gillespie, 425 

Blake, Henry T., 115 

Blake, The, 401 

Blind-fish, 198 

Blum (Heidelberg), 290 

Bonaparte, Charles Lucien, 78, 84, 
iSS 

Bostwick, A. E., 375 



INDEX 



459 



Botany, science of, in America dur- 
ing Gray's early life, 213-217; 
systematization, 218; see also 
Gray, Asa 

Bowdich, Thomas Edward, 188 

Bowen, Miss Susan, 163 

Bowen, Prof. Francis, 174 

Braun, Dr. August Emil, 150, 151 

Brazil, report on the fishes of, 153 

Brewer, Thomas Mayo, 272 

Brewster, Sir David, loi 

Brewster, James, 109 

Brief and True Report of the New 
Found Land of Virginia, by 
Thomas Harriot, 313 

Brinton, Dr. John H., 181 note 

Brongniart, Alexander, 105, 114 

BrontotheridcE, 299 

Brooks, William Keith, birth, 427; 
maternal influence, 428, 455; an- 
cestry, 42S; education, 430, 432; 
influence of Bishop Berkeley, 432; 
teaching, 433; student under 
Agassiz, 433; assistant in Boston 
Society of Natural History, 434; 
summer school in Cleveland es- 
tablished, 434; work on Salpa, 
435-437; fellow and professor at 
Johns Hopkins, 437, 438; marine 
laboratories, 440, 441; study of 
the oyster, 440, 447, 454; expedi- 
tions to the Bahamas, 442, 443; at 
Woods Hole, 443; researches in 
animal morphology, 444; techni- 
cal and popular papers, 445 ; pub- 
lic lectures, 446; physical handi- 
caps, 448; personal characteris- 
tics, 448; methods as lecturer, 450; 
domestic life, 452; honors, 454; 
editorial work, 454; also 163 

Brougham, Henry, Lord, and the 
cell of the bee, 197 

Brown, Dr. Francis H., 181 note 

Brown, Thomas, 98 

Bruce, Dr. Archibald, 109 

Bruce gold medal, 384 

Brush, Prof. George Jarvis, 236, 408 

Bryce, Hon. James, 387 

Buch, Leopold Von, 154, 262 

Buchan, Earl of, loi 

Buckland, Francis Trevelyan, 155 

Bunsen, Christian Karl Josias, 
Chevalier, 290 

Burnett, Waldo Irving, 202, 205 



Calhoun, John Caldwell, 96 
Calorimeter, experiments with a, 26, 

32, 49 
Cambrian time, 258, 262 
Canby, W. M., 220 
Canino, Prince of, see Bonaparte, 

Charles Lucien 
Cannibalism Among the American 

Aborigines, by Jeffries Wyman, 182 
Cape of Good Hope, observatory at, 

376 
Carnegie, Institution, 377 
Carnot, Sadi, 347 
Case, Leonard, 435 
Cassin, John, 80 
Catastrophism, system of, 256 
Catesby, Mark, 51, 61, 68 
Cavendish, Henry, 97 
Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge, 

Eng., 350 
Cayley,_ Prof. Arthur, 381 
Cenozoic time, mountain-making 

in, 256 
Cephalization, principle of, 246 
Challenger Expedition, 401, 454 
Challenger medal, 454 
Chamberlin, Thomas Crowder, 254 
Chamisso, Louis Charles Adelaide 

de, 260, 436 
Champlain group, 262 
Characteristics of Volcanoes, by J. D. 

Dana, 242 
Chemistry, as a study at Yale, 93; at 

Edinburgh, 98-101; advances in 

the science, 349; see also Gibbs, 

J. W. 
Chesapeake Zoological Laboratory, 

440, 443, 444 
Chicago, World's Columbian Expo- 
sition, iSq3, 394 
Chimpanzee, paper on, by Savage 

and Wyman, 186; see also Gorilla 
Chiriqui, Province of, antiquities 

from, 306 
Choate, Hon. Rufus, 132 
Clarence, Prince William Henry, 

Duke of, 19 
Clapham circle, The, 97 
Clark, Alvan, and Sons, makers of 

Washington telescope, 378, 379 
Clark telescope at Yale, 104 . 
Clarke, Dr. S. F., 446 
Classification, Mineralogical, basis 

of, 244 



460 



INDEX 



Clausius, Rudolf Julius Emanuel, 

347 
Cockerell, Theodore Dru Alison, 278, 

393 
Codman, Dr. John, 98 
Comstock, Theodore S., 435 
Conant, Dr. F. S., 444 
Concave grating, invention of, 41s, 

416 
Conn, Dr. Herbert William, 442 
Connecticut, Report of a geological 

survey by Percival and Shepard, 

106 
Conrads, Timothy Abbott, 273 
Contributiotis to the Natural History 

of the U. S., by J. L. R. Agassiz, 

159 

Convection, researches in, 37 

Cooking range, 33 

Coolidge, Joseph, 86 

Cope, Edward Drinker, ancestry 
and birth, 314; lack of early train- 
ing, 316; papers on herpetology, 
318, visit to Europe, 319; pro- 
fessor at Haverford College, 319; 
marriage, 319; work in paleon- 
tology, 320, 321; discoveries of 
new types, 322; publications, 322, 
328, 329; surveying in New Mex- 
ico, 323; private expeditions, 325; 
domestic life, 326; lines of research 
pursued, 327; classification of 
fishes, 327; and of amphibians, 
328; contributions to fossil mam- 
mals, 329; reclassification of vmgu- 
lates, 330; philosophical writings, 
331 ; owner and editor of American 
Naturalist, 335; professor at Uni- 
versity of Pennsylvania, 336; 
h