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Cultures and Institutions of Natural History 
Essays in the History and Philosophy of Science 

Edited by 

Michael T. Ghiselin 


Alan E. Leviton 

California Academy of Sciences 

San Francisco, California 


I \ 

Convrieht €'2000 by the California Academy ot Sciences , , 


Published by the California Academy of Sciences 
Golden Gale Park. San Francisco. California 941 18. USA 
Memoirs of the California Academy of Sciences No. 25 

ISBN 0-940228-48-3 

Library of Congress Card Catalog Number 00- 1 3 1 784 

This book has been composed in Adobe Systems Times Roman 

Typeset in the United States of American by the California Academy of Sciences 

in Ventura Professional Publisherfl); camera-ready copy produced on a 

Lexmark Optra R*" laser printer. 

Printed in the United Stales of America by 

Norcal Printers. San Francisco. California 

This is the first of a series of volumes that will be issued 

to commemorate the Sesquicentennial of the 

California Academy of Sciences 


All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or 
transmitted in any fomi or by any means, electronic or mechanical, 
including photocopying, recording, or any infomiation storage or 
retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. 


Introduction, by A/K/iae/ rG/f/.s-t-//;; and .4/(7/; £. Lev;7on (San Francisco. California) 1 

18th and 19th Centuries 

The Museum and the Academy: Geology and Paleontology in the Academia dei Fisiocritici 

of Siena During the 18th Century, by £r/o Cflccan (Geneva. Italy) 5 

Considerations of Certain Pecularities in Scientific Institutions in Central Europe in the 

Eighteenth Century, by Agnese Visconti (Pavia. Italy) 27 

The Founders of Morphology as Alchemists, by A//c/iae/r. G/i/.se/m (San Francisco, California) 39 

India; A Case Study of Natural History in a Colonial Setting, by Alan E. Leviron and 

A//cMeZ.. .-(/(/nW; (San Francisco. California and Ithaca. New York) 51 

The Museums and the Construction of Natural Sciences in Brazil in the 19th Century, by 

A/an'fl Mar^are/ lope? (Campinas, Sao Paulo, Brazil) 81 

Spencer Baird"s Dream: A U.S. National Museum, by fame/a M //f/7,so/! (Washington, DC) 101 

Paleontology m Washington DC: A Brief History of Institutional Change or the Waxing 

and Waning of Two Disparate Organizations, by £///5 I. }bc7!c'/.w;! (Washington. DC) 127 

Samurai at the Smithsonian: First Japanese Visitors to a Western-Style Museum in the U.S.. 

by Kae Takarahe (Hagoya. Japan) 161 

West & East: The California Academy of Sciences and the Smithsonian Institution. 

bv .V/zWit'/c-i, .-(Wnc/i and /l/an£. iewYon (Ithaca, New York and San Francisco. California) ... 183 

People. Plants, and Politics: The Development of Institution-Based Botany in California. 

1853-1906. by Sarfcarafmer (Berkeley. California) 203 

Agassiz's Notions of a Museum: The Vision and the Myth, by Maiy Pickard Winsor 

(Toronto. Canada) 249 

A Bioeconomic Perspective on the Organization of the Naples Marine Station, by 

M/c/jat"/ r. C/;/.ve//« and C/;m/yfl/it' G/-oe/)(?/; (San Francisco. California, and Naples. Italy) .... 273 

The Institutions of Natural History versus Herbert Spencer. 1890-1895. 

by Daniel Becquemont(L'\\\e. francs) 287 

20th Century 

The Awkward Embrace, by Z,eoF. laPorfe (Redwood City. California) 301 

■An Essay on the History of the Biosystematists of the San Francisco Bay Area, 

by William Z. Lidicker. Jr. (Berkeley, California) 315 

Scientific Research versus Public Exhibits: A Schizophrenic Aspect of Natural History 

.Vluseums, by Giovanni Pinna (Milan, Italy) 329 

A Philosophy for Natural History Museums, by C/ora/!;»/'//ma (Milan, Italy) 333 

The Ranks and the Names of Species and Higher Taxa, or a Dangerous Inertia of the 

Language of Natural History, by /)fe.wa;i(/raA///;e///(Padova. Italy) 339 

INDEX 353 

Cultures and Institutions of Natural History 

Essays in the History and Philosophy of Science 


This volume consists mainly of papers delivered at two meetings cosponsored by the Museo 
Civico di Storia Naturale in Milan and the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. The 
first, on the Culture of Natural History, was held in Milan, November 14-16, 1996. The second, on 
Institutions of Natural History, was held in San Francisco, October 5-7, 1998. They followed two 
earlier conferences on Biology as History (Pinna and Ghiselin 1996; Ghiselin and Pinna 1996) 
likewise held in Milan and San Francisco. We intend to continue the series of meetings and have 
publications based on them in commemoration of the Academy's sesquicentennial in 2003. 

The emphasis here is mainly upon natural history museums and the kind of science that goes on 
in them. Although the essays were originally written to stand by themselves, when arranged in 
chronological order they suggest a common theme. To paraphrase Darwin, the culture and institutions 
of natural history have been, and are being, evolved. They have adapted to local circumstances, 
diversified, and sometimes even progressed. We may hope that the fiiture holds more than just 
retrogression and extinction in store. 

Read as case studies the essays provide valuable insights mto not just how, but why, the 
institutions have come into being and subsequently been transfonned. Previous generations had quite 
different ideas than we do about how a collection of naturalia is supposed to function and how it 
should be organized. And there were conflicting goals and serious disputes about policy, much as 
there are today. Often, though not always, the institutions turn out to be very different from what had 
been envisioned by their founders. 

Although it was not deliberate, we have given our Italian colleagues both the first word and the 
last. Obviously Italy has a long history. We should not be surprised at Italians being concerned about 
the future as well. Essays about what happened on tiie East Coast of the United States tend to precede 
those about what happened in California. The traditional historiography of biology has proceeded as 
if e\erything important happened within a few miles of Boston, or for those with more of a laboratory 
orientation, Baltimore. Materials that help to correct the imbalance are included, and in this case it 
was deliberate. A few other parts of the world that have been neglected are considered here as well. 

Ezio Vaccari begins with a discussion on a very old geological and paleontological institution 
in Italy. Agnese Visconti shows how scientific academies in central Europe have been organized on 
the basis of quite different philosophies, and with important effects upon the scientific quality of the 
research. Michael Ghiselin argues that alchemy has had important, but virtually neglected, influences 
upon some branches of biology. Next there are two essays on natural history museums in parts of the 
world far distant from Europe. Alan Leviton and Michele Aldrich consider India as an example of 
colonial science and argue that contrary to the views of some historiographers, colonial science was 
neither done by lesser minds nor was it subservient to the special interest of the stay-at-home European 
savants. Maria Lopes treats museums of nineteenth century Brazil. Then come four essays having to 
do with museums in Washington D.C. The early history of the Smithsonian is treated in some detail 
by Pamela Benson. The disciplines of geology and paleontology engaged the attention of two separate 
organizations in that city, the Smithsonian Institution and the U.S. Geological Suney, and Ellis 
Yochelson considers ainong other things some of the consequences of that. Kae Takarabe recounts 
the mid- 1 9th century visit of some Japanese dignitaries, who obviously had very different values than 
those of their hosts. Michele Aldrich and Alan Leviton next discuss the relationships between the 
Smithsonian Institution and the California Academy of Sciences, and the focus shifts to the West 
Coast. Barbara Ertter examines botany in California, considering several institutions, some highly 



significant personalities and their personal likes and dislikes, often for one another, and the shift from 
free-standing museum to university-based research. Returning to the East, Mary P. Winsor's study 
of the organization of the Museum of Comparative Zoology reveals how the rationale was linked to 
the conduct of research in a manner that had not been previously understood. Rounding out the 
treatment of the nineteenth century, we have essays on Anton Dohm and Herbert Spencer. Michael 
Ghiselin and Christiane Groeben explain the success of Dohm's manne laboratory in Naples, Italy, 
in terms of bioeconomic theory. By contrast, Daniel Becquemont shows how Herbert Spencer became 
marginalized as the professional evolutionary biologists developed their own laboratories and 
journals. Leo Laporte examines the life of one of the giants of twentieth century paleontology, George 
Gaylord Simpson, explaining the difficulties he had with his employers and his colleagues in museum 
settings. William Lidicker considers an old and venerable club of scientists, the Bay Area Biosys- 
tematists, which attracted both experimentalists and museum specialists, thus helping to flesh out our 
account of natural history in California. To bring this volume to a close, two essays by Giovanni Pinna 
deal with the philosophy of natural history museums and his perspective on the relationship between 
research and public exhibits. And, lastly, Alessandro Minelli addresses some possible changes in the 
manner in which scientific names are bestowed upon groups of organisms, a matter, that, in one guise 
or another, has been of concern to museum-based scientists for more than two centuries. 

If there is one thread that clearly connects all of the essays in this volume, it is that the science 
which engages the attention of museum scientists, from its earliest days, changes along with its 
sponsoring institutions. The essays in the volume show that change is not only not a stranger to those 
associated with museums, but that museum scientists often play leading roles in initiating the very 
changes to which they and their institutions must then adapt. 

At this point, we want to express our appreciation to the many people who in one way or another 
participated in the development of this volume. We already noted that many of those who contributed 
papers to the volume also took part in one or more of the workshops at which they gave oral 
presentations. We must add that several of the papers the editors chose to include came by invitation; 
these include the paper by Pamela Henson and two additional contributions she recommended, one 
by Maria Margaret Lopes and a second by Kae Takarabe. Also, William Lidicker's essay on the Bay 
Area Biosystematists, originally submitted for publication in another Academy series, was transferred 
to this volume because the editors felt it contained material gemiane to their central theme. And then, 
there is the long list of reviewers who pored through each of the papers with fine-toothed combs. We 
want to take this opportunity to acknowledge the work they did and to thank them for taking on what 
is ofttimes a not-too-pleasant job. In addition to the contributors, several of whom were asked to 
review one or more of the papers, other than their own, we are appreciative of the work done by Steve 
Anderson (University of the Pacific), Kennard Bork (Denison University), William Brice (University 
of Pittsburgh at Johnstown), Thomas Daniel (California Academy of Sciences), Robert Drewes 
(California Academy of Sciences), J. Thomas Dutro, Jr. (U.S. Geological Survey, Washington, DC), 
Terrence Gosliner (California Academy of Sciences), Mikael Harlin (University of Viixjo), James 
Griesemer (University of California, Davis), Nina Jablonski (California Academy of Sciences), 
Patrick Kociolek (California Academy of Sciences), Ernst Mayr (Harvard University), Nancy Slack 
(Russell Sage College), Alberto Simonetta (University of Florence), Joseph Slowinski (California 
Academy of Sciences), and Betty Smocovitis (University of Florida). Lastly, we are pleased to 
acknowledge Michele Aldrich who not only helped in the ordinary review process but then read the 
entire work with an eagle eye, saving both the editors and authors from countless embarrassments. 



About the time of 1996 meeting of our informal group of essayists, our friend and colleague 
Giovanni Pinna retired as director of the Museo Civico di Storia Naturale. Subsequently, he has played 
a leading role in the formulation of museum policy as well as being a prolific author. Given the role 
he played in establishing our collaboration and given his ongoing commitment to the continuation of 
the biannual meetings of the group, we take great pleasure in dedicating this volume to Professor 
Pinna. We and our friends and associates who have participated in these programs look fonvard to 
many more years of productive collaboration with Giovanni Pinna. 

Michael T. Ghiselin and Alan E. Levi ion 

San Francisco, California 

3 1 July 2000 

Giovanni Pinna 

At the California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, 

for the fourth international meeting of the consortium 

on Cultures and Institutions of Natural Histor>' in the 

Biological and Earth Sciences, November 6, 1998 


The Museum and the Academy 

Geology and Paleontology in the Accademia dei 

Fisiocritici of Siena during the 18th Century 


Centre di Studio sulla Storia della Tecnica. C.N.R. 

\ia Baibi 6. 16126 Geneva. Italy 

tel. +39 0102465459 fax +39 0102099826 

E-mail: ezio.vaccarifii 

This paper analyzes the role of an early geological and paleontological museum within 
an 18th century scientific academy, the Accademia dei Fisiocritici of Siena in Italy. Starting 
as a small cabinet, it de\eloped gradually as a more articulated natural history museum 
during the 1 9th century. The case of Siena was not isolated in Italy because, for example, 
the importance of the paleontological collection of Giuseppe Monti {Museum Diluvianum) 
in the Institute of Science of Bologna at the beginning of the century can also be cited. The 
establishment of a 'specialized' museum at the Fisiocritici confirms the fundamental 18th 
century links among geological fieldwork, production of scientific writings, collection, 
classification and display of naturalistic specimens. Thanks to the scientific activity of the 
Fisiocritici, today Siena has a museum of natural history linked to the L'niversity and 
created within an .\cademy as a significant expression of the 18th century Italian science. 


Questo studio ricostruiscc la formazione ed il ruolo di un museo geologico e paleon- 
tologico all'interno di un'accademia scientifica settecentesca, I'Accademia dei Fisiocritici 
di Siena. Le prime collezioni di fossili. rocce e minerali furono infatti il punto di partenza 
per la costituzione ed il graduate ampliamento di un articolato museo di storia naturale 
nel corso delfOttocento. II caso senese non fu unico nell'Italia del Setteccnto, poiche basta 
ricordare, ad esempio, Pimportanza della collezione paleontologica (Museum Diluvianum) 
costituita da Giuseppe Monti nell'Istituto delle Scienze di Bologna all'inizio del secolo. La 
creazione di un primo museo 'specializzato' airinterno dell'.-\ccademia dei Fisiocritici 
conferma quindi il fondamentale rapporto settecentesco tra ricerca geologica sul eampo, 
produzione di scritti scientifici, raccolta, classificazione ed esposizione di campioni fossili, 
rocciosi e minerali. Grazie all'attivita scientifica dei Fisiocritici oggi Siena dispone di un 
museo di storia naturale collegato all'L'niversita e formatosi aU'interno di un'accademia 
che rappresenta un'espressione signiflcativa dello sviluppo della scienza italiana nel 

The role of the scientific academies and the meaning of their naturalistic museums are significant 
topics, though still too little studied, within the rich context of the Italian natural sciences in the 1 8th 
century. During the last decades, historians have undertaken fascinating studies of naturalistic 
collecting in the 16th and in the 17th centuries, as recently shown by the detailed works of Giuseppe 
Olmi (1992) and Paula Findlen( 1994), as well asby se\'eral interdisciplinaty studies on the '"Cabinet 
of Curiosities" and "Wunderkammem" (Lugli, 1983; Impey and MacGregor, 1985). However, if in 
the 16th and 17th centuries the collections and museums of natural history — together with the 
botanical gardens — can be considered alternative and complementary to the culture of universities 
and academies (Maccagni, 1981), in the 18th century this relationship started to change. Naturalistic 


collections were still mainly assembled and owned by individuals who were not always linked to 
institutions, but gradually some of these collections became part of the scientific academies, which 
also established new museums in their premises. 

This turning-point took place in particular, but not exclusively, within State-supported institu- 
tions, such as major national academies, which "were more likely to possess well-equipped astro- 
nomical observatories, botanical gardens, laboratories, and cabinets of natural history or experimental 
physics" (McClellan, 1985:16). The Italian academicians began to contribute to the building of these 
museums of "natural curiosities" while collecting specimens for their own private cabinets: in some 
significant cases, distinguished naturalists were directly involved in the curation of the academic 
museuins and vouched for their quality and authenticity. Consequently, from the late 18th century, 
academic museums were regularly visited by foreign travellers and were enriched by donations of 
private collections from the members of a local scientific community. 

General Considerations 

This paper mtends to stress a relevant aspect for the study of the scientific academies and for the 
historical development of a culture of natural history in Italy. The subject is the making and the 
function of an early specialized naturalistic museum. The example studied is based on the geological 
and paleontological collections within the Accademia delle Scienze delta de ' Fisiocritici of Siena in 
Tuscany, one of the major Italian scientific academies of the second half of the I8th century. 

This case-study involves some significant issues: 

( 1) First of all, it confinns the general 18th century redefinition of natural history, which led to 
a redefinition of the naturalistic museum itself The main goal was no longer to assemble "Cabinets 
of Curiosities" and "Wunderkammem," as in the two previous centuries, but a "more systematic and 
nonnative approach to collecting" (Findlen, 1994:399), which determined the creation of the first 
specialized museums. These collections started to be 'disciplinai^ oriented' — especially toward 
zoology, botany, and paleontology — for example the paleontological Museum Diluvianum in the 
Isiiruio delle Scienze of Bologna (Institute of Science, later Academy of Science). This impressive 
collection was assembled by Giuseppe Monti (1682-1760), probably during the 1710s, and was 
initially located in his own house (Sarti, 1988, 1992). In 1720, Monti became assistant to the director 
of the Museum of Natural History of the Institute of Science of Bologna. During the following years 
he travelled extensively in the Bolognese hills and in the northern Apennines to collect specimens to 
enrich his Museum Diluvianum. 

(2) Moreover, the case of the Fisiocritici shows the process of gradual opening to the public of 
an institution originally conceived as a closed elitarian group. This was determined in part by its 
transfomiation to a State-supported official academy in 1 759. A contributing factor was also the early 
links with the University of Siena, which became particularly strong during the 19th century and 
determined the present state of symbiosis betweeen the two institutions. Consequently the 'use' of 
the naturalistic museum within the Academy gradually moved from the original function of a 
systematic and illustrative support of researches of academicians toward display and didactic 

(3) Finally, the early naturalistic museum at the Fisiocritici was strongly linked to fieldwork in 
surrounding localities. In fact the geological and paleontological collections assembled during the 
1 8th and 19th centuries largely represented the results of several detailed researches in the Tuscan 
territory; but to historians they also show the conscious attempt of a community of scientists to 
reconstruct a geological history based on a regional scale. Within this context, the making of an 


academic museum was not the aim which determined the fieldwork, rather it was the consequence 
of that typical exploring attitude of the 18th-century Tuscan naturalists, so well described in the 
writings of Francesco Rodolico (1945; 1963). 

Italian scientific academies in the 18th century were essentially centers for presentation and 
discussion of individual researches, which were later officially difflised through printed transactions 
— such as Atti, Commentarii, Memorie or Memoires — though often without a regular periodicity. 
McClellan (1985:99-104; 127—133) has provided a short overview of the activity of the Italian 
scientific academies, mainly based on secondary literature. A modem comparative historical study, 
which analyzes in depth the socio-political context and the scientific production of these societies, is 
still needed. Such a study could start from the excellent work undertaken in recent years by several 
historians on the history of the Academy of Sciences of Bologna (Universita degli Studi di Bologna, 
1979; Tega, 1986; Tega, 1987; Cavazza, 1990; Angelini, 1993). 

In spite of the lively context of activities of the 18th-century Tuscan academies, which attracted 
the interest of the skillful historian Eric W. Cochrane (1953; 1961), the Academy of Fisiocritici is 
probably one of the most neglected of the Italian scientific societies. The only works available on its 
early history are the old writings by Carlo Sanquirico (1891), Michele Mayiender (1929) and 
Francesco Spirito ( 1 934), the booklet by Carlo Ricci ( 1 972) and some papers on the history of science 
in Siena (Baccetti et al., 1985), which also treat particular aspects of the scientific activities of the 
Fisiocritici. Most of these works are based on the same manuscript source, compiled by Massimiliano 
Ricca in 1818 (Ricci, 1985a), which deals with the early history of the Fisiocritici. This unsatisfactory 
historiographical situation is not due to lack of primary sources: in fact, the richness of the archives 
of the Senese academy recently has been described in detail in the printed catalogue of its oldest 
materials, such as manuscripts, letters and documents of the 17th and 18th centuries (Bacci, Parrini 
and Vannozzi. 1994). Furthermore, the existence of manuscripts and correspondence related to the 
eariy years of the Academy, kept in the Public Library (Biblioteca Comunale) of Siena, was also well 
known to historians (Mayiender, 1929:25-26; Ricci, 1972:37-49). 

Early History of the Fisiocritici 

The Fisiocritici Academy of Siena, one of the oldest Italian scientific academies, was founded 
in 1691 by Pirro Maria Gabbrielli( 1643-1705), a 
Senese professor of theoretical medicine and bot- 
any, together with twenty other scholars (Fig. 1 ). 
Its establishment as "accademia fisico medica" 
was probably inspired by the Florentine Acca- 
demia del Cimento (Academy of Experiment, 
1657-1667). In fact, the first article of its aca- 
demic constitution stated that the work of the 
Senese academy had to be based on "nuove espe- 
rienze" (new experiments). The early years of 
Fisiocritici's activity, until the death of Gabbrielli, 
were devoted mainly to physical experiments and 

medical lectures, as shown by the content of two 

I c ui-uj J J- Figure 1. Shield adopted in 1692 bv the Academy of 

manuscript volumes 01 unpublished academic dis- ^ . .u.u .. .i' a' . ■ ci •• 

•^ ^ risiocntici, with the motto V ens quod possit vmcere ralsa 

sertations dating from 1691 to 1731 (Fisiocritici. (from Lucretius Dc /m™ m;mra) and the Lapis Lidius. the 
Dissertazioni, 1691—1731). During this period, stone for testing the authenticity ofgold and silver. 


the Fisiocritici organized several private and public meetings in the library of the Senese main 
Hospital ("Spedale grande"), where Gabbrielli usually gave his lectures in medicine. Later, thanks to 
the influential protection of the Medici family — in particular Cardinal Francesco Maria Medici, 
brother of the Granduke Cosimo III — the Academy enlarged its activities, and in 1694 it obtained 
a new residence within the University of Siena. 

The academicians gathered periodically in a room called "Sala della Sapienza" (Fig. 2) for all 
the meetings, which were careflilly recorded in the minute-books (Fisiocritici. Verbali, 1691—1768). 
In the private meetings, the new members and officers were nominated and various decisions about 
internal rules were taken. In each public meeting, four lectures were given and also physical 
experiments were displayed to different kinds of audience. For this reason, some instalments were 
kept in the academic room; the "heliometro fisiocritico," the sundial or meridian line made by 
Gabbrielli in 1703-04 (Gabbrielli, 1705), and the so called "antlia pneumatica" or "pneumatic 
horizontal machine of Boyle," which was often used in public demonstrations between April 1701 
and December 1704 (Fisiocritici. Verbali, 1691-1768). The latter was an early 18th-century modifi- 
cation of the air-pump, originally conceived as a vertical instrument by the Anglo-Irish scholar Robert 
Boyle (1627-1691), that was constructed by his assistant Robert Hooke (1635-1702) and first 
described in 1660 (Shapin, 1985). The air-pump kept at the Fisiocritici had been constructed by 
Gabbrielli ( De Gregorio, 1 992: 1 70). It was used to perfonn several experiments, including impressive 
demonstrations of the power of the vacuum pressure of the air, different observations on the behaviour 
of air, both compressed and expanded, and also the fact that both life and combustion were impossible 
in the vacuum. According to Cochrane (1961:127), the Fisiocritici also constructed "a 'Torricellian 
tube,' or mercury barometer, upon which they based their discussion of weight, gravity, and the 
density of the atmosphere." 

C?' €B '^ 

FiCil'RE 2. ".Sala della Sapien/a." Ihe meeting room of the .'\cademy of Fisiocritici iplate putilished in Gahbnelli. 1705). 


Therefore, it is evident that at the beginning of its history the Academy of Fisiocrilici housed 
some physical instruments, but still no naturalistic specimens. There is no mention of a possible 
establishment of a museum in the first constitution of the Academy (Fisiocrilici. Dissertazioni, 
1691— 1731 :cc. 3^). In particular, the unpublished dissertations and the minute-books from 1691 to 
1 750 show only occasional interest for subjects relating to the Earth sciences, apart from some lectures 
on earthquakes, which were a frequent phenomenon in the Senese area, and an isolated but 
significantly timely presentation of the book by Carl Nicolaus Lang (1670- 1741), Historia Lapidum 
Figwatonim Helvetiae (1708), where the Swiss fossils were considered as fonned by dust bonie 
genns of living species (Fisiocritici. Verbali, 1691-1768:17 giugno 1708). 

Giuseppe Baldassarri and the Natural History Collection 

A few years after the death of Gabrielli, from about 1710, the Fisiocritici went through a long 
period of crisis, which ended in 1759 when the Tuscan regency government of Francis of Lorraine 
assumed both financial and management control of the Academy (Pasta, 1992; De Gregorio, 1992). 
The central figure of this process of reopening, which took place after about 15 years during which 
time no meetings or academic activities were held, was the powerful minister Pompeo Neri (1706- 
1 776). In November 1 759, Neri promoted the establishment of an annual state fiind for the Fisiocritici 
to cover expenses arising from the experiments and for the purchase of new physical instalments ( De 
Gregorio, 1 992: 1 69-1 7 1 ). Meanwhile, again under the direction of Neri, the Academy reinforced its 
links with the University, initially admitting all the professors as members (Fisiocritici. Verbali, 
1691-1768:11 dicembre 1759), and shortly thereafter acquired new thennometers, hygrometers, 
barometers and siphons for public experiments (Fisiocritici. Verbali, 1691-1768:15 aprile 1760). 

In these first years of renewed academic activity, Pompeo Neri also promoted the fomtation of 
a naturalistic collection at the Fisiocritici: he encouraged the interest in natural history shown by some 
academicians and used his political power to convince several Senese nobles to donate specimens 
from their private collections to the new "piccolo museo di cose naturali" (De Gregorio, 1992:183; 
Cochrane, 1961:57, footnote 51). According to the botanist Giovanni Campani (1860:21), who was 
director of the Fisiocritici Museum of Natural History in the late 1 9th century, the museum itself was 
founded in 1759 by Giuseppe Baldassarri (1705-1785). one of the most active members of the 
Fisiocritici. This statement was confirmed by the secretary Emidio Selvani (1865), who also pointed 
out the lack of an academic room suitable for the specimens during these early years. In reality, 
although Baldassarri had started to assemble in his own private collection some rocks and fossils, 
which he collected on frequent fieldtrips in the Senese region during the 1750s, his official 
appointment as curator of the newly established small naturalistic museum at the Fisiocritici was 
ordered by Pompeo Neri only in the summer of 1766 (Fisiocritici. Epistole, 1692-1799, n. 276, 277; 
De Gregorio, 1992:183,205). 

Giuseppe Baldassarri had already been secretary of the Fisiocritici from 1729 to 1732. In 1759 
he had been nominated professor of natural history at the University of Siena, with the duty of 
conducting some experiments at the academic meetings (De Gregorio, 1992:170). His position as 
"Soprintendente" (curator) of the natural history collection, of the sundial and of the physical 
instruments kept at the "Sala della Sapienza," is officially stated by the archival sources on the 29th 
of March 1768, when the Fisiocritici applied to the Granduke Peter Leopold for renewal of 
Baldassarri's appointment as pemianent (Fisiocritici. Verbali, 1768-1812:30 aprile 1768). 

Baldassarri was already well known among the 18th century Italian naturalists, especially after 
the publication of his first works on the clay strata ( 1 750) and on the most remarkable spring of mineral 


waters in the Senese region ( 1 756). In these writings, the Tuscan naturalist paid particular attention 
to the geological investigation of the territory. He also clearly stated the importance of a regional 
collection of "produzioni naturali" (natural products), compiling and publishing together with his 
work the catalogue of the naturalistic museum of the Senese noble Giovanni Venturi Gallerani 
(Baldassarri, 1750). This catalogue was divided in two sections, the first listing minerals, rocks and 
earths, the second, invertebrate fossils ("Testacei Fossili"). The 167 specimens of rocks, minerals and 
fossils were analyzed in relation to their nature and provenance, and were also described in detail 
with the help of the available specialized literature. The absence of the records and our inability to 
recognize in the present museum most of the original naturalistic collection assembled by Baldassarri 
— due to the lack of an 18th century catalogue and of original labels — does not allow us to know 
if the Venturi Gallerani collection was later included in the museum of the Fisiocritici (Guasparri, 
1992:69). In 1772, these two cabinets were still separate, as reported by the Swedish mineralogist 
and traveller Johann Jakob Ferber { 1 743-1 790), who visited the academic museum of the Fisiocritici. 
but regretted not having seen the Venturi Gallerani collection (Ferber, 1776:247-248). 

The formation of the early naturalistic collection of the Academy of Fisiocritici during the last 
forty years of the 18th century was not exclusively the result of the work of Baldassarri, although his 
contribution was certainly flmdamental for enlargement of the museum in the late 1 760s. In fact, 
Baldassarri was not alone in studying the rocks, minerals and fossils of the Senese territory. The 
contents of the first seven volumes of the academic transactions Alti dell 'Accademia delle Scienze di 
Siena detta de ' Fisiocrliici {Bacci. 198 1 ) and the handwritten dissertations read in the public meetings 
(Fisiocritici. Memorie, 1759-1798), which were not always published in iheAtii, show an articulated 
interest by a small but active group of academicians in various geological and paleontological 

The first volume of the Attl. published in 1761, was a special medical issue on the question of 
the inoculation of smallpox (Fadda, 1983); it was followed during the rest ofthe century by six more 
volumes printed in 1763, 1767, 1771, 1774, 1781 and 1794. The significant variety of the scientific 
subjects treated in this first series of transactions, rich in papers also from non-Senese scholars, has 
been well emphasized (Pasta, 1992; De Gregorio and Landi, 1992:172-174); the writings on medical 
topics, the most consistent group of articles published in the Aiil during the 18th century, has been 
analyzed in detail by Francesca Vannozzi (Bacci, Parrini and Vannozzi, 1994:203—245): the precise 
extent ofthe significant contributions devoted to the earth sciences in the Academy of Fisiocritici 
will be the subject of a later study. At this time, however, it is possible to provide the following 
quantitative data: from 1763 to 1794 the Atti published 43 articles on medicine, 25 on mathematics, 
20 on physics, 15 on earth sciences, 1 1 on astronomy, 1 1 on chemistry (of which 8 papers were on 
the analysis of mineral waters), 7 on botany, 5 on hydraulics, 4 on zoology, 3 on civil engineering, 3 
on meteorology, 2 on veterinary medicine, and 2 on agronomy. 

In spite of evident interest for the earth sciences, which, in the Atti, was second only to the 
predominant medical and physical-mathematical sciences, the existence of an organized working- 
group, which systematically contributed to the building of a specialized museum at the Fisiocritici, 
is not proved. Nevertheless, the common attitude of many scholars at the time was to explore in detail 
the Senese territory, describe its "produzioni naturali" (rocks, fossils, minerals, and also plants), and 
collect specimens, which went to increase both their private collection and the academic museum. 

Consequently, these local academicians, sometimes stimulated by different scientific targets, 
soon produced a mosaic of data which gave shape to a sort of 'naturalistic map' ofthe Senese area. 
In this work, the influence ofthe great Florentine scientist Giovanni Targioni Tozzetti (1712-1783) 
was more than evident (Targioni Tozzetti, 1751-1754). The importance ofthe naturalistic travel, the 


accuracy of the observations in the field, the process of collecting specimens, the cataloguing of them 
in a published paper, and finally classifying and displaying them in a museum, were all elements of 
a growing new sense of the natural history within this small but lively scientific community. 

Giuseppe Baldassarri, as curator of the museum and later president of the Academy from 1 772 
to 1785 (year ofhis death), played a central role in stimulating the geological studies of the Fisiocritici 
in the 1760s and in the early 1770s. In his works of those years (Baldassarri, 1763a; 1763b; 1767; 
1771a; 1771b), the collecting of rock and fossil specimens was strictly linked to his interpretations 
of the origin and the formation of strata which he observed in the Senese territory. According to 
Baldassarri { 1 750:6-7; 1 756:23-24), the sea had covered all the Tuscan region for a very long time 
and had determined in successive times the deposition of several kinds of rock strata, which included 
different groups of fossils of the same species, well separated and distinct from each other, as the 
distinguished naturalist AntonioVallisneri had already noticed in his book De ' Corpi Marini (1721). 

The regular distribution of these fossils and the evidences of a series of gradual different 
lithological sedimentations, suggested to Baldassarri ( 1 756:25—26) an interpretation which today can 
be defined as "unifomiitarian." It was expressed by the statement that the natural phenomena — 
mainly of sedimentation and erosion — visible in the present sea also quietly and regularly occurred 
"nella maniera stessa" (in the same way) in the ancient sea which had entirely covered Tuscany. This 
interpretation clearly rejected the idea of a major catastrophic event, such as the Deluge, for explaining 
the geological changes which had occurred in the Senese territory. 

On the other hand, some years later Baldassarri realized that the theorized uniformity, based on 
the constant action of the sea waters, could not explain why some groups of fossils were found 
completely mixed, broken, squashed and confused. Moreover, these fossil remains seemed to be 
related to exotic species not living in the Mediterranean sea. This interpretation was also supported 
by the finding of fossil bones of so called "elephants" in different European regions, including Italy. 

When Baldassarri published his paper on the description of an extraordinary fossil jaw found in 
the Senese territory (1767), he was conscious that the Earth's surface had undergone many "strani 
cangiamenti" (strange changes) during a long and complex geological history. The problem now was 
to find and demonstrate the causes of these changes, which could be also of a catastrophic nature 
("gravi rovesci"). However, the firm rejection of the geological role of the Deluge, not considered 
adequate in explaining all the geological and paleontological features observed in the Senese area, 
also detemiined Baldassarri's scepticism toward the theory of a big fiood, which could have moved 
to Europe the remains of the exotic animals and plants, later to be fossilized. On the other hand, he 
seemed to accept the hypothesis that a much wanner ancient European climate had provided the right 
environment for the life of those species. Nevertheless, he concluded, the real proof of this hypothesis 
was not yet available and too many doubts ("tante incertezze") did not allow him to understand the 
real cause of the Earth's changes. According to Baldassarri, the research-work of the scientists had 
not yet accumulated a sufficient quantity of "materiali" (material data) for solving this geological 
question. His words expressed properly the meaning given to the museum at the Fisiocritici, which 
had just been entrusted to the Senese professor of natural history and was to become the collecting 
place of these "materiali" (Baldassarri, 1767:243-248). 

In fact, in the second part of his paper, Baldassarri described and figured new and important 
specimens which had contributed to the enlargement ofhis reflections on the complexity of the histoiy 
of the Earth (Fig. 3). The specimens included two parts of a fossil jaw, now identified as being from 
a Pliocene mastodon, Aiianciis anx'rnensis {¥'\g. 4), which are still kept in the present paleontological 
collection of the Academy of Fisiocritici in Siena (Guasparri, 1992:84, 87-88). Despite ofhis 
knowledge of the findings of various fossil bones of "Elefanti" (elephants), Balda.ssarri did not relate 



Figure 3. Fossil law described by Giuseppe Baldassam( 1767: plates 6 and 7). 

his specimens to a possible large 
mammal: according to him, the ani- 
mal to whom those bones had be- 
longed was still unknown, but 
|irobably was neither a big fish nor a 
"mostro marino," such as a whale 
(Baldassarri, 1767:249-253). 

Baldassarri's paleontological 
paper was not an isolated contribu- 
tion within the scientific researches 
caiTied out by the Fisiocritici in the 
1 760s. Again, in the third volume of 
the Atii, Francesco Caluri. later pro- 
fessor of logic and practical medi- 
cine at the University of Siena and 
president of the Fisiocritici from 
1785 to 1789, published a detailed 
description of some fossil shells 
found in the Senese hills (Caluri, 
1767). One of these shells was of a 
Pliocene gastropod ("poiporite"), 
very similar to a specimen of 
Hexaple.x couglohatiis that is to this 
day kept in the Museum of 
Fisiocritici (Guasparri, 1992:74). 
The gastropod described by Caluri 
contained an unknown little shell 
(eventually named "crepidula 
parasitica") and he tried to identify 

FioLRE 4. Fossil jaw 
ot the Pliocene mas- 
todon inancus ar- 
\enieiisis. collected 
and described by Gi- 
useppe Baldassarri in 
1 767. as presently 
displayed in the mu- 
seum of the Academy 
of Fisiocritici, Pa- 
leontological Collec- 
tions (photo by E. 



both of them using the available contempo- 
rary literature. It is interesting to note that in 
the plate at the end of the paper (Fig. 5), the 
fossil specimens found in the Senese terri- 
tory (numbered 1-4) were compared with a 
similar living species of the Tyrrhenian Sea 
(numbered 5—7). Caluri undertook his pa- 
leontological fieldwork under the influence 
of Baldassarri's research, and the two scien- 
tists were constantly in contact. In Septem- 
ber 1765 Baldassarri explored the area 
where Caluri had found the fossil shells and 
then communicated his observations to his 
colleague, who was preparing the lecture to 
read at the Fisiocritici in November of the 
same year (Caluri. 1767:265—266, note b). 
Likewise, Caluri entirely adopted Baldas- 
sarri's geological "uniformitarianism," 
based on the idea that an ancient sea had 
covered the Tuscan territory for a very long 
time and later had gradually retreated from 
it ('appoco appoco ritirato"). Also, the cata- 
strophic results of the Deluge could not be 
accepted by Caluri for explaining the perfect 
state of preservation of fossil molluscs with 
extremely fragile shells like the ones de- 
scribed in his paper (Caluri, 1 767:262-264). 
It is not clear if all the speciinens (fos- 
sils, but also rocks, minerals and plants) 
described in the papers published in the Atti during the second half of the 1 8th century were given to 
the academic museum of natural history. Caluri, like Baldassarri. had his own private collection of 
"natural products." which included many varieties of fossil molluscs from the Senese area (Caluri, 
1767:274, note a). In any case, different kinds of primary sources can still provide new pieces of 
infonnation about the early collections of the museum of the Fisiocritici, in particular the numerous 
18th century' writings on the Tuscan territory not directly published by the Senese academy or 
apparently related to it. Of course, this research requires a long and detailed survey which at the 
present must be considered still in progress, though it has already produced some significant results. 
For example, Annibale Bastiani, doctor of medicine, naturalist and member of the Academy since 
1 739, in his book on the analysis of the mineral waters of San Casciano (between Florence and Siena) 
reported collecting of more than 20 species of fossil molluscs, mainly cephalopods (Bastiani, 1 770:8). 
The specimens were immediately sent to the Academy of Fisiocritici in separate boxes which included 
a full series of different sizes for every species. This episode demonstrates that the museum of the 
Fisiocritici was gradually becoming a reference point for an increasing number of Tuscan naturalists. 
It did not substitute for the private collections, still assembled by most of these scientists, but it could 
be a possible and highly considered alternative. 


FlOL RE 5. "Porporite" and "Crepidula parasitica" 
described by Francesco Caluri ( I 767: plate 9). 


Expansion, Reputation, and Continuance 

In 1772, the newly elected president, Giuseppe Baldassarri, and all the academicians obtained 
pennission from the Granduke to admit the university students and other non-members to the private 
meetings of the Academy (Fisiocritici. Verbali, 1768-1812:26 marzo 1772). In this way the 
Fisiocritici acquired an institutional dimension which reinforced their links with the University of 
Siena. At the same time, the Academy enlarged its European reputation by noininating new, 
distinguished members from other Italian and European states. Some prominent non-Senese scientists 
— such as Giovanni Arduino, Pietro Arduino, Leonardo Ximenes, Felice Fontana, Giovanni Bianchi 
and Paolo Frisi — had become academicians during the 1 760s. but in the following decade Alessan- 
dro Volta, the Swiss naturalist Charles Bonnet, and the English scholar John Symonds were also 
elected Fisiocritici. The geologist Giovanni Arduino (1714-1795), one of the fust new members 
nominated after the academic reopening of 1 759, in 1 773 promoted the affiliation of the famed 
botanist Linnaeus and of three distinguished mineralogists from Austria, Saxony and Sweden, 
respectively Ignaz von Bom, Johann Friedrich Wilhelm Charpentier, and Johann Jakob Ferber 
(Fisiocritici. Verbali. 1768-1812:16 giugno 1773. 15dicembre 1773). 

Ferber had visited Siena and the Academy of Fisiocritici between April and May 1772, during 
his long mineralogical travel through Italy. He noted that "the University has several learned and 
celebrated Professors, which are members of the Academy of Sciences, established in fonner times; 
but of late revived under the name of Accademia de' Fisiocritici. The library, and the cabinet of 
Natural curiosities, is common to the University and the Academy. The latter has got a great celebrity 
by the four volumes of its transactions. The cabinet was, some years ago, bequeathed to the Academy 
by its president, the Professor of Natural History Dr. Giuseppe Baldassarri, who collected it, and has 
still under his inspection" (Ferber, 1776:247). This last statement seems to confimi that the most 
relevant part of the original museum of the Fisiocritici, promoted in the middle 1760s by Pompeo 
Neri, was fomied by a large donation from Baldassarri"s private collection. Still, Ferber recalled in 
1772 the existence in Siena of other two naturalistic cabinets separated from the academic museum 
and owned by Baldas.sarri and Francesco Caluri. Ferber's brief description of the most remarkable 
specimens kept in these three collections (see Appendix at the end of this paper) today represents the 
best primary source about the content of the museum of the Fisiocritici in the 1 8th century, which 
later was probably enriched by the private collections of Baldassarri and Caluri (Ferber, 1 776:248- 

After his nomination as a member of the Fisiocritici, Ferber immediately wrote from his residence 
in Bohemia to the secretary. Domenico Bartaloni. promising future contributions to the Atti and the 
possible shipment of Swedish minerals for the academic cabinet of "natural curiosities" (Fisiocritici. 
Epistole. 1 692-1 799:n. 440). Indeed. Ferber published a geo-mineralogical dissertation in the fifth 
volume of the Senese transactions (Ferber. 1 774). but it is not known if any specimens from Sweden 
were ever sent to the Fisiocritici. 

During the last two decades of the 1 8th century and at the beginning of the 19th century, the 
scientific heritage of Baldassarri was continued by his assistant Biagio Bartalini ( 1 750-1 822) and by 
the naturalist Ambrogio Soldani (1736-1808). one of the most remarkable Italian scientists of the 
late 1 8th century. These two scholars contributed greatly to the improvement of a detailed knowledge 
of the physical characteristics of the Tuscan region, following the footsteps of Giovanni Targioni 

Bartalini was professor at the University of Siena, where he took over the chair of Baldassarri in 
1780. Two years later he became curator of the naturalistic museum of the Fisiocritici and director 



Ai"- jju Taf nir 

of the attached botanical garden in 1783 (Ferri and Miraldi, 1993). From 1805 to 1812, he was also 
secretary and, from 1815 to 1822, president of the Academy. Bartalini's writings, published in the 
Alii, show the results of intense research activity undertaken for illustrating and analyzing the "natural 
products" of the Senese territory, with particular attention to botany (Bacci, 198 1 : 108). The impres- 
sive amount of fieldwork resulted in a considerable naturalistic collection of about 6000 specimens 
(including many minerals); this was fiirthcr enriched by the acquisition of the private cabinet of 
Baldassarri in the middle 1780s (Pasta, 1992:230, footnote 34), which was finally purchased by the 
Academy of Fisiocritici in 1826, two years after the death of its fomier president (Guasparri, 

The frequent naturalistic travels carried out by Bailalini in the Senese area allowed him to study 
in particular the geological and mineralogical features of the territory ( 1 78 1 ) and some paleontologi- 
cal specimens (1800), as well as the "prodotti naturali" (geological and botanical), which could be 
observed within the city and surroundings of Siena 
( 1 808). In his paper, published in volume eight of the 
Aiii, Bartalini described and figured in five plates 
several fossil specimens, which he attempted to iden- 
tify as marine flora (Fig. 6). These and other fossils 
of "straniere produzioni marine" (foreign marine 
products), which may be found in the Tuscan region, 
together with many bones of e.xotic animals, in par- 
ticular "Elefanti", could not be explained by geologi- 
cal agents such as the volcanic activity and the 
meteoric waters (Bartalini, 1800:224-227). Never- 
theless, Bartalini carefully avoided indicating the 
possible real cause of these paleontological findings; 
the 'cause' was considered different ("cagione di- 
versa") from those mentioned, but the reader was lefi 
free to fonnulate his own hypothesis. 

The naturalistic tradition in the field established 
within the Fisiocritici by the works of Baldassarri, 
Caluri, and later Bartalini also stimulated the early 
research of the young Paolo Mascagni (1755—1815), 
a future prominent member of the Senese academy, 
who became renowned for his advanced anatomical 
studies, published posthumously between 1 823 and 
1831 (Ricci. 1985b; Vannozzi, 1996). At the begin- 
ning of 1779, Mascagni explored the territory be- 
tween Siena and Volterra, examining the geological 
and chemical features of the natural pools called "lagoni" that were edged by boric saline incrustations 
that had fomied in conjunction with rock fractures from which gas and saturated steam was escaping 
into shallow waters. (Burgassi and Donati, 1995). He presented the journal of his observations in a 
dissertation read at the Fisiocritici in March (Ricci, 1985c); later he analyzed in detail the phenomenon 
of the "lagoni" in a book published in September of the same year (Mascagni, 1 779). It is interesting 
to note that during his lecture, Mascagni illustrated several lithological and mineralogical specimens 
collected in the field that later may have been given to the museum of the Fisiocritici. 

Ambrogio Soldani, who was secretary of the Fisiocritici from 1802 to 1805, worked extensively 

Figure 6. Fossil specimens of marine flora, 
according to Biagio Bartalini (1800: plate 8). 



on the descriptions of niicrofossils, in particular Foraminifera (Ricca, 1810; Manasse, 1908; Lip- 
parini, 1987). He was also an excellent field geologist who carefully observed the strata. He 
distinguished them according to their lithological and fossiliferous contents (clay hills with micro- 
fossils / limestone strata with ammonoids) and considered the difference of causes (sea-waters or 
volcanic fire) and the times of their formation. In his first work, the Saggio Orittografico (1780), 
Soldani analyzed in detail a great number of fossils collected in the field, which were mostly 
cephalopods related to the clay strata, the so called "terre ammonitiche e nautiliche della Toscana." 
At the same time he began to assemble an impressive collection of niicrofossils, which he described 
in his seminal contribution to micropaleontology, the Testaceographiae ac Zoophytographiae pan'oe 
et microscopicae (Soldani, 1789-98), well illustrated by a wonderful atlas with 179 plates (Fig. 7). 
The micropaleontological collection of Soldani was definitively housed in the natural history 
museum of the Fisiocritici between 1 808 
and 1810, in accordance with his last will 
and testament (Campani, 1 860: 1 1 ). For 
this reason, it was not damaged by the 
great earthquake of 1 798, which mined the 
historical residence of the Fisiocritici at 
the "Sala della Sapienza," partially de- 
stroying the collection of scientific instru- 
ments and the original museum (Soldani, 
1798). Thus, today, it is possible to admire 
Soldani's micropaleontological collection 
in its original structure and display, as it 
represents the most important section of 

the modem museum of the Academy of 
Fisiocritici in Siena (Guaspairi, 1992:51— 
55). The 31 1 specimens of niicrofossils are 
contained in small jars with labelled cov- 
ers, called "vasa." Some specimens are 
incapsulated between two slides for mi- 
croscopes (Fig. 8): the numbers of these 
"vasa" conespond to the groups of speci- 
mens listed, described and figured by 
Soldani in the Testaceographiae (Fig. 9- 
10), which actually can be used as a cata- 
logue of the collection itself 


After the Napoleonic period, in 1814 
the museum of the Academy of Fisiocritici 
was re-established in the fomier monas- 
tery called "Convento della Rosa" and this 
is still the present academic residence 
(Ricci, 1985a:259). Here the naturalistic 
collections were reorganized under the di- 


parvae et microscopicab 





icoxm.'» Aist iMcvLFTi! i\niiMir »•; orou>cicu IT oivcToexAnncB 

AM.MAl>\'Ml'..IU.Mbl.J ILi-UlTrtAT 




SEMIS ifwatviiL f Sojw. p«rm. 

IK TirornAriiiA r«AKciici ioiji IT ritii 
r»»wfcn«n«a«trri|m|lM IWml, 

Figure 7. Title page of the second volume of the 
Testaceographiae ac Zoophytographiae par\'ae et 
microscopicae of Ambrogio Soldani ( 1 789-1 798 ). 



Figure 8. Specimens ot'microfossils from the collection of Ambrogio Soldani, in their original glass jars ("vasa") and slides 
for microscopes, as presently displayed in the museum of the Academy of Fisiocrilici. "Sala Soldani" (photo E. Vaccari). 

rection of the president, Biagio Bartalini, and Massimiliano Ricca 
(1761—1835), the latter an eclectic naturalist interested in geology and 
paleontology, who was also professor of mathematics and physics at the 
University of Siena (Selvani, 1865). Around 1829, Ricca provided the 
first specimens of stuffed animals, especially birds, for the future 
zoological cabinet. This cabinet was gradually increased by new ani- 
mals prepared by Francesco Baldacconi, employed as "preparatore del 
Gabinetto," with an annual budget established by the Academy for the 
care of the zoological collection (Ricca, 1985b;230-231). In the years 

following, Gaspero Mazzi, professor of zoology and anatomy, was ^'^"'^^ ^- Exanip'^ ^i' cover of a 
. „ , 1 •, ■ ,. , glass jar ("vas") from the micropa- 

nominated curator of the museum and contributed personally to the leontological collection of Am- 
paleontological and inineralogical collections, in particular several Plio- brogio Soldani. The "vas" is 
cene molluscs and brachiopods, which are still preserved to this day in numbered 226 and its content is 
their original display (Guasparri, 1 992:24). described as "Orthocer:"". 

The first official report on the state of the Imperial and Royal Museum of Natural History of the 
Fisiocritici Academy was published in 1841. It presented only the catalogue of the ornithological 
collection, because the other zoological collections and the cabinet of mineralogy and paleontology 
were still being reorganized by Mazzi. However, the report stated that the academic collection of 
fossil and non-fossil shells, which included, of course, all the microfossils of Soldani, had already 
reached 20,000 specimens (Museo Fisiocritici, 1841 ). 

In the same year, Granduke Leopold II ordered that the Academy was to be regarded as an 
university-based institution ("stabilimento universitario"). Consequently, its administration and its 
staff, including the newly appointed curator, Baldacconi, were put under control of the Provost of the 




University of Siena (Ricci, 1985a:264).This 
administrative fusion did not modify the 
autonomous constitutions of the Fisiocritici, 
but changed decidedly its relationship with 
the University. During the years of the Ital- 
ian wars of independence, from 1848 to 
1860. scientific activities were reduced. As 
a fijrther result of this disruption the publi- 
cation of the Atti was suspended after the 
tenth volume of the first series (1841) and 
the second series was started twenty years 
later. When Tuscany became part of the 
newly established Kingdom of Italy, the 
Fisiocritici renewed their constitution 
(1862) and later gave about half of their 
rooms to the University's scientific insti- 
tutes of zoology, botany, anatomy and min- 
eralogy. Meanwhile, the academic museum 
began to be used by the University for public 
teaching (Selvani, 1865; Ricci, 1972:27). 

After the inventory compiled by 
Giovanni Campani in 1853, which deter- 
mined a partial reorganization a few years 
later (Fisiocritici. Documenti, 1853; Cam- 
pani, 1860), the description of the Natural ^^^_^^^ ,q p.^^^^^^, ^^^^^^ of microfossils, called "Orthocerafa", 
History Museum of the Academy was regu- contained in the "vas" 326 (Fig. 9) and described by Ambrogio 
larly updated in other reports published in Soldani( 1789-1 798, plate 96). 
the 1860s and 1870s. These documents 

showed the constant increase in size of the museum's collections due to frequent donations, in 
particular of geological, mineralogical and paleontological specimens (Tassi, 1862; Bemardi and 
Casuccini, 1868; Pantanelli A., 1869, 1873; Pantanelli D., 1876, 1877). In 1862, Pellegrino Bertini 
and G. Tarduzzi enriched the mineralogical cabinet with 117 specimens of Senese marbles and 
ornamental stones, while the mining engineer Theodor Haupt left to the Academy 41 minerals from 
the copper mines near Massa Marittima (Cataloghi, 1905). Among other 19th century donors must 
be mentioned Francesco Bemardi, who sent a valuable collection of shells, Francesco Valenti Serini, 
who donated his rich herbarium and his mycological collections (both of which are still partially 
housed in the Academy), and Baron Bettino Ricasoli, a distinguished figure of Italian politics, who 
also contributed specimens to enrich the museum of Fisiocritici (Guasparri, 1992:13—14, 31-32, 

Modern Collections and Historical Specimens 

In general, within the present museum, identifying the specimens collected and displayed during 
the 18th century will likely never be possible, apart from the inicropaleontological collecfion 
assembled by Soldani and the fossil jaw collected by Giuseppe Baldassarri (Guasparri, 1992; Farsi 
and Guasparri, 1997). The lack of documentation is aggravated by the results of the several 


reorganizations of the museum that occurred during the 19th century, when the adoption of new 
schemes of classification led to new arrangements of displays and the elimination of the old labels. 
Moreover, the curators discardeded even old specimens, when a more recently collected and nicer 
mineral, rock or fossil of the same kind was available. Many duplicates were also probably used for 
exchanges with other museums or institutions and this contributed to the dispersion of the historical 

Within this context, it is not easy to reconstruct through primary sources related to the naturalistic 
museum the debates on the classification of the specimens, because in most cases new labels simply 
replaced and cancelled the old ones. To date, it seems likely that Giovanni Campani, director of the 
Natural History Museum of the Fisiocritici, adopted the mineralogical classification established by 
the French geologist Franfois-Sulpice Beudant (1787-1850) in 1824, later republished in several 
editions and also translated into Italian (Beudant, 1846). This system was used for arranging the 
specimens of the mineralogical cabinet of the Fisiocritici around 1 867 (Fisiocritici. Documenti, 1 867). 

Further research works on the 19th century sources will certainly allow us to obtain a better 
knowledge of these possible scientific discussions among the academicians, as well as to acquire 
more elements on the history of the Academy of Fisiocritici. 


The research for this paper was made possible by a fellowship awarded in 1994—95 by the 
"Seminario di Storia della Scienza" at the University of Siena. I would like to thank Prof Paolo 
Freguglia, Prof Giulio Barsanti and Dr. Mario De Gregorio for their support and suggestions; Dr. 
Chiara Bratto, Dr. Anita Bacci and Dr. Ferruccio Farsi for their precious help and assistance during 
my researches in the library, archive and museum of the Academy of Fisiocritici. Finally, the 
comments and suggestions provided by Dr. Alan Leviton and Dr. Ellis Yochelson greatly improved 
the final version of the manuscript. 


Angelini, Annarita. 1993. Anatomie Accademiche. 3. L'Istilulo delle Scienze e I'Accademia. II Mulino, 

Bologna. 573 pp. 
Baccetti, Baccio, et al. 1 985. Documenti per una storia della scienza senese. Accademia delle Scienze di Siena 

detta dei Fisiocritici, Siena. 393 pp. [Memorie, n. 2] 
Bacci, Anita. 1981. Indici della prima serie degli Atti deirAccademia dei Fisiocritici (1761-1841). Atti 

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The Museum of the Academy of Fisiocritici and the private collections of 

Giuseppe Baldassarri and Francesco Caluri in 1772 

(Ferber, 1776:248-254) 

"The following articles seemed to me the most remarkable in the Academical-cabinet. 

1. Coals, either bituminous wood or true coals, and argillaceous slate, impregnated with 
petroleum, lie in flats or beds under the clay and marl-hills in several parts of Toscana. 

2. A jaw, with the teeth on an unknown animal, found in a marl-hill in Toscana, and described 
by Mr. Baldassarri in the Academical Transactions - agrees with an American jaw described by Mr. 
Guettard in his Memoirs. 

3. A blunted limestone, worm-eaten by pholades, found in a marl-hill in the Sanese. 

4. Yellow sand-stone, with a petrified sea-star or asteria; from a hill near Giusuri, a mile distant 
from Siena. 

5. Black quartz-crystallizations; either pitch-black throughout, or only tinged in the surface; 
having eight triangular faces, or rather the form and bigness of rough diamonds: from monte Pitlciano. 

6. Native yellow sulphur in cubic crystallizations, inclosed with pyramidical calcareous spar in 
grey limestone; from 5. .Agatha di monte Feliro in Diicato d 'Urbino. in Romagna. This native sulphur 
resembles a yellow knotty blende; but yelds a yellow sulphur powder as soon as scraped with the 

The private cabinet of Dr. Baldassarri, which is to be delivered after his death to the Academy, 
contains several remarkable curiosities. I notice, 

1 . Native sulphur, in a large yellow, transparent crystal, half an inch diameter, nearly of sherl or 
columnar fonn; from S. Agatha di Monte Feltro. A scarce and precious piece indeed ! 

2. White and black quartz-crystallizations, pyramidical on both ends; {Iris nigra Aldrovandi. 
lapis Dichonus Mercali in Metallotheca. Ingemmamenti ciyslallini appunlati in amhe le parti di 
Fei rante Imperato); found loose and detached in the surface of the earth in many places of the Sanese; 
such as Leceto. ai bagni di S. Filippo, di Cianciano. a Belriguardo, &c. 

3. Dark-green quartz crystallizations in and on dark-green soslag. or ashestiis fibris abniptis et 
conglutinatis (Cronsi. Mineral. § 105), which seems to have dyed or tinged them. Mr. Baldassarri 
did not remember positively, whether this rare curiosity caine from monte Chrisio. or from Giglio, 
two small islands in the Tuscan sea. 

4. Blue quartz-crystallization, from a copper mine in the Sanese. 


[5.] Shells petrified into agate, in a yellow fine tophaceous sand-stone, found in a sand-hill at the 
Florentine gate at Siena. 

6. White and transparent petrified turbinites in a similar sand-stone; the turbinites hollow. 

7. Native copper in quartz, with crysocolla, from a new-discovered mine at Paris, in the Sanese, 
twenty-three miles distant from Siena, close to the Via consularis to Grosselto. 

8. Grey antimony in large and long crystals, covered with crystallized native sulphur and 
farinaceous auripigment, from an antimony-mine, near Perela nella Maremma Sanese. 

9. Granite; the substance of some hills in the Sanese. 

10. Argillaceous slate, from Montagnuola and Prata, in the beginning of the Maremma Sanese, 
where it is in large hills covered with calcareous; described by Mr. Baldassarri in the eleventh volume 
of the Sanese Transactions, or in his Sketch of a Natural History of Prata. 

1 1 . Argillaceous slate, with white marble veins, without any quartz; different from the proceeding 
species on account of its antiquity and position as being not inferior to the calcareous strata; but 
stratified in the calcareous hills near Gerfaico, between that place and Prata. The micaceous stripes 
in the Greek Opo///Ho-marble are, perhaps, owing to a similar position. 

12. Micaceous slate with dendrites, from Monlagnuola presso la villa Cetlenati, eight Italian 
miles distant from Siena. 

13. Sand-stone from Belriguardo, three miles distant from Siena. 

14. Travertino, from Rapolano in the Sanese; produced there by the sediments of hot waters. 
Rapolano is situated at the entrance of the valley, called La Valle di Chiana, twelve Italian miles from 
Siena; celebrated on account of its baths which incrustated like the Bagni di S. Filippo, whatever is 
valid into them. 

15. Serpeniino or Gabbro, green and black spotted, from Vallerano in the Sanese; called by the 
stone-cutters Marmo di I 'allerano. 

16. Serpentina or Gabbro from Prata, is green and black, or red spotted; commonly called I 'erde 
di Prato. 

17. White scaly marble, as beautiful and saline as that from Carrara, from Montagnuola in the 
Sanese; the whole mountain being commonly grey, it is found but in small blocks or lumps. 

18. Brocatello di Siena, a yellow marble with black veins; the ground sometimes purple; but 
burning makes the whole red coloured; dug at Montarenti in Montagnuola, in the Sanese; eight Italian 
miles distant from Siena; generally known, and much employed in Italy. 

19. Marmo tigrato di Vail ' di Rati, a fine spotted marble. 

20. White handsome alabaster, and alabastro fiorito, dug at Castel nuovo dell'Abbate. in the 

Dr. Calluri, professor of physic at Siena, has a small but choice collection of Natural History. I 
noticed the following pieces. 

1. A petrified shell in a flint (sylex pyromachus), from S. Chianciano de Bagni. S. Casciano de 
Bagni. in the Sanese, is different from the precedent place; and described in the Analisi delle acc/ue 
mineral! di S. Casciano de' Bagni. &c. di .4nnibale Bastiani. Firenze, 1770, 8vo. 

2. Microscopical shells, as described and drawn by Janus Plancus; common in several sand- 
mixed clay-hills, two miles distant from Siena, on the road to Florence. 

3. A petrified wendel-trapp (turbo-scalaris), a scarce and precious shell, found in an argillaceous 
sand hill near monte .4lgino in Toscana. 

4. Several univalves, compressed and crushed by the pressure of superior beds; petrified from 
the hills near monte .Algino. 


5. White fullers earth, dug at Personatina near Cettinale. seven miles distant from Siena. 

6. Nummi diaholici Mercall, round and flat pyrite-Iamellae, from Cuna, six miles distant from 
Siena, on the road to Rome. 

7. Magnesia, forni S. Casciano de' Bagni. 

8. Quartz-crystallizations, with an air bladder and inclosed water, from the Sanese. 

9. Lamellated quartz-ciystal, from the Sanese. The same frequently found in Christina-shaft, at 
Shemnitz, in Lower Hungary. 

10. Oblique rhomboidal transparent gyps-crystals, four inches long, two inches large, called 
Specchio d'Asino, found near I'illa di Cettetmli nella Montagmtola. Some are said to double the 

1 1 . Large black and columnar sherl, from Monte Christo, a small island near Isola di Gighi. on 
the coast ofToscana. 

12. Some copper ores and malachites, from the mines near Massa di Maremma, in the Sanese. 

13. Agates, amethysts, and quartz-crystallizations, from Maremma, some miles distant from the 
copper mines of Massa. 

14. Slate, with pyrite-cubes of marcasites, from Rocca Strada, near Massa di Maremma. 

15. Great white argillaceous and sulphureous bullets, some of the bigness of a man's head, from 
Monte Antico, three Italian miles distant from the baths of Petriu/o in the Sanese; described by Pinelli 
in his Lettera de ' Bagni di Pelritilo. Roma, 1716. 4to." 

Copyright ©2000 by the California Academy of Sciences 

Golden Gate Parle, San Francisco, California 941 18, USA. 

All rights reserved. 


Considerations of Certain Peculiarities in Scientific 
Institutions in Central Europe in the Eighteenth Century 


Facolta di Scienze Politiche 

Universita degli Studi di Pavia 

Strada Nuova 65 

27100 Pavia, Italy 

The purpose of the work is to bring out, starting from the analysisof the statutes of two 
Lombard scientific Societies founded during the Austrian domination (1706-1796), a few 
differences, which I found significant and which to my l<nowIedge have not been dealt with 
before, between the constituent principles of the Royal Society of London and the Academic 
des Sciences of Paris on the one hand, and the principles of scientific associations in Central 
Europe and Lombardy on the other. Among these differences, particularly relevant is the 
adherence of the Central European scientific associations to concepts relating to God, 
national pride and well-being. So we have in France and England, on the basis of the 
principles set out by Francis Bacon, a concept of science as an institution which is free to 
establish relationships with the outside non-scientific world (i.e., economic, political, 
manufacturing) and in Central Europe, following the German philosopher Gottfried 
Wilhel Leibniz, a concept of science as an institution which is subject to the economic and 
political choices imposed by a central power. 

propone di mettere in evidenza, sulla base dell'analisi degli statuti di due Societa scienti- 
fiche lombarde fondate durante la dominazione austriaca (1706-1796), alcune differenze, 
che mi sono parse di qualche rilievo e che non sono state considerate in precedenza, tra i 
principi costitutivi della Royal Society di Londra e dell'Academie des Sciences di Parigi 
da un lato. e quelli delle associazioni scientifiche dell'Europa Centrale e della Lombardia 
dalTaltro. Tra queste differenze emerge in modo particolare la presenza nelle associazioni 
dell'Europa centrale di riferimenti a Dio, al benessere della patria e al prestigio dello stato. 
Ne conseguono due diversi concetti di scienza. In Francia e Inghilterra, sulla base del 
principi dettati da Bacone, la scienza e una forma di attivita libera di stabilire relazioni 
con il mondo extra-scientiflco (economico, politico produttivo). mentre in Europa Centrale, 
seguendo le idee di Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, essa rimane rigidamente sottoposta alle 
scelte politiche ed economiche imposte dal potere centrale. 

It is well known that the first two modem (Rossi, 1977: 19) scientific associations were the Royal 
Society of London and TAcademie Royale des Sciences of Paris, founded in 1662 and 1666 
respectively. The former was created as an independent association, lacking any relationship with the 
government; the latter was the outcome of an agreement between scientists and statesmen. The result 
of such an agreement was that sciences obtained great prestige and were to some extent identified 
with the political power. These two associations, founded, as is well known, on the concept of science 
as expounded by the English philosopher Francis Bacon, represent the model upon which the principal 
1 8"^ century scientific institutions were based in northern Europe and in the United States: the Societas 
Literaria et Scientiarum of Uppsala, created in 1710 and officially inaugurated in 1728 (not to be 




confused with the Svenska Vetenskaps-Akademie of Stockhohn, founded in 1739); the Kongelige 
Danske Videnskabemes Selskab (Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters) of Copenhagen, 
established in 1742; the Academia Scientiarum Imperialis Petropolitana (Imperial Academy of 
Sciences of Petersburg), founded in 1726 by Catherine I; the Konigliche Preussiche Akademie der 
Wissenschaften, created by Frederick II in 1 744; the American Philosophical Society of Philadelphia 
1769 by Benjamin Franklin; and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences of Boston, founded in 
1780 on the initiative of John Adams. 

It is in my opinion interesting to note the differences between these types of scientific associations 
and those which were established in the 1 8th century in Central Europe. The first clue in this analysis 
of the elements which distinguish the two categories of scientific research comes from a close analysis 
of the statutes of two specific scientific institutions, including their purposes and the members' 
socio-economic origins. These institutions were established in Lombardy during the Austrian 
domination (1706-1796) and were namely, the Accademia di Scienze, Lettere e Arti (Academy of 
Science, Literature and Arts) of Mantua (Baldi, 1979), founded in 1767 by empress Mary Theresa 
with the aim of "qualifying itself to serve the prince and the state" and to seek "those truths that can 
more easily lead to public welfare" (Camevali, 1885-1887:34); and the Societa Patriotica per 
rincremento deirAgricoltura. delle Arti e delle Manifatture (Patriotic Society for the Development 
of Agriculture, Arts and Manufacture) of Milan, founded in 1776 (MoUa Losito. 1982) (Fig. 1), with 
the aim of "more easily paving the way to those minds that are willing to make themselves useful to 

Figure 1. The Brera Building (Palazzo di Brera). Milan, where the Societa Patriotica had its seat. 
Courtesy Civica Raccolta Stanipe ."^ichille Bertarelli. .Milan. 


the state" (Circolare, 1777) and "to concur in the prosperity of these provinces of ours" (Dispaccio, 

The goals of these Lombard societies were not identical to the aims of the Royal Society of 
London or to those of the Paris Academic des Sciences. A review of their respective statutes reveals 
that the Royal Society was aimed at gathering groups of scholars — on the basis of the principles set 
out by Bacon — to lead them to work together in order to "improve the knowledge of natural things 
and all useful arts, manufactures, mechanic practices, engines and inventions by experiments" 
(Mathias, 1972:61); and the Academic des Sciences — also firmly based on Bacon's beliefs — was 
aimed at "banning all prejudices, by basing everything on experiments, in order to find something 
certain, to dispel all chimeras and to pave the way to truth for those who are willing to follow this 
practice" (Hahn, 1971:15-16). 

Therefore, on the one hand, in Lombardy we find a vision of science as an instrument in the 
service of the State's economic and political objectives, while, on the other hand, in England and 
France, science is viewed as a means to increase man's knowledge, both in theory and in practice, 
and to reveal the truth. In the light of these differences, which are by no means insignificant, two 
questions arise, namely, ( 1 ) where did the aims of the two Lombard instimtions come from, and (2) 
what is the reason for the difference between their goals and those of the two most important European 
academies? In seeking to answer these questions, a useful starting point is to consider the political 
and economic situation in Lombardy at the time. In 1760 the central Hapsburg power, because of a 
conceived lack of solid local scientific traditions (Visconti, 1 997), created a large number of scientific 
institutions, aimed at including the sciences among the cognitive instruments it was gradually bringing 
together in order to strengthen and extend its hold on new spheres of interest and activity. These new- 
scientific institutions included the above-mentioned Accademia of Mantua and the Societa Patriotica 
of Milan; the Museo di Storia Naturale (Museum of Natural History) founded at the University of 
Pavia in 1770 (Spallanzani, 1985) (Fig. 2); the Orto Bontanico (Botanical Garden) of the same 
University, which was completely renovated between 1771 and 1773; the chair of Natural History of 
the Palatine Schools of Milan and the annexed St. Alexander's Mineralogical Museum inaugurated 
in 1772 (Boffito, 1933:179); and, finally the Orto Botanico (Botanical Garden) of Brera, started in 
1774 (Liva, 1989). 

The Hapsburg's policy was not limited to the foundation of the necessary structures in order to 
support the development of research into the natural sciences, it also extended its ambit to include 
the nomination of the academics who would be responsible for the direction and working management 
of these structures. This decision, which was justified by the need to overcome the intellectual po\ erty 
of the local educated classes who were not capable of setting up new institutions, was the root cause 
of the arrival in Lombardy of various notable academics, hailing from other parts of the Empire or 
the peninsula: among them Giovanni Antonio Scopoli from Trento and Lazzaro Spallanzani from 
Reggio, who respectively obtained the chair of Natural History and that of Botany at the University 
of Pavia ( Jucci, 1 96 1 ); the Bavarian abbot Fulgenzio Vitman, from Vallombrosa (Ciferri, 1 96 1 ; Jucci, 
1961; Pichi Sermolli, 1999:131-140), who directed the Botanical Garden of the University of Pavia 
and then the Botanical Garden of Brera in Milan (Liva, 1989); Francesco Griselini from Venice, who 
directed the Societa Patriotica since 1776 (Torcellan, 1965); Carlo Amoretti from Liguria, who in 
1781 succeeded Griselini (Visconti, 1997). 

Having thus established the foundations for the study of nature and natural products, the 
Hapsburg government decided to expand the scope of its sphere of influence to include the control 
over the criteria used, tenns adopted and subject-matter of the research being carried out by the 
academics that were supposed to be overseeing the creation of the new institutions. An example of 



Figure 2. The University of Pavia, reorganized m the IStli century by the Austrian Empire. 
Courtesy Civica Raccoha Stampe Achille Bertarelh, Milan. 

this interference can be seen in the following governmental order received by Spallanzani; "the best 
way to organise series is to set out only those parts of the plant that have medicinal properties, i.e. 
wood, roots, bark, flowers" (Spallanzani, La collezione naturalistica, 1985:1 17). Similar directives 
were received by Scopoli, Vitman and others (Visconti, 1997), 

These directives and pretensions, which found no counterpart either in France or England (where 
men of science used their social status to maintain their autonomy in their relations with the central 
power), were the result of the political power's policy to use the scientific research, in order to provide 
itself with solid support for its ultimate political and economic goals, which included the general 
welfare of the people living within its domain, the increased prosperity of the state, and the benefit 
of motherland (Rassem, 1992). The object was therefore not to examine, study and analyse nature 
for the sake of knowledge. In other words, the aim was not "the knowledge of causes, and secret 
motions of things; and the enlarging of the bounds of human empire, to the effecting of all things 
possible" (Bacon, 1952:2 1 0), according to which philosophy, scientific knowledge was perceived as 
a form of universal wisdom aimed at understanding nature and resulting in the expansion of all 
mankind's power to new spheres of interest and action (Boas Hall, 1975). The intent, instead, was to 
subordinate the sciences to the political power and its purposes, that is to deny their autonomy 
according to a concept which, by placing the state's welfare ahead of the formulation of nature's laws, 
was aimed at integrating scientists within the state bureaucracy and at turning them into submissive 


officials in charge of contributing, through technological improvement, to the achievement of the 
economic and manufacturing objectives set by the central power authority (De Maddalena, 1 975:687; 
Schiera. 1975:414). 

After having thus reviewed the Lombard political and economic situation, it was thought useful 
to expand the field of study to include the provinces of the Austrian Empire in order to verify whether 
similar institutions existed there. We then realised there were several associations whose scientific 
research was likewise aimed at carrying out the economic and financial directives of the governing 
power. A series of scientific-manufacturing institutions were founded around the 1760s, when the 
implementation of the fundamental reforms of the Austrian State created a set of conditions that 
allowed the central power to start trying to bridge the economic gap with more advanced European 
countries (Schindler and Bonss, 1980). The Austrian goveminent, in fact, decided to consider the 
possibility of integrating technical and scientific knowledge into the stream of its mercantilist 
economic strategy and, more specifically, to use this knowledge to favour the agricultural and 
manufacturing development of the Empire's most advanced regions. Chancellor Wenzel Anton 
Kaunitz, in charge of Hapsburg foreign policy, was the main promoter of this financial and economic 
plan. In a letter to the Austrian Ambassador in Bavaria dated 30 October 1764, Kaunitz supported 
the foundation in Austria of societies which, "like the Munich society, contribute also in our provinces 
to the acquisition and growth of the taste for usefijl sciences" (Hammermayer, 1983: 15). Counsellor 
Fremaut's suggestions added to these convictions. During his trips, made in the same year, through 
the territories of the Empire, he decided that the provinces of Carintia, Tyrol, Styria and Camiola 
were the most suited to the creation of a first series of technical-scientific institutes aimed at carrying 
out the economic objectives established by the State (Hammermayer, 1 983:4) in the agricultural sector 
(relating to the choice of cultivation, fertilizer, livestock, wood type) and in the manufacturing sector 
(Dinklage, 1965:149, 152, 157). On this basis, between 1765 and 1767 the following societies were 
founded: Klagenfurt, Innsbruck, Graz, Laibach, Linz and Gorz, followed by the foundation of other 
societies starting in 1768: Vienna, Hermannstadt, Brunn, Freiburg, and Prague (Dinklage, 1965, 
1966:149-170; kraus, 1977:139; Schindler and Bonss, 1980; Hammennayer, 1983:5-12). 

The Munich society Kaunitz mentioned in his letter is the Churbayerische Akademie der 
Wissenschaften (Bavarian Academy of Sciences), created in 1 759 by will of Georg Lori, with a view 
to "dedicating sciences and arts to the increase in the benefits and honour of the motherland [. . .] and 
in the state welfare" (Hemiann and Sang, 1992:32), and to "most efficiently affecting economy and 
general prosperity" (Hermann and Sang, 1992:33). Thanks to these objectives, which were purely 
economic in nature, the Academy managed to obtain from the elector Maximilian II of Bavaria the 
necessary funds for the creation of an Astronomical Observatory and the Chemical and Physical 
Laboratories, and for the publication of its Ahhandlungen and Neue Abhandlungen published in 
German in order to create a link with the country's technical knowledge and applications (Hermann 
and Sang, 1992:33). 

It is clear that the founding principles of the two Lombard institutions, upon which our interest 
is based, are the same as those of the Austrian technical-scientific-economic societies, which were 
modelled on the Munich Academy. Both the Lombard and the Austrian organisations viewed the 
academic as an official subject to the economic objectives of the state and not as an independent entity 
free to enter into an agreement with the governing power. The question then arose as to what was the 
model for the Academy in Berlin? The statutes of the German associations refer back to two scientific 
institutions which briefly preceded the foundation of the Academy of Munich and which inspired the 
foundation of the same, the Koniglch Societat der Wissenschaften (Royal Society of Sciences) in 
Goettingen, founded in 1752 by the Minister of the Principality of Hannover, Adolf von Miinch- 



hausen. which gave as its fundamental principle the conviction that "the creation of an academy of 
good and useful sciences would be honourable, and sciences themselves would contribute to increase 
the country's wealth and happiness" (Hermann and Sang, 1992:35), and the Erfurt Akademie 
gemeiniitziger Wissenschaften (Erfurt Academy of Useful Sciences) founded on 19 July 1 754, which 
had similar goals. As a matter of fact, the latter's economic and productive objectives were so sharp 
and clearly stated that the Mainz elector said that he was willing to invest a substantial amount of 
money to support the implementation of its programs, especially in view of the "savings of costs, that 
is the advantages for citizens that this society of scholars would have brought in the field of metallurgy, 
chemistry, mechanics, economy or other fields" (Hemiann and Sang, 1992:37). 

But does a single model exist on which all of these 
scientific-technical-economic associations are based? 
We believe that a convincing answer can be gleaned 
from the founding principles of the Societas Regia 
Scientiarum, created in Berlin in 1700 by Frederick III 
of Brandenburg (Frederick I of Prussia) on the sugges- 
tion of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (Fig. 3). These socie- 
ties did not express concern for questions of truth, or the 
investigation into physical phenomena, they were in- 
stead based on the belief that, "in order to spread wide 
God's glory, to maintain and develop true fear of God, 
sound morals and the general welfare of all classes, it 
was necessai-y for men's inclinations to be illuminated 
by a good science and useful studies, and to be urged in 
order to acknowledge and admire God's works, thus 
leading to love and fear of God, the only source of every 
good thing" (Brather, 1993:94-97). Their coming into 
being was therefore in order to develop the "useful" 
sciences, to praise God and to improve the wellbeing of 
the Gemian country. 

The vision of science's role stated by the Gentian 
philosopher was dominated by principles relating to God 
and the wealth and patrimony of the Gennan state. These 
principles had been expounded by Leibniz in various 
proposals prepared for the creation of a Gennan scien- 
tific society. These principles were set out in particular 
in his Gmndhss eines Bedenckens von Aiifyichtiing einer Societdt in Teutschland zu aufnehmen der 
Kiinste iind Wissenshaften von 1671, where he argued that, in his view, the role of the scientific 
association was to "amare bonum publicum, vel, quod idem est, gloriain Dei intelligere et quantum 
in se est facere maiorem" (Foucher de Careil, 1859:xviii-xix), and its task had to be the search for 
the necessary means for the implementation of "common usefulness, of the motherland's prestige, of 
the sustenance and preservation of many men, of God's glory and the discovery of His wonders" 
( Hammerstein, 1 98 1 ) through actions aimed at "increasing and improving ails and sciences, at urging 
the Germans' intelligence so that they are not despoiled by the other nations in the commercial field, 
nor fall behind them as far as science is concerned" (Krafft, 1981). He also claimed that scholars 
should not be "led by mere curiosity or thirst for knowledge, nor pay attention to useless experiments, 
or be content with the simple invention of useful things that cannot be applied and installed, as it 

Fk.i RE 3. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, on whose con- 
ception of science the Lombard scientific and techni- 
cal mstitiitions of the 1 8th centui^ were based. Portrait 
courtesy Civica Raccolta Stampe Achille Bertarelli, 


already happened in Paris, London and Florence, where the aim of sciences of reality — that is to 
gain benefits for the nation — had not been reached inany way."(Krafft, 1981) He stated that "since 
the beginning they had to seek usefulness and think only about those specimens from which the glory 
of the king and the whole community have reason to expect certain common advantages" (Krafft, 
1981 ). Leibniz expressed similar remarks a few years later, in a fragmentary manuscript written after 
the death of the great elector Frederick William, in 1688 (Mathieu, 1951:315), where he stated he 
was "even convinced that under his (Frederick III of Brandenburg and I of Pnissia) auspices it would 
be easy to overcome what in France and England was started and planned:because there, even though 
they worked well, they were far away from the best path. In fact surveys carried out by French and 
English academies paid much more attention to appearance and prestige than to practical usefulness, 
which is better cultivated by Germans" ( Mathieu, 1 95 1 :322 ). On the basis of these remarks it appeared 
that the ultimate goal of scientific associations had to be "combining theory to practice, thus 
developing not only arts and sciences, but also the country and the population, agriculture, manufac- 
turing and trade; in a word, all means of sustenance" (Krafft, 1981 ). 

What is crystal clear from these words is Leibniz's conviction that the realisation of the great 
scientific discoveries of the era could not be left directly in the hands of the common people who 
lacked the organisational skills for such a task, instead, it was a task for a wise and well-intentioned 
sovereign, in his capacity as God's vessel on earth and sole protector of his subjects' well-being 
(Mathieu, 1951:28-30). 

The Berlin society never reached its full potential. Weighed down by financial problems and the 
interference of Court officials and administrators, it led a marginal existence and did not achieve any 
scientific results. It even became universally known as "the anonymous society" ( Hamack, 1900: 1 76- 
241; McClellan III, 1985:71-72). It was completely revamped by Frederick II of Prussia, who came 
to the throne in 1740, and who had taken the decision to substitute Leibniz's concepts relating God, 
country, and the nation's well-being, with more cosmopolitan principles, closer to the model of the 
Academic des Sciences in Paris. Thus was bom the new Konigliche Preussiche Akademie der 
Wissenschaften in Berlin in 1 744, firmly based on the separation of scientific objectives from political 
objectives; the Academy was, in fact, solely preoccupied with the search for truth, leaving to the State 
the task of gradually putting such tnith into practice and transposing it to public life (Muller, 1 975:33). 
The Academy chose to publish its memoirs in French thus blocking any possibility of there being a 
direct relationship between science and the artisan and economic world of the country (Muller, 
1975:33). Pierre-Louis Moreau de Maupertuis, one-time Academy president (Hammermayer, 
1983:27), played an important role in the drawing up of the organisation's constitution and in the 
choice of objectives. Similarly, Joseph-Louis Lagrange and Leonhard Euler contributed significantly, 
as did Samuel Fomiey, who was named secretary (Visconti, 1997). 

The brainchild of Leibniz, the Berlin society was not too successful, and this was also tnie of the 
other scientific associations created in its image. 

The Goettigen Royal Society distinguished itself by its objectives which were purely scientific, 
whilst it remained under the control of the physician and naturalist Albrecht von Haller, but after his 
death in 1753, the Society rapidly lost its scientific character and turned into an unassuming 
economic-technical-agricultural association, based on cameralistic principles (Kjaus, 1977:141; 
McClellan HI. 1985:116). 

The Erftirt Academy of Useful Sciences, which mainly dealt with economic issues and awarded 
many prizes in such fields, lost all executive power from the moment its activities came under the 
control of private promoters (Kraus, 1977). The Seven Years' War (1756-1763) saw its near 
dissolution. But it was refounded on a sound basis in 1776, and from that moment onwards it found 


itself in a position to carry out various research projects in the field of natural history (Miiller, 1 975:37; 
McCIellan III, 1985:1 17), which were published in its .'it /a until 1807. 

The same can be said for the Academy of Sciences of Munich. Although it, too, disappeared with 
the Seven Years' War, it was restored in 1 777 by the palatine elector Charles Theodore, who linked 
it to the Mannheim Academy, which had been modelled after the Academic de Sciences of Paris, and 
which developed on a cosmopolitan rather than national basis (McCIellan III, 1985:1 18). 

As far as the Austrian societies are concerned, they did not produce any scientific results and all 
were short lived: the Prague society closed in 1773, the Brunn society in 1775, the Innsbruck society 
in 1 777, the Vienna society in 1 783, the Graz and the Laibach societies in 1 787, and the Gorz society 
in I790(Dinklage, 1965; Im Hof, 1982:268; Schindlerand Bonns, 1980). 

Such failures have been ascribed by most recent historiographers to the structural conflict that 
opposed the unification process started by the central power to the resolute resistance of the 
representatives of local classes. The absolutist policy tried to overcome this conflict by integrating 
the feudal needs of noble and religious land owners into the rationalising current of administrative 
reformations. More specifically, the monarchical power ran against a dual Iimit:on the one hand the 
need to resort to the contribution and support of old aristocracy in order to carry out any economic 
development programme; on the other hand the contempt old aristocracy felt for any kind of 
technical-productive innovation. It was indeed because of the lack of knowledgeable, competent and 
expert interlocutors that the Hapsburg state was forced to assign the direction of technical-economic 
societies to local land owners, representing the old social order and therefore lacking an economic 
vision based on modem and rational bases (Schindler and Bonss, 1980). 

We inight add the following observation to these motives: the suffocation of growth and 
development of Austrian technical-scientific societies was due, parado.xicalIy, to the continuous and 
insistent requests of the State that, by aiming exclusively at reaching economic and productive goals, 
in the end inhibited the birth of presuppositions necessary to carry out any research activity, discovery 
or interpretation of nature and its laws. We believe, therefore, that there was a sort of incompatibility 
between mercantilist demands and scientific requests. 

The life and activity of the Societa Patriotica of Milan did not differ very much from those of 
the Austrian patriotic societies. As already mentioned, it was founded in 1776, when the Austrian 
societies had already shown their scientific inertia. At the central power's request, it carried out a 
series of researches and efforts aimed at solving Lombardy's economic and financial problems, as 
shown by the balance-sheets of the region's payments to foreign countries (Caizzi, 1968:48—55, 
217-221, 234-237). A strong tie therefore linked the studies earned out by the Societa Patriotica to 
the financial needs of the Hapsburg State, which dictated the working subjects, times and methods 
of the Milanese association's scholars, on the basis of those balance-sheet's liabilities that were more 
strictly connected to the sciences of nature. Within the framework of such policies, researches carried 
out in the botanical field in order to improve textile production played a particularly important role 
(Visconti, 1998). They were aimed at solving the manufacturing process' weaknesses, that is dyeing 
and spinning, by carrying out experiments on acclimatisation in Lombardy of imported dyeing and 
oil-producing substances in view of the possibility of increasing their cultivation. Important experi- 
ments and research were carried out in the Botanical Garden by the Societa Patriotica under the 
auspices of the Austrian Government, relating to Indigo/era tincloria. Isatis tinctoha. Riihia tinc- 
torum, Oldenlandia umbellata (=Hed\otis umhellata). Moms tinctoria (=Maclum tinctoha). Genista 
tincloria, A Inns gliitinosa, Cornus sanguinea. Raphanus sativus. Brass ica napus. and Carthamiis 
tinctorius (Visconti, 1998). These botanical studies were supplemented by mineralogical studies, 
aimed at decreasing iron's passivity, which was not due to the lack of raw material, but rather to 


defective processing of the metal and lack of fuel. The overcoming of these obstacles was the aim of 
investigations on energy sources (wood, peat and coal); such investigations proved to be of paramount 
importance also for silk manufacturing { Visconti, 1 997). The central power also ascribed importance 
to research on suitable leather and fur processing techniques, which represented a liability of about 
one million liras in the foreign balance-sheet (Caizzi, 1968:55). 

The research and efforts carried out by the Societa Patriotica's scholars reached a quite high 
standard, especially during the association's last years of activity, from the point of view of work 
efficiency and organisation. In certain cases they even produced a few small, short-lived economic 
benefits. Particularly as far as iron is concerned, the balance-sheet liability decreased by about eight 
hundred thousand liras between 1782 and 1791, thanks to the tireless activity of the partner 
Ermenegildo Pini. in charge of starting a rationalisation of Lombard iron production (Pini, 1791). 

But the scientific success was rather meagre, not only for the Societa Patriotica, but also for all 
institutions founded by the central power. Except for a few remarkable names, such as Alessandro 
Volta and Lazzaro Spallanzani — whose merits were not directly linked to the Austrian policy but, 
for the fonner, to his links with the Accademia delle Scienze of Bologna and, for the latter, to his 
close relationships with the scientific communities of Turin and Paris — the framework so zealously 
built in Vienna actually turned out to be full of eager and insignificant officials, more willing to grant 
the Court's wishes than to try and follow the path of autonomy and independence. 

In the light of this situation, we might say that also for the Societa Patriotica of Milan, as well 
as for the Austrian societies, the flill and absolute subordination of scientific research to goals relating 
only to the general happiness and welfare of the populus — smbbomly pursued by unceasingly trying 
to compensate the foreign balance-sheet's deficit — represented a hindrance to the development of 
autonoinous and independent forms of cognitive investigation. 

It seems also quite clear that the Leibnizian principle, based on the belief that technical progress 
could become part of a known and pre-arranged social order — that is the belief that a group of experts 
led by a well-intentioned king would be able to define the public's needs and therefore direct, by 
means of technical and scientific improvement, the agricultural, manufacturing and trading develop- 
ment — not only wasn't able to encourage any research, discovery or transformation, but on the 
contrary turned any form of investigation and study into a jumble of simple suggestions, descriptions, 
opinions and proposals. For example, the descriptions of Lombardy by Carlo Amoretti and the 
observations on flax, wheat and bees by Gaetano Harasti; the experiments with olive trees and 
vineyards of Eraclio Landi: the works of Antonio Lecchi on Lombard rivers and canals; the 
observations about silk by Luigi Petazzi; the studies on Lombard grass fields of Giosue Scannagatta; 
the descriptions of the natural riches of Lombardy by Domenico Vandelli; the observations on 
woodlands of Ermenegildo Pini (Visconti, 1997). 

The result of such political choice was that Austria and Lombardy long remained totally alien 
and unconcerned about those new scientific concepts which, at that same moment, led to gas-studying 
techniques and cleared up the concept of element in France and England (Abbri, 1978:26-28). This 
situation represented the prelude of the fiindamental role that the chemical revolution was about to 
play for the solution of the same economic problems that the Hapsburg power's mercantilist 
guidelines tried to solve by uselessly lavishing all their zeal and thoughtfulness. 


I am very grateful to Michael Ghiselin and Giovanni Pinna for giving me the opportunity to 
participate in their symposium. Elvira Cantarella and Marco Meriggi offered valuable comments on 


the manuscript; Stetano Bellucci helped me with the translation; and Oliver Vigo discussed with me 
the reading of the Gennan texts; and Alan E. Leviton edited with careful attention the whole work. 


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Copyright €2000 by the California Academy of Sciences 

Golden Gate Park. San Francisco. California 941 IS. IJS.A. 

Ail rights reserved. 


The Founders of Morphology as Alchemists 


Center for the History and Philosophy of Science 

Cahfomia Academy of Sciences, Golden Gate Park 

San Francisco, Cahfomia 941 18 U.S.A. 

E-mail: 1 10640.301 1 (a 

Historians of systematic biology liave aclinowledged the influence of numerology upon 
that science, notably in the case of Quinarianism. However, they have paid remarkably 
little attention to other pseudosciences. Alchemy is a particularly interesting example, 
because physicists and historians of physics had a hard time admitting that alchemical 
research was a major activity on the part of Newton. 

Germany's greatest poet, Goethe, is said to have introduced the term "morphology" 
and is generally given much of the credit and blame for establishing the "idealistic" 
approach to the subject. Literary historians have provided convincing evidence not only 
that Goethe was a practicing alchemist, but also that his so-called biological writings were 
actually alchemical treatises. If biologists and historians of biology have not altogether 
ignored this connection, they certainly have glossed it over. 

Lorenz Oken is widely known for his prioritv dispute with Goethe with respect to the 
vertebral theory of the skull. He is also know n as one of the most notorious advocates of 
Naturphilosopltie. The realization that Oken was an alchemist allows one to make a great 
deal more sense out of his writings, which generally have been condemned without an effort 
to understand them. 

Such connections make one wonder whether more alchemical thinking was incorpo- 
rated into the morphological tradition than meets the eye. The works of Richard Owen 
and Ernst Haeckel are more than just suggestive that some such linkage exists, but what 
the influence was is difficult to establish. At any rate, those authors who deny that Owen 
was a Platonist have been asking the wrong questions. 

The "superorganism" theorv of the ecosystem and "self-organization" in various areas 
of biology have historical roots in the alchemical tradition. To what extent the advocates 
of such notions have been aware of the connections, and what inferences might legitimately 
be drawn from them, are problems that deserve further attention but may prove largely 

For the past thirty years the primary focus of my research has been the problem of what happened 
to comparative anatomy as a consequence of the Darwinian Revolution. Very few of my results have 
thus far appeared in print, and not just because of other interests having provided distractions. Rather, 
comparative anatomy is a vast and difficult topic, one that is not mastered over night. 

The present essay was in large measure evoked by some reflections upon the philosophy of 
systematics (Ghiselin. 1997). We now appreciate the point that the species and clades of modem 
systematics are not kinds of organisms. Rather, they are supraorganismal wholes, or "individuals" in 
an ontological sense. We also recognize that modem evolutionary theory, including that of Darwin, 
makes no sense unless we presuppose the individuality of such taxa. There could be no historical 
biogeography were it not for the fact that species and lineages have a definite location in space and 
time. If species were (abstract) classes rather than (concrete) particulars, they could not speciate or 
undergo any other evolutionary process. What to us is explicit, was implicit in the work of Darwin. 
Thanks to him, biology became a truly historical science, with "how actually" scenarios, rather than 



merely "how possibly" speculations about what might have happened in the past. There is a profound 
difference, for example, between what Darwin says about the barnacles having evolved sessility on 
the one hand and what Lamarck says about webbed toes in birds on the other. 

Darwin's predecessors were still trying to treat taxa as if they were natural kinds, the products 
of laws of nature, perhaps divinely ordained, but nonetheless sharing common attributes for some 
fundamentally non-historical reason. It seems to me that the difference between Darwin and his 
predecessors is so fundamental that few if any of them deserve to be called "evolutionists." (But for 
qualifications see Sloan, 1986.) The fact that so many of them are called evolutionists rather than, 
say, protoevolutionists only serves to underscore the problem with the traditional historiography. 

On the one hand we have what one might wish to call "Whig" historians of evolutionary biology, 
to use a standard temi in perhaps a slightly idiosyncratic sense. According to this view, there were a 
lot of precursors of Danvin who were trying to become modem evolutionists but hadn't yet hit upon 
the mechanism that would make it plausible. Along came the Darwinian revolution and such persons 
were vindicated. On the other hand we might actually coin a new term for an alternative position, 
that of "Tory" historians. According to this view, the Darwinian revolution never happened, and 
furthemiore it was a bad thing, so the precursors play the role of showing that no fundamental changes 
really took place. The picture of course is vastly inore complicated than such a travesty suggests. 
Among other things the notion that nothing really happened in 1 859 is very convenient for those who 
want to argue that it should have happened but did not happen until Mendel, or Mayr, or Watson and 
Crick, or perhaps even Ghiselin. Everybody agrees that natural selection was not accepted as readily 
as evolution, but taking the position that the Darwinian revolution was a myth (Bowler, 1988) is 
hyperbolic to say the least. 

In the standard literature, at least, we find frequent mention of something called Natiirphilosophie 
that flourished in the early nineteenth century. Supposedly it had something to do with Herder, 
Schelling and other Roinantics (see Jardine, 1996). Naiurphilosopbie is widely condemned for its 
absurdities and speculative excess. It is also widely praised for somehow being concerned with 
development and change: supposedly it was a precursor of evolutionary thinking (Lenoir, 1982). But 
we are not really told what these persons believed about biology, or why. Herein 1 propose to address 
precisely that question. 

The popularity of certain pseudosciences in pre-Darwinian biology is generally recognized. 
Quinarianism is a case in point (Winsor. 1976; Rehbock, 1983). Various biologists tried to arrange 
their materials in circular patterns, usually with groups of five, though other mystic numbers such as 
three and seven were deemed peifectly reasonable; it was a matter of empirical research to decide 
which number was correct. Circles are of course the perfect geometrical figure. For quinarians it was 
profoundly significant that there were correspondences between the groups thus arranged. Among 
these correspondences was "iconism": tigers would have their equivalent in tiger beetles. There would 
be five races of man. five biogeographical provinces, five temperaments, and they all would 
correspond to, and symbolize, one another (Swainson, 1835). This all makes sense. Mathematics is 
the language of the perfect Being, and the task of a systematist is to attain knowledge of His mind 
through a kind of inystical insight. 

Such mystical correspondences are by no means peculiar to quinarianism. They are a common 
theme among belief systems that are now dismissed as pseudoscientific. Likewise it is more or less 
common knowledge that the pseudosciences and what we, from our perspective, consider the real 
thing have only gradually become differentiated. 1 shall not dwell upon the difference between a belief 
system and a corpus of scientific knowledge. Suffice it to mention the provisional character of 
scientific theories and their meta-theoretical preinises and the cmcial role of efforts to refute, or at 


least to modify, hypotheses. As to mysticism, it has generally been discredited as a source of scientific, 
though not of religious, knowledge. Its ultimately private character is but one reason for this. 

Professional intellectuals do tend to forget that the pseudosciences are still widely practiced. If 
you have any doubt just look at the astrology columns in the daily paper. And although we 
acknowledge the importance of astrology in the behavior of politicians such as Adolf Hitler and Mrs. 
Reagan, we hesitate to face up to the enthusiasm of practicing scientists for what is often called "occult 
metaphysics." (Not to be confused with the sort of metaphysics that is still a respectable branch of 
philosophy.) For example, the historian of physics Betty Jo Dobbs had enoniious difficulties 
convincing her colleagues that Sir Isaac Newton was an alchemist and that his alchemical work was 
very important to him. Fortunately for her, there were plenty of documents to support her thesis 
(Dobbs, 1991 ). But once that thesis got accepted, it was much easier to discover and understand the 
alchemical work of one of the founders of modem chemistiy, Robert Boyle (Principe, 1998). 

The historical connection between alchemy and chemistry is common knowledge, and is 
considered routinely in works on the history of that science (e.g.. Brock, 1993). The two gradually 
separated and from the point of view of the present essay it helps to understand how that separation 
took place. From the outset there were two aspects to it, a practical one that involved manipulation 
of substances, and a spiritual one that involved the enlightenment of the alchemist himself In either 
case the goal was the attainment of a higher state of existence. The transfonnation of other minerals 
into gold by means of the "philosopher's stone" had its parallels in the spiritual transfonnation of the 
alchemist himself The two aspects gradually became dissociated. The practical work, which had 
traditionally involved much experimentation, gave rise to chemistry. The spiritual endeavor however. 
persisted in the form of Rosicrucianism and various other enterprises. 

It is generally believed that alchemy had been discredited and replaced by chemistiy by the 
middle of the eighteenth century. However, it survived as occult metaphysics, and that occult 
metaphysics would seem to have influenced the thinking of biologists for some time after the chemists 
had pretty much abandoned it. The obvious link between chemistry and alchemy on the one hand, 
and the various branches of biology on the other, is through medicine including materia medica and 
pharmacology. Given that the teaching of natural history was so closely connected with medicine 
some kind of influence upon systematic biology would hardly be surprising. And in fact Isidore 
Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire (1859) discusses the influence of alchemy on early taxonomists. But the 
connection is not widely recognized or considered important. 

Here I shall consider the connection between alchemy and what is called "morphology." The 
temi "morphology" is very loosely used these days: generally it means anatomy and embryology, 
maybe with histology and all sorts of other things thrown in. Strictly speaking, however, morphology 
is the study of fonn. Physiology is the study of function. There is a long tradition of separating the 
two, so that "functional morphology" is a sort of oxymoron. There is also a long tradition of discussing 
the "fomi-function problem" in terms of Platonic Idealism on the one hand and Aristotelian teleology 
on the other. Anything but face up to the metaphysical revolution that was initiated by Darwin. I am 
by no means alone in criticizing this particular historiographical tradition (Asma, 1 996). It is a serious 
obstacle to our understanding of the documents whether ones interests are those of an historian, a 
working biologist, or both. 


Although there is some question as to who first used it in print, there is at least a tradition that 
the term "morphology" was coined by Gemiany's greatest poet, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe 


(1749-1832). Anybody who has read Faust knows that Goethe was interested in alchemy, but it is 
very easy to treat the alchemy as little more than a literary ornament, rather like the Greek Gods in 
Baroque paintings. As to Goethe's novel Die Wahlvenvandtschaften (The Elective Affinities), it is a 
very boring effort to use a later version of chemistry as a literary theme. However, literary historians 
have in fact attended to the older, alchemical background to this work (see Adler, 1987, 1990). 

Be this as it may, it is clear from his autobiography that Goethe was a serious student of alchemy, 
and, indeed, a practicing alchemist. But to find out that his so-called scientific publications, including 
the "biological" works were alchemical treatises, one has to go to the literary historians, notably Gray 
(1952). Or one may turn to the work of Jung (1968, 1970) on the psychology of alchemy in which it 
is made clear that Goethe's Weltanschauung was permeated by it. And, indeed, if one reads his 
publications from that perspective, Goethe's stance on how science ought to be pursued becomes 
much less of a puzzle. 

One does not get such an impression of Goethe out of the standard histories of biology, from his 
biographies (e.g., Magnus, 1 949) or from the writings of his devoted followers among scientists, such 
as Agnes Arber (1946). The alchemical connection is briefly mentioned in passing by historians of 
science, but they do not pay much attention to it (Fink, 1991). To be sure, I may have missed 
something; there is a vast literature. But the impression is what really matters here. The vast tradition 
of idealistic morphology that has long flourished, especially in Germany, and is immensely influential 
even today, has precisely those roots. We must of course watch out for the genetic fallacy here. It 
would be wrong to try to discredit contemporary science on the grounds that it can be traced back to 
precursors that now seem disreputable. It is, however, legitimate to ask whether we are perhaps 
making the same old mistakes. Furthermore scientific traditions tend to get deracinated. It is all too 
easy to overlook the basic assumptions and premises when knowledge is passed on from generation 
to generation and nobody bothers to go back and read the old texts. 


Lorenz Oken ( 1 779-1 85 1 ) (Figure I ) is largely remembered because of his priority dispute with 
Goethe over the vertebral theory of the skull (Ecker, 1880; Pfannensteil 1951a, 1959b). Oken was 
for some time a Professor at Jena — i.e., what might colloquially be called "Weimar U." — and much 
of the historical literature on him relates to his having been fired because of his political activities, 
with Goethe somehow involved in that episode as an advisor to the government. Also remembered 
is his invention of the modem scientific meeting as an institution (Degen, 1972). Finally, Oken is 
widely recognized as either the best example, or, depending upon one's sympathies, the worst 
example, of Natwphilosophie (Mullen. 1977; Wenig. 1985, 1988). Again, I may have missed 
something, but the most I find with respect to alchemy is passing mention of some similarities (e.g.. 
Guttler, 1884, Raikov, 1969). In general, Oken is treated as having derived his views from his friend 
Schelling, and that does it. But Oken was the son of a pharmacist, and later became very widely read 
in the older medical literature, in which alchemical ideas were widely discussed (Strohl, 1935). And 
in his publications he occasionally discusses the views of alchemists explicitly (e.g., Oken 1 808:26). 

Oken's numerology is so patently obvious that nobody who even flips the pages of his Lehrbuch 
can miss it. But this numerology is superimposed upon, or at least coexists with, a system of mystical 
correspondences among the various components of the Universe. And many of the details are easily 
recognized as traditional components of alchemical cosrnic schemes. The existence of correspon- 
dences among bodily parts is a phenomenon that biologists have long and rightly treated as a fact in 
search of an explanation. We need look no farther than the correspondences between the bones of the 



Fu.URf I . Lorcnz Oken ( I n9-\H5 1 ), 

left and right fore-limb or between, say humerus and 
femur. And similar correspondences between the 
parts of different organisms in different branches of 
the phylogenetic nexus are crucial to evolutionary 
comparative anatomy. The correspondences take on 
the character of occult metaphysics when the parts are 
thought to symbolize one another as components of 
a vast cosmic scheme. 

According to the vertebral theory of the skull, 
which even today can still be treated as a perfectly 
legitimate (albeit long-rejected) scientific hypothe- 
sis, the skull is made up of vertebrae that can be 
treated as a kind of "module" or metamere. If one 
grants that the head is made up of a certain number 
of serially-repeated units, one might try to answer the 
question of how many such units it contains, and try 
to identify and count them. Oken had a more elegant 
technique: he derived the number four from basic 
principles (Oken, 1 840). There are five senses: touch, 
taste, smell, hearing and vision. Of these, four are 
localized in the head, and it stands to reason that there 
must be one vertebra for each! 

Likewise he was able to derive a scheme for the classification of animals. Each taxonomic group 
symbolizes one of the five senses. So just to take human races as an example (there must be five of 
them) I don't even have to tell you which symbolizes touch and which vision. And it all makes sense 
because each and every object in the world is symbolic of the others and of the whole, which is 
coextensive with God. Indeed, the whole world following Plato's Timaeus is an organism: the 
Weltorganismus. Such taxonomic schemes are hardly evolutionary, or even protoevolutionary: they 
are part of a tradition that the alchemists derived from early Neoplatonism. There are some other 
notions in the writings of Oken that are thought of as evolutionary, and wrongly. The primordial ooze 
or Ursch/eim that is generally interpreted as some kind of ancestor really ought to be treated as the 
expression of a kind of hylozoism: the notion that matter is alive. A typically alchemical theme is 
that matter has the capacity to assemble itself spontaneously into organized beings by a process like 
crystallization. The achievement of a higher state of being may be accomplished by a kind of 
purification: physical or spiritual. 

However, there are other ways of achieving a higher state of being, among which the conjunction 
of polar opposites. Figure 2 reproduces an illustration from a book on generation by Oken (1805) 
entitled Die Zeugung. It shows a scheme of polarities with the male and female, salt and sulfur and 
the like arranged in a rather idiosyncratic scheme, but with a triangular structure that is nonetheless 
typical of the alchemical literature. Like other alchemists. Oken was very interested in hermaphrodi- 
tism, because it symbolizes the union of male and female, completeness, and perfection. 

Oken ( 1 805:55, 91 ) actually cites alchemical sources such as the writings of Athanasius Kircher. 
Furthermore he frequently uses alchemical symbolism. To give perhaps the most striking example. 
Figure 3 reproduces on the title page of Die Zeugung. Here Oken depicts a pair of snakes, each with 
the other's tail in its mouth: it is a somewhat idiosyncratic Uroboros. One commentator remarks that 
the Uroboros is an ancient symbol of eternity (Raikov, 1969). This need hardly be contested but it 




■^r ,^M. 

Eiiic Oxyildlioti 


ManiJidi ist 
Vvde Ml- 

WcMkh ist 

hull Schwcfel 

Kurall I Pflanzo 

Zwitlter ist 

W'asser Salz 


Figure 2. Alchemical scheme from Oken's 
Die Zeitgung {\W5). 


r(7 ■ /r.if/>/t . //>/(//y(r/'Aa/(//. 

KiGURE 3. Frontispiece from Oken's 
Die Zeugting ( 1 805) with a double Uroboros. 

completely misses the intended message. Symbols are powerful because they can convey all sorts of 
things at the same time. For alchemists, the Uroboros is a symbol of alchemical truth, the aqua divina, 
and the philosopher's stone (Jung, 1 970). We should emphasize that the primary goal of alchemy was 
not the transmutation of base metals into gold, but the attainment of a kind of knowledge that such a 
procedure symbolizes. 


Richard Owen ( 1 804-1 892) is largely remembered as a bitter opponent of Darwin, and especially 
of Huxley. After the Origin of Species was published, he claimed to have been an evolutionist all 
along, rather to Darwin's surprise. Lately, what I like to call Tory historians have attempted to 
refurbish Owen's reputation and to treat him as a kind of evolutionist. If all one means by an 
"evolutionist" is someone who thinks that there are successions of ancestors and descendants that 
become cumulatively different in one sense or another, then one can make a case for such an 
interpretation. But somebody who has begrudged the world such a minimal concession can easily go 
on to defend a position that is at once creationist, and profoundly anti-evolutionary (Ghiselin, 1997). 


Owen was one of the outstanding idealistic morphoiogists, and in his book on the meaning of limbs, 
he explicitly refers to the "Archetypal World in the Platonic cosmogony. ..." (Owen, 1 849: 1 ). 

Although Owen was sometimes called the "British Cuvier," he makes a much better British Oken. 
The connections between Owen and Oken are quite clear. They were personally acquainted. Owen 
was a strong supporter of the vertebral theory of the skull, and at the Natural History Museum in 
London, Owen's personal copy of Oken's basic publication on that theory is still preserved (Oken, 
1 807), Owen ( 1 858) wrote an encyclopedia article on Oken, defending his priority for the vertebral 
theory of the skull against Goethe. Furthermore, Owen was instrumental in arranging for the 
publication of an English translation of Oken's Lehrbiich der Natiirgeschichie (Oken, 1 847). Around 
that time Charles Darwin paid a lot of attention to Owen's publications on the principles of 
comparative anatomy, and his personal copies of these are heavily annotated. Although Darwin's 
reading list says that he read the translation of Oken's Lehrbucb in September of 1847, he would 
seem not to ha\e annotated his personal copy: nor does he discuss it in his published correspondence. 
He does mention Oken as one of his predecessors in the "Historical Sketch" that was inserted in later 
editions of The Origin of Species. 

Among the works of Owen that Darwin paid most attention to was \\\t Archetype and Homologies 
of the Vertebrate Skeleton (Owen, 1848). Darwin was much intrigued by Owen's notion of an 
archetype, but did not like the idealistic connotations and used the term as roughly equivalent to a 
common ancestor (as is clear from his annotations and correspondence). Owen's archetype looks very 
much like a fish, which is perfectly reasonable even if one reinterprets it as representing a stage in 
our own ancestry. Nonetheless if we look at Owen's ( 1849:86) quasi-evolutionary comments upon 
the Archetype in his Nature of Limbs, the following suggests the kind of metaphysics that was 

To what natural laws or secondary causes the orderly succession and progression of such organic 
phenomena may have been committed we as yet are ignorant. But if, without derogation of the 
Divine power, we may conceive the existence of such ministers, and personify them by the term 
'Nature,' we learn from the past history of our globe that she has advanced with slow and stately 
steps, guided by the archetypal light, amidst the wreck of worlds, from the first embodiment of 
the Vertebrate idea under its old Ichthyic vestment, until it became arrayed in the glorious garb 
of the Human fonn. 

"Archetypal light" is jargon for God, and this all sounds very Platonic. One historian has flatly 
denied that Owen was a Platonist (Rupke, 1 993 ) on the grounds that Owen's views were quite different 
from those of Plato himself To be sure, for somebody like Plato a human being would make inuch 
more sense as an ideal vertebrate than would a fish. But to treat Owen as if he were a philosopher 
who derived his ideas from philosophical texts places his writings in the wrong literary context. 
Granted that Owen was a follower of Oken, and at least influenced by alcheiny, it follows that he was 
a kind of Neoplatonist operating in the "hermetic tradition" and perhaps under the influence of the 
Cabala (Yates, 1964; Simonetta, 1995). Furthermore, as a mystic, he would ha\e been perfectly free 
to pick and choose from any of a variety of notions, and mystics often revel in contradictions. 

If one brings in Christianity, the fish makes a fine symbol of both Man and the Son of Man, and 
vertebrate anatomy thereby becomes transformed into a sort of allegory. But whether he had that in 
mind is just an intriguing possibility. At the very least, we ought to be sensitive to the profound 
difference between such an interpretation of anatomy and what somebody like Darwin was up to. 
Design on the installment plan is by no means what we mean by evolution: the change in question is 
superficial, insofar as everything was ordained from the Beginning and nothing really new has come 
into being. 



Ernst Haeckel ( 1 834-1 9 1 9) is generally considered to have been Darwin's outstanding advocate 
among the Gemians. Yet Haeckel's views were most peculiar, quite different from those of Darwin 
or of real advocates of Darwin's views such as Fritz Miiller. Haeckel was strongly influenced by 
Naturphilosophie and his opponents sometimes made a big point of that. Elias Metschnikoff for 
example railed against him in both his German and his Russian publications (see Ghiselin and 
Groeben, 1997). Traces of Goethean mysticism in Haeckel have been noted by its advocates and 
opponents alike (Himleben, 1965). If we treat him as a follower of Goethe and Oken. much of 
Haeckel's behavior makes a lot more sense. For one thing, Haeckel (1882) claimed that both Goethe 
and Oken were evolutionists. For another, Haeckel advocated Hylozoism: the notion that all matter 
is alive. His last book in fact was entitled The Souls of Crystals (Haeckel, 1917). His peculiar science 
of "promorphology" that provided an arrangement of types of symmetry was obviously derived from 
Oken, perhaps through some intermediate source. His notion of protoplasm has sometimes been 
compared to the Okenian "Urschleini." 

Some Later Vestiges of Alchemy 

Outside of biology, we have the interesting case of the German philosopher and psychologist 
Gustav Theodor Fechner (1801-1887), whose debt to Oken has lately been well documented by 
Michael Heidelberger (1993). Indeed Heidelberger maintains that the popularity of so-called Dar- 
winism in Gennany is unintelligible without an understanding of Oken. Like Oken, Fechner was a 
hylozoist and he believed that soul is in everything and that the world is God's body. The notion of 
self-organization, of course an important theme in alchemy, was derived by Prigogine and Glansdorf 
from Fechner, who in turn derived it from Oken. 

The notion of a Weltorganismus which Oken evidently derived either directly or indirectly from 
Plato has been a pervasive theme in various disciplines. I discussed this theme in sociology and 
ecology at some length in my book on the economy of nature (Ghiselin, 1974). The present form of 
this superstition is of course what is called the Gaia hypothesis. 

That however, may have been a sort of rediscovery. It is interesting to find that the "transformed 
cladists" in rejecting evolution as a basis for systematics realized that they were rediscovering the 
views of the so-called rational morphologists. Simonetta (1995) is quite blunt in comparing the 
advocates of hologenesis and like notions to cabalistic thinking. Persons of such persuasion have 
treated Owen as a kind of anti-hero. But when we talk about "rediscovery" it becomes problematic 
as to how the older tradition may have influenced much later work, perhaps unconsciously. 


One might want to put in a good word for Naturphilosophie and even for its alchemical aspects. 
Finding analogies, or far-fetched resemblances, can be a most usefiil source of new ideas in the 
sciences. The problem, however, is what one makes of such analogies. The alchemist, rather than 
finding causal relationships among appearances, seeks a pattern of symbolic correspondences that 
give him a sense of communing with a worid that lies beyond appearances. As it turns out. the effort 
to read God's mind leads to a projection of one's inner self So what gets revealed is a subjective 
construct, rather than an objective discovery. 

When we realize what has gone on at perhaps an unconscious level it is easy to see why 
morphology, at least as practiced in the tradition of Oken and Goethe, has been so formalistic and 


sterile. And also why it has so often been a bastion of anti-evolutionism and a focus of opposition to 
the theory' of natural selection. When somebody is seeking that kind of order, it is obviously not the 
kind of order that is of interest to an evolutionist in the modem sense of that tenn. In comparing Oken 
to Daru'in, some historians have suggested that what made the difference was Darwin's empirical 
approach. This altogether misses the point. The alchemists had their laboratories and their experi- 
ments. They interacted w ith nature. 

It is one thing to study organisms with the goal of finding an order that lies "beyond" the organized 
beings themselves and their place in the material universe. It is another to treat the organisms as 
populations of organized beings that become reorganized through successive generations by virtue 
of how they interact with one another and with the rest of the material universe. If some of the answers 
look superficially similar, the questions were fundamentally different. We seek in vain among the 
advocates of Naturphilosophie for evidence of a research program in which the history of life is 
documented and that history is important in allowing us to understand the organisms themselves. 

In science, the mysticism did not drop out instantaneously, and indeed it is still with us. It has 
gone from explicit to implicit, and then perhaps even become unconscious. Likewise it has become 
marginalized, moved out of the intellectual mainstream to become part of superstition, folklore, 
literary ornament, and religious apologetics. But in such cases it becomes very hard for the historian 
to deal with it. When alchemy separated from chemistry, its mystical tradition continued as the 
Rosicrucian movement. Cain (1992) suspected that Linnaeus was a Rosicrucian; but all that he was 
able to show for sure was an interest in the occult. 

There are serious problems when we encounter what look like "survivals" of older ways of 
thinking. On the one hand, the historical connection might have little if anything to do with real 
content: self-organization is a real phenomenon and it needn't be approached from a mystical point 
of view. And things change, so that the mysticism might simply get dropped out. On the other hand 
just about everybody seems to posses the capacity to invent mystical notions, and these may arise 
without any historical connection to apparent historical predecessors. This is, broadly speaking, what 
Jung proposed: the human brain has a certain structure, the product of evolution, and we inherit a 
proclivity to behave like alchemists. So for Jung alchemy was interesting as a clue to the unconscious. 
But how do we get at those aspects of scientific thinking of which scientists themselves are 
largely unaware? To understand the culture of natural history we may therefore need some insights 
from psychology. There is nothing particularly anti- scientific about that. Scientists realize that there 
are frequencies of sound that bats can hear but we cannot; and likewise that there are frequencies of 
light that bees can see but we cannot. The limitations of our senses have not kept such matters beyond 
our grasp. 


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Copyright ©2000 by the California Academy of Sciences 

Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California 941 18, USA. 

All rights reserved. 



India: A Case Study of Natural History 
in a Colonial Setting 


1 California Academy of Sciences. Golden Gate Park. San Francisco. California 941 18 

E-mail: aleviton(5' 

" Science and Technology Studies. Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853 

and Research Associate, California Academy of Sciences. San Francisco, California 941 18 

E-mail: 7306 1.2420(a:compuserve. com 

In southern and southwestern Asia, 1 8th- and 1 9th-centui7 natural history exploration, collection 
building, and the founding of museums, were closely tied to the geopolitics of the time. As obsei^ed 
by Anderson (1999:15), the early period of natural history studies by Europeans in India and 
neighboring countries coincided with expansionist activities most notably of Britain and France, the 
Ottoman Turks, and Russia. Anderson {loc. cit.) argued that the first two, particularly, saw the 
independent states and khanates of Southwest Asia as buffers between their domains of territorial 
hegemony, as each moved to increase trade and economic influence within its realms. He noted that 
each sought more, especially raw materials for expanding manufacturing industries back home, 
spices, teas and other exotic food stuffs, and outlets abroad for the products of their factories. Britain 
also found that it offered opportunity to relocate undesirables as well as provide opportunity for some 
of the burgeoning population at home. 

Given the initial demands of colonialization, the naturalists who accompanied military expedi- 
tions, boundary commissions, railway, trigonometric, and telegraph surveys, and diplomatic missions 
during the 18th and 19th centuries were mostly military officers and physicians attached to army 
units. Early in the second half of the 19th century, however, a new breed of naturalists, drawn from 
the ranks of professionally-trained geologists, surveyors, foresters, meteorologists, and the like began 
to replace the "gentlemen" explorers and soldier- and physician-naturalists of the earlier day. And 
some of these were seconded to military units for the purpose of conducting reconnaissance 
explorations along routes of march. Even so, at best natural history exploration during this period 
was nearly always practiced avocationally, political and military exigencies permitting. Nonetheless, 
large collections were amassed and journals filled with observations, maps, and sketches of animals, 
plants, and terrain, and these engaged the attention of many, both in the colonies and back home. 

In this paper, we focus on a narrow range of activities of the colonial enterprise, those closely 
tied to the establishment of a scientific natural history undertaking. We examine their implications 
for the development of museums, botanic gardens, and government-sponsored surveys as research 
centers, with their associated collections, and along the way cite some of the more notable research 
done by the "colonials." 

Several of India's extant natural history institutions have venerable histories. For some, that 
history dates back to the late 18th and early 1 9th centuries. In the limited space available, we cannot 
possibly chronicle the emergence of the many such institutions that today dot the subcontinent, such 
as the Asiatic Society of Bengal, founded in 1784, and its museum in 1814, or that of the Madras 
Literary Society, whose small collections formed the nucleus of the Central or Madras Government 
Museum in 1851, the Victoria Museum in Karachi, also in 1 85 1 , the Victoria and Albert Museum in 
Bombay (1857), Government [Napier] Museum in Trivandrum (1857), Central Museum in Nagpur 
( 1 863 ), and museums in Lucknow ( 1 863 ), Bangalore ( 1 865 ), Calcutta ( 1 866), Fyzabad (1871), and 


elsewhere. Rather, we shall follow those events that led to the establishment of museums in general, 
and, most importantly, the Indian Museum in Calcutta, which to this day houses the largest, most 
diverse zoological, botanical and ethnological collections in India. In its one guise or another, the 
Indian Museum has participated in the most far-reaching programs of research and public displays 
of the many museums founded throughout Asia during the 19th century. In doing this, we would like 
to test whether these events tit the schemes of colonial science advanced by Basalla (1967), that 
emphasize the explorative and applied rather than theoretical, his "corporate" view downplaying the 
individual, and Fleming's (1964) description of colonial scientists as preferring a subservient role 
because "it saved them from the more perilous enterprise of theoretical constructions." While there 
may be a grain of truth to these assertions, we find their generalizations too sweeping, obfuscating 
as they do much of the exceptional science that took place in colonial settings, most notably in India, 
from which setting emerged such important theoretical constructs as isostasy, Penno-Carboniferous 
glaciation, and Gondwanaland, to name but three. We are drawn to Deepak Kumar's recent writing. 
Science and the Raj, in which he argues that science in the colonial/imperial settings of the "Raj" 
takes on a uniqueness of its own and is much influenced by the geography and social and political 
climate in which it takes place. We are also mindful that too many historians who deal with science 
in the 19th century, even those focusing on colonial science, look to the models of Western European 
science, and concentrate all too narrowly on laboratoi7-based physics, chemistry, microscopical 
biology, and physiology, with little appreciation of the impact of the tleld-based sciences, such as 
natural history and geology, with an allowance, of course, for Darwin. We contend that, on balance, 
historians deal poorly with the historical sciences, geology, biogeography, and faunistics and 
floristics, and with the influence colonial scientists had on European thought. Even MacLeod's vision 
of "Imperial Science," we believe is too constraining with respect to mid- 1 9th centuiy India, although 
he allows for the emergence of new "metropoles," new centers of intellectual fennent, beyond those 
already well established in Europe and North America. We recognize, but do not agree with, the 
almost universal appeal of the notion, as pointed out by MacLeod (1987:221) that "Colonial science 
... to those at home, recognizing their dominion over palm and pine, . . . meant derivative science, 
done by lesser minds working on problems set by savants in Europe. It was, looked at from the 
metropolis, 'low science,' identified with fact gathering." Thus, we, like Kumar, take exception to 
these too narrow perspectives, and we intend to show why. 

If our comments that follow seem to focus too narrowly on geology, plants, tlshes, and reptiles, 
allow that these engaged the attention of many 1 9th century scientists, professional and amateur alike. 
Moreover, they serve well as exempli gratia of the points we wish to make. Lastly, we are well aware 
of the close relationship between the founding of many of the provincial museums in India, with their 
emphasis on zoology, and the rise of teaching universities. We certainly believe that this is a subject 
that should court notice, but we do not pursue it here because even though started in the mid- 19th 
century with several small specialized museums, such as the medical museum at Grant Medical 
College, Bombay in 1845, and museums at Calcutta University and in Bombay and Madras in the 
1850s (see Markham, 1936:13-18 for additional listings), most ofthe activity took place early in the 
20th century, and thus falls outside our purview. 

The Early Years 

Let us now set the clock back to December 3 1 , 1600, to that moment in history that set "England" 
(and here we use the eponym in both its Elizabethan and 19th century Victorian context, which was 
decidedly non-European) on the path of imperial domain. On that day, Elizabeth put the Great Seal 



Figure 1. Seal of the East India Company. 

on the charter of the East India Company (Fig. 1), thereby 
giving royal consent to a select group of London merchants to 
conduct business in the "East Indies" in direct competition 
with Portuguese and Dutch traders. The Court of Directors of 
the newly founded company responded immediately and 
placed Sir James Lancaster (d. 1618'') in command of its first 
venture. He was ordered to sail to the East Indies, establish a 
"factory," a mercantile trading post, on Sumatra and purchase 
spices, teas, indigo, camphor, and other products for direct 
import to England. Until 1579, Dutch merchants had handled 
most of northern Europe's spice trade. They had gotten their 
supplies from the Portuguese in Lisbon, but that was before 
1 580 when Spain annexed Portugal. With the earlier defeat of 
their Spanish overlords and the establishment of an inde- 
pendent Dutch republic in 1579, Spain closed all of its ports to Dutch shipping. Cut off from their 
source of supplies, the Dutch saw their lucrative spice trade severely curtailed and a meteoric increase 
in the cost of what spices they could obtain. Northern Europe, including Britain, were of course, 
affected. This prompted the Dutch, in 1 595, to open their own sea routes to the East Indies "in open 
defiance of the Portuguese monopoly, and open trade with the ports of Java and Bali" (Whitfield, 
1998:105); shortly thereafter, England followed suit. Thus, with £30,000 in gold, silver coin, and 
other metals as barter, Lancaster set sail in 1601 with five small vessels under his command. Two 
years later he returned with more than a million pounds-sterling worth of spices, assuredly a successful 
voyage by any standard. Lancaster also left several merchants behind to set up a mercantile station, 
but rather than doing so on Sumatra, they moved to Bantam on the island of Java. Dealings proved 
difficult, however, because English goods, especially heavy English broadcloth, were not of interest 
to local traders. Mostly, the local merchants sought cloth made of fine Indian cotton, so when the 
Company decided to send out a third expedition, its destination was India. 

In 1608, the Company elected to set up a station on the west coast of India; Captain William 
Hawkins (possibly the son of Capt. Williams Hawkins [Hawkyns; d. 1589] by his first wife) was 
placed in command of the new undertaking. Surat, about 170 miles north of Bombay, was selected 
as the site for a trading post. Surat was already well known as an important merchandising center, 
and, perhaps even more compelling, it was not under Portuguese control. On his arrival, although 
politely received by the local authorities, Hawkins was told that pennission to establish a mercantile 
"factory" had to come from the Nawab (governor), in Cambay, and the Mughal Emperor, in Agra. 
Hawkins negotiated and succeeded on both accounts, first because he spoke Turkish, the language 
of the Mughal court, and second, because he impressed both Nawab and Emperor by defeating the 
Portuguese in a minor skinnish off the Surat coast in 1612, much to the dismay of local Jesuit 
missionaries and Portuguese. Permission was granted in 161 3. 

The Company, once firmly established in Surat. began its relentless expansion (Fig. 2). This 
brought it into further conflict, first with the Portuguese, and then the French, who eadier had set up 

In providing birth and death dates for the cast of characters, we have made every effort to provide accurate dates. However, 
we relied exclusively on secondary sources for these data and discovered occasional conflicts among the sources consulted. 
For instance. Robert Kyd {q.v). founder of the Royal Botanical Gardens in Calcutta, is said to have died on 26 May 1793 
according to a biographical sketch thai appeared In the Dictionaij oj National Biography (vol. 1 1 . p. 348) but in 1 825 in the 
Catalogue of the Books . . . of the British Museum (Natural History) (vol. 2, E-K. p. 1038). In the latter. Kyd's date of birth is 
given as 1 746. but no mention is made of this in the DNB article, written by Henry Manners Chichester. Based on other sources, 
we believe his correct dates are 1 746-1 793. 




Mamala or s° Chaunrl 

; JJu/ii* ^./,,/. 

Sindal or R ? a>aam<l I"' 

< * Sf'eUlwl MoD At. .1 

"^ McliSr iMLMondoi 

Figure 2. British India, 1802. 
From a map in the possession of the authors. 


a trading center at Pondicherry, south of Madras on India's southeast coast. In time, and with the 
expanding commerce, the Company established additional trading centers at Fort St. George in 
Madras, at Bombay, at Fort St. David at Cuddalore on the Coromandel Coast, and most importantly, 
at Calcutta in Bengal. The Company also began to invest time, money, and people to conduct surveys 
of the territories under its widening influence because it needed to know more about commercially 
available resources, particularly the plants and coal. 

Although our main concern is the elaboration of developments in natural history studies and the 
evolution of collection-oriented research museums in India during the 19th century, we must explore 
those earlier events that set the stage for these later developments. Thus, only a few European 
scientists touched on India during the latter part of the 17th and first half of the 18th centuries, and 
those that did were in the employ of the Dutch East India Company, mostly as medical officers. Paul 
Hemiann (1646-1695), for example, went to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) about 1670 as a medical officer and 
while there made extensive collections of plants. These he brought back to Halle when he returned 
in 1 677, and they fonned the bases of at least two published catalogs. In 1 744. Hennann's herbarium 
came into the possession of Copenhagen apothecary August Giinther. who sent the collections to 
Linnaeus for naming. Georg Eberhard Rumphius (1628-1702) and Johannes Burmannus (1706- 
1 779) are best known for their joint editorship of Herbarii Amhoinensis Auciuariiim, which appeared 
in 1 705, three years after Rumphius' death, and Burmann's lone editorship of Herbarium Amboinense 
(1741 ) and Thesaurus Zeykinicus (1737). By the end of the third quarter of the 18th century, Jacob 
Klein and Christopher Samuel John, two members of the Danish mission at Tranquebar, a small 
trading post south of Madras, founded the "United Brothers," as a botanical society for the purpose 
of collecting plants and preparing herbarium specimens (Jain 1982:1 16). The "Brothers" was not a 
scientific society as understood in the 20th century. Rather it was a collegial group, and between 1 768 
and 1792 it attracted several of the East India Company's Medical Services employees, notably 
Johann Gerhard Koenig (in 1768) and William Roxburgh (in 1776), who joined the fellowship and 
became instrumental in making the Indian flora more widely known to European botanists. Others, 
not associated with the "United Brothers," such as Linnaeus' student. Carl Pehr Thunberg (1743— 
1828), made botanical collections in Ceylon (Sri Lanka), whereas French collectors, including the 
zoologist Pierre Sonnerat (1748—1814), made botanical and zoological collections in the vicinity of 
the French trading center at Pondicherry, as well as to the north of Madras, and in Ceylon (Sri Lanka). 
These collections made their way to Europe, mainly Uppsala, Paris, and London. 

Of those mentioned above, Johann Gerhard Koenig [Konig] and William Roxburgh deserve more 
attention. Johann Gerhard Koenig ( 1728—1785) (Fig. 3) had studied with Linnaeus before taking a 
post with the East India Company in India. He arrived in India in 1 768, joined the "United Brothers," 
and immediately launched an ambitious program for building a herbarium of local plants, many 
specimens of which he sent to his mentor in Uppsala. In 1778, the Madras Government appointed 
him "The Hon'ble Company's Natural Historian" for the purpose of introducing plants of economic 
importance from Malacca and Siam (Thailand) into India. As an aside, he also introduced Linnaeus' 
binomial nomenclature system into India (Jain. 1982:1 16). Koenig held the Madras post until his 
premature death in 1785, at which time the Company donated his collections and manuscripts to 
Britain's most distinguished botanist of the day, Joseph Banks. 

William Roxburgh ( 1 75 1-1 8 1 5 ) ( Fig. 4) served as an amiy surgeon for the East India Company. 
On his arrival in Madras in 1776, he, too, joined the Tranquebar group. In 1793, he replaced Robert 
Kyd (Fig. 5), founder of the Calcutta Botanic Gardens, as its superintendent. The appointment was 
made in recognition of his earlier work in establishing an experimental plantation to grow cardamom, 
pepper, indigo and other trees of potential commercial significance to the Company. But, Roxburgh 



Fii.LRE 3. Johann Gerhard Koenig [Konig]. 

Courtesy Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation. 

Carnegie-Mellon University. 

Figure 4. William Roxburgh. 
Courtesy Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation, 
Carnegie-Mellon University. 

Figure 5. Robert Kyd. 

Courtesy Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation. 

Carnegie-Mellon University. 


had broader botanical interests, and these interests brought him into conflict with Company Directors, 
who were concerned only with those aspects of botany likely to yield a profit. Over the years, 
Roxburgh put together a portfolio of drawings of more than 2,500 plant species; he published several 
volumes on plants, including the Flora Indica. in 1832; and he encouraged other newly arriving 
Company employees to come to the Garden, giving them an "institutional" setting to pursue their 
avocational and professional interests. Roxburgh's botanical notes, drawings and collections ended 
up in the hands of Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker (1817-1911), who used them extensively in preparing 
his own monumental Flora of British /m//a (1875-1896) (Jain, 1982:1 17). 

The Botanic Garden 

The establishment of the Royal Botanic Garden in Calcutta was the first of several landmark 
events that profoundly affected the development of natural history studies in India, the growth of 
scientific collections and, ultimately, the establishment of museums organized for the purpose of 
housing, displaying, and fostering research on them. 

The garden was proposed to the East India Company Directors in a letter dated 1 June 1786 by 
Lieut. -Col. Robert Kyd (1746-1793, but see footnote 3), the Company's military secretary in 
Calcutta, for the purpose of "establishing a stock for disseminating such articles as may prove 
beneficial to the inhabitants as well as to the natives of Great Britain, and which ultimately may tend 
to the extension of the national commerce and riches" (Chatterjee, 1948:362). Kyd's proposal was 
accepted 3 1 July 1 787 with the proviso that an effort should be made to cultivate the cinnamon tree 
in Bengal, which already grew abundantly in Ceylon (Sri Lanka), because "we foresee a great source 
of wealth to the Company of population and opulence to the provinces under your administration" 
(Chatterjee, 1948:362). Kyd, who died in March 1 793, was not successful in his ambitious plans for 
the garden. He was succeeded by William Roxburgh, who became the garden's first salaried 
superintendent. As an indication of the importance the Company still placed on the project, Roxburgh 
was given funds with which to build suitable living quarters for himself (the house still stands and 
serves as home to the garden's superintendent). 

The Court of Directors of the East India Company supported the employment of persons as 
natural historians, geographers and surveyors, and geologists, but it was not done out of altruism or 
as patrons of the sciences, but because they thought it could make money (see excellent discussion 
by Kumar, 1995, concerning attitudes of Europeans as they related to the emerging scientific 
enterprise in India). Not all, however, adhered to the Company's pragmatic guidelines. Roxburgh, 
for instance, instituted a scientific study of plants that strained the patience of Company Directors. 
But changes were already in the wind, and these worked to Roxburgh's benefit, and in the long run, 
to the growth of natural history studies and collections during the 19th century. Because of hard 
economic times the Company sought help from the Government in London. Relief was forthcoming, 
but at a cost; the Company had to give up much of the neariy absolute authority it exercised in its 
Indian domains, practiced through having secured control of the military and criminal justice systems 
from the Nawab of Bengal and the power to collect revenue and administer civil justice from the 
Mughal Emperor. Following the abolishment of the Maratha Confederacy (1817-1818), the Com- 
pany seemed to exercise nearly indisputable control from the Bay of Bengal to the Arabian Sea (Sen, 
1966:115), but it did so largely through the authority of the Crown's on-site representative, the 
Governor-General, Earl of Moira (later known as Marquess of [Lord] Hastings [1754-1836; Gover- 
nor-General, 1813-1823]). Thus, the Governor-General was but one of several constraints on the 
free-wheeling exercise of power formerly enjoyed by the Company in India. Nearly 40 years earlier. 


during Pitt's administration as Prime Minister, Parliament passed the India Act in 1784, which 
authorized a Board of Control to serve "as an instrument for better overseeing the actions of the East 
India Company in the interests of the British State." (Gascoigne, 1998:61.) Even though the Act 
allowed for Company control of local administration and patronage, it did so at the expense of political 
power. The Act also held the Company responsible for the welfare of the people, held it accountable 
to Parliament for its behavior, and held that its Indian representatives could not engage in any 
aggressive military activities without prior consent of Company Directors in London. According to 
Perci val Spear ( 1 96 1 :253 ), by the middle of the 1 9th century, the Company "was in fact a subordinate 
agency of the British Government in London." Although the relationship between British Govern- 
ment and Company was complex, especially as the British Crown expanded its control over the civil, 
financial, and military affairs of the country, both Company and Government held in common a 
concern for the commercial success of their Indian venture. Thus, the Company did not hesitate to 
enlarge its efforts to apply science to "ensure the military, administrative and economic control of 
the sub-continent." (Sen, 1966:1 15). 

During the first half of the 19th Century, botanically-oriented, Calcutta-based, Company natu- 
ralists gravitated to the Botanic Gardens. Several of those botanists are of special interest in the context 
of this paper because they also made significant collections and published useful papers in zoology, 
geology and anthropology. 

Although Francis Buchanan (1762-1829) and John McClelland (1805-1875) are best known of 
the Calcutta group, there were other naturalists who worked in isolation, at least away from centers 
such as Calcutta and Madras. Victor Jacquemont ( 1 801-1 832), for instance, though best remembered 
for his botanical investigations, collected many animals which he sent to Paris. In 1 844, the Atlas, or 
volume 2, of his Voyage dans I'Imie, was published. It contained 179 plates, of which 10 were of 
reptiles and fishes, the rest of birds, mammals, and other organisms; the promised volume of text 
never appeared. And, there was Brian Hodgson, about whom more will be said shortly, who was 
stationed in Katmandu, Nepal, and in time became one of the most respected British scholars and 
naturalists resident in India. 

Returning to the Calcutta corps, among the earliest and most prolific was Francis Buchanan (later 
Buchanan-Hamilton, and finally Hamilton). Bom in 1762, Buchanan took his M.D. at Edinburgh in 
1 783 and joined the East India's Company service in 1 794. While in India, he was seconded to various 
botanical, zoological, and statistical inquiries in Chittagong, Tippera, Mysore, Canara, Malabar, 
Nepal, and, following a trip to England in 1805 as Lord Wellesley's physician, Bengal and Assam. 
He served a brief stint as Superintendent of the Calcutta Botanical Gardens (1814 to 1815), but 
returned to Scotland in 1815, succeeding to his brother's and mother's estates and properties. It was 
at this time that he added his mother's family name, Hamilton, to his own (i.e., Buchanan-Hamilton) 
and became Chief of the Clan Buchanan (to 1826) even though he had by 1820 dropped Buchanan 
from his family name (Moore, 1982:402). 

During his years in India, Buchanan prepared numerous illustrations of plants, fishes, some 
reptiles, and other animals. Buchanan's ichthyological contributions, apart from his notes and 
illustrations, include his Fishes of the River Ganges ( 1 822), and The Fishes and Fisheries of Bengal, 
edited by Francis Day (1877). Buchanan kept voluminous notes on his observations, and prepared 
numerous, fine colored illustrations. Some of his journals and drawings were deposited at the 
Company's India House in London, but some remained in India. For nearly ten years after his death 
in 1 829, most of his unpublished portfolio of illustrations and notes lay forgotten in cabinets in London 
and Calcutta. When, in 1838, John McClelland visited the Botanical Gardens in London, he 
discovered two folio volumes of drawings, while John Edward Gray ( 1800—1875), then Keeper of 



the Natural History Museum in London, recovered some from the India House collection for 
reproduction in his and Hardwicke's Illustrations of Indian Zoolog\\ The odd distribution of 
Buchanan's journals and colored drawings attracted the attention of E. W. Gudger ( 1924:121—136) 
who, in the course of his delvings into Buchanan's life, uncovered a contentious squabble between 
Buchanan and the Marquis of Hastings, then Governor General of India, regarding the disposition of 
his notes and illustrations. This is recommended reading for those who want to get the inside story 
on the politics of working for the Company during the early part of the 19th century (see also Edney, 

John McClelland, a member of the East India Company's Bengal Medical Service, with a keen 
interest in botany, worked closely with Danish botanist Nathaniel Wallich (1786-1854) (Fig. 7), 
Roxburgh's replacement as Superintendent of the Calcutta Gardens. Unlike Roxburgh, who wanted 
to build an important herbarium in Calcutta. Wallich, on his retirement, removed the herbarium to 
England where he presented it to the Court of Directors of the East India Company for distribution 
among the principal herbaria and botanists of Europe, but none to Calcutta. McClelland had broad 
interests, and early on we fmd him in the field collecting amphibians, reptiles, fishes, and other 
animals. His first assignment was in Assam, where he and Wallich studied the conditions under which 
tea plants grew, with the intent of establishing tea plantations there, also in the Northwest Himalayas, 
and in the Nilgris, thus marking the beginning of India's tea industry. McClelland, who also wrote 
about Assam fishes, reptiles, and birds, including a lengthy 250-page paper on Indian Cyprinidae 
(1838), later served as Secretar>' of the Company's Coal Committee from 1836 to 1846, as Curator 
of the Asiatic Society's Museum from 1839-1841, as founder and editor of Calcutta's Journal of 
Natural History (1841-1847), as Superintendent of the Royal Botanic Garden at Sibpur from 1845 
to 1848, and as director of the as yet infonnally constituted Geological Sur\ey of India following the 
death of D. H. Williams, Geological Surveyor of the East India Company, in 1848. 

East India Company Naturalists 

.Another late-iSth-century milestone in the evo- 
lution of the natural sciences in India was the founding 
of the .Asiatic Society of Bengal, Calcutta, in 1784 by 
Sir William Jones (1746-1794). Jones, an Oriental 
scholar with broad interests in the arts and sciences, 
also ser\'ed as a Company judge of the Calcutta High 
Court. Asiatic Researches, the Society's first peri- 
odical, appeared in 1788, and provided the earliest 
Asian-based outlet for publications on natural history , 
ethnology, art. and literature. Twenty-six years later, 
in 1814, with the help of NathaniefWallich (1786- 
1854), the Society established a museum (Fig. 6) to 
house articles to illustrate "Oriental manners or his- 
tory, art and nature." Its two sections encompassed a broad cross-section of disciplines, one devoted 
to zoology and geology, another to ethnology, archaeology, and technology. Although financial 
difficulties plagued the museum from the outset, its success as a center for the accumulation of objects 
of nature encouraged the founding of local societies and display cabinets elsewhere in India: Madras 
( 1 85 1 ). Bombay ( 1 857), Trivandaim ( 1 857) and others, as previously mentioned (Lamba. 1 963: 1 85). 

Because the society found itself perpetually short of funds, in 1836 it asked the Government of 

FiuuKh b. Museum of the Asiatic .Societv of Bengal i 

Calcutta. The museum building was built in IS 14. 

From Anon.. 1914. 


India for financial assistance. The request was forwarded to the East India Company's Court of 
Directors in London because the Indian government was itself already saddled with the cost of 
maintaining the India House museum and library in London, that had been established in 1 80 1 under 
the direction of Sir Charles Wilkins( 1750-1 836) (Moore, 1982:399). In 1839. London acceded to 
the request, and the society received a grant of about 20 pounds-sterling per month for the museum. 
Two years later Edward Blyth (I8IO-1873) was appointed its first salaried curator. In 1838, the 
Bengal Government, because of the success of the Raniganj coal mines, authorized a Museum of 
Economic Geology, which was to share rooms with the Asiatic Society's museum (which it did until 
1 856, when it was moved to new quarters under the administration of the Geological Sur\'ey of India). 
At the time it authorized the geological museum, the Bengal government offered to assume respon- 
sibility for the geological collections then owned by the Asiatic Society, but the offer was declined. 
By 1856, the Society, having neither the physical space nor the financial resources to maintain its 
museum, petitioned the government to establish an Imperial Museum in Calcutta with the under- 
standing that it would hand over all its all of collections, but not its library. The Sepoy uprising of 
1857 led to the postponement of most non-military decisions, but the Society persisted, and in 1862 
the government of India agreed to act. In 1866, the Indian Museum Act passed, and John Anderson 
was hired to superintend the collections and plan the construction of new quarters, which were not 
to be built for another 9 years (Leviton and Aldrich, 1984:vi-viii). However, once finished, in 1875, 
the Museum of the Asiatic Society, at that time popularly known as the 'Jadu Ghar," the "House of 
Mysteries," transferred its collections to the new museum building. Other collections, including those 
of the Geological Survey of India and the Botanic Gardens, were transferred about the same time. 

Returning to the waning years of the 1 8th century, two other company employees deserve 
mention. Though neither was responsible for amassing large collections, both are emblematic of the 
dedicated amateur naturalists employed by the Company in its military units or to superintend its 
economic botanical interests: Patrick Russell (sometimes spelt Russel) (6 Feb. 1 7[26-27]— 1 805) (Fig. 
8) and Thomas Hardwicke, Russell was bom in Edinburgh, attended the University of Edinburgh, 
where he obtained his M.D. He succeeded his elder half-brother Alexander as physician at an English 
"factory" at Aleppo (= Halab. in northwestern Syria) from 1750 to 1771. after which he returned to 
London (1772). In 1781, at the age of 55, he left England for India, arriving in Vizagapatam later that 
year. From 1785 to 1789. he served as the East India Company's botanist in theCamatic (Kamataka) 
region of southeastern India. One of a few late 18th-century Indian naturalists interested in animals 
as well as plants, he took special note of Indian snakes and fishes of the Coromandel Coast. Russell 
conducted the first systematic study of Indian snakes, clearly distinguishing between venomous and 
non-venomous species. He also conducted many experiments with snake venoms. Russell published 
several treatises, notably a Treatise on the Plague (1791 ), an Account of Indian Serpents Collected 
on the Coast of Coromandel. with 46 plates, in 1796. followed in 1801 [-1809] by a continuation 
volume with 45 plates (see Zhao and Adler. 1993:396-397. for comments on the dates of printing of 
the sections contained in the continuation volume), and descriptions and figures of about 200 species 
of fishes collected at Vizagapatam (1803. 2 vols.). Russell used local vernacular names for his 
illustrations and. thus, his works, though well known, are infrequently referenced save as one or more 
of the illustrations stand as types for Linnaean binomina given by Shaw ( 1 80 1 ), Gray ( 1 827). or others. 

Thomas Hardwicke (1756-1835) (Fig. 9), Major-General of the East India Company's Bengal 
Artillery, also made collections of plants and animals. Like Russell, he. too. is best remembered for 
his portfolio of animal illustrations. These were published in London by John Edward Gray, then 
Keeper of Zoology at the British Museum (Natural History), under the title. Illustrations of Indian 
Zoo/ogi( 1830-1 835). which, as noted earlier, included some of Francis Buchanan's plates as well. 



Figure 7. Nathaniel Wallich. 

Courtesy Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation. 

Carnegie-Mellon University. 

FKiLRE 8. Patrick Russell. 

Frontispiece portrait in Russell's 1802 volume 

Indian Serpents nflhe Cotomandai Coast. 

Figure 9. Thomas Hardwicke. 

Courtesy Smithsonian Institution Archives 

(RU95. Neg. #SA-645). 


During the second quarter otthe 1 9th century, the East India Company or the British Government 
employed a number of people whose avocational interests resulted in large collections and many 
publications laying out the fauna and flora of India. Already mentioned in connection with the Asiatic 
Society of Bengal's museum, Edward Blyth ( 1 8 10-1873 ) ( Fig. 10), acclaimed by John Gould as "one 
of the first zoologists of his time, and the founder of the study of that science in India," (Gould, 
1853:41) was bom in London on 23 December 1810, the eldest of four children. He showed an early 
interest in natural history, so much so that he was as a frequent truant at Dr. Fennell's school in 
Wimbleton, usually disappearing on excursions to the nearby woods. His early efforts at studying 
chemistry and a brief flirtation with a druggist's business ended in failure. He spent much of his time 
reading at the British Museum and collecting in the field, mainly butterflies and birds. He wrote many 
natural history articles between 1833 and 1841. edited an edition of the Rev. Gilbert White's The 
Natural Histoiy and Antiquities ofSelbounie. and in 1 849 and again in 1851 translated and annotated 
a one-volume edition of the mammal, bird, and reptile sections of Cuvier's Le Regne Animal. BIyth's 
reputation won him an offer from the East India Company as ill-paid Curator of the Asiatic Society 
of Bengal's museum, one of the first of a growing number to go to India as professional scientists 
(Larwood, 1961:85). He arrived in Calcutta in September 1841 and began collecting animals and 
writing articles on Indian natural history, which he continued to do for the next 2 1 years. Because of 
failing health, he returned to England in 1862 where he continued writing short papers on a variety 
of topics, including a work in preparation at the time of his death in 1873. The Origination of Species. 
Blyth was an early supporter of Darwin, having anticipated Darwin's work by more than 20 years 
when "he published in 1835 [Blyth. 1835:40-53] the first of two articles that discuss variation, the 
struggle for existence, sexual selection, and natural selection in tenns that have a Darwinian sound. 
. . . [However, while] Blyth no doubt provided Darwin with many insights ... it was Darwin's On 
the Origin of Species which seems to have revolutionized BIyth's ideas about species, and not vice 
versa." (McKinney, 1970:206.) 

Brian Houghton Hodgson (1800-1894) (Fig. 1 1 ) stands out as the most impressive scholar of 
the Company's employees. Hodgson went to India at the age of IS and attended the College of Fort 
William in Calcutta. After a brief stay in Kumaon as Assistant Commissioner ( I8I8-1820), he took 
up residence in Katmandu, Nepal, where he served as Assistant Resident and then Resident from 
1820 to 1844. Precipitously removed from office by Lord Ellenborough, even though he had 
performed crucial service by keeping Nepal quiet during the first Afghan war ( 1 839-1 84 1 ). Hodgson 
went to Darjeeling. in Sikkim. where he remained for some years. In 1 858. he left India and returned 
to England; he died in London in May 1 894. During his years in Nepal, Hodgson studied the language, 
literature, and religion of both Nepal and Tibet, translated Sanskrit and Tibetan manuscripts, and 
otherwise gathered a massive quantity of ethnographic, natural history, and geographic infonnation 
about the country. He published several papers on Nepalese vertebrates, especially birds and reptiles, 
but his principal contributions in natural history, apart from geography, lay in the collections he sent 
to London. His literary attainments led to many honors including election as a Fellow of the Royal 
Society, corresponding member of the French Institute, and a chevalier of the Legion of Honor. 

Paleontology was not neglected during this period, and there is much that could be said about it. 
For the moment, we will mention only the works of three. First, and perhaps foremost, there was Dr. 
Hugh Falconer (1808-1865) who, during the years 1831-1859. revealed the rich fossil fauna of 
India's now-famed upper Tertiary Siwalik Hills beds. Falconer was an assistant surgeon in the Bengal 
Establishment in 1830, and then superintendent of the Botanical Gardens at Sharanpur from 1832 to 
1841 (Moore. 1982:404). Much ofhispaleontological work was done in collaboration with Sir Proby 
Thomas Cautley ( 1 802-1 87 1 ). then Capt. Cautley of the Bengal Artillery. The bulk of theircollections 



! :;!, LJward Blvlh. >'"■'-'«£ 1 1. Bnan Hodgson. 

Courtesy Kraig Adler. Cornell University. Courtesy Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation. 

Carnegie-Mellon University. 

Figure 12. Thomas Claverhill Jerdon. 

Courtesy Kraig Adler, 

Cornell Universitv. 


was sent to London, where it was distributed among the India and British Museums, and to museums 
in Bombay and Calcutta as well as to the Science and Art Museum in Dublin (Moore, 1982:404). 
Both Falconer and Cautley did publish short papers on their discoveries, but no monographic 

Paralleling the work of Falconer and Cautley was Andrew Fleming (1 822-1 90 1 ). who entered 
the employ of the East India Company in 1844 and then, in 1849. was assigned to the post of surgeon 
in the 4th Punjab Cavalry. While stationed in Punjab, he became interested in the Salt Range and 
soon was on detached duty to the Geological Survey of the Punjab. Fleming's collections were 
dispatched to Edinburgh, although some did end up in the British Museum in London. (Moore, 
1982:405-407.) Like Fleming and Caultey, he, too did not produce any monographic works, though 
a few papers dealing with the fossil vertebrates did flow from his pen. 

Lastly, of the naturalists of whom we wish to take note and who plied their avocational interests 
on the subcontinent largely during the years before the founding of the Geological Survey of India 
in 1851, was Thomas Claverhill Jerdon (181 1-1872) (Fig. 12), who joined the Company's medical 
service in 1835 in Madras as surgeon and retired in 1864. Jerdon is best known for his contnbutions 
in ornithology and mammalogy, which include Illustrations of Indian Omitholog\- ( 1 847), The Birds 
of India . . . (1862-64) in 3 octavo volumes, and The Mammals of India, published in 1868, and for 
the collections relating to these works. He also published a Catalogue of Reptiles Inhabiting Southern 
India and Manual of Vertebrata of India. He made small collections of fishes, amphibians and reptiles, 
deposited some in the Government Museum in Madras and the Indian Museum, but sent most to the 
British Museum (Natural History) in London. 

Around the mm of the century, the need to evaluate the commercial potential of the natural 
resources had led the East India Company to take the first steps toward professionalizing science in 
India. Although it did this by hiring people to do specific jobs that required specialized training to 
conduct geological reconnaissances, trigonometric surveys, and botany, it was the founding of the 
Geological Survey of India in 1 85 1 that solidified the trend toward the professionalization of science 
in India, not unlike, and at about the same time, the role played by the founding of the Geological 
Survey of Canada in 1 852 and several state geological surveys in the United States. It also inaugurated 
the hiring of non-colonials and provided training to prepare them to enter the professional ranks. 

Geological Survey of India 

Thus, we come to the third milestone in the history of studies of nauiral history, collection 
building and museums in India, the founding of the Geological Survey of India in 1851. This followed 
more than two decades of Company-sponsored studies of the coal fields, especially those of Raniganj, 
in western Bengal, to determine the extent of undeveloped resources there and in other parts of the 
country. This was not, however, the first effort at geological investigations by the East India Company. 
As early as 1817, Lord Hastings, Governor-General of India, had geologists appointed to the newly 
established Great Trigonometrical Survey as well as to other survey parties, mostly military, such as 
those commanded by Bengal Infantry Captains William Webb (1784-1865; survey activities, 
1 8 1 5-1 82 1 ), Frederick Dangerfield ( 1 789-1 828; survey activities, 1 8 1 8-1 82 1 ), and James Dowling 
Herbert (1791-1835; survey activities, 1816-1821, 1824-1828). Of the three, James Herbert re- 
mained active in the field the longest and in 1 82 1 was appointed Assistant Surveyor General, in 1829, 
Deputy Surveyor General (Edney, 1997:296, 344). He was also accorded the rather "pleasant [even 
if unofficial] title of 'Geological Surveyor of the Hymalya [sic] Mountain"" (Anon., 195 1 :2). Initially, 
Webb and Herbert conducted surveys in the western Himalayas, Dangerfield in southern Uttar 



Pradesh in the vicinity of Malwa. As for geologists. Alexander Laidlaw (d. 1 836), was employed as 
assistant geologist on the Webb survey (Edney, 1997:296), while Henry Westley Voysey (d. 1824), 
a surgeon with the HM 59th, 46th and 1st Foot (Edney, 1997:347), was assigned as surgeon and 
naturalist to the Great Trigonometric Survey. It was Voysey who prepared India's geological map 
(1820), of the Hyderabad region, and for this he is sometimes referred to as the "Father of Indian 
Geology" (Anon., 1951:2). But, one must not lose sight of the fact that, as Edney (op. cit.) rightly 
emphasized, the "company's official geological investigations were explicitly for economic pur- 
poses," as it recognized the need for good regional maps to secure military and civilian control over 
the populous, to establish a tax revenue base, and to locate economically valuable resources, minerals, 
copper, iron, and coal. 

After two decades of relatively uncoordinated geological survey activities, in 1 843. the Company 
secured the services of David Hiram Williams (d. 1848) to do a careful survey of the coal resources 
of Bengal. Williams had worked on the coal beds in Wales and elsewhere in western England for the 
Geological Survey of Great Britain under the direc- 
tion of Henry Thomas de la Beche (1796-1855). 
Unfortunately, Williams died in early November of 
1848, and one of his two assistants, J. R. Jones, died 
of fever very shortly thereafter. The Company, unable 
to find a permanent replacement, asked John McClel- 
land to take temporary charge. McClelland served 
until March 1851 when the Company hired Thomas 
Oldham (1816-1878) (Fig. 13), at the time in charge 
of the Ireland branch of the Geological Survey of 
Great Britain, as its Geological Sur\eyor and imme- 
diately placed him at the disposal of the Bengal Gov- 
ernment. Oldham was also authorized to hire 
additional geologists and. before the end of the dec- 
ade, he had an impressive array of talent in the field: 
John G. and Henry B. Medlicott (1829-1905). Wil- 
liam T. ( 1 832-1 905 ) and Henry F. ( 1 834-1 893) Blan- 
ford, William Theobald 1829-1908), Ferdinand 
Stoliczka (1838-1874), Fredenc Richard Mallet F"^ire 13 ThomasOidham (FromGe,k,e, 1S95.) 
( 1 84 1-l 92 1 ), Valentine Ball ( 1 843-1 895), and shortly thereafter. Ottokar Feistmantel ( 1 848- 1 89 1 ) 
(Leviton and Aldnch. in prep.) (Figs. 14-15). Thus was inaugurated the Geological Suney of India. 

When the Blanfords came on the scene in 1 856, they were assigned to the Talchir coal fields in 
Orissa, about 400 km southwest of Calcutta, and later the Raniganj coal fields in western Bengal. 
Under Oldham's directions, the Bla- brds and John G. Medlicott mapped the Talchir rocks, which 
Oldham and the two Blanfords named the lower Talchir and upper Mahadeva (later renamed Lower 
and Upper Damuda beds). These included silt and boulder and coal beds. The division proved the 
key to establishing the Gondwana System in India. William Blanford was intrigued by the interbedded 
fine silts and large boulder deposits and argued that the area had been extensively glaciated during 
early Gondwana time. This was the first suggestion of Pemiian glaciation. a radical idea for its time, 
all the more so because he posited that it had occurred in what is now a tropical, humid climate. Thus 
was bom the germ of an idea, the vast supercontinent, Gondwanaland. Somewhat later, and based on 
fossil plants of the genus Glossopteris found both in the Talchir and Raniganj coal beds, Blanford 
also argued that the Gondwana rocks of India correlated with the Newcastle sequence of Australia 



Figure 14. Geological Survey of India (sevcial >\.t\\ nui m |iliuk.i, ^j, lM>b. iL^li ui nghl): (standing) M. H. 
Ormsby. William T. Blanford, Valentine Ball, Francis Fedden; (sitting) Thomas Oldham. Henry B. Medlicott. 
C. A. Hacket, Ambrose Tween. From Geological Survey of India, 1988. 

Figure 1 5. Geological Survey of India (several staff not in photo), ca. 1875. ( Left to right): (standing) Ferdinand 
Stoliczka. Robert Bruce Foote, William Theobald. Fredenc R. Mallet. Valentine Ball, Wilhelm Waagen, Walter 
Lindsay Willson; (sitting); Ambrose Tween, William King, Thomas Oldham, Henry B. Medlicott. C. A. Hacket. 
From Somasekar, 1 964. 


and similar rocks in South Africa and that the Gondwana rocks of India were Permo-Carboniferous 
in age. Ottokar Feistmantel, the survey's paleobotanist, disagreed, believing that the plants more 
closely matched the mid-Mesozoic flora of Europe. Following several nasty exchanges in print, 
Feistmantel was won over to Blanford's views. In a daring extension of his long-range correlations, 
and following an earlier presentation ( 1 869) by his brother Henry, who posited a southern landmass 
connecting India and Australia, William Blanford allowed for the existence of a great southern 
continent during Gondwana time that encompassed southern Africa, India, and Australia, thus 
predating Eduard Suess' Gondwana-Land by several years. It is clear from remarks made by both 
Henry and William in their several papers, the two talked about these matters at length and they must 
be given equal credit. As an aside, in the 1860s and 70s, William Blanford also correctly dated the 
Deccan volcanics (Blanford, 1869) and made additional and valuable contributions to the interpreta- 
tion of arid-land geomorphology based on his geological field work in Cutch ( 1 869), Bombay ( 1 872), 
the "Great Desert" of India between Sind and Rajpiitana (1876), Sind (1876, 1878), as well as 
elsewhere in India, and his travels in Abyssinia [Ethiopia] ([travel, 1867] 1870) and Persia [Iran] 
([travel. 1872] 1876). 

Both William (Fig. 16) and Henry Blanford (Fig. 17) had attended Henry de la Beche's Royal 
School of Mines before leaving for India in the summer of 1855. Thus, they, like others hired by 
Oldham, had professional training for the work they were to undertake. In 1 865, Henry Blanford left 
the Survey to become government meteorologist and member of the faculty of Presidency College 
in Calcutta, but his interest in geology continued unabated, as evidenced by his post-sur\'ey publica- 
tions (e.g.. H. Blanford. 1875). William remained with the Survey as Deputy Superintendent until 
his retirement in 1882. He undertook important new geological investigations, in Sind, in Orissa, in 
Sikkim, in Bunna (at the time, a province of India; today the independent country Myanmar), and 
elsewhere, and he provided additional new data to support the idea of a large southern continental 
mass during the Permian and early Mesozoic. William Blanford had a penchant for zoology, 
especially mollusks. birds, and reptiles, and collected whenever possible. He worked up the collec- 
tions he made and published many reports on them and on specimens brought in by his survey 
colleagues, especially Ferdinand Stoliczka, whose important collections from the Second Yarkand 
Mission were reported on by Blanford in 1878 after Stoliczka's death. Blanford's collections were 
deposited in the British Museum, and following the arrival of John Anderson in 1865, the Indian 
Museum. In 1 867, Blanford took part in General Napier's Abyssinia Expedition to relieve the British 
Residency in Magdala, and he wrote a book-length report covering the geology and natural history 
of the country along the route of march from Annesy Bay along the backbone of the Ethiopian 
highlands (Blanford. 1870). In 1872, he, Major Oliver St. John, and a native collector from John 
Anderson's Indian Museum staff traveled from Gwadar, in Baluchistan, to Shiraz, Isfahan, and 
Tehran, in Iran, collecting birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians, all the while making geological 
observations enroute. Two years earlier. St. John had traveled a similar route, also in company with 
a native collector from the Indian Museum, and it was these two collections that formed the basis of 
Blanford's 1876 seminal report on the zoology and geology of Eastern Persia. 

Ferdinand Stoliczka (1838-1874) (Fig. 18) died at the age of 36 while returning from field work 
in northern Pakistan and Yarkand (extreme western China just south of the Takla-Makan). A 
paleontologist whose early work focused on Tertiary invertebrates in central Czechoslovakia (1861- 
62), Stoliczka joined the Indian Geological Survey and worked in India, Pakistan. Bunna (Myanmar), 
Malaysia. Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and Tibet. His principal contributions during his brief years 
with the survey were the three large volumes on the Cretaceous fauna of southern India. However, 
he also made small but valuable collections of reptiles and amphibians wherever he went, and these 



Figure 16. William Thomas Blantbrd. 
Courtesy Kraig Adier. Cornell University. 

Fua I'l I ~ HeiitA Francis Blanford. 

GS Myers At Lev Hon Portrait File in Natural 

History, California Academy of Sciences. 

Figure 19. William Theobald. 
(Enlargement from group photograph [fig. 15]) 

Figure 18. Ferdinand Stoliczka. 
From Somasekar (1964). 


were reported on by him (e.g., Stoliczka, 1870. 1872a, 1872b) as well as by William Blanford and 
William Theobald, among others. Perhaps the most critical were the collections he inade during the 
Second Yarkand Mission to Kashgar and the Pamir Steppe; these were deposited in the Indian 
Museum. He also collected in Kashmir, Ladak. and eastern Turkestan, and these collections went to 
the Indian and "Kurrachee" (= Karachi) Municipal Museums and were later reported on by James 
Murray in 1878 in The Vertebrate Zoology^ ofSind. Earlier, Stoliczka had sent specimens to Franz 
Steindachner in Vienna that Steindachner included in his Novara reports (1867). 

William Theobald ( 1 829-1 908 ) ( Fig. 1 9), previously employed by the Punjab Geological Survey 
for two years (1851-1853), joined the Geological Survey of India in 1853. He worked with the 
Blanfords in the survey of the Talchir coal fields in Orissa that resulted in the "first systematic study 
of Indian Geology to be published by the Indian Geological Survey" (Ghosh, 1951:308). While 
employed by the Survey, Theobald prepared the first complete Descriptive Catalogue of the Reptiles 
of British India (1876) to "meet a want which at present blocks the way to the general study of 
Herpetology in India . . . ." Two hundred and thirty-eight pages are devoted to taxonomy and 
descriptions, followed by 38 pages of synoptic keys and a 132-page appendix "On the means of 
discriminating between poisonous and harmless snakes and the treatment of snake bite." Like other 
survey personnel who collected natural history specimens, most of Theobald's collections went to 
the Indian Museum. 

Before leaving the Geological Survey of India, it must be said that the Survey is also noteworthy 
for initiating the process of incorporating native talent into its structure. It may strike modem readers 
as an example of 'better late than never,' that in 1874, shortly before his retirement, Thomas Oldham 
appointed native-bom Ram Singh as an apprentice on the Survey's geological staff The Survey thus 
became a training ground in geology for Indians, whose local university-level schools lacked such 
preparation. Also in 1874, Oldham brought on board Kishan Singh and Hira Lai. Both were assigned 
to take courses in the physical sciences at Presidency College in Calcutta. Lastly, there was Pramatha 
Nath Bose, who had gone to London in 1874 on a scholarship to study geology at the University of 
London and Royal School of Mines. Bose would have preferred to stay in London, but because he 
was an outspoken critic of the govemment, he was eased out by the India Office and sent back to 
Calcutta, where he was appointed to a "graded post" (Kumar, 1995:2 1 5) on the Survey's staff in 1 880. 
With these hirings began the "Indianization" of the Survey which, by the time of independence in 
1947, was one of the few govemment agencies, along with the Zoological Survey of India, nearly 
fully staffed by native rather than colonial officers. 

The Indian Museum 

With the authorization of a national museum in Calcutta (Fig. 20) a near/ait accompli (the Indian 
Museum Act passed in 1866), the govemment hired its first superintendent, John Anderson (1833— 
1900) (Fig. 21), in 1865. When Anderson arrived in Calcutta, he found that the promised collections 
v/ere scattered about the city, some housed at the Botanic Gardens, some in the Asiatic Society 
Museum, some in the Geological Survey's Museum of Economic Geology. It fell to Anderson, then, 
to plan the new Museum both to house these collections and for the development of appropriate public 
displays. Thus, Anderson's arrival in Calcutta and the constmction of the Indian Museum signals the 
fourth milestone in the history of Indian natural history surveys, collection building, and museums. 
It must be remembered that to that time collections went mostly to European museums, especially 
the British Museum of Natural History in London, where John Edward Gray (1800-1875) (Fig. 22), 
Albert Giinther ( 1 830-1 914) (Fig. 23), and George Albert Boulenger ( 1 858-1 937) (Fig. 24) produced 



f-H.i kt 2(1 The IndKin Museum, Caleutta (1^)06). From Anon (|4|4). 

a steady stream of publications describing the exotic animals they received. Some early collections 
always remained in India, mostly in Calcutta (Asiatic Society Museum, founded 1814), and to a lesser 
extent in Madras (Go\emment Museum, originally named the Central Museum, founded 1851), 
Karachi (Municipal Museum, renamed the Victoria Museum, founded 1851), and Colombo 
(Colombo Museum, founded 1873, which received collections from Ceylon Branch of Asiatic 
Society). For Anderson, the Indian Museum was the country's national museum. At its inception, he 
organized it in three sections: Zoological, Archaeological, and Geological. He then went to great 
lengths to develop in each of these areas appropriate public exhibits, adequate support staff, and 
pemianent research collections. In line with the latter, Anderson ceased sending major collections to 
London. Rather, he began horse-trading for specimens, especially with Albert Gunther at the British 
Museum (see Leviton and Aldrich, 1984 for details) and Boulenger. Anderson himself took part in 
two major expeditions to Yunnan as surgeon-naturalist. On both expeditions, he made important 
collections of mammals, reptiles, and birds. These he kept in Calcutta, with the exception of 
hedgehogs, which he sent to Albert Gunther in London because of the latter's special interest in the 
animals. Anderson also encouraged a network of amateur collectors, particularly army medical 
officers, to send specimens to the museum; thus, over the years, the museum received a steady stream 
of small collections from throughout the country. Notable among the contributors were Col. R. H. 
Beddome and W. M. Daly (South India), W. Theobald (Bunna). Capt. J. Butler, S. E. Peal and J. H. 
Bourne (Assam), and F. Stoliczka, W. T. Blanford, and T. .lerdon. In 1887, an Economic and Art 
Section, fonnerly sponsored as a separate institution by the Government of Bengal, was incoiporated 
into the museum (Prashad. 1931:35). 

Apart from Bombay, which did not play a major role in the growth of natural history collections 
until after the founding of the Bombay Natural History Society in 1883, Madras and Karachi had 
government-sponsored museums, both founded in 1851, that supported small zoological collections. 
Of the two, Karachi is the more important largely because of James Murray's 1 3-year tenure as curator 
of the museum. Muiray ( I Sb.'^— 1 9 14) explored the province of Sind (now part of Pakistan), receiving 



Figure 21 John Anderson. 
Courtesy Natural History Museum, London. 

Figures 22-24. (Left to right) John Edward Gray. Albert Carl Ludwig Gotthilf Guniher, George Albert Boulenger 

(Left to right) Gray — Courtesy Kraig Adler. Cornell University: Giinther and Boulenger — Courtesy 

G.S. Myers. A. E. Leviton Portrait File in Natural History, California .Academy of Sciences. 


much help and many specimens from F. Gleadow, Deputy Conservator of Forests, and from officers 
assigned to anny units stationed in the province and neighboring Afghanistan, especially Lieut. E. Y. 
Watson and Capt. F. B. Piele. Based on these collections, Murray published two important works on 
the fauna of Sind, The Vertebrate Zoolog}' ofSind ( 1 884), which dealt with the mammals, birds and 
reptiles, and The Reptiles of Sind (1886), the latter being largely a reprint of the reptile section that 
appeared in the earlier publication but with some new material. As a general naturalist, Murray also 
published on plants, authoring A Hand-Book to the Geology. Botany, and Zoology of Sind. and an 
account of the indigenous flora of Sind, with comments on the use of local plant products in 
commerce, medicine, and the arts. The Plants and Drugs of Sind { 1 881 ). 

In South India, Richard Henry Beddome (1830-191 1), entered the Indian Army in 1848 and in 
1 857 became chief assistant to the conservator of the Madras Forestry Service, whom he succeeded 
ten years later. He retired from the service in 1882 and returned to England where he continued his 
interest in horticulture. During his years in India, Beddome published several seminal works on the 
ferns of both southern India and India as a whole, as well as several other major botanical works on 
the flora of southern India. He also published more than a dozen short articles on the snakes of southern 
India, mostly in the Madras Quarterly and Monthly Journal of Medical Science, and one longer paper. 
An Account of the Earth-snakes of the Peninsula India and Ceylon. Beddome's specimens went to 
London and to Anderson in Calcutta. 

Francis Day (1829-1889) was perhaps the most prolific and next to Buchanan-Hamilton 
probably the best-known 19th-century student of Indian fishes (see Whitehead and Talwar, 1976). 
Like many of his predecessors interested in Indian natural history. Day was employed by the East 
India Company Medical Service. Initially stationed in Cochin, he served in the Burmese war of 
1852-54 (the aftemiath of which was the annexation of Bunna to India), but then was transferred to 
Madras where he served as Surgeon-Major in the Company's Madras Arniy from 1872 until his 
retirement in 1876, when he was promoted to Deputy Surgeon-General. In the early 60s, knowing of 
his interest in fishes, the government put Day to good use by assigning him to survey the condition 
of Indian fisheries. This enabled Day to travel widely and make large collections in nearly every 
important river system on the subcontinent. His Fishes of Malabar ( 1 863 ), Report on the Fresh- Water 
Fish and Fisheries of India and Burma (1873), and the monumental work, the Fishes of India (1878), 
which contains descriptions of more than 1300 species (and drew heavily on Buchanan's notes and 
portfolio of illustrations), and "Fishes" in the Fauna of British India series ( 1 889), are too well known 
to students of Asian fishes to need further introduction. Day's Indian collections ended up in Calcutta, 
in Madras, and in London. On his return to England, Day undertook new studies of fishes, which 
resulted in two important works. The Fishes of Great Britain and Ireland (1885) and British and Irish 
Salmonidae (1887). Day died in July 1889 at the age of 60. 

A contemporary of Day's, but with a penchant for snakes rather than fish, Joseph Fayrer, M.D. 
(1824-1907) (Fig. 25), entered the East India Company's Medical Service in Bengal and rose to the 
rank of Surgeon-General. Like Day, he served in the first Burmese war. He was Residency Surgeon 
in Lucknow during the Sepoy uprising and siege of the city. Fayrer accoinpanied both the Duke of 
Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales on their respective tours of India, in 1869-70 and 1875—76. He 
published many works on tropical diseases, for which he received honors including a baronetcy, in 
1896, and in 1901, appointment as honorary physician to the Queen and Prince of Wales. In natural 
history, Fayrer is best remembered for the admirably illustrated folio volume. The Thanatophidia of 
India: Being a Description of the Venomous Snakes of India with An Account of the Influence of their 
Poison on Life . . . (1878). 

In 1 875, John Anderson allowed the transfer of collections to the Indian Museum building which 



FinuRE 25. Joseph Fayrer. 
From TheLiinceH\907). 

was still under constniction (it was not completed until 

1877). Fifteen years later, W. L. Sclater, Anderson's Deputy 

Superintendent, took stock of some of the collections. For 

instance, he reported that the collections included 3001 

snakes and 30 holotypes representing 350 species (Sclater, 

I891:iii). Of amphibians, Sclater reported 2045 specimens 

and 21 holotypes representing 180 species, of which 103 

were Indian and 77 exotic (Sclater, I892:iii). We have no 

coinparable numbers for lizards or other groups of animals, 

but based on proportions of snakes to lizard specimens in 

other collections, it is probably safe to assume at least an 

equal number of specimens, if not more. Therefore, the 

Indian museum, by 1891. had probably more than 8,000 

specimens of amphibians and reptiles, and probably around 

75 holotypes. For that time, this was certainly one of the 

world's major collections. It was not as large as the major 

European collections, those at London, Paris, Vienna, 

Senckenberg, Basel, and Berlin, or the Smithsonian's in Washington, D.C., but was larger than most 

collections elsewhere. 

We do not have an estimate of the size of the fish collections at the close of the 19th century. 
Most of the fishes collected by the 1 9th-century naturalists went to the British Museum, though some, 
especially important segments of Day's collections, ended up in Calcutta. We also know that all the 
collections from the Royal Indian Marine Survey went to Calcutta. But, we suspect that the main 
growth of ichthyological collections occurred after 1 900, and was particularly influenced by founding 
of the Zoological Survey of India and the appointment of its first director. Nelson Annandale, in 1916. 
Both it and the Botanical Survey of India, organized in 1 890, were based in Calcutta, and the directors 
of the principal existing research centers, the Botanic Garden and the Indian Museum, became 
directors of the surveys. Their responsibility was that of coordinating natural history surveys 
throughout the country and the development of centralized research facilities in Calcutta and several 
regional centers. This then brings us into the 20th century and a new chapter in the history of natural 
history investigations in India. 

In closing, we have several comments we think germane to the topic at hand. First, certainly in 
the United States, many think of Spencer Fullerton Baird as the architect of collector networks, that 
is of collectors he contacted and encouraged to send their specimens, birds, mammals, amphibians, 
reptiles, fishes, plants, and other natural history objects, often won with great hardship, to a central 
repository, in this case, to the Smithsonian Institution. Once there, Baird immediately acknowledged 
receipt of the collection by letter, followed not long after by a short paper prepared for rapid 
publication. Baird, however, was not alone in encouraging this behavior. In England, Gray, Giinther, 
and Boulenger were certainly as effective, as was Linnaeus in Sweden more than a century earlier. 
And in India, one need only note William Theobald's acknowledgments in his 1876 paper, A 
Descriptive Catalogue of the Reptiles of British India, to realize the extent to which such networks 
existed elsewhere and how much they paralleled Baird's network of travelers, military personnel, and 
local amateur naturalists in the United States. 

Second, one is struck by the close association of natural science and military expeditions in India 
and in the United States. To date, no book has been written on India equivalent to William 
Goetzmann's Army Exploration of the American West, but such a tome is badly needed. The military 


seemed to perform many of the same functions in both countries, but a detailed investigation may 
show significant differences. Certainly in both India and the United States, geographical discovery 
and scientific endeavor were linked through the institution of military expeditions. 

Whereas comparison to the United States is instructive, much about the history of collecting in 
India was unique. The Royal Botanical Garden had no counterpart in America that served the same 
function, although individual botanists sometimes collected animals as well as plants. The United 
States also had no equivalent to the East India Company, which put a special spin on the development 
of Indian natural science. These and other special features of the Indian scene make us wary of the 
sweeping generalizations about colonial science contained in the works of such widely referenced 
historians such as George Basalla(I967) and Susan Sheets-Pyenson (1989) who assume unifonnity, 
homogeneity, and linearity where none exists. We are struck by how quickly new "metropoles," as 
shown by MacLeod, of scientific activity develop as soon as a threshold of permanent resident 
colonists are in place. The founding of the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal is a prime example, as is 
Calcutta as a metropole. Thus, we believe one should consult Deepak Kumar's Science and the Raj 
(1995), which we take to be more insightful in that it deals directly with India and the curious set of 
circumstances that affected scientific endeavors in that unusual colonial setting. 

Museums as centers of research and public education emerged in response largely to provide (1) 
a safe haven for the scientific collections being amassed by survey personnel, individual travelers, 
and those with a special interest in rocks and minerals, and animals and plants; ( 2 ) a place where these 
people and others could study the collections, that is centers for scientific investigation; and lastly, 
(3) places where the public could see on display the wonders of nature. The latter was not always 
done altniistically, however, but to meet the obligations of caring for the public and justifying 
appropriations, at least some of which support the scientific enterprise. Although this point has been 
clearly articulated with respect to American museums by Joel Orosz, nonetheless we take issue with 
Orosz who, in his 1 990 book. Curators and Culture: The Museum Movement in America. 1 740-1870, 
contends that the melding of public education and professionalism in museums in the second half of 
the 1 9th century was a distinctly "American Compromise." True, in the United States, it happened 
because the of egalitarian movement, which was spawned by the rejection of aristocracy and privilege, 
and, most notably, in the revival of the Jacksonian democratization movement in the 1850s (but see 
also Stroud [1997:229] who points out that shortly after its founding in 1812, the Academy of Natural 
Sciences of Philadelphia opened its doors to public membership and initiated biweekly members 
lectures to which each member could bring one woman, who did not have to be a member and who 
could attend free; regular members had to pay an initial fee of $10). And equally tme, the raising 
funds for museums through popular subscription was a distinctively American solution to a problem. 
But, when Orosz argues that the modem museum, in effect, evolved in the United States, and was 
later transported elsewhere to replace elitist cabinets and museums, one need only point out that the 
melding of public education with professional scientific endeavours, that is, the development of the 
modem "research museum" occurred elsewhere, in Europe (see, for instance, Vaccari, this volume), 
in Asia, in Australia (e.g., Queensland Museum [Mather et al., 1986]) at about the same time and for 
much the same reason, financial considerations. In India, for instance, economic necessity drove the 
Asiatic Society of Bengal to seek government aid, and the government, in due course, responded, but 
there were conditions, notably that the museum had to be open to the public. In 1780, the British 
Parliament passed the India Act which, among other things, required that the East India Company 
show concern for the "welfare of the people." So, when in 1866 the act establishing the Indian 
Museum was passed, it should have come as no surprise that public education through the develop- 
ment of display halls, was given equal footing with the need to provide space for the storage and study 


of collections of natural histoid objects. Although, as Orosz coirectly notes, European cabinets started 
off and remained for a long time the prerogative of the nobility and wealthy, the rapid escalation of 
collections resulting from geographic exploration, made it nearly impossible for any one individual, 
however wealthy, to maintain collections for their personal pleasure. The death blow to this came in 
the latter 1800s when even the Rothschilds, namely Walter Rothschild, had to transfer his interests 
in his personal museum at Tring. with its vast holdings of natural history objects, to the British 
Museum (Natural Histoiy) (Rothschild, 1983). 

In closing, we take issue with H. J. C. Larwood ( 1 96 1 :83) who argued that much of the scientific 
work done in India during the 19th century was "huinble work." Larwood then rather gratuitously 
says, "but it had to be done, and it was in keeping with the times. As the biological sciences advanced 
during the nineteenth century, it was only within the finnly fixed areas of comparative morphology 
and classification that the modest worker in India could be expected to move . . ." We find this 
assessment by Larwood neglectful of the fact that much European and North American science was 
similarly directed. Like many historians of mid- and late- 19th-century science, he looked on the 
emerging laboratory sciences of physics, chemistry, and laboratory biology as truly representative of 
scientific progress. Unfortunately, they are unmindful of the fact that it is the observational field-ori- 
ented sciences, geology and natural history/ecology, that have given us many fundamental proposi- 
tions in evolution, isostasy, continental drift, and plate tectonics, to name a few. We cannot leave 
without taking note that William Blanford, for instance, during his career in India as a geologist with 
the Geological Sur\ey of India, was twice elected Vice-President of International Congresses of 
Geology; that he and his coworkers, Henry B. Medlicott and Thomas Oldham, received many honors, 
including election as Fellows of the leading scientific societies of the day, and that their theoretical 
contributions not only rivaled, but in several critical instances preceded or superseded those advanced 
by their European counteiparts. At least in India, the colonial scientists do not fit the mold cast by 
Fleming ( 1964), MacLeod (1987), or Larwood, and it is surely not right to say that colonial science 
was "derivative science, done by lesser minds ..." 


The authors wish to express their appreciation to those who either listened to or read the 
manuscript version of this paper and commented on the contents and interpretations therein. We 
especially acknowledge the constructive advice received from the reviewers, Drs. Kennard Bork 
(Denison University), Patrick Kocioiek (California Academy of Sciences), Leo Laporte (University 
of California, Santa Cruz), and Steven C. Anderson (University of the Pacific). Dr. Carl Ferrari, 
(Department of Ichthyology, California Academy of Sciences) called our attention to the interesting 
work by John McClelland on Indian cyprinid fishes and shared infomiation he had garnered about 
Victor Jacquemont and the publication of Jacquemont's.'^r/a.s- of illustrations of Indian natural history. 
We are indebted to Ms. Anita Karg, Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation, Camegie-Mcllon 
University, for providing us with portraits of several early 19th-century naturalists who were active 
in India at the time. In a like manner, we also appreciate the assistance of the Smithsonian Institution 
Archives and the Library of the Natural History Museum, London for access to several additional 
portraits of interest to us. It seems that we are perpetually in debt to Dr. Kraig Adler (Cornell 
University) who not only allowed us to examine a number of 1 8th- and 19th-century publications in 
his personal library that were gemiane to this paper and were not otherwise available to us, but he 
also provided additional portraits of several key tlgures in our story. To the librarians in the Science 
Reference Section of the Library of Congress, especially Miss Constance Carter and Stephanie 
Marcus, we want to express our sincerest appreciation for the help they have given us over quite a 


period of time and across several projects, not only in locating obscure references for us but for 
guidance on search techniques that have made the library infinitely easier to use. In a like manner, 
we are also indebted to Lairy Currie, California Academy of Sciences Library. Lastly, we wish to 
acknowledge the splendid contribution of Drs. Michael Ghiselin (California Academy of Sciences) 
and Giovanni Pinna (Museo Civico di Storia Naturale, Milan). Several years ago, they inaugurated 
a biennial colloquium for the purpose of exploring the philosophy and history behind the estab- 
lishment of natural history inuseums, marine research stations and academies of natural science, and 
how their unique brand of scientific inquiry influenced biological thought. 

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All rights reserved. 

The Museums and the Construction of Natural 
Sciences in Brazil in the 19th Century 


Institute de Geociencias. UNICAMP.CP.6152 

CEP 1 3083-970 Campinas, Sao Paulo, Brazil 

E-mail: mmlopes(a:ige. 

Since the mici-1860s, the number and the scientific and social importance of museums related 
to the natural sciences increased significantly in Brazil, an explicit indication of the increasing interest 
in natural sciences and the consolidation of this field of knowledge. In 1876, the Museu Nacional do 
Rio de Janeiro (National Museum) — which had existed since 1818 — was renovated while several 
museums were created in the provinces. In the Amazon, the present-day Museu Paraeuse Eniilio 
Goehii (Paraense Museum) was organized in Belem in 1866, and the Museu Bolanico do Amazonas 
(Botanic Museum) in Manaus in 1883. In the South, the Museu Paranaense (Paranaense Museum) 
was founded in Curitiba by the Society of Acclimatization in 1 874, and the Museu Paulista was 
founded in Sao Paulo in 1894. Moreover, a series of smaller museums was founded in several others 
capitals of the North-East provinces, such as in Fortaleza, Recife and Salvador, the majority linked 
to local Institutos Historicos e Geograficos (Historical and Geographical Institutes), which also 
undertook to collect natural and ethnographical products. This proliferation of local museums and 
the renewal of the National Museum were the results, in the case of Brazil, of the consolidation of 
different local elites and regional scientific initiatives that integrated the set of scientific measures 
implemented by the process of conservative modernization,' which characterized Brazil at that time. 

To modernize the country and promote agrarian interests, the government would have to 
ameliorate the training of technical staff by reforming the system of higher education. To address the 
need for more tillable land, new roads and railways, and new means of transportation, investments 
had to be directed towards frontier reconnaissance commissions, cartographic teams, geographical 
surveys and geological services. All this had a strong repercussion, both in the knowledge of the 
natural framework of the country, and in the extemiination of the native populations who occupied 
the land required for agrarian expansion. Moreover, the government advanced a series of measures 
relating to public health, urbanization, and immigration. They involved issues "of whitening the race," 
based on scientific research in anthropology and using the racialist craniometric theories widely 
accepted at that time. The directors of our museums embraced and disseminated these ideas in order 
to reach the dream of bringing this country of mulattos to the "heights'" of Western civilization. 

In fact, this paper touches upon some of issues that are essential to understand the process of 
institutionalization of the natural sciences in this country. Those issues are related to the profession- 
alization of the naturalists, the dispute for institutional space, and where the local scientific commu- 
nity, having increased in number, sought unification. Discussions focused on which of several 
institutional models should be adopted that would best foster research on natural histon.'. which by 
the end of the 1 9th century had already become highly specialized. 

This paper presents, first of all, a short characterization of some aspects of the history of Riode 
Janeiro National Museum. It then provides a description of several other museums that were organized 
in the provinces in order to draw a quick sketch of the contribution of those museums to the 
development of a natural sciences establishment in Brazil. Lastly, we proceed then to explore the 
general traits that marked this process.- 



II. The Museu Nacional do Rio de Janeiro: A Metropolitan Museum, with a 
Universal and Encyclopedic Character 

The refonn undertook in 1876 was the beginning of the most fertile, of the greatest activity and 
most intense splendor in the history of National Museum. It grew a lot in the value of the 
collection it possessed and in the scientific reputation that it had already acquired until on a par 
with the best institutions of the same kind in other countries of Europe and America. Its present 
shine is, if we may say, a reflection of the intense light projected by that renewal, after which 
came, what we can rightly call, the Golden Age of National Museum. (Lacerda, 1905:37) 

The oldest Brazilian Museum, today the Museu Nacional do Rio de Janeiro (Rio de Janeiro 
National Museum), originated from the "'Casa de Historia Natwar (House of Natural History) best 
known as "Casa dos Pdssaros" (House of Birds). Founded in 1784, this colonial entrepot, which 
housed both stuffed collections and live animals, was the first official station for the shipment of 
natural history products from all Portuguese overseas possessions in the Western Hemisphere to the 
museums in Lisbon and Coimbra. 

The Rio de Janeiro National Museum (Fig. 1 ), officially created in 1 8 1 8, inherited the collections 
and housed civil servants of the former "Casa dos Passaros," as well as the mineralogical collection, 
purchased in Freiberg. Saxony and classified by Abraham Gottlob Werner, that had been in the Ajuda 
Museum in Lisbon. The establishment of the museum may be viewed as a logical outgrowth of the 
introduction of enlightened policies stemming from the arrival of the Portuguese Royal Family in 
Brazil and the cultural initiatives it introduced to transfomi the old colony into the new seat of the 

In contrast to the former colonial entreposto. what was created in Rio de Janeiro, then the center 
of the Portuguese Empire, was a metropolitan museum of encyclopedic and universal character. The 

Figure I. First building of Museu Nacional from 1818 to 1892. Pholo: Archives Museu Nacional do Rio de Janeiro. 



Rio de Janeiro Museum was created in the model of the greatest European museums, particularly the 
Museum d'Histoire Naturelle de Paris, where several of the Rio directors had studied and would 
continue to smdy. This concept of globalization, with proper contextual modifications resulting from 
the development of natural sciences, has continued to the present day. It was reflected throughout the 
19th century either in the criteria for the acquisition and exhibition of collections, or in the priority- 
given to international exchanges maintained by the museum. 

Because, even in its formative years, the National Museum had metropolitan characteristics, it 
assembled not only national but also European, Egyptian, and Greek-Roman collections as well as 
those from fonner Portuguese colonies in Africa and Asia. 

The museum flinctioned from its founding and throughout most of the 19th cenmry as a kind of 
government advisory agency for the matters of geology, mining, natural resources and agriculture. 
These are the roots for the importance of both its chemical analysis laboratory and geological section. 
The significance of this area of knowledge in the museum was such that throughout the first 
half-century, museum directors were chosen based on their proficiency in chemistry, geology and 
mineralogy. And, after an institutional reform in 1842,'* the museum director was always in charge 
of the 3'^'' section, namely Geology, Mineralogy and Physical Sciences. The dedication to analysis of 
mineral samples — especially coal — which came in from almost all provinces, did not preclude the 
museum directors from taking an interest in other researches, especially paleontologic investigations. 
In this regard, the Rio de Janeiro National Museum, under the direction of Frederico Leopoldo Cesar 
Burlamaque Irom 1 847 to 1 866, constituted an institutional landmark in the paleontological research 
in ourcountiy (Lopes, 1999). In 1866, the distinguished Brazilian botanist, Francisco Freire Alemao 
(Fig. 2), served as director of the museum until he was succeeded by Ladislau Netto in 1874 (Fig. 3). 

The institutionalization of anthropological studies began also at the museum and was marked by 
the particular inter- 
est of the French- 
educated botanist/' 
anthropologist Lad- 
islau Netto (1838- 
1894), who directed 
the National Mu- 
seum between 1870 
and 1893. Netto un- 
derstood the role the 
museum could play 
in an international 
context, thanks to a 
local particularity, 
not yet thoroughly 
studied — a Brazil- 
ian "race." Since the 
end of the 1860s, 
cranio-metric meas- 
ures of the Brazilian 
"race" were under- 
taken within the mu- 
seum's P' Section of 

Figure 2. Francisco Freire Alemao, ( 1 797-1 874) 
the well-known Brazilian botanist, directed the 
Museu Nacional do Rio de Janeiro from 1866 to 
1874. Photo: .■\rchives Museu Nacional do Rio 
de Janeiro. 

Figure 3. Ladislau Netto, director of the 
Museu Nacional do Rio de Janeiro from 1875 
to 1893. was responsible for major scientific 
changes in the museum. Photo; Archives 
Museu Nacional do Rio de Janeiro. 


Zoology."" An institutional refomi of the museum in 1876 changed this section into P' Section of 
Anthropology, Zoology. Comparative Anatomy and Animal Paleontology. The changes in the names 
and the order of priority, besides initiating the process of redrawing discipline boundaries, not only 
reflects the interests of the director himself, but it also illustrates the level of relevance that the 
collections and research carried on this area had already attained. The field of anthropology was 
further consolidated in our country by the studies of skull measurements of native races during the 
1870s and 1880s by Joao Batista de Lacerda (1846-1915). a physiologist devoted to Brazilian 
anthropology, who directed the National Museum between 1895 and 1905. 

Scientific education also integrated the contribution of the museum to the process of institution- 
alization of the natural sciences in Brazil. From its beginning, the National Museum constituted a 
center of reference and it supported the teaching of the natural sciences. Its founding collections, 
were, in fact, study collections for the students of the Military School of Engineering of Rio de Janeiro. 
During the 19"^ century, members of the museum's staff gave lectures on natural history and 
mineralogy to the students at the school. The museum also shared classes, teachers, rooms, collections 
and instniments with the faculties of Engineering and Medicine, as well as with other schools in Rio 
de Janeiro. The museum was pemianently linked to public educational institutions. All the proposals 
debated in Congress during 1830-1840 aimed at establishing a university in Brazil, and which also 
gave priority to the teaching of natural and physical sciences, argued that the National Museum was 
the most logical choice to house such courses. The outstanding fact that highlights the museum's role 
was its attempt to gain full recognition for the natural sciences. The museum's scientists demanded 
that the natural sciences be accepted as specific disciplines and not just accessories to the education 
of physicians and engineers. 

But, if the museum and the schools shared a mutual interest in the teaching of the natural sciences. 
there was also competition between them. Custodio Alves Serrao. the museum director during the 
1840s as well as a mineralogist and teacher at Militaiy School, engaged himself in a true scientific 
and political battle against the elite of physicians of the Court and the military engineers to create a 
Faculty of Natural History in the Museum. ** He lost the battle. The Laboratory of Chemistr>' of the 
National Museum was transferred for a short period to the Faculty of Medicine. Thus, from 1842 
until the end of the century, although the Military School was in charge of the courses of natural 
sciences, it nonetheless continue to use resources available at the Museum. 

What was sought was the equalization of the museum with the other schools of high learning, to 
improve its scientific, social and political prestige. In fact, the museum's lack of prestige provides 
evidence that the natural sciences were, in large measure, linked to the possibilities of revealing the 
ever-dreamt of wealth of natural resources in the country rather than a source of creative ideas through 
basic research that would put it on a par with its European counterparts. This argument was always 
remembered by the directors of the museum in their demand for larger budget and more support. 
Nevertheless, the natural sciences never ceased to be thought of as secondary by the political elite 
and even by some members of the scientific community because at the time the country was faced 
with more urgent needs, especially for medical and engineering measures that focused on such 
concerns as hygiene and public health, urbanization, and the constniction of roads to open new 
agricultural areas for valuable crops, especially coffee, the dominant export of the country. 

Ladislau Netto. following Custodio Alves Serrao's ideas, managed, thanks to the big museum 
renewal of 1 876, to establish free courses in the museum. These open courses, conceived as a kind 
of Faculty of Natural Sciences, were inspired by those courses that Netto had attended at the Museum 
d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris. These free lectures drew their audiences from "all the classes of society, 
ladies, statesmen, physicians, lawyers, journalists, everyone interested in Natural Sciences" (Netto, 


1878:185). Even the Emperor D. Pedro II himself often attended the lectures in company of his 

At this time, museums were still one of the very few places engaged in science that were available 
to the lay public, whom the museums needed for their validation and affinnation. It is clear that in a 
country still characterized by the mark of slavery, laymen constitued only a small intellectual or 
economic elite of the main cities. Thus, it was something of a novelty to also include "ladies" in 
scientific courses given at the museum. Nonetheless, in these courses, the presence of women was. 
indeed, encouraged, a break with tradition because in Brazil, it was only after the 1880s that women 
were allowed to attend higher education courses in medicine. 

In the decades that followed, these regular museum courses were transfomied into public lectures 
and by 1 890, even the courses of the physical and natural sciences given at the School of Engineering 
were terminated. This fact makes still more relevant, in the process of institutionalization of the natural 
sciences, the role played by the National Museum as an institutional place for the education and 
training of naturalists. At the National Museum, laymen, physicians, engineers, and even lawyers 
became during the 19''^ century the collectors, taxidermists, botanists, zoologists, paleontologists, 
geologists, archaeologists and anthropologists of Brazil. 

Renewed in 1876. the National Museum blossomed. It lived its "Golden Age" during Ladislau 
Netto's leadership. Netto in many ways inaugurated a new institutional model. The previous 
naturalist, engineer, physician directors were lecuirers in the Court's schools and therefore worked 
part time in the museum. However, Ladislau Netto and later Joao Batista de Lacerda, as well as the 
directors of sections and the directors of recently created museums, had to work full time, and were 
required to go through a selective process when initially applying for their positions, which constituted 
a major step towards professionalization. 

Ladislau Netto's projects, which included aquaria and botanical gardens — natural study envi- 
ronments — even if they were not fully implemented, were rather updated in ternis of understanding 
of zoological and botanical studies and aimed at developing areas of expertise still little investigated 
in the country. Exploration was supported in order to collect products to complete the collections; all 
collections were greatly incremented, and they reached the figure of 200,000 objects by the turn of 
the century. The great Brazilian Anthropological Exhibition, organized in 1882. displayed skeletons 
of large mammals, which are absent, even today in many Brazilian museums. The sections of Botany 
and Zoology were enlarged and the first laboratory of Experimental Physiology in the country, 
directed by Louis Couty and Lacerda. was opened in 1 880. That laboratory introduced experimental 
studies in Brazil, notably through studies on curare and snake venom. 

The aim was to transform the Museu Nacional into a first order institution that would deser\e 
the title as the most important museum in Brazil, even in Latin America. This transformation implied 
also the inclusion of the museum into the international scientific movement that was happening within 
the realm of natural sciences museums. In search of a broader international acknowledgment, Netto 
hired foreign naturalists to direct various sections of the museum. He participated at international 
congresses, exchanged collections, and devoted considerable energy to the publication of the.-l/r/!/vo5 
do Museu Nacional. Since its beginning in 1 876, the "Archivos" together with the collections, played 
a fundamental role in expanding the international exchanges of the Museum. For instance, every issue 
of the Archivos carried not only the names of corresponding members but also a list of institutions, 
on all continents, with which the Museum exchanged publications.^ 

Towards the end of the \9'^ century, the Museu Nacional, already well into another phase of its 
history, was not the sole museum concerned with the institutionalization of the natural sciences in 
Brazil. Still struggling with the same difficulties of carrying on research, publications, maintenance 


and increase of the collection, international exchanges, as well as courses and lectures, the National 
Museum had to deal with the question of how to adapt its institutional model to the growing demands 
of specialization and new fields of science. 

Lobbying in favor of his own museum model. Ladislau Netto's inspiration and proposals came 
from the Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle de Paris. Lacerda, who was in charge of the museum, 
even though he pemiitted a certain degree of specialization in the National Museum, he refused to 
abandon its metropolitan character. Lacerda acknowledged that "even in a general museums like the 
National Museum of Rio de Janeiro there was a trend towards specialization in certain types of 
specimens." Specimens were either easily obtained in the area where the museum was located, or 
even from distant regions of another continent, especially when those regions were subject to the 
political domination of the nation to which the museum belonged. In Lacerda's opinion, this was the 
case for the British Museum having a specialized section dealing with Egyptian, Assyrian, and Hindu 
antiquities inasmuch as the imperialist activities of England in those countries helped the exploration 
of the territories yielding those antiquities. In the case of the Museo de La Plata, it specialized in 
South American paleontological collections because the vast territory of the Argentinean Republic 
became a field of excavation for extinct animal bones, unknown in other continents. In South 
American Ethnography, the National Museum of Rio de Janeiro was the reference (Lacerda, 1912). 

In justifying what he considered his ideal for a museum, Lacerda stated that although the British 
Museum (Natural History), which is located in London's South Kensington district, was one of the 
most important museums in the world, nonetheless, it was not the model for Brazil's National 

It [the Museu Nacional] is shaped more by the models of the Museum d'Histoire Naturelle in 
Paris than the type of British museums. The division by naniral sections, the existence of regular 
courses and laboratories are features common to both museums. (Lacerda, 1912:42) 

But even in comparison to the Museum de Paris, the Rio de Janeiro museum had its own 
characteristics. To Lacerda the difference between them was that the laboratories created by the last 
reform to the Brazilian Museum (1911) had "a more utilitarian goal" than those of the Museum de 
Paris. These have become more restricted to "the classical nonns being designed only to practical 
demonstration of a science already built and constituted." The laboratories of the Rio de Janeiro 
museum applied the practical knowledge to "the elucidation of new questions of the interest of 
agriculture and industry, which are interconnected to them." But Lacerda met with opposition even 
among his collaborators. Alipio Miranda Ribeiro, director of the museum's section of Zoology, held 
the opinion that "at the present time, in which specialties dominate, complex museums are anachroni- 
cal and without a raison d'etre. It is necessary to specialize to excel — we can not delude ourselves 
much longer — polyvalent researchers are good only for the fossilized period of Athanazius Kirch." 
(Ribeiro, 1945:61) 

Miranda Ribeiro proposed the split of the Rio de Janeiro National Museum into four museums. 
The Geology, Mineralogy and Paleontology would be united with the Geological Survey and become 
a Museum of Geology. The section of Botany, grouped with the Botanical Garden, would become 
the Museum and Botanical Garden. The section of Anthropology would become the Museum of 
Anthropology and History while the section of Zoology should remain in the National Museum 
building. The main advantage of these divisions would enable each to hire staff according to the 
requirements of the specialization. Contrary to these views, the museum remained a complex one, 
following Lacerda's vision. This institutional trajectory would differ from the other models of 
Brazilian museums. This fact helps us understand the constant quarrels and opposing positions held 


by Brazilian museums at the end of the 19* century. Let us digress for a moment and look at the 
history of some of those other Brazilian museums, after which we can return to some specific aspects 
of those institutions that might help us understand why museum directors viewed their own institu- 
tions as they did. 

III. The Museums in the Amazon 

The Museum Paraense Emilio Goeldi: From Museum to Research Institution 

The Province of Para is a paradise to zoologists and specially to ornithologists, and this is enough 
to understand how glad the naturalists from the British Museum and Mr. Layard (British 
representative in Para) [were] when they learned about the inauguration of a museum here where 
in a few years the most complete and diverse specimens of the animal kingdom can be displayed, 
therefore alleviating the naturalist, the trouble, perils and big expenses in the expeditions trying 
to find them in the forests and deserts in our hinterland. (Diario do Gram-Para de 12/7/1872) 

The official reports of the government of the Para Province (Amazon) acknowledge the influence 
of Louis Agassiz and the Thayer Expedition in the creation of the present-day Museu Paraense Emilio 
Goeldi by the Sociedade Philomatica do Para in 1 866 ( Vellozo, 1 867). In fact the influence of Agassiz 
and his expedition on the learned society of Belem was so important that for many decades this fact 
was considered a landmark in the scientific history of the region. But it is necessary to emphasize 
that Domingos Soares Ferreira Penna** was indeed the organizer of the Museum Paraense, having 
conceived of and worked for its existence. Given his political position as a liberal and republican in 
a conservative Monarchy, the inerits of Ferreira Penna were obscured by the official historiography 
of this period. 

It is possible to identify the influence of American ideas in the creation of the Museum Paraense 
if we take into account that in the United States museums were nomially founded by private 
entrepreneurs as opposed to European museums and the existing Brazilian ones that were government 
sponsored (Lopes, 1994). This was precisely Ferreira Penna's point of view inasmuch as he 
considered that the Museum should not be government sponsored but rather a private institution 
supported by private fiands. His plans envisioned the Museum as the core of a school of higher 
education and a center that should foster the studies of natural sciences in the Amazon (Gra^a, 1871). 
However, Ferreira Penna was ousted from the museum by political rivals, which hindered the plan 
for the development of the museum, a plan which had the strong support of the British representative 
Edgard L. Layard, whom Penna wanted to nominate as the museum's scientific director.'' 

Nonetheless, gathering modest botanical, zoological and archaeological collections from the 
Amazon, the Paraense Museum, despite all odds, survived and remained open to public visitation. 
After 1890, the museum entered a new phase of development, enhanced by the arrival in 1894 of a 
new director, Emil (Emilio) August Goeldi (1859-1917), a Swiss zoologist and former director of 
the section of Zoology of the National Museum in Rio de Janeiro, who would remain in the position 
until 1907. 

When Goeldi arrived in Para, he had to start from scratch. However, it was another epoch and 
museums were changing too. Comfortable appropriations were available, thanks to the rubber being 
exported from Para. Thus, Goeldi could count on the necessary resources to build his ideal Museum. 
At the same time, he also passed a harsh judgment on his predecessors, considering himself as "a kind 
of landmark separating the past and the future of the Museum." (Goeldi, 1894a:375) 

Goeldi managed the transfonnation of the institution into a scientific museum typical of the end 
of the 19'"^ century. He proposed that the Paraense Museum should devote itself "to the study, the 


development and popularization of Natural History and Ethnology of the State of Para, of the Amazon 
in particular, and of Brazil, South American and the American continent in general" (Goeldi, 
I894b:22). This was accomplished by means of public lectures, of scientific publication — the 
"Boletim do Museum Paraense" — and through scientific collections classified and subdivided into 
the sections of Zoology, Botany, Geology and Ethnology. Archaeology and Anthropology, the 
Botanical Gardens, and the Zoo, as well a wide network of international exchanges. Both the 
collections and scientific publications show that the museum concentrated on Amazonian zoology 
and botany while the other disciplines were considered less important. Nonetheless, the Goeldi 
Museum published more during this period than any other Brazilian museum. 

Among the problems common to all Brazilian museums was the fact that buildings were the 
primary focus, and not just for architectural reasons alone, but more importantly for the scientific 
concepts underlying them. For instance, Goeldi stated that sometimes he was tempted to construct a 
huge building for his museum, but resisting the temptation, he chose the "pavilion system," composed 
of a cluster of smaller, simpler buildings. He considered that small one-story constructions "with free 
access by all sides to air and sun" were more suitable to "a local hygienic architecture, healthy and 
rational" than "heavier fortresses." In these statements, Goeldi focuses on issues other than those 
relating to the conditions of conservation of exhibits. Although in our view his arguments seem 
far-fetched, they are clearly aimed more at solving problems of conservation and management of 
research collections and facilities than they are about the public side of a museum. Thus, they also 
clearly reflect Goeldi's worldview, which favored the fiiture specialization of the Museum. It was 
not a question of splitting the museum into several specific museums, but rather of creating new 
"Research Institutes." 

Figure 4. Staff from the Museu Paraense in 1907. The director. Emilio Goekh, is sitting at the center, with two 

administrative women clerks, next to him. Ornithologist Emilia Snethlage. the tlrsl woman to direct a museum 

in Brazil, is standing in the first row (second from right). Photo: Archives Museu Paraense Emilio Goeldi. 


Managing over time that each section of the inuseum 
would ha\e its own pavihon. thus erecting here a Bo- 
tanical Institute, there an "Mineralogical and Geologi- 
cal Institute", further down an "Ethnographical 
Institute", I would willingly sacrifice the idea of a new 
monumental building. (Goeldi, 1902:108) 

But Goeldi did not have time to build those institutes. 
Between 1 898 and 1 900. Goeldi went to Europe, not only 
to deal with scientific matters, but mainly to work on the 
issue of frontier limits between Brazil and the French 
Guyana. In recognition of his diplomatic skills in behalf 
of the Brazilian government, the museum changed its 
name from Museu Paraense de Historia Natural e Eth- 
nografia to Museu Goeldi (until 1 93 1 ). In 1 907, Goeldi 
returned to his native Switzerland, where he taught zoo- 
geography and animal biology at Bern University. 

Despite Goeldi's departure and despite serious eco- 
nomic setbacks in Para due to the decline in revenues 
coming from rubber exports, which had already begun an 
irreversible decline, the Museum survived. Goeldi's suc- 
cessors were, in order: Jakob Huber, a botanist, from 
1907 to 1914; and Maria Emilia Snethlage (b.I868- 
d.I929), an ornithologist of German origin , from 1914 

to 1922. Snethlage held a Ph.D. in Natural Philosophy; she had been a zoology assistant at the Berlin 
Museum, and she became the first woman to direct a scientific museum in Latin America. 

Like Emilio Goeldi, who had been held in high esteem by the government, even representing it 
in diplomatic issues, Jakob Hiiber also established close links to the local elite. He was charged, when 
he was already director of the museum, for instance, with a mission to the Far East to analyze the 
prospects for Brazilian rubber. 

E-xperiencing the general crisis in the Amazon, after Huber"s death in 1914 and the beginning of 
the First World War, the museum was practically abandoned, despite the efforts of Emilia Snethlage. 
Snethlage was eventually dismissed from public office due to her German nationality. Following the 
war, in 1919, she has reinstated in her position, but she then transferred to the Museu Nacional in Rio 
de Janeiro, where she continued her studies on the Amazon. 

Despite its successive crises, the Museu Paraense Emilio Goeldi survived and today it stands as 
one of the Amazon's and the nation's leading scientific institutions. 

Figure 5. "Orchard's Building," the first building of 
the Museu Paraense. after renovation in the 1980s. 
Photo: Archives Museu Paraense Emiho Goeldi. 

The Search of Specialization in the Amazon: 
The Museu Botanico do Amazonas 

Mr. Derby informs me that a Brazilian who formerly lived in Rio criticized in the Rio press Dr. 
Netto's administration of the National Museum. After this, this gentleman has been called to 
head a provincial Museum in Brazil and is now DrNetto's rival. He lives in Manaos, ,'\mazonas 
Province, on the Amazon at the junction with the Rio Negro. He makes frequent journeys into 
the heart of Brazil on diplomatic and missionary visits as he has great influence with the Indians. 
(. . .) Any recognition the Smithsonian might make of the existence of the Museum would be 
highly appreciated by its director Dr. Juan Barbosa Rodrigues (. . .). 1 think almost anything 


would be acceptable to a Museum just starting and desirous of enlarging itself and rivaling the 
Museum at Rio. There is no harm at any rate in pointing out the opportunities for exchange. 

This Botanical Museum of the Amazotias was constituted by means of botanical and ethnological 
collections gathered by Barbosa Rodrigues (1842-1909). an engineer who become one of the most 
renowned Brazilian botanists and who later directed the Botanical Gardens in Rio de Janeiro after he 
left the Manaus museum. 

The Museu Botanico in Manaus, located deeper inside the forest than the Museu Paraense itself, 
was a specialized, local inuseum. It was particularly attuned to the study of the Manaus region and 
its most striking characteristics — its biological diversity, either natural, as seen in the luxurious 
vegetation of the forest, or human, as shown in the diversity of ethnicities of the tnst inhabitants of 
the region. In the Section of Ethnography, the artifacts representing the 'types' of tribes were kept 
together with photographs or drawings in an arrangement that might be useful for anthropological 
studies. Also, no object was allowed to leave the premises except by exchange and then only after a 
third copy was deposited at the museum. In 1885, despite the lack of funds, the museum was 
completed. It had a large herbarium consisting of 1,283 Brazilian plant species representing 78 
families and 322 genera, with more than 5.000 specimens classified and catalogued, as well as more 
than 800 vegetable species from the United States, particularly from California, that had been obtained 
through exchange. The accession list of the Ethnographical Section shows that the Sections' 
collections had 1,103 classified objects on hand, and that they were representative of the 60 nations 
of the Amazon valley. According to its by-laws,'' the Museu Botanico do Ainazonas was sanctioned 
to "mainly study the botany and the chemistry of the flora of the province and divulge its products, 
cataloguing and keeping under its guard its natural and industrial products." The inuseum relied on 
a laboratory for the chemical analysis and a botanical garden for the acclimation of plants. Together 
with these functions, a science course was to be created with theoretical and practical classes in land 
survey and agriculture. Despite the constraints in the museum's by-laws, Barbosa Rodrigues did 
publish several scientific papers on ethnography, archeology and philology of indigenous nations of 
the Amazon; among them was one that caused trouble for him and his museum until the end of his 
days in Manaus: "A Pacificagao dos Khchanas" — The Pacification of the ICrichanas (Porto, 1892). 

It has been Rodrigues' intention to publish a weekly magazine in French — a language more 
widely read by the people he wanted to reach than Portuguese; he intended to include reports not only 
on the discovery of new plants and their descriptions but also historical, geographical and ethnog- 
raphical infomiation on the region to share these with scientists abroad. It was his intention that this 
journal would be exchanged with scientific societies and similar institutions in Europe. More down 
to earth, the Museum by-laws also allowed for a quarterly magazine, which was to publish the results 
of research carried out in the different sections of the museum (P' Botany, 2"'' Chemistry, 3'''' 
Ethnography, 4"' History, Geography and Statistics of the Amazon). Here, too, French was to be the 
preferred language. The journal, Vellosia. named in honor of Friar Velloso — a Brazilian botanist of 
the colonial period — was published only once, its two volumes containing descriptions of new 
Amazonian plants and paleontological and archeological studies (Rodrigues, 1891). Besides the 
journal, other articles were published at the time, largely based on Barbosa Rodrigues' own activities 
at the museum. 

The Museu Botanico, set in the heart of the Amazon, brings to rnind the structure of inuseums 
at the end of the 18''^ century or the first years of the Museu Nacional in Rio de Janeiro, when a 
naturalist alone would direct his museum. Barbosa Rodrigues looked after everything, although he 
was helped in general by his own family, e.g., his wife, with drawings, his sons, as well as private 
employees, in the cleaning and conservation of the Museum. On the other hand, the museum displayed 


the characteristics that would distinguish the museums which were to be created in Sao Paulo in the 
next decade. 

Although the museum functioned rather well, despite the lack of funds, Barbosa Rodrigues, on 
his arrival in Manaus, encountered strong opposition from political groups who considered them- 
selves harmed by his actions regarding the Krichanas nation.'^ The advent of the Republic did not 
save the museum, which ceased activities in 1890, but it did save Barbosa Rodrigues who. as a 
renowned botanist, was promoted that same year to the directorship of the Jardim Botanico do Rio 
de Janeiro. 

IV. Towards a Museum of Mollusks or the History of 
"a sort of white elephant" 

As you see the place offered was created ad hoc for you and if you do not accept it no appointment 
will be made. I did not enter into all these matters before because 1 had no desire that you should 
come here under a sense of personal obligation to me and 1 should not do so now. However, I 
see from your letters that you have completely misapprehended the situation. . . In the first place 
the government of Sao Paulo is not specially interested in zoological studies nor in the museum, 
considering the latter on the contrary as a sort of white elephant, an opinion in which 1 heartily 
agree. It consists of a private collection made by an "amateur.". . .The government did not know 
what to do with it. I unwillingly accepted the charge in order to preserve what there was of value 
in the collections and to keep alive the idea of a museum. . . When I was asked to arrange 
something for you in Sao Paulo, I considered the idea of the museum and of zoological work in 
the Commission as the only practical means of doing what was requested of me and as a way of 
helping a colleague supposedly in need of such a service. 

The origins of the Museu Paulista lie in an old private collection that was rather well known in 
the city of Sao Paulo at the end of the 19"^ century by the nickname "Museu Sertorio." The museuin 
was organized in 1894 (Fig. 6), following the initiatives of the North American geologist Orville 
Adelbert Derby (1851-19 15), who had been the director of the Geology, Mineralogy and Physical 
Sciences Section at the Museu Nacional in Rio de Janeiro from 1879 to 1890. In 1894, Derby was in 
charge of his own institution, the Commissao Geographica e Geologica de Sao Paulo (Sao Paulo 
Geographical and Geological Commission) (Figueiroa, 1997). Derby planned "to coordinate and 
modestly develop under the aegis of the Geographical and Geological Commission ... the several 
sections of a Natural History Museum"; in fact, he meant to create a position for his former colleague 
at the Museu Nacional, Hermann von Ihering, so he could continued his zoological and palaeontologi- 
cal studies.'-^ 

Hennann von Ihering (1850-1930) (Fig. 7) arrived in Brazil in 1880 and occupied the post of 
traveler-naturalist at the National Museum until 1891. His work covered the most diverse fields in 
zoology, botany, anthropology and ethnology, but his lifetime work was dedicated to modem 
mollusks and their palaeozoology. In 1892, Ihering,jobless, accepted in principle, Derby's proposal, 
which was also accepted by the government of the province of Sao Paulo. But since his first contact 
with Derby, von Ihering's aim of occupying the position of zoologist and director of the Geographical 
and Geological Commission Museum had already changed; his ambition was to hold a position 
somewhat higher than just the post of Director of a Section. '^ So he accepted the position, but it lasted 
only one year because, by the following year, he had managed to transfonn the Museu Paulista into 
an independent institution, which he then directed for the next 22 years, from 1894 to 1915. 

Ihering had read the well-known "Principles of Museum Administration" by George Brown 
Goode (1895) — the famous assistant secretary of the Smithsonian Institution and director of its 



l;l't K t 




II f?r r s 

FioLRt b. Museu Paulista as il appeared jn 1895. 
From a lithograph published in volume 1 of the Revisla do Museu Paulisia. pi. 1 . 

National Museum — with whom he entertained 
a systematic coirespondence" about his propos- 
als for the organization of the Museum Paulista. 
Thus, his dream and his plan for the Museu 
Paulista — in accordance with his own work 
that had acquired a continental dimension — 
was the construction of a South American Mu- 

Completely at ease with the discussions of 
his time about different schemes for classifying 
and arranging natural history collections, Iher- 
ing was adept at separating study collections 
from exhibition collections, an arrangement he 
instituted at the Museu Paulista from its incep- 
tion (Ihering, 1895:20). The study collections 
were, in fact, his main interest, especially those 
of South American mollusks, and although the 
Museum was not divided into Sections, the zoo- 
logical collections were the outstanding collec- 
tion, followed by ethnographical collections and 
botanical inventories. 

Besides the study collections, another of Ihering's main concern was to keep the scientific 
character of the Revisia do Museu Paulista. Like other museums, the Revisla do Museu Paulista was 
clearly an organ for disseminating the wide-ranging scientific writings of the Museum director. 

Ihering listed in his reports the names of researchers, both national and foreign, who classified 

Figure 7. Herman Friedrich Albrecht von Ihering, 

director of the Museu Paulista from 1894 to 1916. 

Photo: Archives Museu Paulista. 


his collections, as well as the names of "illustrious visitors" who came to Sao Paulo to study the 
museum's collections and who published their results in the museum's journal. He also stressed the 
importance of international exchange, which he maintained with museums and scientific societies all 
over the world; the two he considered most "intimate and extremely advantageous" were the 
exchanges with the British Museum and National Museum in Washington.''' He established a wide 
network with researchers and institutions in South America, especially with the directors of museums 
in Argentina and Chile, in the Pacific region, which in the long run allowed him to construct his theory 
on "Continental Bridges."-"^ 

Just as F. A. Bather ( 1 895) — British Museum curator — who, in his survey of museums linked 
to the British Empire, divided the museums into metropolitan and colonial ones, or L.V. Coleman 
( 1 939) — director of the American Association of Museums — who divided his survey of some 1 00 
Latin-American museums (22 of which were dedicated to natural history) into national, provincial, 
university, school and private. Ihering also proposed his typology of museums, following a trip to 
Europe in 1907, with the specific goal of studying the organization of museums. Based on their 
scientific collections, he distinguished three groups of museums: central, provincial and specialized 
museums. Central Museums included only those located in the great capitals of the main countries 
of Europe and then only if they had managed to overcome critical problems, sometimes by means of 
a complete reorganization, to give them proper buildings and a great increase in finance and scientific 
staff Provincial Museums were characterized, in general, by lack of definitive plans of research, 
while Specialized Museums, for Ihering "constituted, no doubt, what best corresponds to the needs 
of science, but even then they exist in a very limited number" (Ihering, 1907:441 ). 

Mentioning some small museums of the latter kind in Germany and even some private collectors, 
Ihering's comments generated a bitter quarrel with the Museu Nacional do Rio de Janeiro. Ihering 
held that in South America there existed only two "specialized museums," the one he directed in Sao 
Paulo, the other under Goeldi's direction in the Amazon. While the Museu Paraense investigated 
Amazonian themes, the Museu Paulista dedicated itself to the zoological studies of South America, 
giving special attention to modem and fossil mollusks. 

Doubting that the great museums would be able to follow the changes needed by the development 
of science, Ihering declared that specialized museums are the museums of the future. And, from that 
base, he argued for what might sound bizarre today — the foundation of a Mollusks" Museum. In 
fact, he was defending and praising his own speciality, advocating the need for an extreme speciali- 
zation of museums, to the increasing specialization of science in his day. The Museu Paulista never 
became exactly the "MoUusk Museum" that Ihering had hoped would solve the crisis of complex 
museums at the end of the last century. The specialization of science did not engender such museums 
but. on the contrary, deepened the crisis. 

Due to a series of political issues, including the First World War, Ihering stepped down as director 
of the museum at the end of 1915. In the 1920s, the Museu Paulista was split and the botany section 
was closed when the Biological Institute was created in 1 927. In the 1 930s, the zoological collections, 
largely gathered during Ihering's tenure as director of the museum, were reorganized. Those 
collections — maybe the largest in South America in regard to neotropic fauna — some 1 6.000 birds, 
4,000 mammals, 3.000 fishes, 2,000 snakes and other reptiles, 120.000 insects and 17.000 mollusks 
— became the Museum of Zoology, today incorporated into the Universidade de Sao Paulo. The 
Museu Paulista has become a museum dedicated to public displays dealing with national histor\- and 
especially the history of Sao Paulo and Brazilian ethnography. 


Final Considerations 

To end these considerations on the contribution of museums to the process of institutionalization 
of sciences in Brazil, it is important to underline some aspects of the museums movement in the 
country. Throughout the 19"' century it is possible to identify two distinct trajectories in Brazilian 
museums. The first is represented by the Museu Nacional do Rio de Janeiro, integrating the 
enlightened Portuguese-Brazilian project; it was the only institution of its kind in Brazil at the time. 
The second trajectory, dating from the late 1860s, came about when new museums were created in 
the provinces. 

In the first phase, which is not covered in detail in this paper, I could identify another subdivision, 
the first moment of attempt of rupture with the models of the "cabinet of curiosity-museum," 
characteristic of the end of the IS"* century and based on contemporary scientific ideas that already 
foresaw the path to specialization to the different field of natural sciences. In this context I refer 
specifically to the program of research and teaching advanced by Custodio Alves Serrao, — the 
director of the museum from 1 828 to 1 846. This was expressed in the new "Regulations" that renewed 
the National Museum in 1 842, through the establishment of four sections: ( I ) Zoology and Compara- 
tive Anatomy; (2) Botany, Agriculture and Mechanical Arts; (3) Mineralogy, Geology and Physical 
Sciences; and (4) Numismatics, Liberal arts. Archaeology, Usage and Costumes of Modem Nations. 

Compared to the earlier period, in the second phase of the history of museums, initiated in the 
middle of the centui^ during the period of consolidation of Brazilian Empire, natural sciences were 
not directly involved in the project that consolidated the agrarian, dependent, and slavery driven 
Brazilian policy. In this context, the emerging community of naturalists was divided by conflicting 
interests and differing scientific approaches and practices, and thus the conditions were not ripe for 
it to implement its own agenda. What happened in terms of institutionalization of natural sciences 
was that timely and important initiatives were undertaken by groups of naturalists who associated 
themselves with the National Museum. At that institution, activities were organized within the new 
fields of knowledge that were being introduced in the country, such as paleontology, anthropology 
and ethnology. The first society of naturalists with a priority dedication to natural sciences — the 
Sociedade Vellosiana — was organized within the museum, while the first Exploratory Commission 
— the so-called Comissao Cientifica de Explora^ao — best known as "Ceara's Commission," also 
nicknamed the "Butterflies' Commission," was formed by Brazilian naturalists associated with the 
National Museum. 

Those initiatives, together with the creation of museums in the provinces, the renewal of Museu 
Nacional in 1876, and the attempts to create the courses of natural sciences in the museum, were part 
of the efforts that practitioners of science were undertaking to consolidate scienfific activities as an 
autonomous field of knowledge. There was the hope that such activities would confer on them both 
political prestige and professional recognition in a manner not dissociated from their intention of 
contributing to universal science, which they thought was not bound by regional or national frontiers. 

This was the period (1860-1870) in which scientific naturalism, as an explicitly articulated 
ideology or a diffuse state of mind, although only surfacing in the beginning of the 1 9'*^ century, would 
acquire its fully developed form. Naturalism established the universal goal of scientific method and 
procedures, and it constituted the ideology that supported the rapid ascent of new professional groups 
(Barnes and Shapin, 1979). This is also the moment when the position of foreign naturalists in the 
country began to change. With the expansion of modem sciences, the number of professionals 
increased, and, consequently, so did the competition for professional positions. Several naturalists 
came to establish themselves in the "New World" in order to interact from their new home with the 


international scientific community. Those are the authentic "seekers," so well characterized by 
Pyenson (1985). In the case of Brazilian museums, we can, perhaps, identify the most important 
among them, Orville Adelbert Derby, Emil August Goeldi, and Hermann von Ihering, and even 
Barboza Rodrigues, a "Brazilian Southern foreigner in the Amazon"; all served at one time or another 
as directors of Sections in the Museu Nacional and latter as directors of their own institutions. 

To the above can be added those differing visions about future directions of scientific investiga- 
tions, that led to disputes and rivalries among national and foreign researchers that took place within 
the framework of scientific professionalization at the end of the 19'*^ century. For example, these 
differing visions of the fiiture constitute some of the main reasons for the quarrel between the director 
of the National Museum in Rio de Janeiro and the director of Museu Paulista in Sao Paulo that was 
discussed earlier in this paper. Controversies among national and foreign naturalists that had marked 
the work of naturalists from the National Museum in previous periods, would surface again during 
the First World War and profoundly injure directors of Gentian origin, such as Ihering and Emilia 
Snethlage. Expressing professional interest disguised by nationalist ideas, such controversies were 
part and parcel of the process that I have pointed to as a search for professional space and consolidation 
of scientific reputation within the scientific community already established in the country. 

In this second phase of the history of Brazilian museums, it is necessary to consider another 
sub-division that took place in the year 1890. Marked by the development of local museums more 
than the continuity of the naturalist tradition of National Museum, this phase is cleariy delineated by 
the rupture between the model of a general "Metropolitan," encyclopedic museum, represented by 
the Rio de Janeiro Museum, and the model of specialized museums created in the more dynamic, 
economically-developed provinces of the Republic, which assumed a position contrary to the old 
museum tradition of the Brazilian Empire. Among those distinctive traits of the agencies of these 
museums in the country, we could consider the scientific investigation and divulgation they undertook 
based upon the accumulated research in different field of natural sciences. This disclosure was 
accomplished by means of exhibitions and scientific publications — in fact, these were the only 
regular Brazilian scientific publications with an international readership and the only ones specialized 
in natural sciences. In addition, for instance, was the persistence of the directors, albeit not always 
successful, in creating their own institutional spaces or the inclusion of anthropological, archeological 
and ethnographic research in their investigation agendas. These studies had not yet freed themselves 
from the realm of natural sciences, just as some compartmentalized views of modem science do not 
allow studies to reach their flill dimensions. In these human-linked fields, the museum could gather 
original pieces, sometimes objects that were unique in the world, as the directors liked to point out. 
They did gather original pieces, especially due to their scientific interest in participating at the hotly 
debated issue of the times, the "origins of American mankind." The directors were favored by their 
locations, since the museums were built in regions not yet completely surveyed and investigated, 
including many Indian nations yet to be exterminated and relegated to a museum. 

The creation of the Museu Paulista and Museu Botanico do Amazonas added to the fundamental 
meaning of the need for more global understanding of the process of institutionalization of sciences 
in Brazil. In this period they add to the initiatives of the Brazilian State to create insfitutional spaces. 
Many of the initiatives were personal and individual ones begun by those seeking a safe harbor that 
would provide them both salary and support (financial and infrastructure) and allow them to get on 
with their research and advance their careers. 

The Paraense — in the first, pre-Goeldi phase — could, perhaps, be characterized by its role in 
providing cultural space in a provincial capital, which allowed for local initiatives devoted to natural 
sciences. Museum directors did not overlook the promotion of courses and lectures, or taking part in 


national and international exhibitions, and they maintained exchanges with the Museu Nacional in 
Rio de Janeiro. There were even cases of original investigations, particularly in Brazilian archeology 
and ethnology, an area where Ferreira Penna excelled. 

The Museu do Amazonas characterized itself as an authentic institution of research of the time; 
it promoted local exhibitions, which were open to the public, and attempts were made to teach courses, 
but basically it concentrated on botanical research and it exploited the intemational connections of 
its director. Its highly specialized character was clearly delimited by Barbosa Rodrigues, even before 
Ihering advocated the case of specialized museums as a solution to the crisis of these institutions. 

Seeking recognition in the civilized world, in the intemational museum movement, and in the 
scientific community in both Europe and the United States, each of the directors of Brazilian museums 
had their own suite of friends and scientific colleagues who were, for the most part, rooted in their 
individual countries of origin, where they had studied and/or were either related to specific fields of 
scientific knowledge or shared common museological concepts. Indeed, some of the museum 
directors could reasonably claim affiliation with one or more of the most famous and well-known 
museums and research centers. Thus, the Brazilian museum directors drew upon their scientific 
colleagues elsewhere to help them build their own careers in Brazil, as well as with their projects 
which had both regional and intemational dimensions. 

In the case of different visions of museums at the dawn of the 20"^ century in Brazil, Ihering took 
to the extreme the process of specialization of natural sciences; he had hoped his South American 
Museum, which specialized in a very precise field of zoology — Mollusks — would become a model. 
Lacerda, on the other hand, continued to emphasize "national specificity" because he identified the 
Rio de Janeiro National Museum as a "metropolitan museum," modeling it after the Museum 
d'Histoire Naturelle de Paris, this despite the loss of hegemony it had experienced during the century 
(Limoges, 1980). 

Here it is necessary to correct an aspect frequently repeated in the historiography of sciences in 
Brazil, which deals with how 19th-century foreign naturalist viewed scientific activities in the country 
and especially at the Rio de Janeiro National Museum. In studies on the institutionalization of natural 
sciences in Brazil in the 1 9th century, one constantly comes across foreign reports about the National 
Museum that portray it as a hoax, a deception in so far as its science was concemed. The National 
Museum, in those reports, definitely did not measure up to what was expected from it. These reports, 
which bequeathed us a negative image of ourselves, do not always coincide with records that have 
been increasingly recovered from the forgotten shelves of our libraries and archives. What strikes me 
most forceably is that the position taken by foreign naturalists with respect to the Museum, in my 
opinion, may be best explained by Flora Sussekind (1990) perceptive view of the phrase "Brazil is 
not far from here," which is taken from a Gemian song about immigration. To her, the phrase can be 
understood as "an observation made by someone, already living in the country and who does not 
recognize the expected landscape." Our foreign naturalists had first-hand experience with European 
museums, and they had developed their own notions about the role of museum in the "new worlds." 
Naturalist had "ways of seeing, known by heart." They expected to find here a complete museum that 
would reunite all local products in a way that would help their work. One could, thus, understand the 
joy of British naturalists when they leamed about the creation of a museum at the Amazon forest 
doorway, which would save them all the "hardness of a tropical forest excursion." 

In contrast to what the foreigners expected, what was intended for the capital of the Empire was 
a Museum that followed European patterns, perhaps incomplete, but with samples representing the 
whole world, a symbol of urban civilization. Our histonography, even today, has never understood 
what Egyptian mummies meant in the context of the National Museum. 


Agassiz (1975:33) stated that "Rio was during the whole 19"^ century, the main target of French, 
English, Gennan, Russian and American scientific expeditions," which could have diminished the 
scientific interest over this province, but, in his opinion, led to the contrary. "Precisely because all 
the specimens described or present in the majority of travel reports which originated from Rio and 
its neighborhood, it was mandatory that all museums wishing to be complete and comprehensive 
should have original samples of these localities and could check the description of species men- 
tioned." Brazilian naturalists knew the Rio de Janeiro species, they traveled in the outskirts, and even 
Ladisiau Netto began to look for new species in the street market, following Agassiz's advice.-' 
However, the scientific interests of Brazilian naturalists, just like those of their foreign counterparts, 
focused on the search in virgin territory for new species of plants and animals and for archaeological 
and ethnographical artifacts. 

The French naturalist Ferdinand Denis (1980:409), who visited Brazil in the first decade of the 
19"' centuiy, appears to be an exception, as he put in simple terms the question of how different 
"invisible things" lay in the eye of the beholder. Dennis states that "a certain traveler obsersed that 
among the curiosities of the Rio de Janeiro National Museum there was a swan and a finch. This is 
very simple and Brazilians would have much to say if they notice the common birds of their fields 
that we keep in our museums." If we reuse the sense Pomian (1984) attributed to collections of any 
kind of museum, of "uniting the visible and invisible world," it is possible to understand that the 
in\ isible here could be in the street market, as observed by Agassiz. Not everywhere could be called 
Brazil, the country of exuberant nature and populated by Indian nations with very different life styles 
than the transplanted Europeans. For the inhabitants of the Court living in Rio de Janeiro, the seat of 
the Empire, this Brazil was not far away, but surely it was not there. 

Ihering, Netto. and Lacerda, and even Goeldi's museums do not fit into the category of "colonial 
museum." with which Bather (1895) characterized the museums of the British Empire and that 
Sheets-Pyenson (1988) used in her analysis of Canadian, Argentine and Australian museums. From 
the analysis of the ideals expressed by different directors of Brazilian museums in their practical 
agencies, it is possible to understand how their ideals were transformed into realities. The directors 
continuously gathered and classified collections, set up excursions and expeditions, responded to the 
demands for public institutions, struggled for appropriations, renovated inadequate buildings, gave 
classes and lectures, started national and international exchanges, published journals, established 
priority research programs, fought for institutional spaces and got involved with political debates 
within the realm of consolidation of scientific community in the country. From the point of view of 
the role played by museological institutions at an international level in the transition to the 20"^ 
century, like the major museums of Europe, Asia and elsewhere in the Americas. Brazilian museums, 
despite their difficulties, served as important research centers for the natural sciences. Our museums 
assuredly were not mere warehouse of objects, for they tried to assert themselves through the 
relevance of their scientific production and experimental research, while not neglecting the catalogu- 
ing and classifying of their collections. They attempted to respond to current trends in museum 
development and they did play a pioneer role in the specialization of areas of knowledge in Brazil. 


To Susan-Sheets Pyenson. in memoriam. whose work led me to understand the importance of 
the study of Latin American museums and to Pamela Henson whose support and help were essential 
to the publication of this article. To FAPESP. for the financial supports on museum researches in 
1997 and 1999. 1 also want to express my appreciation to the three reviewers, all of whom chose not 


to remain anonymous, Drs. William Brice, Pamela Henson, and Alan Leviton, for their many 
constructive comments that helped measurably to improve the manuscript. 


This process — one of its pillars was science — was initiated at the end of the war against Paraguay, in 
1 870. Only then did the Brazilian elite condemn slavery and dethrone the Monarchy, still reigning in the country, 
in 1888 and 1889, respectively, to better promote and maintain their own agarian interests. During this period, 
although the economic conditions of the country were reasonably stable, thanks to the position of Brazilian coffee 
in the international market, the social contradictions became more acute and agarian interests diversified. The 
coffee planterelite from Rio de Janeiro, who since the mid-19th century had been able to influence the Emperor, 
began to lose ground to the emerging coffee planters from Sao Paulo. And, while the sugar cane planters from 
the northeast harvested their latest important crops, rubber soared in commercial importance, introducing the 
Amazon to the international scene. 

~ For a more comprehensive overview of Brazilian museums, see Lopes, 1 997. 

" Due to the Napoleonic war, the Portuguese Royal Family came to Rio de Janeiro in 1808. Thanks to this 
peculiar fact in history, completely different from what happened in other colonial empires, it became necessary 
to create several institutions, including scientific ones, to provide the infrastrucmre to the new center of the 
Portuguese kingdom. 

This institutional reform organized the National Museum in four sections; 1*' Comparative Anatomy and 
Zoology; 2" Botanies, Agriculture and Mechanical Arts; 3"^ Mineralogy, Geology and Physical Sciences; 4' 
Nurnismatics and Liberal Arts, Archaeology, Uses and Costumes of Modem Nations. 

■ See for instance Doc. Arq. Nac. 1E7^4, 20/11/1873. Relatorio do dr. Pizarro sobre a /" Se(;do de 
Zoolologia e Anatomia Comparada. 

See Arquivos do Museu Nacional Correspondencia Otlcial — 1833—1842. 

For instance, in volume IV issued in 1879, among the publications received from 52 cities around the 
world, there were some from the United States National Museum — Smithsonian — in Washington; the 
Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle de Paris; the Museum of Comparative Zoology in Cambridge [Harvard 
College], Massachusetts; several botanical, zoological and anthropological associations from several North 
American and European cities, besides museums from Melbourne, Cairo, Buenos Aires, Mexico and Santiago 
among others. In 1905. the exchange of "Archivos" encompassed 48 institutions in Brazil and 497 institutions 
like museums, scientific institutes, geological surveys, govemment organizations, botanical gardens, and 
libraries on all continents. (Lopes, 1992) 

Domingos Soares Ferreira Penna ( 1818-1888), a self-taught, itinerant naturalist of the Museu Nacional 
do Rio de Janeiro, interested in geology and archaeology of the Amazon, held on several occasions political 
office in the govemment of the state of Para and twice directed the Museu Paraense, from 1871 to 1872 and from 
1882 to 1884(Cunha, 1989). 

The British representative, Edgard Leopold Layard, a well-known ornithologist who had helped found 
the South African Museum in Cape Town in 1885, was a close collaborator of the Paraense Museum from the 
time of his arrival in Brazil in 1872. He promoted an exchange between the two mu.seums, with the donation of 
an ornithological collection composed of 340 African bird skins. 

'° Decreto n" 933 de 31/12/1900. Actas e Decisoes de 1900. Estadodo Para. Belem. Typ. do Diario Official. 

Private letter A. P. Nilback (Ensign. U.S.N.) to Spencer Baird. Rio de Janeiro. Oct. 13. 1884. Smithsonian 
Archives, Record Unit 189. Assistant Secretary in charge of the U.S. National Museum, 1860-1908. Incoming 
Correspondence. Box 90. I am grateful to Pamela Henson and to the staff of the Smithsonian Institution Archives 
for access to and orientation regarding the vast and important documentation about the interchange between that 
instimtion and Brazilian museums of natural history. 

" By-law number 49 from 22 January 1884, to the Museu Botanico do Amazonas, in.l'ellosia. 2nd ed., 

^ Those Indians who were in constant fights with the settlers in the region, if they cause problems they also 


constitute somehow a "source of income." Following each Indian attack, the settlers received a "huge sum to 
buy gifts and to finance expeditions." If the Indians were, in fact, "pacified," the appropriations would cease and 
with them "some eight sure votes of unscrupulous State representatives." According to Porto, this was one of 
the main reasons that kept Barbosa Rodrigues away from the Amazon (Porto, op. di.:l\). 

'■* Derby correspondence to Herman von Ihering, SP, 23/Jan/1893. I am thankful to Silvia Figueiroa for 
lending me this valuable correspondence addressed by Derby to Ihering from 29/Jan/1886 until I7/Jan/I915, in 
total 109 letters, partially unpublished, archived at the Hand-schriftabteilung (Damim Smig) da Staat.sbibliotek 
Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin. 

^' Derby correspondence to von Ihering, SP, 12/Oct/l892. 

'* Derby correspondence to von Ihering, SP, 16/Jan/ 189.3. 

'^ See Smithsonian Institution Archives (SIA), RU 189, Assistant Secretary in charge of the Mu.seum. 
Incoming Correspondence. 1860-1908. George Brown Goode Papers, Box 62, Folder 1. Especially the letter 
dated 25 July 1896, in which Ihering comments about Goode's paper. 

'* "The character of the Museum in general is a South-American museum aimed at the study, of the animal 
kingdom, its zoological history and the Natural History of human kind". (Museum Paulista By-Laws, article 2°, 

'** Relatorios do Museu Paulista, 1894 a 1911. Ihering kept a systematic correspondence with directors and 
specialists from the Smithsonian Institution. See especially his letters in SIA, RU 7073 — William Dall Papers 
(1865-1927) — Box 122, Folder 12; RU 189 — George Brown Goode Papers — Box 62, Folder 1;RU54 — 
George Brown Goode, Incoming Correspondence (1883-1896) — Box 4; RU 105 — Division of Birds Records 
— Box 7, Letters. 

'"^ His theory on "Continental Bridges," published in the book "Archhelenis and Archinotis" in 1907 in 
Leipzig had its importance acknowledged by Wegener in his conceptions of "Continental Drift." On Ihering's 
interchanges network see Lopes and Figueiroa (1994). 

"' Agassiz (op. cit.) stated that in the Rio de Janeiro fish market there were more rare specimens than in the 
collections of the National Museum, which he considered anachronic during his visit in 1865. 


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Ed.. London. 
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at the Fifth Annual General Meeting. Museums Association. Dublin. 
Coleman, L. V. 1939. The Museum in America. A Critical Study. The American Association of Museums, 

Washington D.C. (3 vols.) 
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e Atitude:Estudos Biogrdficos do Museu Emilio Goeldi. I. Belem. PR/SCT/CNPq. 
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do Estado do Para. Typ. do Diario Official, Belem. 
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GracA, a. 1871. Relatorio apresentado a Assembleia Legislaliva Provincial na Segunda Sessao da 17- 

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Copyright ©2000 by the California Academy of Sciences 

Golden Gate Park. San Francisco, California 941 18. USA. 

All rights reserved. 

spencer Baird's Dream: A U.S. National Museum 


Historian, Institutional History Division 

Smithsonian Institution Archives, Washington, DC 20560 


Many people in the United States and abroad 
identity the name "Smithsonian Institution" with mu- 
seums and assume, not unreasonably, that the Smith- 
sonian was founded as a museum. However, 
museums were not an important part of early planning 
for the Institution and were even resisted by the first 
Smithsonian Secretary. A complex mixture of cul- 
tural forces and individual initiatives led to the found- 
ing of the United States National Museum at the 
Smithsonian Institution. 

To begin at the beginning, in 1826 an English 
scientist named James Smithson(c. 1765— 1829) (Fig. 
I ) wrote his will, leaving his estate to his nephew, 
Henry James Hungerford. However, he added a pe- 
culiar last paragraph in which he stated that should 
his nephew die without heirs, his estate should go "to 
the United States of America, to found in Washington 
under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an 
Establishment for the increase & diffijsion of knowl- 
edge among men."' Smithson died three years later in 
1 829 and his estate went, as stipulated, to his nephew. 
But in an odd twist of fate, that nephew died without 
heirs in 1835. In due course, the United States em- 
bassy in London was notified of Smithson's unusual 
gift. President Andrew Jackson sent the matter to the 
Congress, and a long period of debate began over what to do with these funds. 

Smithson was the illegitimate son of Hugh Smithson, the Duke of Northumberland, and Elizabeth 
Macie, a wealthy gentlewoman and the source of his fortune. He had attended Pembroke College, 
Oxford, where he studied chemistry and mineralogy. He wrote over twenty scientific papers, many 
on chemical analyses and descriptions of minerals. He was also active in such organizations as the 
Royal Society of London and the Royal Institution of Great Britain. These organizations were founded 
with mandates for the increase and usefijl diffusion of knowledge and so may have served as models. 
But even among his extensive writings, no real clues can be found as to what Smithson actually 
intended by an institution "for the increase and diffusion of knowledge."-' 

Early reports in American newspapers assumed that the money would be used to found a national 
university; they consistently referred to the bequest as being for the "Smithsonian University." 
Perhaps surprisingly, reactions to news of the bequest were quite mixed. Southern Congressman, such 
as John C. Calhoun, opposed accepting the bequest, arguing that to create such a national entity would 

Figure 1. James Smithson (c. 1765-1829), founding 
donor of the Smithsonian Institution. Portrait by 
H. .lohns, 1816. Smithsonian Instimtion Archives. 





violate the principle of states" rights. Fonner Presi- 
dent John Quincy Adams, now in the House of Rep- 
resentatives, led the supporters of the bequest, and 
they soon prevailed. On 1 July 1836, Congress 
authorized President Jackson to pursue the bequest. 
Richard Rush (Fig. 2), fonner Ambassador to the 
Court of St. James's, was dispatched to London to file 
a suit in the British Chancery Court for the bequest. 
Smithson's estate was awarded to the United States 
on 8 May 1838. After Rush disposed of Smithson's 
holdings and investments, the gift totaled some 

After the estate was transferred to the United 
States, it took another eight years of wrangling before 
the Smithsonian was actually established. Martin Van 
Buren was now in the White House, and he asked 
Secretary of State John Forsyth to write to "persons 
versed in science and familiar with the subject of 
public education" to solicit "their views as to the 
inode of disposing of the fund best calculated to meet 
the intentions of the testator." Fonner President 
Adams opposed the creation of a national university, 
arguing that money from a foreigner should not be 
used to educate American children. The War of 1 8 1 2 
and the burning of Washington by the English in 1 8 14 

still loomed large in people's minds. Accepting a gift from a foreigner, especially an Englishman, for 
such a purpose was viewed as demeaning to citizens of a democracy. Many educators saw exciting 
opportunities in Smithson's bequest.'' They responded to Van Buren's request for ideas with a 
dizzying range of proposals. An agricultural school, experimental fann, academy for instruction of 
women, mechanics institute, school of the classics, graduate school, natural history school, and 
teacher training school were just a few of the ideas put forth. Thomas Cooper, president of South 
Carolina College, a political radical, wanted a scientific school that would ameliorate social condi- 
tions through practical advances. He wrote, "I object to all . . . philosophical literature as calculated 
only to make men pleasant talkers." 

Francis Wayland argued just the opposite! This professor from Brown University wanted a school 
devoted to the classics. Science, he believed, did not ameliorate social problems but rather provided 
mankind with more means of destruction, "gratifying to the full the widest love of slaughter." Steven 
Chapin of Columbian College, which is now The George Washington University, worried that a 
Smithsonian University would compete with and perhaps destroy his fledgling school in the nation's 
Capital. Thus he argued for a graduate school that would complement, not compete with. Columbian 
College. - 

Fonner President Adams argued for a national observatory. He considered studying the heavens 
to be the most exalted of the sciences, thus the most appropriate for this public tnist. Senator Rufus 
Choate and Representative George Perkins Marsh lobbied for a great national library. The Library 
of Congress was just a small collection in the Capitol and had been destroyed in the 1814 fire. Choate 
demanded to know. "Why should a German or an Englishman sit down to a repast of five hundred 

c^c^cv^c^ (:^^-^-^ 

FiCiURE 2. Richard Rush ( 1 780-1 859), attorney 

charged with securing Smuhson's bequest for the 

United States. Engraving by J. 1. Pease. 

Smithsonian Institution Archives. 


thousand books, and an American scholar, who loves the truth as well as he, be put on something less 
than half allowance?" In a democracy, he argued, a library would diffuse knowledge much more 
effectively than a national university. Alexander Dallas Bache, Superintendent of the U.S. Coast 
Survey, and the great-grandson of Benjamin Franklin, was a supporter of scientific research. He 
maintained that the bequest should continue Smithson's life work as a scientific research institute.'' 

Others argued for the creation of a great national museum to house the treasures from scientific 
expeditions and icons of American heroes. A group called the National Institute for the Promotion 
of the Arts and Sciences had begun a small museum, located in the Patent Office Building. They 
acquired the scientific specimens from the great United States Exploring Expedition as it traveled 
around the world during the years 1 838 to 1 842. Birds, bugs, and baskets from all comers of the globe 
were displayed for a curious public. The promoters of the National Institute attempted to gain control 
of the Smithson bequest for their museum.' 

Legislation was introduced for virtually every one of these ideas and, as the years passed, no 
agreement was ever reached. The Treasury purchased state bonds with the legacy and the bonds failed 
to pay as promised. John Quincy Adams and Richard Rush despaired of any solution. Every Tom, 
Dick, and Harry had a proposal for how he could use the half million dollars. Adams wanted to protect 
the bequest, "to secure, as from a rattlesnake's fang, the fiind and its income, forever from being 
wasted and dilapidated in bounties to feed the hunger or fatten the leaden idleness of mountebank 
projectors and shallow worthless pretenders to science."*^ 

Part of this problem was American politics, but another part of it was the vagueness of Smithson's 
will. Many, indeed most, philanthropists are quite specific about how they want their money to be 
used. Examples include John Harvard's 1638 bequest of money and books to the small Cambridge 
college that later bore his name and Sir George Cayley's founding of London's Regent Street 
Polytechnic Instimte in 1838 with specific educational goals and administrative structure. These 
philanthropists design buildings, create organizational charts, specify staff, operating procedures, and 
programs in excruciating detail. Smithson left no hints, in the will, in his many writings, or in his 
correspondence with friends and colleagues. He does not seem to have ever even discussed the idea 
with his circle of friends, such as Dominique Fran(;ois Arago and Davies Gilbert, who were quite 
surprised by it. The vagueness of Smithson's will made his bequest vulnerable to such debates, to 
charlatans as well as idealists. It has also contributed to the notion that he tossed the phrase in as an 
afterthought; that this was not a grand scheme of his. '^ 

Despite the difficulties in deciding how to proceed, finally in 1846, a Congressman from New 
York, William Jervis Hough, managed to craft a compromise bill that included something for virtually 
everyone. The only provision that had been dropped, oddly enough, was the first, a national university. 
On 10 August 1 846, Congress passed the legislation establishing the Smithsonian, and it was signed 
into law by President James K. Polk that same day. It contained provisions for basic research, and a 
building to house a library, a museum, and a lecture hall.'° 

With a mandate as broad as "the increase and diffusion of knowledge," where does one begin? 
The legislation placed the governance of the Institution in the hands of a Board of Regents, and they 
prepared a report outlining what they believed were appropriate activities for Smithson's new 
Institution. Led by Robert Dale Owen, radical reformer from the New Harmony commune in Indiana, 
they immediately began to plan a building to house the Institution. Owen wanted a building that would 
exemplify academic ideals and inspire Americans to improve their lot. The Smithsonian "Castle," 
(Fig. 3) designed by architect James Renwick, evoked the contemplative life of a medieval college." 

The Regents' second decision was to select a Secretary to manage the day to day affairs of the 
Smithsonian. They appointed Joseph Henry (Fig. 4), a professor of physics at the College of New 



Figure 3. Smithsonian Building or "Castle." c. 1860. 
Smithsonian Institution Archives. 

Jersey, which is now Princettm. Henry had pioneered research on electromagnetic induction and was 
the most distinguished scientist in the United States of that day. Henry wanted to focus the Institution 
on basic scientific research and outlined a "Programme of Organization" to carry out that plan. Henry 
argued that the Smithsonian was a private research organization, responsible to the international 
community of science, not a national entity. He was reluctant to take on the financial burden of 
managing large collections and making them available to the public. He believed that museums, 
libraries, and lecture halls reached only a small local population. Henry had an equally important 
vision for how the Smithson funds could be used to advance scientific knowledge in the United States 
and the world, while establishing the nation's reputation as a scientific power. Henry would fund 
basic research, especially in chemistry and physics, publish the writings of American scholars, 
coordinate major research projects, and exchange scientific publications between the United States 
and abroad. He supported acquiring natural history collections for scientific research but did not want 
a large museum with public exhibits. He strongly opposed the elaborate building being planned by 
the Regents on the Mall. He would have preferred to rent space in a nearby office building. He did 
not want to hire a large pennanent staff Instead he wanted to give grants to qualified scientists, much 
like the National Science Foundation does today. '- 

Since Henry had to have a new building, as ordered by the Regents, he filled it with laboratories 



Figure 4, .losepli Henn ( 1 799-1 S7S). First 

Smithsonian Secretary. Photograph by Brady. 

Smithsonian Institution Archives. 

for natural history and chemical research, as well as an 
apparatus room where he could demonstrate state of the 
art scientific equipment. Despite his opposition, the 
Regents insisted on a lecture hall, a library and a 
museum. Henry was quite reluctant to take on the 
enonnous financial and administrative burden of man- 
aging a national library and museum. He believed that 
the costs of managing such collections would force him 
to turn to the Congress for federal funding and, thereby, 
subject the young Institution to political influence. 
Henry wrote, "The answer made to some of these 
objections has usually been, that the government would 
grant an annual appropriation for the support of the 
museum of the exploring expedition. But this would be 
equally objectionable, since it would annually bring the 
institution before Congress as a supplicant for govern- 
ment patronage, and ultimately subject it to political 
influence and control." The best course, Henry be- 
lieved, was "to ask nothing from Congress ... to min- 
gle its operations as little as possible with those of the 

general government " In time, Henry's words would 

acquire a ring of truth. '-^ 

How then did the Smithsonian becoine the museum complex it is today? To answer that question, 
let us step back in time to August of 1838, shortly after the United States won its lawsuit for the 
Smithson estate in the British Court of Chancery. August of 1838 was a busy month for the ports of 
the young country. On the 19th of August, a fleet of six ships under the command of Lieutenant 
Charles Wilkes left the port of Hampton Roads, Virginia, on a four year voyage around the globe. 
This United States Exploring Expedition was designed to establish American presence in international 
naval power and science. On board was a group of naturalists who would collect a treasure trove of 
anthropological artifacts, and biological and geological specimens which some twenty years later 
would fonn the basis of the United States National Museum.''^ 

Later that same month, the 29th of August to be exact, a packet ship, the Mediator, arrived in 
New York from London. On board was Richard Rush, the diplomat and attorney who had successfully 
sued for the Smithson estate in the British Chancery Court. Rush kept a watchful eye over his cargo 
— eleven boxes tilled with gold sovereigns worth some £ 104,960, plus 8 shillings and 6 pence, which 
would be converted into S508,3 18.46. Rush also transported Smithson's personal effects, his library, 
and his mineralogical cabinet. Those funds later formed the Institution which would create the United 
States National Museum. The collections of minerals and books also formed part of its earliest 
collections. To some this story might seem a classic case of two ships crossing in the night, fates 
inextricably interwoven, brought together by some strange coincidence of fate.' ^ 

But in many human affairs, seeming convergences are as much the result of long and careftil 
planning and dreaming, as they are of chance. Such was the case here. The movements of these two 
ships were carefully watched by one Joel Poinsett (Fig. 5), a planter and amateur naturalist from South 
Carolina who believed his young country needed a National Museum. As Secretary of War, he insisted 
that the United States Exploring Expedition include a staff of naturalists to study and collect from the 
natural resources and peoples of distant lands. And from the time the expedition departed, he worried 



Fr.ure 5. Joel Roberts Poinsett ( 1779-1851 ), founder 

of the National Institute. Engraved by J. B. Longacre. 

Smithsonian Institution Archives. 

about where to house the collections when they re- 
turned. He saw the answer in the peculiar bequest 
recently received from Smithson. Poinsett believed 
such an unusual resource should be used to form a 
truly great institution which would establish the cul- 
tural equality of our new country with Europe and 
display its wealth of resources."' 

Although it would take twenty more years and 
many other individuals for Poinsett's dream to be- 
come reality, he did successfully inject the concept of 
a National Museum into the Congressional debates 
about how to use Smithson's bequest. And there were 
strong pressures to create a national museum for the 
young nation. When the Exploring Expedition collec- 
tions arrived, they were housed in the Patent Office 
Building. They were displayed alongside a collection 
of patent models, James Smithson's mineralogical 
cabinet, and relics of the pantheon of the new country. 
These included George Washington's unifonn and 
Benjamin Franklin's printing press. This cabinet of 
curiosities was managed by the National Institute for 
the Promotion of the Arts and Sciences which was 

fonried in 1840 by Joel Poinsett and others to secure control of the Smithson bequest and create a 
National Museum." 

Although ultimately. Poinsett's National Institute failed in its bid to gain control of the Smithson 
bequest, the exact reverse occurred. Eventually all of the National Institute's collections were 
transferred to the new Smithsonian. Despite the vision and dedication of Poinsett and his close circle, 
its staff of amateurs did not understand how to study these artifacts and specimens to increase 
knowledge or use collections to diffuse knowledge through carefully crafted exhibitions. Exploring 
Expedition scientists complained about provenance infomiation lost through sloppy handling and 
specimens destroyed by unprofessional preparation. Titian Ramsey Peale. expedition nautralist and 
artist, lamented, "my two birds (male and female) made into one, — the legs of one put on another 
body, hundreds of fine insects put in families without localities, although they came from all parts of 
the world, — bows in one end of the room — arrows in another with their ends sawed off to make 
them fit into fancy stands, et cetera, — all for the great end, — the promotion of science." These 
collections soon overwhelmed the space capacity, staff time and financial resources of the National 
Institute. Exhibited without context or theme, as a set of curiosities and relics, they were truly the first 
"Nation's Attic." The public soon lost interest in the Patent Office Building exhibits, and public 
financial support never materialized for the National Institute. This image of a dilapidated and 
disorganized collection of curiosities, growing unkempt and unstudied, is probably what worried 
Secretary Henry, with good cause.''** 

But others saw these collections not as mere relics and natural curiosities. The botanical and 
zoological collections could serve as the basis for research on the range of distribution of organisms 
on the North American continent. The relics of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson could be 
used to tell the story of the founding of the young country. Ethnological artifacts and modem industrial 
equipment could be used to trace the development of technology from "primitive" civilizations to 



that pinnacle of technological innovation, the United States. All these could be used in exhibits 
designed to educate the citizens of a democracy about their history, the fine arts and the natural world. 
These specimens and artifacts becaine valuable only when studied and analyzed comparatively, and 
when the results of that work were shared through research-based publications and exhibits. This 
vision, soon to be a reality, garnered the public enthusiasm that Poinsett had never been able to secure. 
Most importantly, this vision of a research museum secured public support in the fonn of collection 
donations, additional bequests, and Congressional appropriations which grew annually and ultimately 
built fine new buildings to create a complex of museums and research institutes unparalleled 
anywhere in the world. 

In the fall of 1850, this new research-based mu- 
seum approach arrived at the Smithsonian in the form 
of one Spencer Fullerton Baird ( 1 823-1887) (Fig. 6), 
naturalist, ornithologist, ichthyologist, and dedicated 
collector from Carlisle. Pennsylvania. Baird had be- 
gun a natural history collection as a young man, aided 
by his older brother, William M. Baird. He attended 
Dickinson College in Carlisle. Pennsylvania, receiv- 
ing the A. B. in 1840, and then studied medicine 
briefly in New York. On family visits to Philadelphia, 
Baird visited the Academy of Natural Sciences and 
became acquainted with many of the prominent natu- 
ralists of his day, including John Cassin, Isaac Lea, 
Samuel G. Morton, and Thomas Nuttall. At the Acad- 
emy, Baird first saw John James Audubon's folio on 
American birds. On 4 June 1840, Baird began a 
correspondence on natural history with the famed 
bird artist, which lasted for the rest of Audubon's 
career. By the time Baird graduated from college, he 
was a well-known member of the small but vibrant 
natural history community in the United States. '** 

In 1 84 1 . Baird heard from his brother. Will, who 
then worked in Washington for the Treasury Depart- 
ment, about the collection of natural history materials amassed by the United States Exploring 
Expedition and exhibited by the National Institute. That same year, while studying medicine in New 
York, he met one of the expedition artists, Titian Ramsey Peale. son of Charles Willson Peale, who 
ran a museum in New York City. Titian Peale was preparing the ill-fated reports on the birds and 
mammals collected by the expedition. Baird peppered his brother with questions about the specimens 
and the naturalists who worked at the National Institute. In 1842, Baird walked from Carlisle, 
Pennsylvania, to Baltimore, Maryland, and then took a train to Washington to visit Will and see the 
National Institute collections at the Patent Office Building. Indeed, he hoped he might be appointed 
curator of the new museum, but as the National Institute foundered, so did Baird's dreams. He settled 
for a professorship at Dickinson College, teaching chemistry and natural history to its academy and 
college students. Baird took his students on natural history "rambles" and taught them proper 
techniques for collecting and preparing specimens. He also devoted considerable energy to improv ing 
the college's small museum. On 8 August 1842, he married Mary Churchill, the daughter of family 
friends, a union that brought as much to Baird's career as his personal life."° 

FloLRE 6. Spencer I ullcrloii Uaiid ( 1825-1887). 
c. 1850. Assistant Secretary of the Smithsonian, 
Dagueireotype. Smithsonian Institution Archives. 


Baird devoted his energies to teaching and developing the museum at Dickinson College, but he 
soon tired of the classroom. When he heard of the founding of the Smithsonian Institution in 1846, 
with provisions for a museum, his hopes were rekindled. In January of 1 847, James Dwight Dana, 
one of the "scientifics" on the United States Exploring Expedition, wrote to urge Baird to apply for 
the position of curator of natural history at the new Institution, since Dana did not want the position 
for himself In early February 1 847, Baird wrote to the new Secretary, Henry, offering his services 
as the natural history curator and his collections to the new museum. He visited the fledgling 
Institution several times to plead his case. He solicited recommendations from influential friends, 
such as John James Audubon, James Buchanan, Asa Gray, and Samuel G. Morton. The natural history 
community was eager to see a curator appointed to care for the natural history collections. Most 
influential was George Perkins Marsh, a Congressman and member of the Smithsonian's Board of 
Regents. Marsh was a family friend of Baird's wife, Mary Churchill Baird, and undertook to advance 
the young man's career. Secretary Henry was not enthusiastic about establishing a museum and wrote 
to Baird that he would not hire a curator before construction of the Smithsonian Building was 
completed, a period of at least five years. He did, however, provide Baird with funds to assist with 
his natural history collecting and publications since this would fit Henry's plan of supporting 
scientists' research without hiring a staff Henry's reluctance to move forward with the museum was 
a disappointment to many naturalists. Dana wrote to Baird that the new Secretary was "not of the 
wide comprehensive character I had expected from Henry." On 9 October 1849, the distinguished 
Harvard naturalist, Louis Agassiz, wrote to Henry to urge him to appoint a natural history curator, 
recommending Spencer Baird. Marsh solicited support for Baird's candidacy from other Regents and 
pushed Henry to appoint him Assistant Secretary and natural history curator. Finally, in 1850, Baird 
was named the first natural history curator, with the title of Assistant Secretary.-' 

Spencer and Will Baird had amassed a large natural history collection which included birds, 
mammals, reptiles, plants, minerals, and fossils. Baird's two box cars full of personal collections 
arrived at the young Smithsonian Institution via railroad — the new form of transportation which 
facilitated the settling of the western half of the continent. As settlements pushed westward, tilling 
prairie and felling great forests, they forever altered the American environment and landscape. During 
Baird's first decades at the Smithsonian, the many exploring expeditions sent out west provided a 
fine opportunity to collect examples of western natural resources. Scientists such as Baird believed 
it was imperative to study the natural distribution of fiora and fauna before it disappeared. The 
economic development of the country would be spurred by scientific collection and analysis of the 
natural resources of each region. The distribution of such life fomis would be studied to uncover the 
great laws governing life, especially, in the 1860s, to evaluate Charles Darwin's recently published 
theory on The Origin of Species. For a collector such as Baird, each specimen was a piece of a puzzle, 
which when compared, contrasted, juxtaposed, and arranged systematically, contributed to a larger 
picture of the order underlying nature. Natural specimens were beautiful, they often were curious, 
but most of all they were precious sources of infomiation. In Baird's view, collections and research 
were complementary, not competitive. Some research required collections; that gave meaning to the 
specimens in the collection. A well-documented and researched collection was an asset to American 

When young Spencer Fullerton Baird joined the staff of the new Smithsonian Institution he had 
a dream, which he confided in July of 1 853 to Regent George Perkins Marsh, his mentor. Baird wrote, 
"I expect the accumulation of a mass of matter thus collected (which the Institution cannot or will 
not "curate' efficiently) to have the effect of forcing our government into establishing a National 
Museum, of which (let me whisper it) I hope to be director. Still even if this argument don't weigh 


now; it will one of these days and 1 am content to wait." At the helm of a National Museum, he could 
amass a comprehensive collection of the plants, animals, minerals, and ores of North America. The 
National Museum would house the "type" or definitive example of each species of American flora 
and fauna, and thus would serve as a national voucher collection for all researchers to consult and 
compare specimens with. The national collection would serve as the basis for economic exploitation 
of those natural resources, as well as scientific research to unlock the secrets of nature. When Baird 
arrived at the Smithsonian, there was a small collection of 6000 natural history specimens. The 
Exploring Expedition collections and Smithson mineralogical cabinet were still housed at the Patent 
Office Building, deteriorating through neglect and loss of associated provenance infonnation. He 
immediately set about working up the Exploring Expedition collections, starting with the reptiles in 

Baird's first years at the Smithsonian were devoted to carrying out Secretary Henry's program 
of publication of new research and the international exchange of publications. Baird dutifully 
shepherded other scientists" research through to publication and shipped a huge quantity of exchange 
publications within and outside the country. At the same time, Baird quietly but relentlessly continued 
to amass natural history collections. Growing by over ten thousand accessions a year, by 1863, some 
86,847 collections had been entered in the catalog, each containing many specimens. Baird at first 
utilized the network Henry created to collect meteorological information and for the International 
Exchange Senice. From his office, Baird wrote an average of 3500 letters a year, some ten a day. In 
this way, he established correspondence with interested individuals across the continent and around 
the world. Baird was a diligent correspondent. An amateur naturalist writing to Baird for the first time 
would receive a detailed, courteous, and enthusiastic reply. These collectors then sent him Native 
American artifacts and specimens of plants, rocks, insects, meteorites, birds, and dinosaurs. He 
rewarded them by listing their names in the annual reports of the Institution, placing them on the 
mailing list for Smithsonian publications, and, perhaps most enduring, naming a new species after 
the collector who had sent in the specimen. In his light-hearted manner, Baird wrote in 1853 to his 
mentor. Marsh, "1 fear me I have much to answer for in the way of deluding unsuspecting young (and 
even old) men to possible destruction from bite of snake, scorpion or centipede, engulfing in caverns 
while in search of fossil bones, embrace of Krakens when catching starfish on the seas; or some other 
undescribed species of calamity, the genus, even, of which is not yet known." In these years Baird 
collected collectors. In this way he was able to bring in vastly more than he could ever collect on his 

Soldiers on the western frontier, farmers in the newly settled plains, physicians in the growing 
cities, and trappers and hunters in the Canadian northwest, all sent him plants, animals, rocks, and 
artifacts. These were carefully collected, documented, and shipped according to instructions printed 
and distributed by Baird (Fig. 7). If these specimens were to have any scientific value, they had to be 
properly prepared and documented. As one of the new class of professional researchers, Baird set the 
standards for American natural history collecting during the second half of the nineteenth century. 
He prepared circulars and manuals to teach the members of his collecting network what to collect, 
how to collect, how to prepare, pack and transport specimens, and, very importantly, how to document 
the specimens they sent. Baird thus ensured that the specimens in his national museum met the 
emerging scientific standards.-^ 

Baird devoted much time to a group of young men whom he taught how to explore, collect, and 
conduct scientific research. Elliott Coues became an Arniy surgeon in the West, but devoted his life 
to ornithology. William Stimpson, Robert Kennicott, Henry Ulke, and Henry Bryant were among 
Baird's favorite young explorers. A lively group, they dubbed themselves the Megatherium Club 


cE.vt:iiAL DmRrTiuMs) for coLLEcr[NG Arm oujscxa of natural history. 

Tlie ShithhoMIav IkltriTCTiOtl beiD^ dealrmiB nf nrrtP-nririe nhj»ntfl of Nnrui-al HiMOpy foi- io Moseum, would r«*p«ctfallf sok 
tiislaace of (he frieni]^ of science gciierully, Atid especMllv of officers of the Artny anj Nu*v. Any opecanena of animnlH, plants, nune- 
[Os, ord fossil reoiainfl will iie ai:ri?i>ttttle, pu-ticujirty lucti ai may b« enuoierated in th* foflowing brief djrections for llicir preierrarioD. 
lU coru-ibuilons will of course be duly credited lo their rrapemve dorrirs, in ibe Museum and ihs reports of liie instiiuiion. By reference 
:> the uine^ced letter, it will be seen that the Q.uattermcster's Depu-tment la authoruMd Lo receive iind forwari apecunens. 


It wAy lo preserve a 

n niconol. r<Tc: 

moderale 6 

ployPil WliHii sfiirilR rJtnnol ho ^ViIftlBftd, th« follow 

I. GoAEjBt's SoLonoM. — A. The .f?huwHouj Jiuic, compoee-1 of rock ailc. 4 t^^.; i 
water. 2 CIIII.-W. B The Saant so/uitu., coinposfd of rock aalt, 8 oz.; corMsive sublin 
aLrre(i,siran«iI, tnd ctolcd. 

II- A strong lirins, lo be uBfd os hereafter indicaUd for tioadliy's Solution. 

r whiskey (ihc Bironger the belter) mty I 


thrown a 
urimal w 

When It 

ollector sliould have a S7i»ll <c 
collected. They should U alii 
II be more npi to k:ep sound. ' 

nlU^T Riiitn-tlf vP«.4('), pntlittly fi)t'>d wilh lit^uor, into whiali cpocimsna n-iny ha 
possible wKen thin in itonn, ns lesideK the eperdy nnd little patnfol denib, lh« 
of Ihsspiri-. into the cavities of tlie Iwdy should 'le fdfililaled by opening the moolh, 
nch long, and especially by mjerting the lifjiior into the mt^silnen ihi-ntigh he nnus, 
Tfl HiDill ayniige. After iht Hiimiol has aonked for some weeks in Ibis liquor, ii dioula bo liansfprrcd lo (nth Care should b» 
I .Towd the specimcria too truch, md tho nlighisat taint of puHidity ohould bc the uij^ial f»r the emf;loyment of freafi spuiui. 
impossible to tmnsfBr ipecinens lo freih apirils from time tf time, the slronjest alcohol ahoald bf oiiginally used. 
Uoudby's ifolution, Uic aniniil BAould first be maceritted for a few hours in freBli water, to whicli about Jittlf its volune of the 
coocenlroleil solution may ilicn be sdded. After soaking ihua for aoine oays, [he specimens may be iransferred to fresh concentrcted 
aolulion. When :lie aljminous (laid is u;ed to prteerve vertebrate ftnimnls, tiiese should not r;muin in it for more iKon a few davs, after l]is, 
they are lo be aoaxed m iicAb wai-r, aril tia^iBftrred to the saline wluibn. An immersion of some weeka 1ji ihe aluminous f.uid will CBOoe 
a Jesiruclion of tlic bones. Specimens mual he kept submerged n lhe*o lluids. 

To pack the specimens fur im-inprtHnlion, procure a vmail keg, whi:h hai btAji properly awalltd, by aJlowir>{' wate- to «land in it for & 
day or iwo.Djid frrm thia exiracl llic heed by ^nocking oft' Llie upper hoops. UreM caru must be lakui lo make bucu marxs on iJic hjoiis and 
head, M will assise in il cir bf^ing' replaced in precisely *e some relative po.<uliori lo eiich other ni d the keg, that lliey originally held. At 
111^ holiom o'lhw keg placB a layer ot tow mnistenwi ir liquor, tl-en one of s|ieameoa, then an"ther of low and another of specimtng, 
and so on ali;rnalcly until tlie keg is Ailed Replace the head, drive doivn the hnups. tiid fi I <!onipteEdy with spinUc by pouring through 
ibo bun* bwl«. AlU*w k lo nand « lca*l hal'on lour, And Ihcn supply mf il " ' 
Ao oysicr cmi or nthcr tin veauel may hi used to ^al advaoia^e. in which i 
in a box. A glass jiir w buUlu may also be employed, but tlier« is ulwtiya n 
ottaw, ine 8},avm|a, oi dry ^niiM mny be subaii luted. 

Fiahes under «ix inclici ji length iicnl iiiir > r.i i r.iluliiin ,i jm.i 
and 1/ convenient, siUcJied or pinned ill jiis II m 'i , , .y 

ahuuld be chosen. TboKkins of lareer onca i la. > ii jkii Ii ..mi 

.e;ir.,lkrt/n.indru|.r./i, mnvbepiopareo l.\ I... ; ,,, . . *, i r . i.v I 

Tkefleihcr Ulonbcrtmoved, SkulU of lUe A-...m.„.l l„duj.^ and uil.e. 1 
the skulls and skcl?lona of the larger miimmalia, as deer beaia, < 
mountain gout 

wi(3 cat, pr: 
Binla anil mnmmalu laigcr thi.n a ra.i 

\oy add-^d will frtoil.Wlc Ok 
' 1 they can be oblai 
iielope. rocky moui 

nic, applied to 

doge, mnnnoto, &c-, &<,. 

jtd bo skinned. Tht proper mitcriol for :hc pre«ei-vation of such slrioB 
I lie inaidc, liiiKi III [..'wjcr, f 1 mix«d wilU alcohol ui wjiei . Sucb apeiiniCits EiLv<i)d lipciftilly dry bufori; pa^kiug u' 
ofHraerBo. nkiii- I ^ /■ ■.■,![ luiIi. may be salted down in caaki 

SkdetoiKi III: . .n_i.'. pi '■pared bv skinning the animal and reniorin 
The bonce .^liiiuii i. , ,, n ]■ .s.,1 lo the sun or nil unti, completely dritd. 

moved, hy scj.,i:,ir ( - i ,. l i (hah the spine, and extracting theconientf tlu-ougb Uie lerge hole in Uie isck t>f lh« head, 
comes ne«:es3.n V m- .ii«|. .m a ^kelHnn, care should be tPken :o otiacli a commor mark lo i^ 1 the pieces, esoecially wtiei 
individual is packed in t m samf< box. 

SpeOJinoas of the following kiiido, proocrvcd in opirita, arc porti^ulnrly dcaircd: — Su^i.i. 0.rAi>iii-TEOi, m teld mice, Bhu 
sc^oirrcli, wetseU. —, aaiiiakei, Mztttis^ acorpons, ^so-called) frogs, tones, tree trt^t 
^rilhoutscalQB. found inwateroruudt-r Ligs tt:id stonna. knofvn by ihc rurinus names of helll:ei 

liuppy,&c FisMofallkintli, especiolly Uie "ara, oerth, pike, aunfiah, clmtw, Buc^ers, minnows, and other fitTth jvater s(W.r.iea. Also the 
skiilla, leeth titid lionee ufanjinalB ia gensral, end especially the fossil remains of teeth and booe.% found in morliiiw. rrcks, cares, and ihe 

Inmicts, Bco!, dtc— The harder kinds iray be put n liquor a? abofe, but the vessel uv IiouIm shmld not be very large BLlterfliei, 
wcsps. diCB. SiC. may be pinned in boxes, or pnrkwi in Inv'^n' with anfi p/ip»r ar poifnn Minute kincoahould in carifully souytit uni*r 
atcnes, i)iirk, dung, or flowera, orBA'fipt with n xmiU ne from grass or lenvea. Tftev may be put .a nuills, or small cotes of paper, one in 
each. — They may be killed by irameraina; the botUcs, Sui. , in whioli tliey are colloctiid, Lr hot water, or eiposiny them to iho vapor of ether. 

Marine aheUs,crHbt, worms, sea cucumbers, star Hfiies. ase. urcbins.and polypes should be pLt in tpiril and in s:iisll vessels, so as to 
Sea ur:hins and star tlshes may ^»o Ic dried after having be^n previously immersed for a mioute or two in 

boiliniz rtialsr, and parktd up i: 

ShtlU Without the onima^, skulls, tones', fosails, miaerals. Sic, should b; packed so 
or in co>iun, ^rass, sawdust. &c., leavmj no vacancy in the box. All sf-ecimena should 

a sepante pie 

»'ajhing'oft Otri, JVartb 31i(, 1646. 

yiT cnioraemcnl, dalcd the 2&th inalunt 
the depott on the cotai. and pubUo vci 
s can be transported and kept in public t 
h being c 

In reply, I -lave lo inform you, taat 
els pcturning from Mffvifto or Tcxns, 
>ns, as requested by ProfeflBOr Baird, 

in. Cm. L'. S. -J. 

THOS. S. JESL'P, Q. M Otn 

Figure 7a. Genera! Directions tor Collecting and Preserving Objects of Natural History, and Special Desiderata, c. 1850. 
Smithsonian Institution Archives. 


^Wr"^" ■ 


ind Gulfc 

A» compsralively liKle is known of the animals and plants of the country west of the M.ssmstpp, 
Mexico, the attention of officers of the army, and others, is eapecially invited to this region. Of the fresh water fi.he^ 
trout, gmyling. minnows, .V.C., little or nothing ia on record, and the same may he said of the —'.". ."...pj,. he 
reptiles, birds" smallerroamtiialia, (squirrels, marmots, gophere, pouched lats, hares, &c.,) and oil 
be carefully collected. - ,, ■ l .. i 

•ihis region likewise abounds in Ibssil bcnes, teeth, &c., of the greatest interest, especially in those porhons iciK.wn 
» "ManvaisesTerres," or " Bad Lands," and oCCuriDg along the Missouri a,id .Is IribHarres, White R.vjr. Milk 
Elver Platte Eau ^ui Court, &c. The banks and beds of these and other stream.., likewise contain rich treasures of 
fossil bones. ' Similar remains are to be looked for in all caves, peat bogs, alluvial soil, marl pits, fissures in recks and 
other localities throughout Noith America. , „ ■ r 

A 1)31 of the principal specie., of large Nor;h Atnerican animals is subjoined, with reference to the collector) of 
skulls and skeletons. For the purpose of having complete series m the ditTerent stages of age and sex, .nd tor sup- 
plying other Mueeum., it i. dcslrnble .o have a considerable number of the skuUa of each species. When ,o=«,ble, 
at least one skeleton should be procured. It must, however, Ke remp-r^hered, that a single tooth or bone, of an animnl. 
in the absence of anything more, will be of .mportance. Each specimen should, as far as praelicabk, knvt tie iigi, 
sex, and locality distinctly marked on the bone in pm or pencil. 

als should obo. 

HUMAN RACES, ciiiUzed n»d unclviliBca. 











BLACK TAIL DEER, of Rocky Mouniaina. 

of the Pacific. 



DEER^-cther species. 





LARGE WOLF, black, while, or ?rey. 




FOXES, all species. 


BEARS, other species. 

RACCOON, especially from CaliforQia. 











PISHj teeth, j«w», and verlebri. 

,,-0 v. v> siue'n. '■ ,«''HT 

:.rf. M,-;i. ■K.-iV. , 

Figure 7b. General Directions T.-r Collecting and Preserving Objects of Natural History, and Special Desiderata. 
Smithsonian Institution Archives. 


( Fig. 8 ) after a spectacular fossil sloth recently uncov- 
ered. Baird juggled funds to support them financially, 
allowed them to live in the towers and basement of 
the Castle, and used them to both acquire collections 
and disseminate more research than he could produce 
on his own. Baird knew, as we do today, that he could 
increase his research productivity geometrically if he 
also brought in and trained young and eager students. 
The Smithsonian may not have become the National 
University, but it soon became a center for honing the 
research skills of young scholars interested in natural 
history and collections based research. Baird's con- 
siderable skills as a mentor ensured that these young 
naturalists remained in the Smithsonian fold, unlike 
his colleague at the Museum of Comparative Zool- 
ogy. Louis Agassiz. These young natural history en- 
thusiasts did, however, experience the dangers Baird 
had so lightly alluded to; the young Kennicott, for 
instance, lost his life on an expedition to Russian- 
America in 1 865. But others, such as William Healey 
Dall. went on to spend long careers as curators at the 
new National Museum.-'' 

Baird ensured that well-tramed naturalists ac- 
companied the government exploring expeditions to 
the western part of the continent and that their collec- 
tions came to the Smithsonian. In 1 857 alone he took 
in specimens from ten government expeditions and 
six private exploring parties. He sent instructions on how to collect, preserve, document, and ship the 
specimens and arranged free shipment on railways, boats, and through the mails. Additional 
collections were sent from Russian-America, Mexico and South America. The fact that Baiid's 
father-in-law. Brigadier General Sylvester Churchill, was Inspector General for the United States 
Aniiy greatly facilitated his requests for collecting assistance from soldiers. Indeed, Baird's list of 
collectors included such military luminaries as General George B. McClellan, Captain Da\id 
Fanagut, and Commodore Matthew C. Perry.-' 

Within the first two decades of his arrival at the Smithsonian, Baird equipped the six suneys for 
railroad routes across the continent, including the Fremont, Gunnison, Stevens, Whipple, and 
Williamson surveys. He also equipped the naturalists on the United States and Mexican Boundai^ 
Survey, the Navy Survey of the La Plata River and its tributaries, the United States Naval Astronomi- 
cal Expedition to Chile, the Ringgold and Rodgers exploration of the China Seas and Behring's Straits, 
and Elisha Kent Kane's exploration of the west coast of Greenland and Smith's Sound. The 1870s 
saw the surveys of the Territories, under Hayden, Powell, and Wheeler. From 1850 to 1877, the 
Smithsonian received specimens from more than 245 expeditions to all reaches of the globe.-** 

Congressional support was forthcoming for these western exploring expeditions in part because 
of their practical focus. Expeditions leaders such as Ferdinand Vandiveer Hayden and .lohn Wesley 
Powell were interested in both advancing science and economic development of the West. Hayden 
viewed locating coal deposits, mineral veins, timber stands, agricultural resources, grazing lands. 

Figure 8. Members ofthe "Megatherium Club," 

clockwise from upper right: Henry Ull<e. Henry 

Bryant. Wilham Stimpson, and Robert Kennicott. 

c. 1860s. Smithsonian Institution Archives. 


water, irrigation sites, and tourist spas as the duty of the territorial geologist. Powell's interest in the 
West was as an environment for settlement, as much as it was in its geology and archeology. By 
working closely with figures such as Hayden and Powell who emphasized the economic value of 
their work, Baird ensured that his naturalists accompanied military and commercial exploring 
expeditions, and the surveys received strong Congressional and popular support.-"^ 

Baird also developed the nucleus of a national paleontological collection during his four decades 
at the Smithsonian. In 1858, Fielding B. Meek was appointed Resident Collaborator in Paleontology 
at the National Museum and resided in the Smithsonian Castle from 1861 until his death in 1876. A 
veteran of state geological sun'eys in Iowa, Minnesota, New York, and Wisconsin, as well as the 
Hayden surveys. Meek brought expertise in systeinatics and stratigraphy. He worked diligently on 
publications from the collections amassed by the surveys. By the time the United States Geological 
Survey was established in 1879, the U.S. National Museum had sufficiently established itself as the 
national repository that the legislation directed that all specimens and artifacts collected by the 
U.S.G.S., when no longer needed for research, were to be deposited in the National Museum.-^" 

Baird also encouraged the transfer of parts of the National Institute collections to the Smithsonian 
in 1857 and again in 1 862. As room after room filled with specimens, Baird continued to play a major 
role in publishing the results of research on the collections made by the United States Exploring 
Expedition and other surveys. In this way, he ensured that they were worked on and described by 
competent, experienced scientists. The last of the National Institute collections, however, were not 
transferred to the Smithsonian's National Museum until 1883 when was Baird was Secretary. These 
transfers included historical artifacts, such as George Washington's military tent and field kit, as well 
as scientific specimens. A collection of art on display in the Castle attracted visitors as well. Portraits 
and busts of classical subjects, as well as important Americans and scientists, were displayed for 
public viewing. A collection of American Indian paintings by John Mix Stanley also received a great 
deal of interest. Thus, within a few years of its opening, the Castle had become a popular place to 
visit in the nation's Capital, with collections in art, history, and science." 

During his first two decades as Assistant Secretary at the Smithsonian, Baird dutifully continued 
to harry printers and ship an endless stream of publications for Secretary Henry. He had watched 
closely in 1 855 as Henry fired the other Assistant Secretary, Charles Coffin Jewett, in a dispute over 
creation of a National Library. The Institution had been receiving a copy of all works submitted for 
copyright and had amassed a fine collection of other books, especially in art history. These included 
portfolios with copies of such masters as Rembrandt and da Vinci. But Secretary Henry did not believe 
the Smithson bequest was sufficient to pay for scientific research, a museum, and a national library. 
When Jewett pushed too hard for the National Library, Henry dismissed him and suggested that the 
Smithsonian should dispose of some of the collections which were filling up every available inch of 
the Castle. In his 1856 report, Henry proposed that the government take back all the collecdons the 
Smithsonian had accumulated thus far and even purchase the Smithsonian Building to house the 
collections. Henry could then operate his program from much reduced space. The Congress did not 
take Henry up on his offer, but rather sent more and more treasures to the Castle. '- 

The Institution had received art works, historical "relics," and scientific specimens from its 
earliest days. The Smithsonian was pushed into becoming the National Museum because the young 
nation was just beginning to establish a national collection and had no way to care for it. As the 
generation of founding fathers died off and entered a national pantheon, their personal possessions 
were collected as relics. These artifacts of everyday life soon gained iconic status as they came to 
stand for the ideals, values, and accomplishments of the men who had once used them. Painters offered 
images of great American figures as inspiration for the citizens of a democracy. Scholars brought 


copies of the great art works of Greece, Rome, and the Renaissance to educate the masses. As these 
new collections filled the nooks and crannies of the Castle, Henry had finally agreed in 1858 to accept 
a Congressional appropriation to care for them, with the fiction that the appropriation for the United 
States National Museum was to the Department of the Interior, not the Smithsonian. Henry accepted 
the government funding reluctantly, concerned that such funding would make the Institution an annual 
supplicant to the Congress and expose the Smithsonian to political influence." 

Baird simply did not share Henry's concern about loss of freedom when accepting public funding; 
thus, as Assistant Secretary and later Secretary, he sought Congressional appropriations for museums, 
expeditions, buildings, fisheries research, and international expositions. Baird knew his vision for a 
great national museum was too big for the Smithson bequest alone and would require federal 
appropriations for its care. Baird watched over the collections carefully as the Civil War raged around 
the Smithsonian Building, and the National Museum passed safely through that national crisis. But 
shortly before the war ended, the Institution faced its second major crisis, one that gave Secretary 
Henry additional justification for disposing of the collections.'"* 

Disaster struck these early national collections as they went up in fiames when fire erupted in 
the Castle in 1 865. Among the objects destroyed in the fire were the John Mix Stanley Indian portraits, 
James Smithson's papers and mineralogical cabinet, and a collection of scientific instruments. The 
fireproofed flooring of the second story spared the natural history collections and the library. 
However, Secretary Henry used the fire to argue that the Smithsonian could not serve as a responsible 
custodian for the national collections. The library was deposited at the Library of Congress and the 
art collection was split between the Library of Congress and the private Corcoran Gallery of Art. 
Baird worked quietly to ensure that his scientific collections would not suffer a similar fate. Despite 
his efforts, the botanical collections had been sent to the new United States Department of Agriculture 
in 1 862, and the insect collections followed in 1 866; that same year the human anatomical collections 
were sent to the Army Medical Museum. But the remainder of the natural history collections stayed 
in the Smithsonian Castle. Henry and Baird danced a complex /jai- de deux during these years, Henry 
grudgingly allowing Baird to bring in ever more materials. I cannot but think that the younger Baird 
sustained himself through these hard times with the thought, "I am content to wait — I'll be here long 
after you're gone. Professor Henry."-'"' 

Baird sought to prove the research value of the zoological collections by preparing — and 
commissioning others to prepare — monographs on them. A stream of publications emanated from 
the Institution during these years. But Baird's focus on a national voucher collection can be seen 
clearly in his publication record. Unlike his colleague, and at times competitor, Louis Agassiz of 
Harvard, Baird did not pursue theoretical analysis of his biological specimens, develop grand 
classification schemes, or propose ideal mechanisms to explain life forms. His only analytical work 
was "The Distribution and Migration of North American Birds." Baird had quickly accepted Darwin's 
new theory, but did not seek to expand on it in his work. Baird published reports describing the 
specimens from each expedition and massive catalogs of the national collections, such as his catalogs 
of the mammal and bird collections of the National Museum. These publications made the National 
Museum's collections a resource for other scientists and for analyses of economic potential. Baird 
did not amass collections to further his personal research program, as many of his colleagues did; he 
collected to establish a grand natural resource in the form of a museum.''' 

The great collections amassed in nineteenth century Europe and North America created an 
empirical base for new studies of phylogeny, morphology, and geographical distribution. The sheer 
number of specimens in each taxonomic group demanded specialization, as well. No longer could 
one naturalist hope to be an expert on all of zoology, or even all insects or birds. This enormous 


empirical base demanded years of study by specialists and encouraged the professionalization of 
science. These new curatorial demands also allowed Baird to increase the staff of the National 

Baird was also able to gamer Congressional and popular support by demonstrating the practical 
value of his collections to a larger audience. In 1 866 he had testified before Congress about the value 
of natural resources in Russian-America. Although Alaska was called "Seward's folly." Baird has 
been credited with arguing that Alaska possessed a wide range of natural resources, far beyond the 
value of the asking price. He could point to the collections from Russian-America sent in by such 
expeditions as the 1865 Western Union Telegraph Expedition. The intrepid young explorers he 
mentored, such as Robert Kennicott, William Stimpson, and William Healey Dall, went out on these 
expeditions and amassed vast collections which served both scientific and economic purposes.^** 

In 1872 Baird made a major step forward towards his goal when Secretary Henry gave him full 
responsibility for management of the United States National Museum. Baird now devoted much of 
his time to supervising staff, preparing budgets and acquiring new collections. Perhaps Henry had 
now become resigned to the existence of the National Museum and saw his best course as placing it 
in Baird's hands, freeing him to focus on promoting research and publications. After 1870, the 
National Museum was on firmer ground and grew rapidly as the nation expanded west. Baird 
encouraged other natural history museums throughout the country, distributing duplicate specimens 
to the steadily increasing number of museums on college campuses and in the rapidly growing cities.^' 

Baird's biggest acquisition arrived in the 1870s after Secretary Henry recommended that he be 
appointed to an interagency committee to prepare the government exhibits for the Centennial 
Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876. The Congressional legislation introduced for the government 
exhibit in Philadelphia had an interesting proviso. It stated that the appropriation was to be considered 
a loan and if income from the exhibition was sufficient for the exposition directors to repay the loan. 
Congress would then allow part of those funds to be used to construct a new building for the National 
Museum. Although that language was left out of the final version of the appropriation, it opened the 
door to a National Museum building. Perhaps motivated in part by this possibility, and with help from 
a talented young assistant, George Brown Goode, Baird produced award winning exhibits that 
received great public acclaim and gave the Smithsonian national visibility. The exhibit consisted of 
two sections, one on the Smithsonian Institution itself, emphasizing its research programs, and a 
second section which focused on the natural history of North America, including botany, zoology, 
ethnology, and mineralogy. This section emphasized the economic importance of these natural 
resources. The government exhibition was considered by many to be the most successful section of 
this immensely popular exposition. Baird now had a national, even international, audience and 
acclaim for his museum program.* 

Baird's most important triumph, however, came as he was able to convince most of the 
Centennial exhibitors to avoid the hassle and expense of shipping their displays home by donating 
them to the Smithsonian. When the train pulled in to Union Station this time, it had sixty box cars 
filled with materials for the National Museum. Finally Baird had exceeded the capacity of the Castle, 
and so he stored his collections in the Armory Building until he secured Congressional appropriations 
for a National Museum building.'" 

After Secretary Henry's death in 1878, Baird was immediately named the second Smithsonian 
Secretary. His first priority was securing a new museum building, so he tumed his attention to Capitol 
Hill. In 1879, Congress did, indeed, allocate funds for the new National Museum Building. Like 
Henry, Baird did not wish to waste money on a monumental building. He proposed instead a simple 
structure similar to the government exhibition building at the Centennial Exposition that had been 


designed by General Montgomery C. Meigs. No wood was to be used in the construction, ensuring 
that the building would be fireproof, and avoiding another disaster like the 1865 Castle fire. Baird 
fought successfully to have the building placed next to the Castle, despite concerns that it would 
obstruct the view of that building. He argued that operating a distant facility was far too costly in 
temis of staff and operating costs— it would even require new sewer lines. Ground was broken on 17 
April 1879 on the Smithsonian Building "Annex." Baird carefully watched over the construction of 
his new museum, brick by brick. A high-powered building committee, including General Meigs, 
General William Tecumseh Shemian, a Smithsonian Regent and chair of the Building Committee, 
and Peter Parker, also a Regent, assisted Baird with construction of the building designed by architect 
Adolf Cluss. The building was completed on time and within budget (Fig. 9). Per square foot, it was 
the cheapest permanent government building ever built. It had 80,000 square feet of exhibit space. 
When the National Museum opened in 1881, it was the fulfillment of the dream Baird had penned to 
George Perkins Marsh so many years before. '^- 

In Baird's first annual report as Secretary, he paid lip service to Henry's vision, but Henry's 
"Programme of Organization" for the Smithsonian and the fiction that the museum was really part of 
the Interior Department soon disappeared from the annual reports. Baird devoted his tenure as 
Secretary to placing the museum on a fimi foundation. He did not share his predecessor's concerns 
about accepting government funds and quickly sought increased funding for all aspects of the National 
Museum's activities.'^'' 

The first event in the new building, before its exhibits were installed, was the Inaugural Ball for 

hiiii m ^1 L nitcd Mates National Museum, c. ISiSI. Smithsonian Institution Archives. 



President James Garfield and Vice-President Chester A. Arthur, attended by 7,000 people on March 
4, 1881. A wooden floor was laid, 10,000 bins for hats and coats were erected, 3000 gas lights were 
installed, banners and buntings were hung from the balconies, and two electric lights were installed 
in the rotunda. While Henry might have deplored such a political activity at the Institution, Baird 
accepted the price of government ftinding.""^ 

As soon as the pennanent floor was laid, the work of installing exhibits began. Massive specimens 
of marine mammals were hoisted into place. A team of watchmen and laborers was hired for the 
building. The National Museum Building opened to the public in October of 1 88 1 , and in its first full 
year, 1882, the guards counted some 167,455 visitors. Initially the ground floor was completely open 
and devoted to exhibits. The halls were furnished with mahogany exhibit cases that were eight feet, 
eight inches long, to fit the architectural design of the building (Fig. 10). The cases were easy to move, 
so exhibits could be reconfigured without great difficulty. The cases themselves served as the 
partitions between exhibits. The cases were dust-proof and insect-proof with special Yale locks, and 
each case was wired with an electric alarm that ran to the superintendent's office.''-"' 

The National Museum was new in philosophy, as well as building and cases. Credit for this 
belongs to Baird"s assistant, George Brown Goode (Fig. 1 1 ), who became the leading figure in 
American museum theor>' and display. He had visited all the major museums in Europe, and then 

FniL'RE 10. Hall of Comparative Anatomy in the new United States National Museum, e. 1881. 
Smithsonian Institution Archives. 



FuiLiRE I I. George Brown Goode (1851-1896), Assis- 
tant Secretary in charge of the United States National 
Museum, c. 1887. Smithsonian Institution Archives. 

developed his own "democratic" approach. In 
Goode's view, the early Smithsonian collections had 
been a museum of research. When the Smithsonian 
accepted the government collections, it became a 
museum of record, the official repository for objects 
of art, culture, and science. Goode's new museum 
was also a museum of education. Goode believed that 
the role of the National Museum was to teach and 
uplift the citizens of a democracy, not merely amuse 
or entertain.""' 

Goode established a comprehensive classifica- 
tion system of the world, from the inorganic, to plants, 
to animals, to man. Each of these groups showed a 
progression from the simple to the complex. The 
exhibits were designed to convey the place of each 
object in a great world order. Although an ichthyolo- 
gist by training, Goode was also interested in history 
and the meaning of human artifacts. To Goode and 
his colleagues, objects were a window to the past. His 
colleague, Otis T. Mason wrote, ". . .the people of the 
world have left their history most fully recorded in 
the works of their hands." The late nineteenth century 

was the Progressive Era, and the Smithsonian's museum philosophy reflected the prevailing point of 
view. Mason's ethnological exhibits traced an evolutionary progression of human civilizations, from 
the "primitive" to contemporary America, based on technological advancement. Goode's museum 
of research, record, and education sought a comprehensive display of the inorganic, organic, and 
human worlds, to engage visitors with the specimens and artifacts on display."" 

With a new building, Baird was able to expand the staff of the National Museum as well. By 
1886, his staff included Goode and Romyn Hitchcock, Arts and Industries; Dr. H. G. Beyer, Materia 
Medica; Otis T. Mason and William Henry Holmes, Ethnology; Charies Rau, Antiquities; Frederick 
William True, Mammals; Robert Ridgway and Leonhard Stejneger, Birds; Captain Charles E. 
Bendire, Oology; Henry C. Yarrow. Reptiles; Tarleton H. Bean, Fishes; William Healey Dall and 
Robert E. C. Steams, MoUusks; Charles V. Riley, Entoinology; Richard Rathbun, Marine Inverte- 
brates; Charles D. Walcott, Invertebrate Fossils; Charles A. White, Mesozoic Paleontology; Lester 
F. Ward and Frank H. Knowlton, Fossils and Recent Plants; F. W. Clarke and W. S. Yeates, Minerals; 
and George P. Merrill, Lithology and Physical Geology. Many of Baird's curators held honorary 
appointments; they either received no salary for their work or were paid by another government 
agency. Nevertheless the pace and range of work at the National Museum had increased rapidly under 
Baird's guidance.'**' 

Baird (Fig. 12) accepted new responsibilities for the Smithsonian, such as the Bureau of 
Ethnology, led by John Wesley Powell. With strong support from Congress, Baird encouraged the 
B. of E. ethnologists to collect artifacts and pursue archaeological investigations, as well as study 
Native American life and languages. All collections acquired by these ethnologists would, of course, 
come to the National Museum. In this case, again, there were strong pressures from the general public 
and the Congress to document vanishing Native American culture, especially through artifacts. Baird 
woiTied that the most valuable ethnological and geological materials were being purchased for 



Figure 12. Spencer Fullerton Baird, c. \i 
second Smithsonian Secretary. 
Smithsonian Institution Archives. 

European collections. As a matter of national pride, 
Baird joined many citizens and Congressmen in be- 
lieving that the United States needed to have the 
premier collection of these materials.'*'^ 

Smithsonian exhibits appeared at almost every 
late nineteenth century exposition, often winning 
awards as they showcased the National Museum and 
taught visitors about their history and natural world. 
The Smithsonian presented displays at the Interna- 
tional Fisheries Exhibition in London in 1880, the 
International Fisheries Exhibition in Beriin in 1883, 
Boston's Foreign Exhibition in 1883, Chicago Rail- 
way Exhibition in 1883, International Electrical Ex- 
hibition in Philadelphia in 1 884, Southern Exposition 
in Louisville in 1884, the Industrial Exposition in 
Cincinnati in 1 884, the World's Industrial and Cotton 
Exposition in New Orleans in 1885, Minneapolis 
Industrial Exposition in 1887. Centennial Exposition 
of the Ohio Valley in 1888. the Marietta, Ohio, Ex- 
position in 1 889, the Paris International Exposition in 
1889, the Patent Centennial in 1891. the Columbian 
Historical Exposition in Madrid in 1893, the Worid's 

Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1 893. and the Cotton States and International Exposition of 1 895 
in Atlanta. A steady stream of exhibits made the National Museum a household world within the 
United States and abroad.^*' 

Baird also served, without salary, at his own insistence, as U. S. Commissioner of Fish and 
Fisheries, a joint appointment with his Smithsonian duties. As Fish Cominissioner, he conducted 
research on the decline of the fishing industry in the North Atlantic. He established the marine biology 
station at Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and oversaw a network of smaller stations. Fish Cominission 
boats, such as the steamer Albatross, made extensive collections of marine fauna, which were studied 
and then accessioned into the national collections. Baird also produced award winning exhibits on 
the fisheries industry at the London and Berlin Fisheries Expositions. At the Centennial Exposition 
in Philadelphia and other international expositions, Baird's natural history displays emphasized both 
scientific value and economic importance. National collections were, then, a resource for both 
scientific research and economic development. In this and many other smaller ways. Baird cultivated 
the growth of both research and the national collections. And when all else failed, Baird purchased 
the collections with his personal funds or wrote a personal check to an explorer to be sure he could 
collect specimens properiy and ship them back to the Institution.''' 

To Baird then, stewardship of the National Museum did not require a choice between research 
and collections. As pointed out eariier, he held that some research required collections, other research 
did not. Thus, research was the activity that gave meaning to the individual objects that fonned a 
collection. An artifact or specimen provided information to the scholar, stored information for future 
studies, and served as a teaching tool in public exhibits. Without research, the National Museuin 
would remain the cabinet of curiosities displayed by the eariier National Institute. With research, the 
National Collections became a new type of vehicle for economic development, public education, and 
the advancement of American science and culture, transporting casual visitors and serious scholars 



alike to exotic lands, vanishing landscapes, and the backrooms where democracy was plotted and 
secured. Not ephemeral in nature, the National Collections would also travel through time as a vehicle 
for the increase and diffusion of knowledge not only for the present but for generations to come. 

In 1884-1885 Joseph Henry's fears about accepting federal funds for the National Museum 
proved well-grounded, as Spencer Baird faced the most difficult days of his career. The Congress 
held hearings about the fate of both the United States National Museum and the United States Fish 
Commission, as part of a general attack on government science programs. Some critics questioned 
Baird's management of the two organizations and his handling of federal fimds. Discontented staff 
members and disappointed office seekers added fuel to the fires. Ironically, the Congress then 
proposed the solution that Henry had so ardently desired twenty years before — that the National 
Museum and Fish Commission be separated from the Smithsonian Institution. Baird woiTied that the 
positions of director of the National Museum and director of the Fish Commission would become 
political plums and lose their scholarly status. Eventually the U.S. Fish Commission was separated 
from the Smithsonian, but the United States National Museum remained within the Institution's aegis. 
The vitriolic personal attacks that were part of this episode took their toll on the aging and intlnned 

By the time he died in 1 887, Baird had achieved his dream of a comprehensive National Museum. 
When he arrived in 1 850, the Smithsonian housed some 6000 specimens, but at his death, the National 
Museum had grown to over 2.5 million lots of artifacts and specimens in art, history, anthropology, 
and science. The National Museum consisted of thirty-one departments under the care of twenty-six 
curators, although only seven were on the museum's payroll. Honorary curators from the U.S. Fish 
Commission, United States Geological Survey, Bureau of Ethnology, United States Army, and United 
States Navy carried out the work of the National 
Museum alongside its small but growing paid staff 
The museum's annual visitorship was counted as 
3 1 5, 1 1 4 for that year. Baird left his dream in the hands 
of a committed younger colleague who would ensure 
that his vision for the Smithsonian would prevail. As 
Assistant Secretary in charge of the United States 
National Museum, Goode lived less than a decade 
longer than his much older mentor, but in his short 
life he established museum arrangement and display 
as a professional field and secured for the United 
States National Museum a reputation as the premier 
museum in the country.'''' 

As is the usual case, by the time Baird died in 
1 887, the National Collections had already outgrown 
the new National Museum Building, indeed, by 1 882, 
Baird was requesting a new building from the Con- 
gress. The third Secretary, Samuel Pierpont Langley 
(Fig. 13), continued to make this request annually for 
more than a decade after Baird' death. Balconies were 
constnicted to create more exhibit space; exhibit halls 

were closed to provide additional storage space; and 

. , ,,■ , ,,■ , , Figure 13. Samuel Pierpont Langley (1834-1906), 

cases ot specimens crowded higher and higher along (^-^^ Smithsonian Secretary, c. 1 887. 

hallways (Fig. 14). Some two decades passed until the Smithsonian Institution .Archives. 



"new" National Museum was built across the Mall. Designed by architect J. D. Homblower, this 
monumental building reflected the iconic status the Smithsonian's collections had achieved. It opened 
in 1910 to house the anthropology, natural history, and art collections (Fig. 15). Today it is known 
as the Natural History Building.'''* 

In the decades since, the Smithsonian has evolved into a complex of sixteen museums in 
Washington, D.C., and New York City, devoted to the arts, history, and the sciences. These are the 
Anacostia Museum, Arts and Industries Building, Cooper-Hewitt Museum, the Freer and Sackler 
Galleries, Hirshhom Museum and Sculpture Garden, National Air and Space Museum, National 
Museum of African Art, National Museum of American Art, National Museum of American History, 
National Museum of the American Indian, National Museum of Natural History, National Portrait 
Gallery, National Postal Museum, National Zoological Park, and Renwick Gallery, By the 150"^ 
anniversary of its founding in 1996, the Institution housed over 140 million objects in its national 

With vision and plenty of hard work, Baird was able to achieve his dream of building a great 
national museum and, in doing so, substantially alter the direction of the Smithsonian Institution. 
Poinsett's efforts set the stage by having a provision for a museum in the Smithsonian's enabling 

Fk.ure 14. Ethnology workroom in the United States National Museum. lS90,s (since renamed the 

.Arts & Industries Building following completion of the "new" National Museum, now the 

Natural History Building, in 1910). Smithsonian Institution Archives. 



FiOL'RE 15. The "new" United States National Museum, l"^! I, now known as the Natural History Building. 
Smithsonian Institution Archives. 

legislation. Many prominent citizens and politicians called for amassing national collections and 
creating a national museum. Exploring expeditions sent to the nation's capital the nucleus of a national 
voucher collection. Baird's personal goals met the needs of the country' to establish a great museum 
where a national identity could be forged. He was able to direct those impulses to the Smithsonian 
and translate them into actual support for his vision. In the many decades since his death, his one 
United States National Museum has grown and diversified into the largest complex of art, history, 
and science inuseums in the world, perhaps surpassing even his dreams for how to use Smithson"s 


Paul H. Oehser, The Smithsonian Institution (New York: Praeger Publishers. 1970), pp. 13-15; draft of 
James Smithson's will, October 1826. James Smithson Collection, box I, Smithsonian Institution Archives 
[SIA], Record Unit [RU] 7000. 

" Oehser, Smithsonian, pp. 4—8, 12-15. 

The National Intelligencer, 1 6 October 1 835, 17 February 1 836, and 2 May 1 836: William Jones Rhees, 
ed.. The Smithsonian Institution: Documents Relative to Its Origin and History (Washington: Smithsonian 
Institution, 1879), pp. 141-154. 

Rhcca, Smithsonian Documents, pp. 148-154. 
-^ Rhees, Smilh.fonian Documents, pp. 158-169, 1 72-198, 837-842, 856-859. 


" Rhees, Smithsonian Documents, pp. 1 26, 208-229, 247, 262, 306-33 1.337, 349-350, 354, 409-4 1 0, 467. 
499, 763-802, 930-943; Wilcomb E. Washburn, ed.. The Great Design: two lectures on the Smiihson bequest 
hvJohn Quincv Adams (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian InstiUition, 1965). 

^ Rhees, Smithsonian Documents, pp. 200-201, 239-241, 89^909; Sally G. Kohlstedt, "A Step Toward 
Scientific Self-Identity in the United States: The Failure of the National Institute, 1844," in Science in America 
since 1820. Nathan Reingold. ed. (New York: Science History Publications, 1976). pp. 79-89, 101-103. 

* Rhees, Smithsonian Documents, pp. 167-171, 226-228, 236-242, 246, 249-260, 262-265, 295-305, 
356-364, 803-836; Washburn, Great Design. 

' Oehser, Smithsonian, pp. 1 1 , 1 8; Charles H. Gibbs-Smith, Sir George Cayley (1 773-1857) (London: Her 
Majesty's Stationery Office, 1 968 ). pp. 1 2, 1 5; "Harvard, John," Dictionary of American Biography (New York: 
Charles Scribner's Sons, 1 959). pp. 371-372. For history ofresearch on Smithson's colleagues, see folders 10-14 
in box 4. and folder 3 in box 5, James Smithson Collection, RU 7000, SI A; William Jones Rhees, James Smiihson 
and His Bequest, Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, volume 21, number 330 (Washington, D.C.: Smith- 
sonian Institution, 1880), pp. 1 1-13. 

'" Rhees, Smithsonian Documents, pp. 430-431, 469-473; Oehser, Smithsonian, pp. 20-25. 

' ' Rhees, Smithsonian Documents, pp. 930-960; Oehser. Smithsonian, pp. 26-27; Cynthia R. Field, Richard 

E. Stamm, and Heather P. Ewing, The Castle: An Illustrated Hisloiy of the Smithsonian Building (Washington, 
D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press. 1993). pp. 4-21; and Kenneth Hafertepe. America's Castle: The Evolution 
of the Smithsonian Building and Its Institution. 1840-1878 (Washington. D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press. 
1984). pp. 12-21. 37-39. 47. 50-55. 59-61. 

'" Rhees, Smithsonian Documents, pp. 930-960; Oehser, Smithsonian, pp. 27-32; Marc Rothenberg, et al., 
eds. The Papers of Joseph Heniy. Vol. 7, The Smithsonian Years. January 1847- December /S49 (Washington, 
D.C.: Smithsonian InstiUition Press, 1996), pp. xiii-xxii; Wilcomb E. Washburn, "Joseph Henry's Conception 
of the Purpose of the Smithsonian Institution." in A Cabinet of Curiosities: Five Episodes in the Evolution of 
American Museums. Whitfield J. Bell, Jr., ed. (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1967), pp. 108-143. 

'^ Washburn, "Henry's Conception," 129-143; Marc Rothenberg, et al., eds.. The Papers of Joseph Henry. 
Vol. 8, The Smith.'ionian Years. January 1850-December yWi (Washington. D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press. 
1998). pp. xviii-xxvii; Fourth Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution for 1849 
(Washington: by the Printers to the Senate, 1850), pp. 20-21. 

'■* Herman J. Viola and Carolyn Margolis. eds.. Magnificent Voyagers. The United States Exploring 
Expedition. 1838-1842. (Washington,D.C.: Smithsonian InstiUition Press, 1985), pp. 9-23, 227-253. 

'" Rhees, Smithsonian Documents, pp. \07-\22: Oehser. Smitkwnian. pp. 17-18. 

'^ Kohlstedt. "National Institute." pp. 83-87; Viola. Magnificent Voyagers, pp. 227-233. 

' ' Kohlstedt. "National Institute." pp. 87-89; Viola. Magnificent Voyagers, pp. 227-241; George Brown 
Goode. "The Genesis of the United States National Museum." in Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the 
Smithsonian Institution for 1897. Part 2: A Memorial of George Brown Goode (Washington: Government 
Printing Office, 1898). pp. 83-145. 

'** Kohlstedt, "National Instiuite," pp. 89. 95-99. 103; Viola. A/ag«//;ce«/ Fovagera. pp. 47, 243-253; Goode. 
"Genesis of National Museum," pp. 1 13-142. 

'** William Healey Dall, Spencer Fullerton Baird: A Biography (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Company, 
1915), pp. 34-56, 61. 67, 73-75; J. Ruthven Deane, "Unpublished Letters of John James Audubon and Spencer 

F. Baird," .-IwA- 2 1(1904):255-259, 23(1906): 194-201, 3 18-334, 24(1907):53-70. 

-° Dall, Baird. pp. 52-53, 56-57, 59, 62. 70-73. 132, 140-144, 164, 203; Spencer F. Baird, Hints for 
presening objects of natural histoiy prepared by Professor S. F. Baird for Dickinson College. Carlisle. 
Pennsylvania (Carlisle: Gitt & Hinckley, 1846); Sally Gregory Kohlstedt, "Curiosities and Cabinets: Natural 
History Museums and Education on the Antebellum Campus," Mv 79(I988):405^06, 411. 

-' Da.\l Baird, pp. 155-167. 180-182. 185-201; Kohlstedt. "Natural History Museums." p. 425. 

"' Dall, Baird. pp. 158-159. 179; Edward F. Rivinus and Elizabeth Youssef Spencer Baird of the 
Smitksonian (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian InstiUition Press, 1992), p. 44; Charles Darwin, Tlie Origin of 
Species (London. John Murray, 1859). 

~^ Dall, Baird. pp. 304-305; Rivinus, Baird of Smithsonian, pp. 153-155; Charles F. Girard, Herpetology. 


prepared under the siiperinleiidence ofS. F. 5u;>i/( Philadelphia: C. Sherman & Son. 1858); Pamela M. Henson, 
"Spencer Baird Had a Different Vision for Research at the Smithsonian," Smithsonian Research Reports 
83(Winter 1996):5-6. 

-■• Dall, Baird. pp. 287-30 L 308-310, 336, 339; Rivinus, Baird of Smithsonian, pp. 57-60: Annual Report 
of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution. 1 863 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1864). 
pp. 58; William A. Deiss, "Spencer F. Baird and his Collectors," Journal of the Societ}- for the Bibliography of 
Natural Histoiy 9(4[1980]):635-645; Frederick William True, "Exploration Work of the Smithsonian Institu- 
tion," in The Smithsonian Institution. 1S46~IS96. The Histoiy at Its First HalfCentuiy. George Brown Goodc, 
ed. (Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 1897), pp. 477—178. 

"' Spencer F. Baird, "General Directions for Collecting and Preservuig Objects of Natural History," SIA, 
RU 65, Chief Clerk, 1846-1933, Forms, Circulars, and Announcements, volume 1. "Directions for collecting, 
preserving, and transporting specimens of natural history, prepared for the use of the Smithsonian Institution," 
Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, vol. 2. article 7 (Washington: Smithsonian Institution. 1859), and 
Circular in reference to shipping fresh fish and other animals (Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 1881); 
Nathan Reingold, "Definitions and Speculations: The Professionalization of Science in America in the Nine- 
teenth Century," in Science. American Style (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1991 ), pp. 24—53. 

-" Dall, Baird. pp. 307-308, 333-335, 342-352, 357-366, 38 1 ; Deiss, "Baird and Collectors," pp. 64 1-642; 
Rivinus, Band ofSmith.wnian. pp. 85-89, 94-105, 1 1 7, 163-169; True. "Exploration Work," 475^77. For a 
discussion of Agassiz's difficult relationships with his students, see Ralph Dexter, "The "Salem Secession" of 
Agassiz Zoologists," Essex Institute Historical Collections, 10 1( ![1965]):27-39. 

^'' Dall, Baird. pp. 305, 3 1 3-314, 3 1 8, 32 1-322, 330-334; Rivinus, Baird of Smithsonian, pp. b\- 62: Annual 
Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution for /WZ (Washington: William A. Hams, Printer, 
1858), pp. 34, 46-49. 

" True, ""Exploration Work," 459-467; ""List of the More Important Explorations and Expeditions, the 
collections of which have constituted the principal sources of supply to the National Museum, with indication 
of the department of the government under which prosecuted," Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the 
Smithsonian Institution for /i*f 77 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1878), pp. 105-1 1 7. 

" William H. Goetzmann, Exploration and Empire: The Explorer and Scientist in the IVinning of the 
American West (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1966), pp. 496-498, 501-502, 515-516, 527-529. 562-563, 
572—576; Philip J. Pauly, Biologists and the Promise of.American Life: From Meriweather Lewis to .Alfred Kinsey 
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000). 

' Clifford M. Nelson and Ellis L. Yochelson, ""Organizing Federal Paleontology in the United States. 
1 858-1 907," Journal of the Societ}' for tlie Bibliography of Natural Histoiy 9(4[ 1 980] ):607-609. 

Hartley H. Harriett, ""The Reports of the Wilkes Expedition, and the Work of the Specialists in Science," 
Proceedings of the American Philo.wphical Society 82( l940):601-705; Girard, Herpetolog}-: Annual Report of 
the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution for ISSfi (Washington: William A. Harris, Printer, 1 859), 
pp. 52—56; Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution for Ift62 (Washington: 
Government Printing Office, 1 863), p. 56; .Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution 
for 1883 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1885), p. 177; William Jones Rhees, .4n Account of the 
Smithsonian Institution. Its Founder. Building. Operations, etc. (Washington: Thomas McGill, Printer. 1857). 
and Visitor 's Guide to the Stntthsonian Institution and United States National Museum in Washington [ Wash- 
ington: Judd & Detweiler. Printers. 1886) 

Dall. Baird. pp. 3 1 3-3 1 7; Oehser. Smithsonian, pp. 38-39; Rhees, Smithsonian Documents, p. 589; Joseph 
Henry, ""Report of the Secretary for 1 856," Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution 
for 1856 (Washington: Cornelius Wendell, Printer, 1857). pp. 17-22; U.S. House, 33'''' Congress. 2"'' Session, 
Journal of the House Select Committee, House Documents, No. 141 (1855); Jean V. Matthews, Rufus Choate: 
The Law and Civic f»mtM Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1980), pp. 129-130, 138-146. 

Oehser, Smithsonian, pp. 88-89; Pamela M. Henson, """Objects of Curious Research': The History of 
Science and Technology at the Smithsonian," Isis 90( 1999):S249-S242. 
Rivinus, Baird of Smithsonian, pp. 64—65. 

^- Dall, Baird. pp. 378, 385-386; Field, Castle, pp. 78-80, 123-1 24; Annual Report of the Board of Regents 


of the Smithsonian Institution. IH66 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1867). pp. 13-17; Oehser. 
Smithsonian, p. 187. The art, botanical, entomological, and physical anthropology collections were later returned 
to the U.S. National Museum. 

'^ Rivinus, Baird of Smithsonian, pp. 63-66; George Brown Goode, "The Published Writings of Spencer 
FuUerton Baird, XMli-M^l." Bulletin of the United Stales National Museum, vol. 20 (Washington: Government 
Printing Office, 1 883); Spencer F. Baird and C. Girard, Catalogue of North American reptiles in the Museum of 
the Smithsonian Institution (Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 1853); Spencer F. Baird, Catalogue of North 
American mammals: chiefly in the museum of the Smithsonian Institution (Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 
1 857), "The Distribution and Migration of North American Birds," American Journal of Arts and Sciences. 2nd 
series, 41 (January-May 1866):78-90, 184—192, 337-347, Review of .American birds, in the Museum of the 
Smithsonian Institution (Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 1 864—1 866), and Mammals of the Boundary: with 
notes by the naturalists of the survey (Washington: C. Wendell, Printer, 1859?); Louis Agassiz, Essay on 
Classification (London: n.p., 1 859), and Contributions to the Natural Histoiy of the United Stales of America 
(Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1857-1862). 

■ Paul L. Farber, "The Transformation of Natural History in the Nineteenth Century," Joiwwa/ of the Histoiy 
of Biology 15(1 [Spring 1982]): 145-152; Reingold, "Professionalization of Science," pp. 44-48. 

^*' Dall, Baird. pp. 367-378; Debra Lindsay, Science in the Subarctic: Trappers. Traders, and the Smith- 
sonian Institution (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1993), passim. Lindsay and others question 
the role of the National Museum's collections in influencing the purchase of Alaska. 

Dall, Baird. pp. 389; Rivinus, Baird of Smithsonian, p. 122; Kohlstedt, "Natural History Museums." 

* Dall, Baird. pp. 391-392; Rivinus, Baird of Smithsonian, pp. 123-125; Robert Post, 1876: A Centennial 
Exposition (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1976), pp. 77-79; Robert W. Rydell, All the 
World's A Fair: Visions of Empire at American International Expositions. 1876-19 1 6 (Chicago: University of 
Chicago Press, 1984),pp. 19-27,44. 

'^' K\\'\r\us. Baird of Smithsonian, pp. 124—125, 190. 

■*■ DaW. Baird. pp. 393-395; Oehser, 5m(7foo«/fl«, pp. 189-1 90;. 4 Handbook to the National Museum at the 
Smithsonian Institution. Washington {'New York: Brentano, 1886). 

''"^ Dall, Baird. pp. 393-395; Henson, "Baird's Vision," pp. 5-6; Oehser, Smith.<;onian. pp. 40-44; Rivinus, 
Baird of Smithsonian, pp. 127—130; Theodore D. A. Cockerell, Spencer FuUerton Baird and the U.S. National 
Museum (Mount Vernon, Iowa: n.p., 1942), pp. 1-7, reprinted from Bios 8, 1 . 

■" Oe\\ssx. Smithsonian, pp. 189-190. 

■ .Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution for /<'?^2 (Washington: Government 
Printing Office. 1884), pp. 119-120. 124-126. 

^ Edward P. Alexander, "George Brown Goode and the Smithsonian Museums: A National Museum of 
Cultural History," in Museum Masters: Their Museums and Their Influence (Nashville, Tenn.: American 
Association for State and Local History. 1983), pp. 277-310; Sally G. Kohlstedt, "History in a Natural History 
Museum: George Brown Goode and the Smithsonian Institution," 77?^ Public Historian 10(2[Spring 1988]): 
7-26, and "Preface," in The Origins of Natural Science in America: The Essays of George Brown Goode. 
Kohlstedt, ed., (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1991), pp. 11-15; George Brown Goode, 
"Museum-History and Museums of History," (1888), and "The Museums of the Future," (1889), reprinted in 
Kohlstedt, Origins, pp. 297-319, 321-348. 

Curtis M. Hinsley, The Smithsonian and .American Indian: Making a Moral Anthropology in Victorian 

America (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1994), pp. 84—94, 97-99; Kohlstedt, "Goode and 

Smithsonian," 13-14, 25-26; Rydell, World's A Fair. pp. 57-60, 98-99; Annual Report for 1882, pp. 128-130. 

Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution for 1886 (Washington: Government 

Printing Office, 1 889), pp. 36-5 1 . 

"" Dall, Baird. pp. 387-388; Hinsley, Smithsonian and American Indian, pp. 139-140, 147-164; True, 
"E.xploration Work," pp. 467, 470-474; Neil Merton Judd, The Bureau of American Ethnology: .A Partial Histoiy 
(Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1967), pp. 3-4, 6-18. 

^° Rydell, World's A Fair. p. 43. 


-'^' Dall, Baird. pp. 388. 416-^32; True, "Exploration Work," pp. 467, 469-470; Dean C. AUard, Spencer 
Fullerlon Baird and the U.S. Fish Commis.sion (New York: Amo Press, 1978), passim. 

" Dall, Baird. pp. 402^05. 

Dall, Baird. pp. 408; Kohlstedt, Origins of Natural Science, pp. 4-6, 1 1-15; Oehser, Smith.wnlan. pp. 
44—47; Annual Report of the Board of Regents at the Smithsonian Institution for 7(957 (Washington: Government 
Printing Office, 1889), pp. 17-18. 

^'^ Annual Report for 1882. pp. 5-10; Annual Report for 1887. p. 1 7; Richard Rathbun, "The United States 
National Museum: An Account of the Buildings Occupied by the National Collections." in Jlie Report of the 
United States National Museum for /9fl.? (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office. 1905), pp. 263-296; 
Ellis L. Yochelson. The National Museum of Natural History. 75 Years in the Natural History- Building 
(Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1985), pp. 19, 23-27. 

"" E Pluribus Unum: This Divine Paradox. Report of the Commission on the Future of the Smithsonian 
Itistitution (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1983). pp. 34—35; Smithsonian Year. 799(5 (Washington, 
D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press. 1996). passim. 

Copyright O2000 by the California Academy of Sciences 

Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California 941 18, USA. 

All rights reserved. 

Paleontology in Washington DC 

A Brief History of Institutional Change 

Or the Waxing and Waning 

of Two Disparate Organizations 


Research Associate, National Museum of Natural History 

Washington, DC 20560-0121 and U. S. Geological Survey (retired) 

E-mail: yochelson.ellis(a 

Study of fossils in Washington began about 150 years ago when F. B. Meek came to the 
Smithsonian Institution; he identified fossils for the purpose of dating the age of rocks 
collected by government expeditions and territorial surveys. In 1879, the L'.S. Geological 
Survey (USGS) was founded; paleontologists who were housed in the United States 
National Museum (USNM) building were an integral part of this organization. Collections 
were transferred to the Museum for curation, which generally was also done by the 
personnel of the Geological Survey. 

In 1894, the Museum finally employed a paleontologist, Charles Schuchert, and in 1897, 
when the Museum was reorganized, he became a member of the new Department of 
Geology. Until after the second World War, the Museum had less than half a dozen 
professionals, in total, despite the move to a new larger building in 1910. Most Geological 
Survey paleontologists moved to the new site and they significantly Increased in number 
during that interval. 

After the second World War, both organizations grew; again the USGS was far larger. 
The Geological Survey professionals were still mainly concerned with age determination 
by fossils, but a larger variety of kinds were studied in increasing detail. With the addition 
of wings to the Museum, there came dramatic increase in staff, especially for the Survey. 
Formation of the Department of Paleobiology in 1963, by splitting the Department of 
Geology, resulted in a gradual shift of the Museum staff to problem-oriented issues. USGS 
efforts on age determination of rocks by their enclosed fossils were officially ended in 1995. 

Paleontology first appeared in Washington nearly two centuries ago. During Thomas Jefferson's 
first term as President, one room in the President's House' was used to display fossil bones from Big 
Bone Lick, Kentucky, and from a cave in what is now West Virginia. Jefferson's interests in matters 
scientific were used against him by political opponents, and, legend has it, some of the bones were 
later ground up for fertilizer. That rnay be an appropriate metaphor, for further developments 
depended on permanent organizational structures. 

Not too many decades later, two disparate organizations came into being in Washington, DC, 
the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History and the U. S. Geological Survey. 
Although each had a distinct mission, they both were interested in paleontology, and, for an 
impressive length of time, the staffs of the two worked together more or less in harmony. Since their 
foundings, each organization has had about three scientific generations of paleontologists; even so, 
remarkably few persons were involved. Also, over time, a significant number of aides and some 
clerical staff and even scientists who began with, for instance, the USGS switched allegiances and 
moved to the Museum, and more rarely vice versa. 
"White House" did not come into use until after the painting to conceal the fires set in 1814 by the British. 



In what follows, it may seem dull to use names and mention specialties, rather than convey the 
grand sweep of events. Nevertheless, I believe this approach provides a better notion of just how 
small was the Federal involvement in the science of paleontology, yet how successful it was. It also 
provides anyone interested in the history of study of a particular group of organisms or segment of 
geologic time, a name or two to investigate further. Besides, it is people who make most events, and 
history of events without mentioning individuals can be remarkably colorless. The names of generals 
are often recorded, but the forgotten "spear bearers" at least deserve a mention. The technicians who 
carried the water bottles for the spear bearers, that is, broke rocks, inked numbers on fossils, made 
thin-sections, typed manuscripts, and produced photographs have not been recorded, but their 
immense contribution in keeping scientists productive should not be ignored. 

The Smithsonian Institution 

In 1 829, the Englishman James Smithson died, and in 1 836, his estate became a gift to the people 
of America. In 1840, the National Institute, a private organization, was set up in Washington with the 
hope of obtaining the Smithson bequest; Institute members collected all manner of items and may 
have had a few fossils. The National Institute had a display in the new Patent Office Building (Evelyn 
1985). Two years later. Congress established the official National Cabinet of Curiosities mainly to 
house the collections of the United States Exploring Expedition (1838-1842), made under the 
command of Charles Wilkes (Stanton 1975). Because there was no other place in Washington, DC, 
to store them, the Federal expedition collections were nominally given to the care of the Institute. By 
1 846, when it became apparent that the National Instimte was not to receive the Smithson bequest, 
that organization rapidly declined and, before long, the fledgling Smithsonian Institution fell heir to 
its collections. 

On August 10, 1846, the Smithsonian Institution (SI) was founded as a public trust for the 
American public. In present-day terminology, it might be classified as quasi-governmental. Though 
it was not clear what the Institution was to accomplish, one of the functions laid out in the founding 
legislation was that of a museuin. On December 3, the American physicist Joseph Henry was elected 
as the first Smithsonian Secretary (Oehser 1949). Long before Henry had gained fame as a physicist, 
he had helped survey a near-wilderness road across New York and thus had acquired a feeling for 
topography and geology. Even before the Institution had its own building, Henry scheduled public 
lectures, including one in 1 849 on geology. He also instituted a publication program, and by the early 
1850s, the Institution had published three papers on paleontology, at a time when there were few 
outlets in America for scientific papers. Although the exterior of the Smithsonian "Castle," the first 
of the many buildings that make up the present-day Smithsonian complex on Washington, DCs 
"Mall," was completed by 1 85 1 (Fig. 1 ), interior construction went slowly, and Henry did not move 
into the building, literally (it became his home!), until 1856 (Hafetepe 1984). 

In 1850, Henry hired Spencer Fullerton Baird as an Assistant Secretary (Rivinus and Youseff 
1992). Though he was no paleontologist, Baird established publication standards for many of the 
Federal western exploring expeditions, in which reports on the fossils that were collected played a 
prominent role. Baird's advice resulted in better illustrations and descriptions of the specimens. The 
Smithsonian gave advice, helped in the selection of scientific personnel, provided some scientific 
equipment, and — rarely — funds, to various exploring parties. Despite initial resistance and occa- 
sional objections from Henry, Baird energetically pursued the acquisition of both biological and fossil 
specimens for the Institution's collections. 

Early on, in part because of the language in the founding legislation, it was detennined that natural 



Figure 1. The Smithsonian Inslitution Castle, possibly taken between 1856 and 1860. looking southwest. 
Courtesy Smithsonian Institution Archives (SIA #45934-A). 

history collections from the General Land Office and various government expeditions were to come 
to the Institution for safe keeping. For example, specimens described by David Dale Owen in his 
survey of the Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota territories are still to be found in the type collections. 

By the time Henry moved into the Castle in 1856, mismanagement of the Wilkes collections had 
become a "Washington" scandal. In response, in 1857, Congress appropriated $17,000 for cases, 
transfer, and maintenance of these collections. During 1857 and 1858, the Wilkes materials came to 
the Castle. Thus, without any Federal organization being fonnally established by Congressional 
mandate, the United States National Museum (USNM) came into existence as a government bureau 
administered by a non-governmental organization. The General Land Office material came earlier 
than transfer of the Wilkes material, but whether it in any way laid the groundwork for the National 
Museum is uncertain. 

Despite what has been written, Henry was not opposed to collections as such. He was concerned, 
understandably, about the continual cost of maintaining a museum collection. He agreed to take the 
Wilkes material only after an annual sum for curation was promised. Until his death in 1 878, Henry 
tried unsuccessfially to have the National Museum transferred away from Smithsonian administration. 
He was even eager to sell the Castle as an inducement to the government to take the USNM off his 
hands. Yet, by 1880, under the stewardship of Spencer Fullerton Baird, Henry's succe.s.sor as 
Smithsonian Secretary, construction was begun on a new museum building (Fig. 2) to house the 
growing collections that had been accumulating in the Castle and the exhibits from the Centennial 
Exposition in Philadelphia. 



Figure 2. The United Slates National Museum building under construction, probably in 1880. 
The photograph is taken from the Castle looking east. Courtesy Smithsonian Institution Archives (SIA #742). 

The Meek Era and Ephemeral Government Surveys 

More or less coordinate with the transfer of national collections, Henry rescued — the word is 
deliberately chosen — Fielding Bradford Meek (181 7-1 876) (Fig. 3 ) from the clutches of James Hall 
in Albany and brought him to the Institution in 1858 (Nelson 1987). Hall was the State Paleontologist 
of New York, and, at that time in the United States, Albany was the center for study of fossils. At the 
Smithsonian, Meek was literally a scholar in residence, as he received no salary from the Institution 
but had the privilege of living in his office in the south tower of the Castle, his abode from 1861 until 
his death in 1 876; earlier, he lived under a staircase. During his lifetime. Meek published descriptions 
of fossils from every group of invertebrate fossils and discussed specimens gathered from rocks of 
every age from Cambrian to Recent. 

In detennining the age of rocks by fossils, one compares the fossils from an unknown area with 
those whose relative age within an established general sedimentary sequence is known. One cannot 
understand structural complications nor interpret the geologic history of an area unless the sequence 
and relative ages of the sedimentary rocks are known. Meek was the premier biostratigraphic 
paleontologist in 19th Century America, not just because he was one of the first, but because he was 
so remarkably accurate in age determinations, especially in the western regions where virtually 
nothing was known of the details of geology. 

Meek worked on contract for several state geological surveys, most notably Illinois. After the 
Civil War, major Federally-financed territorial surveys replaced more transitory expeditions (Rabbitt 


1979). The four principal surveys were those headed by Hayden, King, Powell, and Wheeler (Bartlett 
1962); only King completed his assigned survey area. Among Meek's many other accomplishments, 
he described fossils for all four of the Federal territorial surveys (Nelson and Yochelson 1980). 

One function of a museum is to maintain collections. The National Museum ably performed its 
responsibility as a museum of record and these early Federally-collected fossils are, as of this writing, 
still safe in Washington. Meek made the critical curatorial decision that collections were to be 
arranged in stratigraphic order, that is by age of the rocks, rather than in biologic order. Since the 
primary objective of paleontology at that time was to provide the relative age of strata from unknown 
areas, this arrangement best supported that effort. Meek also determined that where relatively large 
number of specimens were available, "duplicates" were to be distributed to colleagues and schools, 
so that the collections did not grow too large. Years later this policy was changed, but for most of the 
last half of the 19th Century, collections were donated by the Institution. 

During Meek's last years, his career overlapped with that of Charles Abiathar White { 1 826-1 9 1 0) 
(Fig. 4), who left the Iowa Geological Survey to become paleontologist/geologist for the Hayden 
Territorial Survey. White is best known for his studies of Mesozoic fossils. William Healey Dall 
(1845-1927) (Fig. 5) also appeared on the Washington scene as an explorer-naturalist in Alaska and 
was in residence in the Castle for a time in 1868. He was concerned with study of Recent mollusks 
and, to a lesser extent at that time, their Cenozoic ancestors. Dall had no permanent position until 
1881 when he obtained employment with the United States Coast Survey. 

There was no organized study of vertebrate paleontology or paleobotany in Washington during 
the 1860s and 1870s. 

Transition to Permanent Structure and Staff 

On March 3, 1879, the U. S. Geological Survey (USGS) was founded, as a bureau of the 
Department of Interior. Its establishment provided a permanent Federal organization for geology; 
Clarence King was appointed director. Charies Doolittle Walcott ( 1 850-1 927) (Fig. 6) became USGS 
employee number 20 (Yochelson 1967). He was hired as a temporary geological assistant at $50 per 
month, not as a paleontologist. After a year, he became a permanent assistant geologist at $ 1 ,200 per 
year. White had gone to Europe, and did not return to Washington until after the USGS was fornied; 
on his return, apparently he was on the staff of the USNM briefly, though in all likelihood, this was 
an honorary appointment. Almost immediately, Walcott and White had a disagreement concerning 
who would study some of Walcott's 1879 collections from the Colorado Plateau. White did not win 
the argument. 

When the new USNM building was completed, space was made available for USGS paleontolo- 
gists. After less than two years. King had left the Geological survey, and John Wesley Powell was 
appointed director; Powell also continued to run the Bureau of Ethnology, which was founded in 
1 879 and was more or less under the Smithsonian. Whereas King was concerned with support for the 
mining industry, Powell was more concerned with basic investigations. He was far more liberal in 
allowing paleontologists to pursue publication and not simply confine their activities to rote identi- 
fication for age determination. 

At the start of the fiscal year on July 1, 1881, employee number 64, White, was hired as a geologist 
at S2,000 per year and moved into the new building. He remained with the USGS until the 1892 
appropriations catastrophe. Another important figure in the building was Lester Frank Ward ( 1 84 1— 
1913) (Fig. 7) who joined the USGS at the same time as White at an annual salary of $1,800. Ward 
was a sociologist but, as this field was outside the purview of the USGS, Powell hired Ward to work 


Figures 3-6. (3) Fielding B. Meek, an illustrious paleontologist (SIA #77-9498). (4) Charles A. \Miiie, in charge of Meso- 

zoic paleontology (SIA #78-15937); (5) William Healcy Dall. in charge of Cenozoic paleontology (SIA #A-1 145); 

(6) Charles Doolittle Walcott, about 1887. Figures 3-5 courtesy Smithsonian Institution Archi\es. 



Figure 7. Lester F. Ward, in charge of paleobotany, and Miss Morehead (later Mrs. F. Knowlton) 

in his office, the inner room at the east end of the south balcony in the USNM, probably taken in \Si 

Courtesy Smithsonian Institution Archives (SIA #85-10257). 

on "vegetable paleontology." Ward learned on the job and became an excellent paleontologist. 
Meanwhile, he laid the foundation for sociology in America in his spare time; Ward remained in 
Washington until 1907 when he left to become a professor at Brown University. 

During May 1882, Walcott was given an honorary appointment as assistant curator of fossil 
invertebrates in the National Museum, and he also settled into the new red brick building completed 
earlier the previous year. Vertebrate paleontology gained a position on the USGS in 1882 when 
Othniel Charles Marsh (1831-1899) of Yale University was appointed employee number 87 by 
Powell, at S4,000 per year. In 1883, two of the 25 statutory positions in the Geological Survey were 
for paleontologists. Marsh had one, and Walcott the other, at $2,000 per year. 

In 1 884, Dall transferred to the Geological Survey as employee number 253. though he remained 
in the Smithsonian Castle and was not in the Museum building. Dall had an office in one of the towers, 
but spilled over onto a balcony in the Great Hall. By July 1, 1884, the Geologic Branch of the USGS 
had five formal divisions, one of which was paleontology (Rabbitt, 1980). This in turn had five parts, 
each with its own leader: Walcott for Paleozoic; White for Mesozoic; and Dall for Cenozoic. The 
fourth was vertebrate paleontology under Marsh, who never had an office in Washington, and, the 
fifth, paleobotany under Ward. The Museum had comparable divisions, staffed by the same people. 
The multiplicity of titles may have been to avoid any personality clashes. 

All of the paleontologic divisions had assistants, some of whom went on to greater things. Two 
of Walcott's assistants for a short time were Robert Thomas Hill (1858—1941) who left the survey 
after a few years for a varied career, associated mainly with geology in Texas, and Timothy William 
Stanton (1860-1953) (Fig. 8) who joined in 1889 and remained with the USGS throughout his 
professional career, as a Mesozoic specialist and, later. Chief Paleontologist. 

After a few years, a tradition developed of having an understudy for each mature specialist. Often 
these persons began as aides or technicians. Thus, Charles David White (1862—1935) (Fig. 9) was 


hired in 1 886 as a draftsman for Lester Ward, but he soon developed his own speciality in Paleozoic 

The United States National Museum 

From several aspects, 1879 was a key year because, along with the founding of the USGS, a 
separate building for the United States National Museum was finally authorized. Construction was 
completed in 1881 on the red brick rectangle east of the Castle (and west of the much later circular 
Hirshhom Gallery). Originally designed to be a temporary building to house exhibits which had been 
at the 1 876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition, it stands to this day, still occupying space on the Mall 
just east of the Castle; a century of repair costs — even corrected for inflation — have many times 
exceeded its construction cost. Within the bam-like building, the Museum geologist George Perkins 
Merrill had an office, but the USNM staff did not include any paid paleontologist. 

In truth, the USNM had practically no staff To find specialists, the Smithsonian gave "honorary" 
appointments, a practice started long before the separate Museum building became a reality. Those 
who received this honor were expected to do the work of the Museum, while being paid by another 
agency or serving as volunteers. For example, the Museum division of mollusks and Dall were 
synonymous throughout his long career, and during his "retirement" years, until his death in 1928. 

When George Brown Goode was director of the USNM, the "honorary" concept was pushed to 
an extreme. In effect, anyone who could be convinced to do work for the Museum, would be given 
a title and often would be made head of his own department. By the 1890s. the Museum had more 
than twenty departments: the activities of each were noted in the USNM Annual Report. The annual 
reports of the USGS also list the activities of its paleontologists, thereby allowing one to note the 
difference between the research-oriented and the curatorial-oriented efforts of the same individual. 

Honorary appointments, under different names, are still given with the same understanding of 
contributions to the Museum. With only one or two exceptions, the USGS paleontologists who had 
offices at the USNM have also been honorary research associates. For generations, many scientists 
outside the city assumed that every paleontologist in Washington was on the Smithsonian staff, 
whereas actually they were paid by two different Federal agencies with two quite different missions. 

The 1879 Organic Act founding the USGS specified that collections were to be transferred to 
the USNM, when no longer needed for research. The act clearly established that the Museum was to 
be the national repository for Federal natural history material. So far as paleontology was concerned, 
at this time it was the role of the USGS paleontologists to study the fossils obtained during field work 
for the purpose of dating the rocks, and the role of the USNM was to serve as a museum of record, 
safeguarding those collections. The term "museum of record" is that of Goode. who emphasized a 
tripartite function of museums, the other two being education and research. 

Along with the legalities was an infonnal arrangement, like that with the Bureau of Ethnology 
and, later, the Biological Survey, wherein one organization did field work and the other curated the 
material which was obtained. To provide a brief summary of the next century, the rate of transfer of 
collections from the Geological Survey has waxed and waned, being governed by time, space, and 
individual temperament. Likewise, there has been exchange of individuals from Survey to Museum 
and, more rarely, in the opposite direction. 

Problems for the U. S. Geological Survey 

Through a complex political situation involving irrigation in the West and personal dislike of 
Powell, in 1892 the USGS came under attack by Congress. Slashing the budget affected the entire 



Figures 8-9. (8) A mature T. W. Stanton, first chief of P&S section, helping to collect a Triceraiops. 

Courtesy U. S. Geological Survey Photographic Library (A. L. Beekley Collection #278); 

(9) David White, paleobotanist. probably taken after 1913 during his tenure as Chief Geologist. 

Courtesy Smithsonian Institution Archives (Sl.'\ #99-10019; a second copy in "Portraits" files. 

Photographic Library. U. S. Geological Survey, Denver). 

organization but was particularly hard on paleontology. Funds for its study were cut by 70% and the 
paid staff went from twenty-eight to seven. This science has the dubious distinction of being one of 
the few disciplines to be singled out for ridicule by Congress. For example. "What use has the 
Government for paleontology? What fijnctions of the Government are carried on by means of 
paleontology? Not only has the Government no use for it as government, but paleontological work 
is not even necessary to the proper construction of a geologic map." The monograph by Marsh on 
Cretaceous toothed-birds, published years earlier by the King territorial survey of the 40th Parallel, 
became for Congress the symbol of government waste, as powerfiil as any discussed in the latter part 
of the 20th Century. 

One positive result in this dismal situation was that Walcott was promoted to the new position 
of Chief Paleontologist, bringing all the diminished five parts of paleontology under one head. He 
saved some people by having them transferred to the USNM staff There the young paleobotanist 
Frank Hall ICnowlton (1860-1926) remained on a payroll and. in better times a few years later, he 
returned to the Geological Survey. David White was among the few USGS paleontologists who 
survived the slaughter. 

In the midst of all this upheaval. Walcott was responsible for preparing a large display of rocks 
and minerals for the Chicago Columbian Exposition of 1893. Several persons received temporary 
jobs from Exposition funds. 

Although Walcon was appointed GeoIogist-in-Charge of Geology and Paleontology in 1893, 
even with his immediate efforts, life as a government employee got worse before it became better. 



Matters began to improve the next year after he became Director. Walcott was able to increase the 
number of paleontologists by assigning them as members of field parties, effectively shielding them 
and the study of fossils from Congressional wrath. He recovered several of those lost and added 
George Herbert Girty (1869-1939) (Fig. 10) to study Late Paleozoic faunas. Headquarters for the 
USGS were in the Hoee Iron Building on F Street NW, now the site of the National Press Club 
Building. Paleontologists at the Museum had to walk over to Hoee Building each payday. The USNM 
building was crowded and a few paleontologists were housed in the Hoee Building, which provided 
even less satisfactory space than the cluttered Museum. Just before the turn of the century Edward 
Oscar Ulrich (1857-1944 ) (Fig. 1 1) was added to the staff to work on Lower Paleozoic faunas and 
was housed in the crowded Hoee Building. 

In 1900, the paleontologists in the Geologic Branch of the USGS were finally gathered into a 
division with T. W. Stanton in charge. Although the USGS budget had increased dramatically since 
1894, it was only about this time that Walcott was finally able to restore some of the funds for 
paleontology which had been cut in 1892. Four years later, this division became the Paleontology 
and Stratigraphy Section, and remained the longest-lived administrative subdivision within the 
Geological Survey. Even under one head, the five-part internal subdivision by ages and specialties 
remained in place, though this had little impact, except for convenience in maintaining a separate 
locality catalogue for each group. 

Another important function, tangentially associated with the section, was the Committee on 
Geologic Names. The Chief of the Section for years was also head of the Committee, which 

Figures 10-1 1. (10) George Herbert Girty, specialist on upper Paleozoic fossils; (11) Edward O, Ulrich, specialist 

on lower Paleozoic fossils, at his desk in Hoee Iron Building (date unknown, but probably between 1^)00 and 1910). 

Courtesy Smithsonian Institution Archives (SIA # 85-4022). 



determined the name and age of fomiations and standardized usage in USGS publications. Years 
later, Stanton followed in Walcott's footsteps when he too became Chief Geologist of the Geological 
Survey; and, as the number of paleontologists grew, the Names Committee was made a separate 
position with its own head and staff 

As it had been when the paleontologists were directly attached to mapping parties, the prime 
emphasis was providing dates for rocks. The geologists sent in fossils for "E.xamination and Report" 
(E&R), and the E&R became the principal internal product. Eventual publication of studies by the 
paleontologists on submitted fossils and those that they collected when visiting field parties docu- 
mented for the world the richness of the fossil record in the United States. 

Once USGS fijnding began to increase in the latter part of the 1 890s. Walcott followed the lead 
of Powell by using academic paleontologists, such as Samuel Hubbard Scudder (1837—191 1) of 
Harvard University, as part-time contract employees. Though these men were not on the Washington 
scene, their collections eventually came to the USNM; Scudder's fossil insects remain a prime 
possession. Perhaps the most noteworthy name in this category is Henry Shaler Williams { 1 847-1 9 18) 
of Cornell University who worked extensively on the Devonian fossils of New York and contributed 
many fossils to the collections. 

USNM Expansion 

After Walcott became Chief Geologist, he no longer had time to curate fossils. Charles Schuchert 
(1858—1942) (Fig. 12) had been hired by Walcott to help prepare an exhibit of crinoid slabs for the 
1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago and, after 
that job, he came to Washington with the USGS. 
When Walcott became director, he could no longer 
spend much time at the Museum building, so in 1 894, 
Schuchert was transferred to the USNM staff and 
became the first paid staff member responsible for 
paleontology in that organization. Indeed, a Depart- 
ment of Paleontology was established in the USNM 
with Walcott as Honorary Curator and Schuchert as 
Assistant Curator (Gilmore, 1 94 1 ). In addition to his 
curatorial duties, Schuchert began detailed studies of 
fossil brachiopods. 

During parts of 1 897 and 1 898, in addition to his 
position as director of the Geological Survey, Walcott 
was also served as Acting Assistant Secretary [of the 
Smithsonian Institution] in Charge of the National 
Museum (Yochelson, 1998). During this interval, he 
reorganized the Museum into three departments; 
Schuchert became a staff member in the Department 
of Geology. For those interested in chains of com- 
mand, presumably honorary curator Walcott was 
subservient to paid employee Schuchert, who re- 
ported to Head CuratorG. P. Merrill, who reported to '''^■^'•^'^ '-• ^^arles Schuchert in 19I0 when the Yale 
.... „ ,,, I . ,• University Professor was elected to the National Acad- 

Acting Assistant Secretary Walcott, According to a ^^^ ofSciences. Published bv per™,ss,on of the 
manuscript by Merrill, the division was originally Peabody Museum of Natural Histor>. 



named "Stratigraphic Paleontology" quite in keeping with the USGS direction of effort. One key 
decision made at that time was that Cenozoic fossils would be assigned to the Department of Geology, 
rather than to the Division of Mollusks, which was within the Department of Biology. Merrill wrote 
a history of geology at the Museum, in part to publicize the efforts of his new department. He was 
quite clear as to what his staff was supposed to do. "The National Museum is not organized primarily 
as a bureau of research, but rather as a museum of record, a place for the preservation of the types of 
past investigations. The first duty of its officials relates, then, to the care of the collections" (Merrill 

When Marsh died in 1899, the Federal vertebrate collections that he had assembled at Yale 
University came to Washington (Gilmore 1 94 1 ). Frederic Augustus Lucas ( 1 852-1 929) of the USNM 
was sent to pack the specimens and he became an acting curator of fossil vertebrates until he left the 
Museum in 1904. Because in gathering vertebrates Marsh had intertwined Federal funds, university 
grants, and private money, Walcott ( 1900) thought it appropriate to explain what fossils had come to 
Washington and the history of the material. With this large collection, overnight the USNM became 
a center for the study of fossil vertebrates. 

Charies Whitney Gilmore (1874-1 945) (Fig. 13) 
was hired by the Museum as a vertebrate preparator 
in 1903 and James William Gidley (1866-1931) 
joined him two years later; probably they were 
housed in the old Armory building, where the 
Hirshhom Museum is now located, as the brick mu- 
seum was filled to overflowing. Both men gradually 
worked their way up to professional status as the 
fossil vertebrates and fossil invertebrates were vari- 
ously shuffled around through several internal reor- 
ganizations within the Department of Geology. 
Gilmore made his name with study of fossil reptiles 
and Gidley with that of fossil mammals (Gilmore 

After Marsh's death in 1899, the Geological 
Survey did not employ another vertebrate paleontolo- 
gist for more than half-a-century, presumably be- 
cause the field was so well covered by the USNM. As 
more or less a mirror image, paleobotany remained a 
prime USGS specialty. In 1 889, Albert Charies Peale 
( 1 849-1 9 14) of the USGS came to the museum build- 
ing, and after being fired in 1892, had a temporary 
position before joining the Museum staff in 1898, but 
his work on the paleobotanical collections was en- 
tirely curatorial. There was a tacit agreement that, on the rare occasions where a staff member could 
be hired, neither organization would duplicate the specialty of the other; and this arrangement 
persisted for more than half a century. 

After a decade at the National Museum, Schuchert moved to Yale University, and, though he 
had not even completed grade school, Schuchert's brachiopod studies impressed his academic 
colleagues. After ail, his origins were in Cincinnati, Ohio, a key paleontological training ground of 
the 19th Century. In 1902, before Schuchert moved from Washington, Ray Smith Bassler (1871- 

FiGURE 13. Charles Whitney Gilmore. first vertebrate 

paleontologist at the U. S. National Museum. 

Courtesy Department of Paleobiology. 

National Museum of Natural History. 



1961) (Fig. 14). another Cincinnati product, joined 
the Department of Geology as a preparator. After two 
years he transferred to the USGS, only to return to 
the Museum staff when Schuchert left government 

From the time of the reorganization of 1 897. a 
few private individuals were also associated with the 
Department in an honorary capacity. Noteworthy 
among these was Frank Springer (1848-1927), who 
had made money in New Mexico, but had a passion 
for crinoids. He left his collections and a small en- 
dowment to the Museum with a stipulation that the 
collection be housed in a separate room in which his 
portrait hung. 

Personality Problems in the USGS 

According to legend. Girty shared an office in 
the Museum with Schuchert and the latter's off-key 
whistling drove Girty, a concert pianist, wild. For 
reasons unknown, Girty also later developed a low 
opinion of Walcott. Ulrich was originally housed in 
the Hoee Building, but, in 1910, he transferred to the 
new museum building. At some date, now unknown, 
but before 1910, Girty and his collections were trans- 
ferred to the Hoee Building. 

Whether Ulrich and Girty were physically adjacent for a short time is irrelevant to their profound 
differences. Ulrich's goal was to revise the Paleozoic stratigraphic column, but when he reached into 
the Upper Paleozoic, Girty objected and beat him off Their styles were fundamentally different. Girty 
produced tome after tome for the Geological Survey, whereas Ulrich published increasing less on 
fossils. Notwithstanding that. Ulrich was closely connected to the Museum; for much of Bassler's 
eariier career, he was second author with Ulrich on a variety of fossil groups. 

When most of the Geological Survey moved in 1917 to a new building that also housed the 
administration of the Interior Department, Girty moved with them, while the other paleontologists 
remained on the Mall. The isolation of Girty and his staff from other paleontologists probably played 
a part in the long delay of the USGS in recognizing the Mississippian and Pennsylvanian periods. 
This was somewhat balanced by the refusal of the Geological Survey to recognize the new segments 
of geologic time propounded by Ulrich (Weiss and Yochelson, 1995). 

Another notable disagreement of this generation was between Stanton and Knowlton on the 
placement of the Mesozoic-Cenozoic boundary in the western United States; whether the interpreta- 
tions provided by one group of organisms should be given more weight than those of another group 
of organism remains an unresolved scientific problem. 

One should not presume that because there is no further mention of problems that either the 
USGS or the USNM were one big happy family. There were divisions within both organizations and 
among the members of each staff These differences were internal and personal; e.\cept indirectly, 
such disagreements and personality clashes had no effect on the course of the science. Seemingly, 

Figure 14. Ray Smith Bassler, technician to second 

Head of Department of Geology, standing in southwest 

comer of USNM by wooden cases containing drawers 

of fossils. Courtesy Department of Paleobiology. 

National Museum of Natural History. 



until the late 1940s, most Geological Survey collections were transferred to the Museum more or less 
automatically, apart from those of Giity, which remained physically separate. 

New Quarters 

One of Walcott's last acts in 1898, in his capacity as Acting Assistant Secretary, was to obtain 
planning money for a new museum building. Smithsonian Institution Secretary Samuel Pierpoint 
Langley died in February, 1906, and in Januaiy, 1907 Walcott became the fourth Secretary, with an 
office and laboratory in the Castle. He continued to run the Geological Survey as well as the 
Smithsonian until April of that year, yet he still had time to plan his first field season in western 
Canada. Throughout his tenure as Secretary, Walcott was in the field for 18 seasons (Fig. 15); he 
actively collected in western Canada and described many Cambrian fossils. His most famous 
accomplishment was the discovei'v. collection, and description of the Middle Cambrian Burgess Shale 
biota (\dchclson. U'')(i) 

,. Ri- 1 5. Charles Doolillle W alcott. in charge ol Halco/oi(.' palcontoloyy. and Helena B W a 

on their honeymoon in Newfoundland collecting Inlobites. Taken in 1888. 
Courtesy U. S. Geological Survey Photographic Library (C. D. Walcott Collection, #62). 



FiGl Rl 1(1 i lie new" NalKinal Mu-e.:: ; i . : risiruction. taken looking nortli from the Castle. The \enebrate 

paleontologists were on the ground tloor of the east wing, partially obscured by trees in the foreground. 

Courtesy Smithsonian Institution Archives (SIA #18546). 

Figure 17. Main office of the Department of Geology in the new National Museum. Probably taken in 191 1 or 1912. 
There is a blemish in the negative, not a leaking roof. Courtesy Smithsonian Institution Archives (SIA #1273). 


Lancaster Demoiest Burling (1882-1975), who had been Walcott's personal assistant on the 
USGS, transferred to the USNM in 1 907 where he remained for five years, until leaving for a position 
with the Geological Survey of Canada. His place was partially filled in 1914 when Charles Elmer 
Resser (1889-1943) was employed by the Museum to study Cambrian fossils in the Division of 
Invertebrate Paleontology and Paleobotany of the Department of Geology. Resser assisted Walcott 
at times in the laboratory and went to field areas in the west as directed by him, but he was never a 
true assistant as was Burling. Resser published almost nothing until after Walcott's death in 1927. 

The next significant historical event after Walcott became Secretary, was completion of the 
"new" National Museum, the natural history building on the north side of the Mall (Fig. 16). In 1910, 
the paleontologists and their collections moved from the red brick building into far more lu.xurious 
quarters (Yochelson, 1985) (Fig. 17). The old place was renamed the Arts & Industries Building and 
housed cultural and technological exhibits, with a minimal staff of curators. By comparison, the new 
quarters for paleontology were luxurious. The third floor corridor on the east side housed Geological 
Survey Mesozoic and Paleozoic paleontologists and paleobotanists, including those fomierly in the 
Hoee Building — except forGirty. Old customs die hard and Dall, the USGS Cenozoic paleontolo- 
gist, was on the west side of the building, his collections intemiixed with the modem shells of the 
Division of Mollusks. 

Invertebrate paleontologists of the USNM Department of Geology were on the south side of the 
building; but Bassler and, later, Resser constituted the staff for invertebrates for nearly two decades. 
It is superfluous to note that the Geological Survey staff was far larger. Gilmore and his vertebrate 
colleagues held forth on the east side of the ground floor. Because of the need to fill exhibit halls, a 
relatively large number of vertebrate preparators was employed for years reconstnicting skeletons. 

There is no indication of the size of the USGS/USNM fossil collections when they were 
transferred to the new building. It is known that much material had been in storage for years and, 
finally, could be put in cases making examination of the material far easier. There was a gradual shift 
from wooden cases to those of steel, lessening the danger of fire. The space for more cases also must 
have been an incentive for increased effort in collecting, mainly by the USGS paleontologists and by 
Walcott. By the 1940s, little unused space remained and most fossil collections were in cases which 
were stacked 9 feet high. Meanwhile, the limited staff of the Museum began to develop "biologic" 
collections of selected organisms, in contrast to stratigraphic collections of the entire fauna of a 

One important consequence of the move was new public display space. Four halls were devoted 
to paleontology and preparing exhibits was officially a job for the Museum staff Peale made major 
contributions to the hall of paleobotany, and the vertebrate paleontologists eventually filled two halls 
with skeletons. How much assistance Bassler received in organizing the invertebrate hall is no longer 
known. For the next forty years, the exhibits remained essentially unchanged. 

USGS 1910-1941 

With new office space, the USGS hired Edwin Kirk ( 1 884—1 955 ), an echinoderm specialist, and 
a mid-Paleozoic biostratigrapher. He was considered by the geologists to be a phenomenal man in 
detennining the age of rocks in the field and did yeoman work in the Great Basin and Alaska before 
losing a leg in a quarry accident; he continued to come to the museum after retirement and died at his 
desk. Paleobotanist White became U. S. Geological Survey Chief Geologist in 1913. He returned 
full-time to paleontology at the new museum building in 1922, but was in frail health after a stroke. 

Within the Geologic Division of the USGS, a separate section on coastal plain investigations 



was organized in 1913 and headed by Thomas Wayland Vaughan (1870-1952) (Rabbitt 1986). 
Vaughan later left Washington to become head of Scripps Oceanographic Institute, but, late in life, 
a retired Vaughan returned to the USNM and to his study of scleractinian corals. Others in the Coastal 
Plain Section who were housed in the new building included Lloyd William Stephenson ( 1 876-1 962), 
a specialist on Cretaceous mollusks, Charles Wythe Cooke ( 1 887-1 97 1 ), who studied echinoids, and 
.lulia Anna Gardner (1882-1960) (Fig. 18), specialist on Cenozoic mollusks and a pioneer in 
paleoecological inteipretation of fossils. These names are familiar worldwide to all students of 
younger fossils. 

In 1913 Wendell Phillips Woodring( 1891-1983) was hired, though he may not have been in the 
Coastal Plain Section; he left in 1927 for a three year teaching stint, but returned to the Washington 
fold. In 1922, Stephenson became head of the Coastal Plain Section, which he led for the next 15 
years, until the paleontologists of that group were transferred to the Paleontology and Stratigraphy 
Section. That name was commonly shortened to P&S and occasionally referred to by some field 
geologists as "Pull and Strut." Near the end of World War I, .lohn Bernard Reeside Jr. ( 1889-1958) 
(Fig. 19) was hired to work on the Cretaceous. There then came a pause in growth. 

Surprisingly, despite the great depression, 1 930 saw new faces in the P&S Section. Josiah Bridge 
(1896-1953) came, presumably as an understudy of Ulrich on lower Paleozoic fossils and stratigra- 
phy. He soon joined the group of geologists who could not agree with Ulrich's notions of unique 
faunas in rocks he had named the Ozarkian and Canadian, .lames Steele Williams (1896-1957) also 
came to Washington in 1930 to understudy the aging Girty and was housed in the main Interior 
Building, though later he moved to another Interior department building. A few years later, Lloyd 

Fic.URES 18-19. ( IS) JuluT Anna Gardner, first woman paleontologist in the U.S. Geological Survey; 

(19) A young John B. Reeside. Jr., .second chief of P&S Section. U.S. Geological Survey. 

Courtesy U. S. Geological Survey, Photographic Library (Portraits U}4\ and 1034 respectively). 


George Henbest ( 1900-1987) was hired to work on Paleozoic fusulinids and, in a sense, he became 
the tlrst Geological Survey micropaleontologist in Washington. 

As still another 1930 hire, the Paleozoic paleobotanist Charles Brian Read (1907-1979) arrived 
in Washington, more or less to understudy White but, after a decade, he transferred to other Geological 
Survey activities. When he was appointed in 1931, Kenneth Elmo Lohman (1897-1996) also was 
housed in the USGS headquarters, for there was no more space in the new museum building; Lohman 
continued his study of fossil diatoms begun at the California Institute of Technology. 

The outstanding "character" among the new group of post-1919 paleontologists was the Ceno- 
zoic paleobotanist Roland Wilbur Brown (1893-1961), hired in 1929. Along with plants, he became 
involved in problematica and acquired all sorts of esoteric paleontologic infomiation. Brown was 
also a scholar of Latin and Greek and, though "Brownie" was renowned for his penny-pinching, it 
was the pennies he saved that allowed him in 1954 to publish privately his famous book Composition 
of Scientific Words, which has become the bible for anyone coining a new specific or generic name 
in systematic biology or paleontology. Brown also left a large endowment to the National Museum 
for the study of paleobotany. 

In 1940. Ralph Willard Imlay (1908-1989). a Jurassic ammonite specialist, joined the P&S 
Section. He, Stephenson, and Reeside occupied adjacent offices. All worked and wrote extensively 
and had no time for chit-chat; their offices were referred to as the "hall of silent men." As an indication 
of productivity, during one month in the 1970s, Imlay was the author of five percent of all the 
Professional Papers published by the USGS. 

Woodring, Gardner and other USGS paleontologists studying Cenozoic fossils had their offices 
near Dall on the west side of the building. So little is known of Ralph Bentley Stewart (1901— 1957) 
and his Geological Survey career that it is uncertain when he arrived to consider the California fossil 
mollusks; it may not have been until the 1940s. 

During 1931, Stanton was appointed USGS Acting Chief Geologist and was given the job on a 
permanent basis the following year; despite his advanced age, Stanton served until 1935. With 
Stanton's move upward, Reeside, another Cretaceous specialist, headed the Section in 1 932 and held 
that position for the next nineteen years. 

USNM 1910-1941 

Following the death of Meirill, in 1929, Bassler became Head of the Depailmcnt of Geology in 
the Museum and occupied the position until retirement in 1948 (Yochelson 1985a); he remained 
around his office until a few years before his death in 1 96 1 . In 1 930, the Department employed Gustav 
Arthur Cooper (1902- ) (Fig. 20); this was the best decision of Bassler's career. Cooper left the 
museum building in 1987, fifty-seven years later, 15 years after his official retirement in 1972. As 
Cooper occasionally recounted, "Mr. Resser studied the Cambrian trilobites and Cooper had to care 
for all other fossils." He specialized on the study of fossil and Recent brachiopods, dramatically 
improved curatorial practices, and accumulated extensive collections. Cooper produced many mono- 
graphs which contributed significantly to Paleozoic stratigraphy and in some ways his work was 
comparable to that of the USGS paleontologists. Nevertheless, he was equally interested in the life 
habits, phylogeny, and classification of the brachiopods. He was, without a doubt, the outstanding 
Museum paleontologist of the 20th Century. 

A year after Gidley died in 1931, the Museum hired Charles Lewis Gazin (1904-1996) to 
continue research on Cenozoic mammals; he retired in 1970, but maintained his research effort for a 



Fk.L UL -U. U- Aiiliui l oiiper, last Head of Geology and tlrst Cliaimiaii of Paleobiology, and Mrs. Cooper 

In his office on the south side of the "new" National Museum Building. Taken June ]95A. 

Courtesy Smithsonian Institution .\rchives (SIA #85-4051 ). 

few more years. Gazin had previously worked a year or so for the USGS, but for some reason did not 
like the organization. 

From the early 1920s onward, funds were short for both the Geological Survey and Museum, 
but especially the latter. The great depression made a bad situation worse. The Museum had no money 
for cases, drawers or trays, but the Geological Sur\'ey would scrape together funds and lend these 
items. On several occasions. Cooper joined USGS paleontologists on field trips as. apart from salaries, 
there was essentially no funding for the Museum. 

World War II 

The Second World War affected everyone. The P&S Section was essentially reduced to Reeside 
and Brown; both had served as Lieutenants in the First World War. Williams and Helen Margaret 
Duncan (1910-1971), interested in Paleozoic bryozoans, went off to look for tluorite. Jean Milton 
Berdan (1916- ), another woman interested in Lower Paleozoic ostracodes, was involved in water 
resources work. 

Mackenzie Gordon, Jr. (1913-1992). later to make his name studying goniatites, looked for 
bauxite in Arkansas, and Preston Ercelle Cloud (1912-1991) (Fig. 21) was sent to find bauxite in 



Alabama. Cloud left the USGS after the War but then 
returned in 1949. Josiah Bridge headed the entire 
bauxite program and did not return to P&S until a few 
years before his death in 1954. Israel Gregory Sohn 
(191 1-2000). who had started as a technician in 1 94 1 , 
went to Military Geology and then searched for ben- 
tonite clays in Montana. In Military Geology, Julia 
Gardner studied tiny mollusks and foraminifers in 
sand ballast from a captured Japanese fire balloons 
and, combined with Lohman's analysis of the dia- 
toms, located the launching site in Japan. 

As far as the Museum staff was involved, verte- 
brate paleontology contributed members to the armed 
forces, and Gazin was an officer. Cooper accompa- 
nied Imlay in studies of stratigraphy in Mexico in the 
hopes of increasing oil production. After Resser died 
in 1943, Cooper constituted the endre staff of the 
Division of Invertebrate Paleontology and Paleobo- 

Also, as a consequence of the war, there was 
serious concern that Washington would be bombed. 
Shortly before 1941, illustrated material had been 
separated from the general collections as had the type 
specimens much earlier. So, with the onset of war, the 
illustrated material and the types were moved from 
the museum to off-site storage in limestone caves in 

Virginia. As a result of this, the Department came to maintain three kinds of collections: "type 
material," which included illustrated specimens; biological sets; and stratigraphic collections. Al- 
though many museums maintain their illustrated material in order by the publication in which they 
are described, the fossil holdings at the USNM are so huge that the "type" collections, including 
illustrated material, are maintained in cases in alphabetical order adjacent to, but separate from, the 
"biological" collections. 

Figure 2 1 . Preston E. Cloud, first chief of the USGS 

P&S Branch, taken about 1970, in his later years 

after leaving the USGS. Published by permission 

of the National Academy of Sciences. 

Post-War Boom in USGS 

In 1946, William Aubry Cobban moved into the Mesozoic Hall of Silent Men, and continued 
the tradition of silently writing extensive monographs. Beginning in 1948, the USGS expanded 
dramatically and the sections became branches. Williams and other Upper Paleozoic paleontologists 
were transferred to the not quite so new museum building to provide more space in another USGS 
building. They brought with them about 200 6-foot cases of fossils which had to be stored in the east 
attic. Jack Elwood Smedley began work on the Permian in 1947 and remained for about a decade 
before transferring to another part of the USGS. 

Along with the old hands who came back from war-time assignments, a few fomier assistants 
had worked their way up. 1. G. Sohn, for instance, went from the search for clay deposits during the 
war to the post-war study of ostracodes, and Wilbert Henry Hass (?-I959), who had joined P&S 
during the 1930s as a technician, now worked on conodonts. 


When Joseph Augustine Cushman (1881-1949), a USGS contract employee for many years, 
died, his foraminifer collection, along with Ruth Todd (1913-1984), who had started work for the 
Geological Survey in Cushman's laboratory in 1941, and Todd's assistant, Doris Low, came to the 
P&S Branch (1949). As a result, the branch expanded its space on the third floor of the museum into 
the southeast corridor. 

Following the administrative change wherein USGS sections became branches, in the fall of 
1949 Reeside stepped down and Cloud became Chief of the Paleontology and Stratigraphy Branch 
(Fig. 2 1 ). A dramatic new era of expansion began. About this time, Harry Stephen Ladd ( 1 899-1 982), 
experienced in the National Park Service before his stint in war-time USGS administration, trans- 
ferred to the branch and started his post-war investigations of Cenozoic rocks on the Pacific Islands. 
He also completed the massive treatise on paleoecology begun by Vaughan and was, at least, the 
grandfather of the deep-sea drilling program. 

Cloud hired a whole series of people, comparable to the increase of two decades earlier. In 1 949, 
Arthur James Boucot was brought in, a graduate student working on Paleozoic brachiopods under 
Cloud; and the following year. Cloud hired Allison Ralph Palmer, who had just completed his degree 
and was deep into investigations of Cambrian trilobites. In 195 1 , he hired the Paleozoic paleobotanist 
Sergius Harry Mamay. who had completed a post-doctorate year in England studying Carboniferous 
plants. In the space of one year, 1952, Cloud employed Richard Stanton Boardman, who was 
completing a thesis on Devonian bryozoans; Raymond Charles Douglass, who was to do research on 
larger foraminifers and fiisulinids; and Ellis Leon Yochelson, beginning a thesis on Permian 

Not only did Cloud want more people to serve the needs of the large increase of USGS geologists 
who were mapping, but he also wanted groups of fossils which had been little exploited to be made 
more usefijl for stratigraphic purposes. These people, and those who followed, tended to concentrate 
on a particular group of fossils and were more specialized than those who had preceded them. Though 
the conventional groups of fossils forage determination were studied in evermore detail, new groups 
were being investigated and utilized in increasing numbers. A second minor theme of these new hires 
was more emphasis on consideration of environments of deposition and on paleoecological interpre- 
tation of fossils. 

Notwithstanding more time for longer-temi research, the main emphasis was still on support for 
the field geologists, and all material sent in was to be reported on within a few months. A delay in an 
answer to an inquiry based on fossils led to a chastising by the Chief Commonly, the younger 
paleontologists were out each summer visiting field parties to provide on-the-spot assistance. 

After a second floor geological exhibit hall was closed, P&S expanded into "Stone Hall" for a 
decade, an office area nearly as uncomfortable as the attic storage area. Paleobotanist James Morton 
Schopf (191 1-1978) was in the Branch for a year, but he saw better opportunities with the Fuels 
Branch and set up his own laboratory in Columbus, Ohio. 

William .Jasper Sando (1927-1996) joined the branch in 1954, was detailed to another position 
for two years and in 1956 began study of Mississippian corals of the West, dying shortly af^er his 
retirement in 1993. Nonnan Fredrick Sohl ( 1924-1991 ) arrived in 1954 to work on the Cretaceous 
of the Gulf Coast and later the Caribbean, and brought a little noise into the "Hall of Silent Men." In 
1954, Robert Ballin Neuman moved from elsewhere in the USGS to the museum building, but he did 
not officially join the Branch to study of Lower Paleozoic brachiopods until a decade later; he retired 
in 1980, but is still busy as a volunteer and museum research associate. 

The great expansion of the USGS led to creation of P&S branch offices in Denver, Colorado, 
and Menlo Park, California. Cobban moved to Denver and others were hired directly for that facility. 


Richard Rezak came to Washington to study algae, both Precambrian and Recent; he then moved to 
Denver, to the oil industry, and to academia. Later, Ellen James Moore, who had been Julia Gardner's 
assistant, moved to the Menlo Park facility to study Cenozoic mollusks of the West Coast. In 1955. 
Dwight Willard Taylor, a specialist on nonmarine gastropods, came to P&S in Washington for several 
years before moving West; he left the USGS in 1967. Jack Albert Wolfe, a Mesozoic paleobotanist, 
began in Washington and then transferred to Denver for a long and noteworthy career. However, a 
number of Geological Survey paleontologists who had distinguished careers in the Denver and Menlo 
Park offices were never in Washington, except as occasional visitors and are not included in this 

William Albert Oliver, Jr. came from Brown University in 1957 to work on Devonian corals. At 
the time, there was so little obvious distinction between paleontologists of the USGS and USNM that 
he was offered a position with both the Department staff and P&S Branch, and given his choice. 
Ultimately, he accepted the position with the Geological Survey. The Survey had more money for 
field work and assistants, as well as a ready outlet for publication, but his decision may have been 
influenced by the fact that, under Cloud, detailed concentration on a patlicular group of fossils was 
strongly encouraged. The day of faunal studies of a formation had passed. 

Although Cloud took a year in Europe during his tenure, he was the branch chief until 1961. 
Charles Warren Merriam (I905-I974) had come East from Menlo Park, California, to be Acting 
Chief during that year, and took over again with the understanding that his earlier year as Acting 
Chief would be included in his term of office. It had become the custom throughout the USGS that 
a branch chief served five years. In 1961, a few months after stepping down as branch chief. Cloud 
left the Geological Survey. Merriam hired John Warfield Huddle (1907-1975) from the University 
of Kentucky to revive the studied of conodonts. but sadly, like Hass, he also died of cancer. Whether 
the heavy liquids used in concentration of conodonts were responsible is uncertain, but greater safety 
precautions with these liquids were installed. 

Being a young paleontologist for the USGS did not suit evei^one; Boucot left for a teaching 
career in 1956, but continued his study of brachiopods. Margaret Jean Hough, the first USGS 
veilebrate paleontologist since Marsh, came to the museum in the 1950s and left in 1960 for an 
academic position. A few years later. Palmer also left for the joys of academia. 

USGS studies in vertebrate paleontology finally found a focus when Frank Clifford Whitmore. 
Jr. transferred to P& S Branch in 1959, after more than a decade as Chief of Military Geology Branch. 
Since the early 1 950s, John Thomas Dutro. Jr. maintained an office at the Museum as a paleontologist 
with the Alaska Branch; he strengthened the Paleozoic contingent when, in 1956, he transferred to 
P&S Branch. 

Post-War Change for USNM 

After the war, the USNM began rebuilding its staff, though on a modest scale. Alfred Richard 
Loeblich, Jr. ( 1914— 1994) joined the staff in 1946, originally to study bryozoans, but because of 
conflict with Bassler's interest in that group, he soon began to study foraminifers, starting his new 
nnestigations by helping to move Cushman"s collection to Washington. The transfer of the Cushman 
collection of foraminfers to the USNM, made it the premier organization for study of this group of 
microfossils. Loeblich remained in the Department for just over a decade, leaving in 1957 for an oil 
research laboratory, and, ultimately, a university. 

David Hosbrook Dunkle (191 1-1984) came in 1947 to start a program in the study of fossil fish; 
as one of the rare examples of Museum to Geological Survey transfer, he spent 1961-1963 overseas 


with a USGS mission. It was a suiprise when he resigned in 1968 to move to the Cleveland Museum. 
Arthur Leroy Bowsher joined the Department in 1948 for a year, transferred to the USGS for a year 
to work in Alaska, returned to the Department staff for a year to study crinoids, and then left again 
in 1 95 1 for a career with the USGS before moving to the oil business in the late-1 950s. David Nicol 
arrived in 1949. the first Museum Cenozoic specialist; after eight years, he also left to teach at 
Southern Illinois University. 

Turnover of staff within the Department was significant during the 1 940s and 1 950s and, relative 
to the size of the two groups, it was far higher than among Geological Survey paleontologists. No 
single cause is obvious but, as slow as the rate of promotion was in the Survey, it was even slower 
within the Museum. 

To move to a more positive point, just before the start of World War II, Cooper had brought back 
a few small pieces of Permian limestone from west Texas and extracted fossil brachiopods using 
hydrochloric acid. In the post-war years, an annual trip to gather more and more blocks became a 
ritual. The blocks were acidified in a temporary building in the east courtyard, leaving a residue of 
magnificent fossils. "By spending the same time on the outcrop, collecting limestone blocks rather 
than loose specimens, the number of specimens increases by many orders of magnitude .... Silicified 
fossils are not sturdy. We have leaped from storing rocks to storing objects as delicate as butterflies" 
(Yochelson, 1969, 599). Millions of brachiopods accumulated along with a variety of other inverte- 
brates. Research Associate James Brookes Knight ( 1880-1960) retired from Princeton and spent a 
few months each year in Washington examining the Pennian snails. 

Following Bassler's retirement, mineralogist William Foshag was appointed Head Curator of 
the Department of Geology (Yochelson, 1985a). In 1956, Cooper became Head Curator, and he had 
plans for division and reorganization into a Department of Mineral Sciences and a Department of 

Cooper hired Porter Martin Kier in 1 957 to examine echinoids. After completing his thesis under 
Geological Survey auspices, in 1 957, Boardman transferred to the Museum's Department of Geology; 
his view was that paleontologists should be concerned with biology of the organism and less interested 
in its age. To strengthen study of fossil vertebrates, Peter Paul Vaughn came in 1958, but left in 1960 
for academia. Nicholas Hotton III (1921-1999) arrived in 1959 to wrestle with the fossil reptiles and 
had a distinguished career before retirement. Erie Galen Kauffmann was hired in 1 960 and established 
himself as one who brought in enonuous collections of Cretaceous invertebrates. Sohl of the USGS 
and he collaborated closely but, in 1980, Kauffmann left for the University of Colorado. Richard 
Cifelli ( 1 923-1 984) joined the staff in 1 960 to look after the foraminifers; his career was cut short 
by cancer. 

The USNM staff continued to be "poor relations" relative to its counterpart in the P&S Branch. 
Funds for field work were in short supply and, more commonly than not, it was the USGS that bought 
new cases, drawers, and specimen trays. Neither organization had sufficient technical support, but 
P&S had relatively more than those in USNM. Perhaps the single greatest daily annoyance to the 
Museum's "have nots" was that USGS offices had window air conditioners. These actually had little 
effect, for the building was brick faced with thick granite and soaked up heat from March onward to 
the late fall, but they were symbolic. 

Girty had set a tone in not transferring the Late Paleozoic collections to the USNM. Eventually 
his type specimens were added to the collections, but the bulk of the material remained the propertv 
of the Department of Interior. Likewise, most of the Paleozoic collections made during the time that 
Cloud was branch chief and for years thereafter were not transferred. The Museum continued to 
receive material but, increasingly, its staff was more concerned with research of their own choosing 


than with curatioii of the growing collections. The Geological Survey collections were well curated, 
but neither they nor the National Museum were particularly zealous in the joint duties of transfer of 

During the 1950s and 1960s, the younger members of P&S and the Department of Geology/Pa- 
leobiology socialized. As families grew and commuting became more difficult, there was less 
interaction between the groups. The intimate association between Museum and Geological Survey 
eroded slightly as organizational memory was lost. For both groups of paleontologists who were 
beginning their careers, promotion depended on productivity. Among a few of the people, an 
unspoken feeling was that the bright lights in the Geological Survey were wasting their careers in 
aiding field men and, conversely, obtuse problems of no practical importance were being pursued by 
some members of the Department. 

One of the problems faced by the Department staff was that of the outdated public displays. 
Eventually, four new halls were completed (Yochelson, 1985). It was a painful process and required 
a great deal of time and effort. Except for occasional and minor contributions, the staff of P&S was 
not involved. Still later, several of these exhibit halls were completely redone. 

More New Quarters and Staff 

New space was one major event of the next decade for the two groups. An air conditioned east 
wing with six research floors was added to the building in 1 962. Formerly, the USGS placed between 
two and four people in each room in the main building, but now finally P&S had the entire third floor 
of the wing and part of the fifth and first floors in this new facility. Those in the Department of 
Paleobiology occupied most of the first floor, all of second and some of the fifth. Along with the new 
space for people came new space for empty cases and new space for collections. 

Shortly after the move to new space in the east wing, the organization of the Department of 
Paleobiology ensued. In 1963, Cooper became the first in charge of the new Department of 
Paleobiology; he also held the title of Chairman rather than Head Curator (Yochelson, 1 985a), another 
change from the past. Although it may have seemed trivial at the time, "paleontology" was not in the 
title and use of "paleobiology" in retrospect signified a break with past tradition. A certain amount 
of research had always been done by members of both the Department and P&S Branch staffs, 
depending in part on individual temperament and time available; but this title was a clear signal that 
the Museum was shifting more toward research. 

Dutro became chief of P&S Branch in 1962 in the new quarters and he was followed by Sohl in 
1968. Under both, the staff continued to expand slightly and identifying fossils and writing descrip- 
tions continued on more or less an even keel. Almost immediately after the move in 1 963, John Pojeta, 
Jr. was hired to help support USGS mapping in the state of Kentucky. The Geological Survey started 
its own program of dissolving limestone blocks to obtain silicified fossils from the older rocks of that 
state. P&S used the Museum acid room in the east wing basement. The same year Olgarts Karklins 
came to study Kentucky bryozoans. 

Blake Winfield Blackwelder arrived in 1972 to study Tertiary fossils for the USGS and stayed 
until I98I before switching to the oil business. Harlan Richard Bergquist ( 1908-1982), who began 
by studied microfossils for the Alaskan Branch, transferred to P&S at the Museum about 1967. Anita 
Gertrude Harris, who began as a preparator and went on to become USGS map editor, came back to 
P&S Branch and, among other accomplishments, developed the conodont alteration index (CAI), a 
major tool for investigations of oil prospects of a region; she retired in 1997. As a result of a project 
to study Miocene at the Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant, Lauke Ward came as a technician; he was 


the last in the Branch to work his way up to professional status before he resigned to help organize a 
new natural history museum in Virginia. 

in 1962, Thomas George Gibson began working on Cenozoic foraminifers. Joseph Eniest Hazel 
came in 1964 to work on younger ostracodes. Richard Monroe Forester was hired in 1975 to add to 
the ostracode effort; he was at the museum and then Reston before moving to Denver. Elisabeth M. 
Brower started as a technician in Washington, but came into her own with ostracodes, after 
transferring to Denver. Laurel Mary Bybell was another person added in 1975; she has the distinction 
of being the first of the group to be moved to Reston, Virginia, in 1978, occupying a huge empty 
space to reserve it for future use. Nomian John Silberling was hired in 1 975 for the Menlo Park office; 
some time later he came to P&S in Washington for a year and, when he returned to California, some 
cases of Triassic fossils left the Museum with him. Now retired, Silberling continues Triassic work 
in Denver. John Edward Repetski came in 1975 to work on Lower Paleozoic conodonts for the P&S 
Branch. In 1969. Michael E. Taylor filled the long vacant spot in the study of Cambrian trilobites. 
before he transferred to Denver; when he moved a significant part of the Cambrian collection moved 
with him. and it remained in Denver when he retired in 1995. 

Again developments of the Museum paralleled the USGS on a more modest scale. The first 
paleobotanist came to the department when Francis Maurice Hueber joined in 1 962 to study Devonian 
plants. Martin Alexander Buzas came in 1963 to strengthen research in foraminifers. The year 1964 
was a banner year for the Department; it added four new members. Richard Hall Benson came from 
teaching at Kansas to a career with ostracodes and study of the Cenozoic of the Mediterranean region. 
Clayton Edward Ray began studying fossil mammals with emphasis on marine forms and has 
continued on since retirement in 1996. Walter Adey began studying fossil algae, switched to Recent 
fornis and marine ecosystems, and formed a unit separate from the department in 1984. Kenneth M. 
Towe began to worry about oxygen in the Precambrian atmosphere and other more esoteric matters 
until his retirement, also in 1996. It is symbolic of a fiiture division of approach that, whereas the 
Smithsonian telephone directory listed a biological specialty for both the Geological Survey paleon- 
tologists and those in the Department, Towe's specialty was listed as "electron microscope." 

The Department staff expanded a little more. Thomas Richard Waller started looking at scallops 
as a staff member in 1966 and has continued apace. Alan Herbert Cheetham left the academic life at 
Louisiana State University in 1967 to concentrate on Cenozoic bryozoans in Washington. However, 
like some members of the P&S Branch, the Department was not for everyone; Richard Ashby Robison 
came in 1966 to study trilobites. intensely disliked commuting, and left in 1967. 

By mid— 1 964. a west wing of the building was completed and was available for occupancy. The 
paleobotanical contingent of P&S and the Departinent moved again to new quarters. Now that there 
was space. Lohman moved to the west wing from another USGS building. Paleobotanist Leo Joseph 
Hickey was added to the departmental staff in 1969, but in 1980 the Yale Peabody Museum called, 
and he answered the call. 

The 1960s were the golden time for paleontology in Washington. It was the heyday of the P&S 
Branch with 31 professionals and 35 support staff on its rolls at the USNM. The Museum's 
departmental staff was approximately half that size, but together, and in one capacity or another, some 
90 persons were examining fossils. Apart from institutes in Nanjing and Moscow, the USNM housed 
the largest concentration of paleontologists in one establishment in the world. Indeed, it has been 
stated infonnally, that the large contingent of USGS personnel was a strong reason for building the 
east wing. 

After the USNM departmental reorganization was in place and functioning well. Cooper stepped 
down in 1 967 and Kier became Chaimian of Paleobiology. By then, the USNM had also established 


five years as a tenn for a chainnan. In 1 969, the United States National Museum metamorphosed into 
the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH); at the insistence of the curators, the abbreviation 
used to designate specimens remains USNM. 

Robert John Emry was hired in 1971 and took up the task of investigating early Cenozoic 
mammals, replacing Gazin, who retired in 1970. In 1973, immediately after his temi as Department 
Chainnan, Kier became director of the National Museum of Natural History, serving until 1980. He 
returned briefly to the Department to look at a few more fossil echinoids, then having seen them all, 
or at least most of them, he retired. James Francis Mello, who had been hired by the Geological 
Survey's P&S Branch to study Cretaceous foraminifers in 1962, developed a taste for administration 
by 1970 and transferred to the office of the Chief Geologist. Three years later, Kier appointed Mello 
as Assistant Director and Mello remained in administration for about a decade, before returning to 
foraminifers for a year or so and then taking an early retirement. 

Cooper had received a grant from the National Science Foundation to continue his work on 
silicified Permian brachiopods and, in 1957, Richard EvansGrant( 1927-1994) came to Washington. 
When this grant money was expended, he joined the P&S Branch and continued to assist Cooper in 
preparing and describing Pennian brachiopods. 

Whereas the Chief of P&S Branch was appointed by the Chief Geologist, the Chainnan of the 
Department was elected by the staff, subject to final approval by the Museum director. At least twice 
in the history of Paleobiology, a staff member who wanted the position worried other staff members 
to the extent that he was not elected. In 1973, Grant transfeired to the Department staff, moving from 
the third floor to the second, and followed Porter Kier as the next departmental chainnan; because of 
a major departmental split, bringing in an "outside" person resolved the dilemma. Grant's fatal heart 
attack in December. 1994. shocked evewone. Earlier, however, Martin Buzas had followed Grant as 
Chainnan and had served for nearly six years, from 1977-1982. 

Tarnish on the Golden Age 

The new w ings pro%ided air conditioning, far better lighting and much needed space for offices 
and collections. Still, there was a disad\ antage in being spread among four floors. One practical point 
is that in the main part of the building there was only one toilet on the third floor. Sooner or later, 
P&S Branch and Department members met and exchanged a few words. The new wings provided 
many rest rooms, but increased the isolation of the two groups and to some extent within each group. 
Slight though this contact may have been and humorous though it may seem, this was another factor 
in divergence of the two groups. One must keep in mind that museums tend to attract people who are 
to some extent the antithesis of gregarious sales people. Further, the longer one pursues a speciality, 
the less time one has to socialize, even among peers. This is one of differences between academic 
institutions and museums. 

When Nonnan Sohl stepped down as USGS Branch Chief, Joseph Hazel took over the position 
from 1973-1978. Thomas Woodrow Henry was hired to study marine inveilebrates from the 
Pennsylvanian stratotype section, and remained at the museum building for nearly a decade, before 
moving to Denver. When he mo\ ed. the bulk of the Late Paleozoic Geological Sur\ey fossil collection 
went to Denver with him. 

More significantly in the history of that organization, the completion in the 1970s of a new 
building for the U. S. Geological Surrey at Reston, Virginia, provided for more expansion. Almost 
all of the new staff were in the field of micropaleontology and primarily oriented tov\ard younger 


Ceiiozoic rocks, rather than older Paleozoic strata, and again toward groups of fossils which had not 
been studied by USGS specialists. 

Of profound significance, for the first time since Geological Survey paleontologists were in 
Washington, their headquarters left the Museum. Hazel transferred the office of the Branch Chief of 
P&S Branch to Reston, and left the Geological Survey for the oil business in 1983. Hazel was followed 
as Branch Chief by William V. Sliter(1935— 1997), a foraminifer specialist who, like Merriam, came 
east from Menlo Park, and had scant knowledge of the Museum contingent or the histoid of 
USGS-USNM relations. Thomas Mark Cronin was hired in 1978. had at office at NMNH. and 
continued the tradition in ostracode studies. 

Next, several paleontologists who had been at the museum transferred to Reston. These included 
Cronin, Gibson, Harris, Karklins and Repetski in the early 1 980s. From the standpoint of collections, 
moving the microfossils was relatively easy. When Sohl transferred to Reston, a number of large, 
hea\y cases went with him. On the other hand, Pojeta went to Reston but kept most of his collections 
at the Museum. Whitmore was not transferred to Reston; he retired in 1984, but like most retirees he 
kept right on pursuing his research. 

Bruce Wardlaw holds the all-time record for moving. He had a post-doctorate with the Museum 
Department, followed by a post-doctorate with the USGS P&S Branch, followed by USGS employ- 
ment in Washington and then Reston, followed by a move to Denver and a return to Reston. Along 
the way he switched from brachiopods to conodonts, because they are a more useful biostratigraphic 
group. Large scale programs of dissolving limestone to extract fossils ceased, in part because of 
environmental regulations and, in part, because of poor original design and constmction of the 
facilities in the aging east wing. 

Decline and Fall at USGS 

During 1979, the USGS began a major change in organization. One step was to shift to 
programmatic research. Whereas the tradition had been that P&S was a "serxice" organization, with 
e\ery Chief from Cloud onv\ard urging more time for independent research, now identification of 
fossils for field parties was downgraded. More or less simultaneously, budget problems developed. 
Several middle management administrators seized this as a reason to detail for se\ eral months some 
paleontologists at the Museum to proof-read regulations for the Office of Surface Mining. Protests 
to the branch chief were to no avail. 

Funds for field w ork began to decline, but especially so forthe paleontologists. As paleontologists 
no longer visited field parties, the number of collections sent in for examination and report began to 
decline, for it was assumed that there was no reason to collect fossils which would not be studied. It 
was a self-fiilfiUing prophesy. 

In 1984, Sliter was followed as Branch Chief, for a very few months, by Taylor, the only time 
Branch headquarters was in Denver. Later in 1 984, Richard Z. Poore, yet another foraminifer person 
moving east from California, was appointed branch chief and returned P&S Branch headquarters to 
Reston. Poore chose to emphasize investigations of paleoclimatology of the late Cenozoic. 

Poore had no prior experience or understanding of the relationship that had existed among 
Museum and Geological Surxey staff and administrations, and the acting director of the museum, at 
that time, likewise, had no knowledge of this past histoi^. As a consequence, P&S paleontologists 
were strongly encouraged to mo\e to Reston, even though this meant smaller quarters for them. In 
1988, Repetski, Harris, and Pojeta were mo\ed out of the building. Eventually only a few persons 
interested in Paleozoic megafossils remained in Washington. 



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Figure 22. John Pojeta, Jr. (1999). 
Photo courtesy Alan Leviton. 

Figure 23. John Thomas Dutro. Jr. (1999). 
Photo courtesy Alan Leviton. 

Retirements of the USGS post-war generation of paleontologists had started with Neuman in 
1980, Mainay in 1982, Whitmore in 1984 and Yochelson in 1985; Oliver and Sando both retired in 
1993. The Museum generously provided offices for those who remained in Washington, and they 
continued as Research Associates in the Department. Pojeta took over as Branch Chief froin Poore 
in 1 989; after Pojeta's retirement in 1 994 ( Fig. 22), he too returned to the Museum as another full-time 
working retiree. Wardlaw becaine Chief of P&S Branch in 1 994. following Pojeta. Gibson came back 
to the Museum as a retiree in 1995. 

Dutro (Fig. 23), the last P&S Branch paleontologist at the Museum, officially retired in 1994 — 
though, like others, he is still active — and the last technician, Keith Moore, retired in July. 1995. 
The long tenure of Geological Survey paleontologists in the Museum, which had begun in 1881, 
ended. Later that year, other USGS paleontologists were lost by a government reduction in force, not 
only at Reston, but also at Denver and Menio Park. 

During the mid-1990s, an administrative decision was made that there were no longer to be any 
branches with national responsibilities. On October 1, 1995, the Paleontology and Stratigraphy 
Branch was dissolved and the few remaining Geological Survey paleontologists were scattered to 
other projects. A new director in 1999 commented "We have been accused of never wanting to stop 
anything, but we have ended programs. A lot of stratigraphy and paleontology programs, for example, 
aren't around anymore . . .'" (Molina, 1999:11). Apparently whatever paleontologists might have 
contributed in the past, they will not, in the foreseeable future, have the opportunity again to aid the 
Geological Survey. 

The Last Quarter Century in the Museum's Department of Paleobiology 

Cooper's reorganization included adding a division for sedimentologists. The hope in part was 
that this might lead to an active role for the Museum in the Deep Sea Drilling Program and, in part, 
might lead to paleoecological investigations. Jack W. Pierce was the first sedimentologist, aixiving 


in 1965. M. Grant Gross came in 1966 but left in less than two years; it was such a short stay that it 
is not listed in American Men and Women of Science. Daniel Jean Stanley arrived later in 1966. 

Although interesting research resulted from the group, neither hope was realized. In one sense, 
the sedimentologists are not germane to the story, but in another sense they were part of the group 
making decisions on policy and on hiring; two sedimentologists served as departmental chairman. 

Ian George Maclntyre, who came to Museum in 1 970 and joined the Department in 1 972 to work 
on coral reefs, primarily recent ones, took over the duties as departmental chairman from Buzas. The 
first woman on the Paleobiology staff was Anna Kay Behrensmeyer, hired in 1981 and specializing 
in vertebrate taphonomy, that is what processes affect the bones after an animal dies; she moved up 
to Acting Associate Director for Research in 1993, and returned full-time to the Department in 1996. 

When Maclntyre stepped down, Pierce, a sedimentologist not closely allied to any group of 
fossils, became chairman. Money problems that beset the USGS affected the Museum at about the 
same time. It is generally agreed that Pierce's administration was not a happy time, but it is equally 
agreed that this was because of external developments over which he had no control. He retired in 

Notwithstanding these problems. Pierce was still able to increase the staff Scott Lewis Wing 
was added to the staff in 1 984 to work on Cretaceous-Tertiary floras; after a museum post-doctorate, 
he was employed by the P&S Branch for a short time before joining the Department staff In 1985, 
William Anthony DiMichele came from the University of Washington to study Late Paleozoic plants; 
he was briefly in the west wing of the building. In only a few years, he became Department Chairman, 
following Pierce. 

Perhaps the most symbolic event of this period was in 1987 when Cooper left the Museum after 
57 years of faithful service to paleontology. A Museum Support Center, a few miles from Washington, 
was opened in 1983 and, in another symbolic event, the first collections of fossils were moved there 
a week following Cooper's departure. Other internal space moves resulted in the paleobotanists 
joining their fellow paleontologists in the east wing. 

A 1990 addition to the departmental staff was Douglas Hamilton Erwin, concerned with Permian 
history and its snails, among many other interests. Also in 1990, Brian Thomas Huber, joined the 
staff and added more strength to the world's largest collection of foraminifers, along with his interest 
in correlation by foraminfers of some of the deep seas cores. Conrad Columbus Labandiera, came in 
1992 and opened a new field for the department in his investigations of fossil insects. A reasonable 
generalization is that, during the time P&S was in dramatic decline, the Department more or less 
remained steady and has since been slightly strengthened. Ray retired in 1996 but still comes to the 
museum occasionally. 

Although a specialty is given above for the paleontologists on the Museum staff, this is not a 
truly accurate description. The philosophy of hiring had shifted, and an extreme expression of this is 
that, to fill a vacancy, the best paleontologist should be hired, the fossil group of which the person 
had most knowledge being secondary. One consequence of this is that few on the current staff are 
investigating Paleozoic rocks or fossils. Overall, the rate of collecting fossils has also declined 
dramatically relative to the 1960s. 

Another new development is more emphasis on international studies. Paleontology has always 
been broad in intellectual outlook, but employment for the Department of Interior required a great 
deal of ingenuity for a paleontologist to spend much time overseas. In contrast, the stricture on the 
Museum's Department in this regard was concerned with funding rather than philosophy. During the 
1980s the Department became strongly international in the research efforts of its staff 

In 1996, Richard H. Benson became Department Chairman. The Walcott Fund, which had been 


taken away by the Director's office during Pierce's tenure, was returned to the Department. The 
Department staff is still strong, but the number of professional positions has declined slightly from 
its high point in the 1960s. John Michael Pandolfi was added to the staff in 1996, his prime interest 
being in coral reefs. There is hope for a dinosaur specialist, but the Museum has never had one and 
in light of the public interest in these fossils, this lack of a staff person is bizarre. Still, with its smaller 
staff the Department of Paleobiology cannot provide the coverage of fossil groups that was available 
in the 1960s and 1970s when Geological Survey and Museum paleontology were both strong. 

Transfer of collections to the Museum Support Center has continued. There are probably more 
fossils out of the Museum building than in it, and examining these collections is more complex and 
time consuming than when the cases were at hand. The material which Sohl moved to Reston has 
been returned to Washington. Collections located at the former P&S offices in Denver and Menlo 
Park" remain at those locations, and they cannot be completely transferred to the Museum because 
of space limitations. These include collections which had been in Washington at one time and were 
removed when USGS paleontologists left for these centers. Apart from the preservation of type 
specimens, the concept of a museum of record is no longer a significant concern. Major reconstruction 
within the east wing presents new and varied problems for the working scientists, though there is 
assurance from the administration that all will be well by 2002, 2003, or a year or so after, at the 

Unfortunately, this history must end on that down note. Yet, the story of paleontology in 
Washington has been one of ups and downs, so that one can only hope that, in a few years, the 
pendulum will swing again and that more paleontologists will join those still at the National Museum 
of Natural History. 

Research Trends 

One extreme approach to fossils is to be concerned only with the age of the rocks that yield them. 
Another extreme is to be concerned only with the biology of the organism, and ignore its age. It has 
been argued that paleontologists combine these approaches but they are neither geologists or 
biologists (Knight, 1947). Ancillary to this division, somewhere between "pure" biostratigraphy and 
"pure" paleobiology lies the discipline of paleoecology. The environments of the past are significant, 
but relatively few persons classify themselves as paleoecologists; in a sense that discipline has been 
subsumed within paleobiology. 

Another aspect of research should be considered. Most paleontologists of the first and second 
generation were concerned with megafossils, easily studied, at least at a first stage. Following the 
First World War, emphasis began to shift to microfossils, requiring a microscope at all stages. During 
the last half of the 20th Century, ultramicrofossils, requiring the scanning electron microscope, have 
become increasingly significant. The Washington paleontologists covered all parts of the stratigraphic 
column, but their greatest area of specialist knowledge was in the Paleozoic. This is now a portion of 
time essentially neglected, and indeed few of those remaining in Washington are interested in fossils 
much older than the Cretaceous. 

Summing this up and allowing for many exceptions, 1850-1925 may be characterized as an era 
overwhelmingly concerned with biostratigraphy, at least as far as invertebrate fossils were concerned. 
After the time of Meek, research was conducted by the paleontologists of the Geological Survey. 
Those few on the staff of the Museum worked hard, but because they were so few their efforts do not 

" In 1999, the Menlo Park Mesozoic and Cenozoic collections, primaiHIy Alaskan in origin, were transferred to the Museum 
of Paleontology at the University of California, Berkeley. 


loom large. Like their counterparts, at least some of the studies were directed toward biostratigraphy. 
One need only look at the correlations charts published by the Geological Society of America to see 
the importance of the P&S staff and of Cooper from the Museum. 

In marked contract, the last quarter of the 20th Century has seen an overwhelming emphasis on 
paleobiology. From 1925 through 1975, both approaches were employed. As the practical problems 
of age determination and correlation were resolved and as geophysical investigations of the subsur- 
face became more important, the need to have paleontologists smdy both large and small fossils in 
relation to geologic problems declined in both the Federal and private sectors. 

The end of paleontology in the Geological Survey is a classic example of success being the cause 
of failure. In the final analysis, it was forces within the Geological Survey that first minimized and 
then destroyed the field of paleontology. Ostensibly, these were all budget driven during the 1980s, 
yet the Museum had equally severe funding difficulties but was able to support its scientists. From 
the 1960s onward, the Geological Survey and the Museum had different objectives. The wonder is 
not that they had diverged, but that they existed in harmony under one roof for a century. Despite this 
difference in approach, retirees from the Geological Survey continue to conduct research at the 
Museum. This is an independent proof that changing views between administrators of the two 
organizations as to the kind of research which should be conducted had no direct effect on the course 
of events among individuals. 

If one defines a "golden age" by number of persons employed, paleontology in Washington has 
passed its time in the sun and, indeed, the study of fossils is in decline worldwide. This should not be 
taken to mean that investigations of evolution, speciation or extinction are any less important. If Meek 
returned to the Museum a cenmry after his death, though he would have been impressed with far 
better microscopes and lighting, and astounded by some of the groups of microfossils, nevertheless 
he would have understood what was being studied and why. Today, on the other hand, he would be 
bewildered by the kinds of problems addressed. It is an inaccurate metaphor that the modem-con- 
nected computer has replaced the geologic hammer, yet there is a kernel of truth in the observation. 
To a large extent, interest has shifted away from detailed study of particular groups of fossils. 

Possibly, paleobiology will bring new intellectual advances. However, determining the signifi- 
cance of ideas on, say, life habit of a extinct organism, against the significance of determining the 
age of a rock from an unknown area, makes the classic problem of comparing apples and oranges 
appear to be child's play. Equally important, the great days of collecting fossils are over, for they are 
a non-renewable resource. Increasingly older collections will have to be mined for data and will of 
necessity produce somewhat skewed results. Nevertheless, that is better than considering fossils as 
icons, to be observed only from afar and not studied at all. 

Private Biases Based on Examination of the Two Organizations 

1. Working scientists in an organization are best supervised by a working scientist. The 
supervisor, in turn, must have the confidence and support of the higher levels of administration. The 
fewer the levels-the better! 

2. For any museum or museum-like organization, collections and their proper care are funda- 
mental. Collections are not the "end all," but they are the "be all" and "do all" of such places. 
Preserving the past and documenting past accomplishments are functions of a civilization. 

3. Collection-based scientists should be near the collections they might want to study. Dead 
storage is an accurate descriptive term, as items relocated from areas of human activity lead to 
"out-of-sight, out-of-mind," and loss of their utility as intellectual stimulants. So far as the confusion 


engendered by transfer of offices of scientists purely for the benefit of administrators, three moves is 
approximately equivalent to one fire. 

4. The best and most enduring work is not necessarily done in the best physical environment. 
Lots of nice new space is fine, but it does not guarantee a good product. Required reading for everyone, 
but particularly for administrators, should be C. Northcote Parkinson's book Parkinson 's Law. 

5. Many scientists are prima donnas and do not necessarily interact well with colleagues. 
However, more often than not, isolation from other colleagues results in much routine publication, 
but a limited number of good ideas. The dual concepts of a "critical mass" of scientists and "optimum 
size" need to be more carefully explored in organizational structure. 

6. Routine tasks done by highly trained people is a waste of money and time. Proper assistance 
is a key feature of a well-run organization. The best labor saving device is not a machine, but someone 
else doing the routine work. 

7. Expansion in good times is tine. Hiring too many people of the same age, no matter how much 
promise they have, is not good. Organizations may age, but generally it is the aging staff without the 
infusion of new ideas from young people that causes problems, not the organizational framework. 

8. Scientists should expect to be supported for long periods and encouraged to produce definitive 
works, rather than short tenn products. Anathema is too mild a word for the concept of annual 
programmatic research. Cutting paper work in an organization by trusting the staff would have the 
great benefit of forcing most "bean counters" to move elsewhere. 


This work is modified from an unpublished document prepared in 1996 by Yochelson and J. 
Thomas Dutro, Jr.; it also draws on Nelson and Yochelson (1980). Clifford Nelson also provided 
hard-to-find infonnation on the careers of several early government paleontologists. Alan E. Leviton 
and Michael Ghiselin generously invited me to participate in a 1998 symposium at the California 
Academy of Sciences; subsequently, J. Thomas Dutro, Jr., William A. Oliver, Jr., Michele L. Aldrich, 
and Alan Leviton labored to make substantial improvements in its organization, not always at first to 
my liking! The staffs of the Smithsonian Institution Archives and USGS Photographic Library 
contributed significantly to the visual aspects of this summary. 


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Copyright ©2000 by the California Academy of Sciences 

Golden Gate Park. San Francisco. California 94 II 8. USA. 

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Samurai at the Smithsonian 
First Japanese Visitors to Western Museum in the U.S. 


1-29-105 Kamimura-cho 

Showa-ku, Nagoya, Japan 466-0802 


In 1 860, at the very end of the Edo era, the Tokugawa Shogunate sent a mission, so-called Man'en 
Gannen Mission, to the United States of America in order to ratify the Japan-U.S. Treaty of Amity 
and Commerce. The mission members were the first official Japanese visitors to the U.S. with the 
exception of a few castaways. 

In Edo [Tokyo] in 1603, a leading samurai was appointed by the emperor as his Shogun and with 
this designation he set up a feudal government, the Tokugawa Shogunate. In the three hundred year- 
long and peaceful Edo era, the status system of samurai-farmer-artisan-merchant became established 
and at the top of this were the samurai (samurai was a male-only status). The samurai were at first 
professional soldiers who fought with swords; however, under the peaceful circumstances that 
prevailed, gradually they became the learned officials of bureaucracy. 

At the time Commodore Matthew C. Perry's squadron of ships arrived in 1853, Japan had been 
more or less shut off from the rest of the world for more than two hundred years in a self-imposed 
isolation. Nevertheless, there was a steady shift toward the opinion that Japan should open its doors 
and actively encourage the introduction of advanced foreign ideas. Being eager to obtain first-hand 
knowledge of the ad\anced country, some progressive officials conceived of the signing of the treaty 
as presenting an opportunity to tour in the United States. Strong opposition to the establishment of 
international relations, however, still existed within the country, and a political shakeup in the 
Shogunate brought about the downfall of these progressive officials, so that they were not able to 
travel as ambassadors. 

Finally, in October, 1859, the post of the Ambassador was assigned to Masaoki Shimmi, a new 
Foreign Affairs Commissioner. Having served as Shogun's chamberlain for years, Shimmi was a 
refined gentleman, which was his major credential for appointment to an ambassadorship. The post 
of the Vice-Ambassador went to Norimasa Muragaki, another Foreign Affairs Commissioner. His 
experience in various posts in the Shogunate bureaucracy was recognized. Apparently, however, both 
Shimmi and Muragaki were less imaginative than the original innovative officials with respect to 
both experience m foreign affairs and eagerness to obtain foreign knowledge. The third ambassador 
was Censor [Counselor] Tadamasa Oguri, of the Censor's Office, who had a reputation for intelli- 
gence (Fig. 1 ). The three ambassadors were accompanied by seventeen officials, fifty-one servants, 
and six cooks. Most of the servants and cooks were samurai; so interested were they to participate in 
the mission, they were willing to accept less prestigious positions in order to travel. Thus, the mission 
was composed largely of intellectuals.' 

Leaving Edo on February 9, I860, the seventy-seven mission members arrived in Washington, 
D.C., on May 14, having traveled by way of Honolulu, San Francisco, and Panama. During their 
25-day stay in Washington, they exchanged the treaty ratification documents, attended official 
functions, and visited places of interest, among them being the Smithsonian Institution.- It was the 
first Japanese visit on record to a Western museum. At that time, the Smithsonian building contained 




a natural histoiy "museum" along with other fa- 
cilities, which would be identified as the prece- 
dents of both a science and technology museum 
and an art museum. 

The purpose of this paper is to examine one 
of the least understood aspects of scientific con- 
tacts between Japan and the West at the end of the 
Edo era — in short, the Japanese reception of a 
Western-style natural history museum. I will first 
describe .lapanese traditional exhibitions in the 
Edo era, and then trace how the Japanese mission 
came to visit the Smithsonian Institution. Finally 
I will interpret mission members" understandings 
and perceptions of the Institution and its museum. 

1. Two Kinds of Exhibitions in the 
Edo Era 

Toward the end of the Edo era, several offi- 
cial missions and many students who were sent to 
the West had the opportunity to see Western-style 
museums and exhibitions. Such experiences led 
to the opening of the first national exhibitions of 
products in Tokyo in 1871 because the new Meiji 
government was eager to encourage industries to 
catch up with the advanced countries of Europe 
and America. Furthennore, this form of exhibi- 
tion was familiar to the people because two kinds 
of private exhibitions — Yakuhin'e and De-kaicho — had already been held during the Edo era. It 
should be noted that Japanese-style museums and exhibitions, in their earliest stages, developed 
together in Japan.-* Because I believe that the objects displayed at the national exhibitions as well as 
the experiences with them in time must have had some impact on the creation of a national museum, 
let us first examine the configurations of the two Japanese traditional exhibitions that existed before 
the reception of Western-style museums. 

(1) Yakuhin'e 

Yakuhin'e was a kind of temporary exhibition of natural objects from various regions. Its purpose 
was to promote Honzogaku. Honzogaku, that is research on medicinal plants, animals, and minerals, 
had been introduced into Japan from China around the fifth or sixth century. In the earliest days of 
the Edo era — at the beginning of the seventeenth century — a systematic book, Honzo Komoku 
( 1 596), was introduced from China and stimulated Honzogaku. As Honzo Komoku gradually came 
to be understood and digested, Japanese "products," that is native Japanese plants, animals, and 
minerals, became objects to be dealt with. This trend culminated in Yamato Honzo (1708), in which 
1362 species, including 358 Japanese indigenous products, were classified.'' 

Meanwhile, in its self-imposed isolation, Japan traded only with the Netherlands and China. In 
the mid-seventeenth century, two books, Rembert Dodoens's Cruydt boeck (Dutch version, 1644) on 

FKiURE. I Ambassadors of Man'en Gannen Mission. 

Left to right standing: Morita and Naruse; 

seated: Shimmi, Oguri, and Muragaki, 

(The New York Illustrated News, May 19. 1860) 


plants and John Johnstone's Naeukeurige beschyving van de natuur der vier-voelige dieren. vissen 
en bloedloze waterdieren, vogelen. kronkeldieren. slangen en draken (Dutch version, 1660) on 
animals, were introduced to Japan. These books were used by physicians and naturalists throughout 
the Edo era. Thus, in spite of its isolation, European natural history was introduced to Japan by way 
of Dutch books. - 

With the development of Honzogaku, the first Yakuhin'e was held in Edo in 1 757. This exhibition 
was arranged so that naturalists might exchange their knowledge about natural objects. One hundred 
and eighty objects were exhibited. Six years later, the advocate of Yakuhin'e, Gennai Hiraga, 
published Butswui Hinshiisu { 1 763), an illustrated book in which he described 360 specimens chosen 
from about 2000 objects that had been exhibited at five previous Yakuhin'es. He had bought several 
Dutch natural history books, such as the ones mentioned above, and introduced knowledge on Dutch 
natural history in his Butswui Hinshiisu. Because Gennai wanted to keep his exhibition academic, 
he forbade people from exhibiting freakish objects, such as entertaining deformities.'" 

As Yakuhin'e gradually spread among the large cities, such as Kyoto, Osaka, and Nagoya, and 
smaller towns, they became more popularized. A medical school in Nagoya, for example, has held a 
Yakuhin'e in Igakukan [medical building] on June 10 every year since 1831. From the beginning, 
this exhibition was open to the public. It included such unusual and rare objects as a mounted tiger, 
a mounted striped-mouse, a dried thomed-crab. various minerals, the skin of a large sea otter, a living 
snake with two heads, a living white bird [an albino raven], fossils, dried fish, sea shells, a living wild 
boar in a cage, a black raccoon dog, a crane, a stork, a living salamander in a tub, a mounted 
paradisean-bird, a mounted Senzanko, the dried skin of a large snake, as well as wooden and coppered 
human skeletons, which also served as teaching aids in the medical school. "Deposited carrot [inaybe] 
from the lord" and dried bear's gall bladder were exhibited on the stand because they were very' 
precious medicine (Fig. 2).' Thus, as time passed, entertainment became one of the aims of these 
exhibitions. However, considering that specimens such as animals, plants, and minerals were 
exhibited at these events, Yakuhin'e can be taken as a foundation of a natural history museum. 

(2) De-kaicho 

Shrines and temples sometimes open their secret statues of Buddha and God to the people in 
order to spread their dogmas. Such temporary exhibitions of treasures were known as Kaicho. The 
Edo era had two kinds of Kaicho; one was I-kaicho, the other De-kaicho. I-kaicho means that the 
secret stames, along with other treasures, were open to the public in the shrines and temples where 
their statues usually were set. De-kaicho means that local shrines and temples transported their 
treasures, including statues of Buddha and God, to big cities and opened them there to the public. 
Such exhibitions enabled the shrines and temples to collect donations as well as spread their dogmas. 
De-kaicho exhibitions were quite popular. 

The first De-kaicho is said to have been held in the 1670s. Ekoin, a temple in Edo, often offered 
use of its land and buildings so that local shrines and temples could exhibit their treasures there. A 
catalog of collections exhibited at a De-kaicho was sometimes published.** When the De-kaicho of 
Horyuji in Nara was held in Edo in 1842, the objects used daily by the first Empress Suiko, such as 
shoes, appeared in the catalog. At the same time, shows, such as menageries and magic, were often 
held on the grounds outside. Many people came to Kaicho festivals (Fig. 3). Indeed, such festivals 
became entertainment for the people. On the other hand, considering the genuine antiquities that were 
exhibited inside the building, De-kaicho can be taken as another form of foundation of a natural 
history museum. 

One would think that the tradition of exhibitions, such as Yakuhin'e and De-kaicho, would have 







enabled Japan easily to accept Western-style exhibitions and museums. However, it should not be 
overlooked that the knowledge about Western museums was introduced to Japan mainly through 
translating foreign books. The Tokugawa Shogunate managed Bansho-shirabesho, a Research Center 
to investigate foreign books. Introductory articles on European museums, including such things as 
the description of the Egypt rooms in the British Museum, the Berlin Museum, and the Natural History 
Museum in Paris, appeared in the Dutch magazine, Nederlaiuisch Magazijn (1839. 1849), copies of 
which were imported by Bansho-shirabesho. Considering that the Japanese translation of selected 
passages of those magazines was published as Gyokiiscki Shirin, at least some researchers must have 
read the articles on European museums, though it is not clear whether or not such knowledge had any 
impact on the later creation of a national museum.'' 

2. Henry's Invitation to the Smithsonian 

Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, Joseph Henry (Fig. 
4), was eager to invite the Japanese mission to the Institution. He 
wrote a letter directly to President James Buchanan, in which he 
referred to Captain John Rodgers who had participated in the 
North Pacific Exploring and Surveying Expedition. At the Liu- 
Kiu Islands [Okinawa], Rogers landed a detachment of marines 
and forced the Okinawans to guarantee the performance of their 
obligations under their treaty with the United States. He was also 
responsible for surveying the coast of Japan and the sea of Ok- 
hotsk."^ Thus, he became well acquainted with Japanese history 
and manners and customs. When Henry met Rodgers later, Rodg- 
ers made a series of suggestions in regard to the treatment of the 
mission from Japan. At Henry's urging, he put them in writing. 
Among Rodgers' suggestions are the following: 

The only means by which this embassy can be favorably impressed with the superiority of our 
civilization and institutions is to give them a clear idea of our science, our arts, our amis, and 
our govemment. For this purpose the Embassy should be introduced to ditTerent institutions of 
learning . . . For e.xampie. a series of experimental illustrations in science might be given to them 
at the Smithsonian Institution, in which some of the most interesting results of modem 
discoveries should be exhibited. 

Henry tried to impress President Buchanan with the importance of the Smithsonian Institution, 
and referring to Rodgers' suggestions said. 

One of the suggestions [by Captain Rodgers] alludes to the cooperation of the Smithsonian 
Institution, and 1 need scarcely say in behalf of this establishment that any services which may 
be required in the line indicated, will be cheerfully rendered. 

Meanwhile, a Naval Commission was organized in Washington. D. C, to take charge of the 
Japanese mission to the United States. It consisted of Captain Samuel F. Du Pont, Commander Sidney 
Lee, Lieutenant David Porter, C. J. MacDonald (secretary), and A. C. Portman (interpreter). Because 
Du Pont, Lee, and Porter participated in Commodore Perry's Japan expedition, it was no surprise that 
they were selected to take charge of the Japanese mission. The commission was supposed to arrange 
the places for the mission to visit. '^ After this commission had been organized, Henry wrote several 
letters to Captain Du Pont in order to invite the Japanese to the Smithsonian Institution. The final 

FiciLRE 4. Joseph Henry. Secretary of the 
Smithsonian Institution. Courtesy Smith- 
sonian Institution Archives ( 1 0668). 



letter from Henry to Du Pont, dated May 30, shows that Henry had a chance, in private, to extend the 
Japanese an invitation to visit the Institution. In this letter, Henry also wrote that they had made 
extensive preparations for doing honor to the Japanese and that he intended to demonstrate the 
galvanic battery.'"* Three days later, on June 2, the Japanese ambassadors did visit the Smithsonian 

From this series of letters, both Rodgers and Henry's strong sense of superiority about American 
civilization, including its institutions, is very clear. Henry was eager to demonstrate his latest 
experiments at the Smithsonian Institution in order to impress the Japanese visitors. Because of his 
academic interest in electricity, in these letters Henry emphasized his desire to demonstrate the 
galvanic batter>' experiment. However, the experiment was not the only thing shown to the Japanese 
mission; the Smithsonian collection was also shown to them. 

Table 1 . Schedule of mission members' visit to the Smithsonian Institution. Henry's experiments were carried 
out on June 2. 




Executive Position 


Kanae Sano 


Servant of Masuzu 


Masakiyo Yanagawa 
Sadayu Tamamushi 
Tadazane Nonomura 
Yoshikoto Fukushima 
Tetsuta Kimura 
Hidenaga Sato 


Servant of Shimmi 
Servant of Shimmi 
Servant of Muragaki 
Servant of Oguri 
Servant of Oguri 


Shunjiro Masuzu 
Tameyoshi Hitaka 
Ryugen Miyazaki 
Hakueen Murayama 


Under Officer of the Treasurer 
Official of the Censor 


Masaoki Shimmi 
Nonmasa Muragaki 
Motonori Namura 


Chief interpreter 


Okataro Morita 
Jugoro Tsukahara 
Onojiro Tateishi 




Official of the Ambassadors 

Junior Interpreter 

3. Mission Members' Perceptions of the Smithsonian 

The above-mentioned Henry letters could lead to a inisunderstanding that none of the mission 
members visited the Institution until June 2. Indeed, it seems to be true that Henry was interested in 
showing his experiments only to the Japanese official ambassadors and not other meinbers of the 
mission, such as their servants. However, not only did other mission members visit the Institution 
when they had time (Table 1)," but all of the mission members who did visit the Institution were 

In order to assess mission members' understandings and perceptions of the Smithsonian Institu- 
tion, especially its namral history museum, and to the actual conditions and organizations as they 
were in 1860, reference can be made to impressions as recorded in a number of personal diaries."' 

(1) Smithsonian Institution 

The Smithsonian Institution is an extensive museum and research complex, today including 16 
museums, the National Zoological Park, and research centers.'' The Institution was established in 


Washington. D. C, in 1 846, based on the property which James Smithson bequeathed "to the United 
States of America, to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an 
Establishment for the increase and difftision of knowledge among men."'** When Japanese mission 
members visited the Institution, it had pursued various fields of research such as astronomy, 
geography, meteorology, geology, botany, physiology, comparative anatomy, zoology, natural 
history, terrestrial magnetism, antiquities, and (comparative) philology. '^ 

As to the Institution as a whole, the mission members who had just toured the building (and had 
not observed Henry's experiments) understood the Institution as "the place to collect rare objects 
from various regions" or "the place for deposit of treasury." On the other hand, the members who 
had both observed Henry's experiments and toured the building got different impressions. The 
Vice-Ambassador Muragaki, for example, wrote in his diary that it was "a mansion which contained 
rare objects or in which the truth of things got revealed."'*"^' Furthermore, Interpreter Motonori 
Namura wrote of it as "an office where machines such as electricity are deposited."'*"^' Such machines 
seem to have greatly impressed Namura. 

The Smithsonian building, which we have come to know as "the Castle," was completed on the 
Mall in 1855. Most early government buildings being light in tone, the Castle was the Romanesque 
style of dark red sandstone with towers and battlements. It had a stunning impact.-*^ The Japanese 
mission visited the Institution a scant five years after the building had been completed. As to the 
external appearance of the building, most mission members described it as "huge" and "temple-like." 
Some of members referred to a fence around the building site; others noticed two cross-shaped 
gateposts. Tetsuta Kimura, for example, in his diary illustrated the gateposts as well as the building 
(Figs. 5a— b). According to him, the gateposts were made so that only one visitor could enter through 
them. On the other hand, Sadayu Tamamushi understood that they were used to avoid being crowded 
or a carriage's entrance. The interior of the building contained a museum, an apparatus room, a picture 
gallery, a lecture room, a library, a publication room, and other rooms such as laboratories. 

How did mission members perceive such facilities? 

(2) Museum Hall 

Henry thought the increase of knowledge more important than its diffusion. "The increase of 
knowledge is much more difficult." Henry insisted, "and in reference to the bearing of this institution 
on the character of our country and the welfare of mankind much more important than the diffusion 
of knowledge. There are at this time thousands of institutions actively engaged in the diffiision of 
knowledge in our country, but not a single one which gives direct support to its increase."-' In his 
opinion, original researches requiring difficult experiments should be carried out in the Institution. 

He had little sympathy for the congressional mandate to create a library and a museum because 
he viewed institutions of that kind as repositories of knowledge already acquired, not as contributors 
to its increase. Therefore, Henry did not want to use his limited resources to improve and maintain a 
museum. Reflecting Henry's policy, the collections already stored in the Smithsonian Institution were 
not fully displayed to the public owing to the lack of suitable cases, although they were accessible to 
naturalists and in constant use by them. 

However, the time came when Henry was forced to change his own stance. Congress in March, 
1857. made an appropriation for the construction of suitable cases to be installed in the Smithsonian 
hall to contain the natural history collection of the Wilkes Exploring Expedition and others belonging 
to the government.-- Congress also agreed to pay for moving expenses and four thousand dollars 
yearly for maintenance. Since 1 840 these collections, up to then, had been stored in the Patent Office 



Figure. 5a. Kimura's illustration of the Smithsonian Institution. 
(Tetsuta Kimura, Kobeiki, Seichosha: 1 974) 


Building (Fig. 6) under Joel Pointsett's National Insti- 
tute for the Advancement of Science.-^ In 1858, they 
were finally moved to the Castle and appropriately 

Eventually, Henry himself came to terms with the 
museum mandate, noting in the Institution's Annual 
Report for 1858, that "The principal event of impor- 
tance in the history of the Institution during the past 
year is the transfer of the government collections from 
the Patent Office to the large room of the Smithsonian 
Building."-'' This action by Congress was significant 
because it vastly increased the museum role of the 
Smithsonian. Assistant Secretary Spencer Baird 
promptly became curator of the museum collections 
and operations.-'' Baird, whose interests lay in the 
natural rather than physical sciences, believed that the 
way to find basic truths in scientific research was to 
assemble large collections of physical specimens and to develop conclusions from careful compari- 
sons of tangible objects.-^ Under his guidance, the museum developed rapidly. Thus, it should be 
noted that Japanese mission visited the Institution only two years after the various collections had 
been transferred from the Patent Office, in short, after the museum role increased. According to the 
Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institution for 1860, the museum devoted itself to the completion 
of its series of specimens illustrating the natural history of North America. Nearly all the mammals, 
the North American birds, and the exotic water birds exhibited in the museum, were labeled with both 
scientific and vernacular names. A large number of skins of North American mammals and birds not 
previously exhibited were mounted and placed in cases. All the old stands of mounted specimens 
were replaced by new ones. Duplicate specimens were prepared for distribution to the pnncipal 
museums in the world. Some scientific catalogs had already been published by the Institution.-" Thus. 

Figure. 5b. Kimura"s illustration of the Smithsonian's 

two cross-shaped gateposts. 

(Tetsuta Kimura, A'ofteM/, Seichosha: 1974) 



111] I \TI 11 


Figure 6. Patent Office Building interior. 
Courtesy Smithsonian Institution Archives. 

T.^BLE 2. Entries in the Record Books of the Smithsonian Collection. (Annual Report of the Smithsonian 
Institution, 1860) 












Skeletons and skulls 









































Eggs of birds 




















Ethnological specimens 















by the time the mission visited the Smithsonian, its museum had already undergone a transformation 
with respect to both volume of collections and their arrangement or classification (Table 2). 

The collections of the museum were exhibited both on the first floor and on the mezzanine of 
the main building (Fig. 7). A ground plan of the museum and collections of the museum hall at that 
time suggests that the Smithsonian building housed a natural history museum that included botany, 
zoology, mineralogy, and anthropology and archeology (Fig. 8. Table 3).-^ The museum of the 
Smithsonian Institution had responded to the idea of Charles Willson Peale, who had founded the 
first popular museum in America, that all people should come face-to-face with nature in a museum.'^ 

The museum hall was so huge that it greatly impressed many of the mission members, who made 
reference to its size in their diaries. Masakiyo Yanagawa, who had visited the Patent Office Building 
five days earlier, tried to compare these two halls of collections. First, he thought that both halls were 
identical and described them as "a kind of Igakukan." His reference to Igakukan [medical building] 
suggests that he had been to a Yakuhin'e at which the natural history exhibition was held in the 
Igakukan, or that at least he had heard about it. But, he then concluded that the hall of the Smithsonian 
was "bigger and had more various objects."'^'" 

The museum hall contained various collections, such as rare mammals, birds, insects, fish, and 
objects from all over the world. Such collections may have overwhelmed the visiting mission 
members. Tamamushi, for example, expressed that "every collection" was "amazing."'^"" Tadazane 
Nonomura correctly pointed out that collections were classified, noting in his diary that "birds, 


Figure 7. Museum Hall of the Smithsonian Institution. Courtesy Smithsonian Institution Archives (91-17967). 

First Floor 


■ S ■ ■ ■ it u * I i i fi 



41 4! 45 il JO 41 61 



40 J8 !C Jl 83 JO 8S 





77 76 75 74 7J 71 71 70 

Figure 8. Museum ot the Smithsonian Institution. Black Imes: upright cases: hght hnes: table and window cases. .'Xfter Wil- 
liam J. Rhees. An Aicoum oflhc Smitlisonian Insiiliition. /r.s' Founder, Biiililing, Operations, ete.. Collins Pnnter. 1863. 



Table 3. Collections of Museum Hall. (From William J. Rhees, An Account of the Smithsonian Institution, its 
Founder. Building. Operations, etc., Collins Printer, 1863) 

First Floor 

Northeast Range 

Mammals, foreign birds. North American fishes 

Southeast Range 

North American birds, reptiles, some marine animals 

Northwest Range 

Genera of fishes, foreign birds, reptiles 

Southwest Range 

Mammals, radiates, crustaceans, reptiles, fishes of North Pacific 
Exploring Expedition 

South Hall 

Sarcophagus from Beirut, plank from redwood tree (California), copper 
from Lake Superior mines, living alligator from Georgia, idols from 


Northeast Gallery 

Collections of mineralogy, geology, paleontology 

Southeast Gallery 

Human skulls, skulls and skeletons, skins of reptiles and fishes, botany 

Northwest Gallery 

Ethnological collections from East Indies, China, Japan, South 
America. Africa, mummies from Egypt and Peru 

Southwest Gallery 

Ethnological collections from the Feejee, Sandwich, Marquesas, New 
Zealand, and other islands 

Table Cases 

Center of hall-»East end: Nests, eggs, meteorite, ores 
Center of hall-»West end: Shells, turtles 

mammals, fish, turtles, snakes, and shells are grouped into such parts. "'^"" Kimura described not only 
the groupings of the objects but also the labels that related to them."'''^' Both scientific and vernacular 
names appeared on the labels. Hidenaga Sato referred to the process of collecting specimens, writing 
that "Whenever American people go to other states and obtain rare objects, the objects are supposed 
to be kept here [the Smithsonian Institution]. '"'^*J' In addition, many members were interested in the 
upright glass cases in which specimens were displayed. In Japan, glass sheets were not produced at 
that time. Kanae Sano, for example, noted them as "cabinets with sliding-glasses like Shoji [Japanese 
sliding paper screen]."'*'" 

The arrangement of displays in the museum interested the visitors. Mammals, birds, fish, 
ainphibians, and reptiles were on the first floor. Mission members were particularly engaged by the 
mounted mammals and birds and admired the elaborateness of them. Nonomura, for example, 
described that "skins of mammals and birds were removed from the bodies and something were 
stuffed into the skin. The colors of their skins and eyes are quite the same as living ones."""*" Among 
the mounted animals, the great apes such as orangutans and gorillas especially fascinated members 
— which brings to mind the fact that Europeans were themselves puzzled when they first came face 
to face with great apes in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. During the Edo era, Japanese had 
almost no chance directly to observe living great apes. Living orangutans had been brought to 
Nagasaki in 1792 and again in 1800, but owing to the cold climate, they did not survive long. Thus, 
few people had a chance to see them. A Japanese doctor who had observed two different orangutans 
described them in his book on Western natural history. The doctor illustrated two orangutans; one 
copied from Dutch books, the other a copy of a sketch of the above-mentioned orangutan in Nagasaki. 
He concluded that the sketch of the Nagasaki orangutan was right. The skins of the orangutans, which 
had died in Nagasaki, were stored in a certain house; one of them is said to have been exhibited in 
Yakuhin'e in Edo in 1838.-^° 

The only person to refer to the sea mammals on display was Muragaki. He described them as 
"sea cows and seals which I saw in Ezo."'*"^' Muragaki was once an official in Ezo [Hokkaido, a 


northern island], where he explored to cuhivate the land. Considering his background, it is not 
surprising that they interested him. In a hke manner, only Sato described lions, noting that "There 
are quite differences between a lion exhibited here and a lion appeared on Japanese paintings; the 
face of the former is longer than the latter and the former has long hair from its neck to shoulder."'^^' 
Living lions were not brought to Japan until 1865. Accordingly, Sato was forced to rely on lions that 
appeared in Japanese paintings as his reference point. In the eighteenth century, some people who 
had seen a lion in Western natural history books, also said that it was quite different from the Japanese 
painting of a lion.-^' Indeed, a Japanese traditional lion on paintings had a round face with curly hair! 
Sato also described "a deer whose antlers look like open-hands." It could be a moose or an elk; 
however, it is not clear which one he had in mind. He continued to write that "The deer is as big as 
a horse and was once used, instead of a horse, to draw a cart."'^*J' It may have been an Arctic reindeer. 

These descriptions remind us again of the fact that the mission members were samurai, who had 
little knowledge about Western natural history. Owing to the lack of such knowledge, mission 
members tried to understand such unfamiliar objects, relying on individual limited experience. At 
that time, Japanese physicians and naturalists had already learned something of Western natural 
history, especially through Dutch publications, and so they were familiar with such illustrations. 
Therefore, the physician Ryugen Miyazaki and surgeon Hakugen Murayama, both of whom had 
visited the Institution, would have been much more familiar with the collections than other mission 
inembers. It is, therefore, regrettable that they did not write a little about the Institution in their 
respective diaries.""*'^ 

As mentioned above, mammals and birds were exhibited as mounted forms. On the other hand, 
amphibians and reptiles were soaked in alcohol and placed in glass bottles. Some members were 
surprised to see so many specimens of snakes. Muragaki directly expressed his "unpleasant" feelings 
when he saw too many snakes and serpents. 

In addition to these collections, a dress, worn by a famous American Arctic explorer. Dr. Elisha 
Kent Kane, was brought to the museum by him and also exhibited on the first floor. The dress was 
made of animal skins, including fox, bear, and bird.'- Only Tamamushi noted that "there is a doll 
made out of hide. It is about 180 to 210 centimeters high. They say that an American doctor wore the 
dress when he went to a cold country."'*'"'* Tamamushi had once been an official assigned to explore 
in Ezo. All explorers in Ezo wore such fur dresses at that time. Accordingly, Dr. Kane's fur dress 
may have been familiar to Tamamushi. 

Other anthropological collections were exhibited on the mezzanine. Most of them had been 
transferred from the Patent Office in 1858. Thus, the objects brought by Perry's Japan Expedition 
were exhibited there.-'-' The Japanese objects attracted mission members' attention and in their diaries 
they referred to many objects such as lacquer ware, silk such as Noshime[plain] and Chirimen[lit], 
cotton fabric, Mino-gami[mulberry fiber], pottery vase, fans, umbrellas, smoking pipes, Kamidana 
[family Shinto altar], wooden clogs, straw raincoat, samurai sword, polearm, lance, tools such as 
chisels, nail, plane, hoe sickle, ploughshare, and dolls. They described these items in detail. In 
addition, Okataro Morita paid attention to the sender of an exhibited letter. The sender, Mantaro 
Matsuzaki, who had studied Confucianism, was one of Morita's acquaintances. Because Morita had 
worked at Gakumonjo [Shogunate Learning Center], he had become acquainted with Matsuzaki. 
Tamamushi, who had eariier visited the Patent Office, wrote that "there are more Japanese objects 
[here] than the Patent Office."'*'"'' 

On the other hand, the various objects brought from Japan, which was in its self-imposed 
isolation, so overwhelmed Sano that he could not help thinking about the purpose of the collection. 


Some years before. Commodore Perry collected Japanese clothes such as female jackets and 
white underwears. In the other cabinets, there are Japanese swords and farm implements. Even 
Japanese objects have been collected in this way, and so we cannot tell how many objects there 
are from other countries with which this country has been in friendly relations for a long time. 
In this place, there are various rare objects from all over the world. I cannot have any ability to 
think of the purpose of the place. I guess that it is the place to collect various objects, to show 
them to the public, and to broaden people's knowledge. I have no time to take my eyes off such 

When he was in Japan, Sano had learned Dutch and how to use guns, and he took part in this 
mission in order to learn Western tactics and the art of navigation. Although he may have been 
unfamiliar with exhibitions such as Yakuhin'e, he correctly understood the nature of the museum as 
the place to "collect various objects, to show them to the public, and to broaden people's knowledge." 

Other anthropological objects which drew the special attention of mission members were 
mummies from Egypt and Peru. Although mummies had been brought to Japan since the end of the 
sixteenth centuiy. mummy imports were rare. After reaching Japan, whole bodies were ordinarily 
powdered into medicine. Accordingly, few people ever had a chance to see a mummy as a whole. 
The medicine itself was so expensive that people could not obtain it easily.''* 

About the mummies on display, Tamamushi wrote that they made him "feel dread." Vice-Am- 
bassador Muragaki recorded this impression in his diary: 

. . . dried human bodies[mummies] ... are standing. 1 cannot tell their sexual differences. It is 
said that such objects should be exhibited here in order to find the truth of everything from all 
over the world. However, to display human bodies as well as other birds, mammals, insects, and 
fish astonishes me so much. They [American people] are worth being called barbarians. ''^' 

Interestingly, he thought that displaying human mummies along with other animals was an 
indication of American barbarity, contrary to Secretary Henry's intention to show off the latest science 
at the Smithsonian Institution. Muragaki was not an ultranationalist; however, he was not able to free 
himself from his Japanese sense of values. 

Apart from the anthropological collections, Yanagawa noted that there were "a lot of stones 
such as gold, silver, copper, and iron produced from various countries" on the mezzanine. 

In the South Hall, there were so-called eye-catchers such as a sarcophagus from Beirut (Syria), 
a plank from a California redwood tree, copper from Lake Superior mines, a living alligator from 
Georgia, and idols from Nicaragua.-' An alligator kept alive in a water tank especially interested 
many mission members. Someone let the alligator out of the tank and then struck it with a stick so 
that in anger it opened its large mouth. Muragaki was surprised to see so large a mouth opening. 
Though he correctly identified the species as a Wani [alligator or crocodile], he wrote that it had 
"scales on the back" and its appearance looked like "a gecko." During the Edo era, Japanese had little 
chance to observe directly living alligators, although a specimen of alligator was exhibited in 
Yakuhin'e in Edo in 1838.'*' 

Despite some misunderstandings about each collection, mission members generally seem to have 
correctly perceived that the museum hall kept animals, plants, minerals, and anthropological objects 
so that visitors could see them. 

(3) Apparatus Room and Henry's Experiments 

There was an apparatus room on the second floor in the main building (Fig. 9). The room was 
not only equipped with collections of scientific instruments but also arranged to allow for some 
scientific experiments. Most of those machines had been donated by Dr. Robert Hare of Philadelphia, 



Figure 9. Apparatus Room of the Smithsonian Institution. 
Courtesy Smithsonian Institution Archives (43804-Gl. 

who had accumulated much of the apparatus during his twenty-nine years as professor of chemistry 
at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School. His large electrical machine was on an elevated 
platfomi of the room. The hair of a person sitting in the throne-like chair on the platform under the 
machine was supposed to be made to stand on end as a result of an electric charge." 

In addition to the Hare collections, the room contained a full set of pneumatic instruments 
constructed for the Smithsonian Institution, a set of ingenious instruments for illustrating wave 
motion. Page's electro-magnetic instrument, and a large Fresnel lens used in light-houses. Further- 
more, the room had a hydroelectric machine iinported from Germany by the Institution itself The 
machine gave a constant succession of sparks, and charged a battery of sixteen large jars in thirty 
seconds. ^^ 

On June 2, as mentioned above, Henry demonstrated various experiments in this rooin. Only 
ambassadors with two interpreters and some officials had a chance to see the experiments: 

Mission members were trying to separate Magdeburg hemispheres in vain; they were not able 
to easily separate his hand froin the mouth of a vacuutti glass bonie, either. They observed 
charcoal burned by discharged electricity and iron acted by electroinagnet. They also tried to 
grip the handle of storage battery. 

Otto von Guericke's 17th century "Magdeburg hemispheres" experiment, in which air is 
evacuated from within a hollow sphere, making it almost impossible to separate the two halves of the 
sphere without letting air back in, shows that air can exert enonnous pressure. Japanese mission 



members tried to separate the hemispheres in vain. 
An American company later advertised its glue by 
making use of the event (Fig. 10). Concerning his 
experience there, Muragaki noted that "There are 
various electric machines. Lightning in the dark. I 

saw vanous magic. 

Secretary Henry intended 

Figure 10. Advertisement of glue by Spalding. 
Man 'en Gannen Kenbei Shiselsu Zuroku. 

to show off the latest science. Indeed, it is not 
surprising that Muragaki would be amazed at 
Henry's experiments; he was not a scientist and he 
had no scientific knowledge to evaluate it correctly. 
Other members of the mission, who visited the 
apparatus room at times other than when Henry 
gave his demonstrations on June 2, were able only 
to observe the machines that were in the room. What 
interested those mission members most was the 
Fresnel lens, though they referred to it as a big 
mirror. Yoshikoto Fukushima, for example, re- 
corded the following details: 

There is a big mirror. It is about 150 centimeters 
wide. It is round with a big stand. It is nine-cen- 
timeter thick glass and both faces can reflect something. When we look at our own images in it, 
the images become more than twice. How unique it is! '"' 

Fukushima's description highlights both what interested him and his understanding of the device. 
Morita, on the other hand, described the functioning of the lens more correctly in observing that 
"When we go behind a square mirror, our own images on the fi-ont become ten times as large as 
ourselves."'^"*' In that room, according to Kimura's report, there were also other apparatus such as a 
telescope, a terrestrial globe, and a celestial globe. Because these members were not able to observe 
Henry's experiments, they seem to have perceived the apparatus room as the place where various 
machines were exhibited rather than a place in which experiments were performed. Indeed, the room 
could be identified as setting a precedent of a science and technological museum. 

(4) Gallery of Art 

One important feature of the art gallery (Fig. 1 1 ) was the interesting series of portraits, mostly 
full size, of over one hundred and fifty North American Indians, with sketches of scenery. These 
portraits were all taken from life and were accurate representations of the peculiar feamres of 
prominent individuals of forty-three different tribes. The room also contained a marble statue, a copy 
of the celebrated work of art in Rome, the "Dying Gladiator. "■'° Many of the mission members referred 
to the gallery in their diaries. Kimura, for example, described what he saw as follows: 

White stone was carved into the shape of a person. The person was naked and the privates parts 
were covered with an oak leaf There was a bleeding wound under the arm; the wound was 
pressed by the left hand. Lots of pains .... On every side of the room there were portraits. The 
people looked different from those of today because they had lived in the old times. '^''^' 

At that time, Japanese were not familiar with such a marble statue, and so many members became 
interested in it. They also paid attention to the portraits of Native Americans. However they did not 
have the capability to see through the suggestion of the gallery — the sculpture indicated a conscious 




Figure 1 1. Gallery of Art of the Smithsonian Institution. Courtesy Smithsonian Institution Archives (43804-D). 

visual comparison between the plight of the Native American peoples and the dying heroes of a 
classical wodd."" 

Muragaki was distracted by entirely unrelated objects in the room. For instance, he wrote "On 
the wall were also hung specimens of the hair of the successive Presidents. This reveals that they 
[American people] are not courteous at all."'*"^' The hair to which Muragaki referred was on display 
in an exhibit called "Hair of the Presidents of the United States with other Persons of Distinction, 
Prepared and Arranged by John Varden, February, 1853." Included in this exhibit was a collection 
of tiny locks of hair, identified by name-tags as coming from the first fourteen Presidents, from George 
Washington through Franklin Pierce. The hair of the Presidents was supposed to call to mind the 
memory of national leaders and the continuity of power. However. Muragaki misread it as a sign of 
disrespect for leaders.'*" Henry's intention to show off American superiority did not work well again. 

Other facilities in the building also attracted the attention of mission members. Yanagawa, for 
example, described a lecture room on the second floor in detail: 

In the building was a lecture platfomi built up high above the floor. In front of it were many 
seats. On the walls of the hall there were pictures portraying the sorrows and joys of life from 
birth to death. By the side of the platform there was a recumbent statue carved in marble of a 
nude woman larger than life size. 

As we have seen above, there was a natural history museum in the Smithsonian Building. There 
were also precedents both of a science and technology museum and of an art museum. At the 
Smithsonian, Henry intended to show off American superiority in science. Generally speaking, the 
American side, including Henry himself seemed to have been content with the results of Japanese 
visit to the Institution. The Journal of the Commission, in Charge of the Japanese Einbassy to the 
U.S., for example, obser\'ed that the Smithsonian Institution offered the delegation an opportunity to 


see "a number of interesting experiments in physics and chemistry, which had prepared with great 
care." and also "the library and the valuable collection of specimens of natural history, as well as the 
innumerable objects of interest and curiosity from all parts of the world. '"'^ 

Although mission members did not have enough scientific knowledge to appreciate fully all they 
had seen, they tried to understand the Smithsonian Institution, its several facilities, and its collections. 
Each member picked up on those objects that teased his curiosity and described them in his diary. 


The experiences of the Japanese mission members at the Smithsonian Institution did not have 
any immediate effect on the founding of the first natural history museum in Japan. ^ The mission's 
influence, or lack of it, was inextricably linked to other historical events, and to understand the 
siraation, we must take into consideration Japanese political conditions as they existed at the time. 
Under the slogan "Respect the Emperor and Expel the Aliens," the anti-Shogunate movement had 
become more serious during the mission members' absence. The Shogunate government had been 
forced to change its foreign policies; it was trying to keep foreign influence to minimum. Accordingly, 
the Shogunate gave the returning mission a cool reception, not even firing a salute when their ship 
entered the harbor. Meanwhile, America's East Asian policy had become inactive because of the 
Civil War(I861-1865). 

Following the Meiji Restoration in 1868, three of the previous ambassadors in the mission were 
not asked to serve the new government. Therefore, the mission is often said to have had little impact 
on the new government. Their experiences at the Smithsonian, however, should not be underesti- 
mated, considering the indirect influence they had that led to the creation of the first Japanese museum. 

First, it is obvious that advanced technology reported by the ambassadors was not overlooked 
by the Meiji government, because the government's first overseas mission visited the United States. 
in 1872, before going to Europe.** Along with advanced technology, their knowledge about the 
Smithsonian would also have been handed down to the Meiji government through mission members' 
diaries and reports. When the Japanese mission was about to give Lewis Cass, U.S. Secretary of State, 
splendid specimens of Japanese skill, he declined the offer. That is because American officials could 
not accept presents from any foreign authority without the assent of Congress. Such presents were 
supposed to become the property of the nation and had to be deposited in a place where they would 
be open for public inspection.''-'^ Muragaki had correctly noted the event and its reason in his diary. 
The event was significant in that Muragaki had learned that objects could be deposited in a place that 
was open to the public. Thus, the nature of a museum as well as the description of the Smithsonian 
museum would certainly have been handed down to the Meiji government through his diary. 
Furthermore, copies of their diaries and reports continued to be read quietly but earnestly among the 
public, in spite of the serious anti-Shogunate movement, and they survived until the Meiji era. 

Second, five members — Tameyoshi Hitaka, Shunjiro Masuzu, Kawasaki, Sano, and Sato — 
participated in the Mission to Europe in 1 862. Namura also took part in the Mission to Russia in 1 866. 
On both occasions, they had opportunity to observe other Western museums. Masuzu, for example, 
wrote about a museum in London, presumably the British Museum. The knowledge they had obtained 
at the Smithsonian probably served as a reference point for their later visits to other Western museums. 

Third, because several mission members became teachers, they had opportunity to infonn their 
students about the United States. The mission members' knowledge would, thus, have been passed 
on to the next generation. For example, two of Tamamushi's students accompanied a certain person 


to study at the U. S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. Assuredly, Tamamushi's knowledge about 
America must have been passed on to these students. 

Fourth, according to Muragaki's diary, Henry gave him a book on the Smithsonian Institution. 
It cannot now be located. However, it may have been the Guide to the Smithsonian Institution or the 
Annual Report. Generally, books acquired as gifts by mission members while visiting the U.S. were 
deposited in the Shogunate Foreign Research Center and were available to the staff of the Center and 
other researchers. 

It is true that the mission members' experiences at the Smithsonian did not have any immediate 
or direct effect upon the creation of Japan's first natural history museum, but the importance of these 
experiences should not be underestimated as a scientific contact in the process of Japanese reception 
of Western natural history museums. 


Jiro Numata, "Bakumatsu no Kengai Shisetsu ni tsuite," Seiyokenbunshu, Iwanami Sholen. 1974:600- 

" The mission members also visited the exhibited hall of the Patent Office Building in Washington, D. C. 
and P. T. Bamum's museum in New York. 

Tokyo Kokuritsu Hakubutsukan ed., Tokyo Kokiihtsu Hakubutsukan Hyakunenshi, 1973:60. 
Ichiro Yabe, Edo no Honzo, Saiensu sha, 1984: 62-66. 
^ Ibid.:I25-135. 
^ Ibid.: 135-142. 

Saburo Nishimura, Bunmei no Naka no Hakubutsugaku, Kinokuniya Shoten, 1999:472—474. 
Tokyo Kokuritsu Hakubutsukan ed., op. cif.l. 
'* Ibid.:8-9. 

Dumas Malone ed.. Dictionary of American Biography 16, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1935:77-78. 
Rodgers" suggestions, W9-9757, Hagley Library Archives. 
'* Henry to the President, 26 April 1860, W9- 9756, Hagley Library Archives. 

■ Journal of the Commission, in Charge of the Japanese Embassy to the United States I860, W9-I8480, 
Hagley Library Archives. 

''' Henry to Du Pont, 30 May 1860, W9-9992, Hagley Library Archives. 

According to the A'evr York Herald on June 4, five senior members of the mission with two interpreters 
visited the Institution on June 2. Registration Books of the Smithsonian Institution in 1 860 are missing; therefore 
the schedule is based on mission members" diaries. However, the members who described the visit on June 2 
were only two: the vice ambassador Muragaki and an interpreter Namura. 
Mission meinbers" perceptions were based on their diaries as follows: 

(a) Yoshikoto Fukushima, "Kokai Nisshi," Man 'en Cannen kenbeishiselsu Shiiyo.shusei 3, 
Kazama Shobo, 1960:279-400. 

(b) Tameyoshi Hitaka, "Beiko Nisshi," Man 'en Gannen kenbeishisetsu Shiiyoshusei 2, Kazama 
Shobo, 1961:1^3. 

(c) Tetsuta Kimura, Kobeiki. Seichosha:1974. 

(d) Okataro Morita, "Ako Nikki," Man 'en Gannen kenbei.Msetsu Shiiyoshusei 1, Kazama 
Shobo, 1961:1-270. 

(e) Norimasa Muragaki, "Kenbeishi Nikki," Kengaishisetsu Nikkisanshu 1, Nihon Shiseki 
Kyokai, 1928:1-207. 

(0 Hakugen Murayama, "Hoshi Nichiroku," Man 'en Gannen Shiiyoshusei 2, 
op. c;7.:279-343. 

(g) Motonori Namura, "Ako Nikki," Man 'en Gannen kenbei.ihisetsu Shiiyoshusei 2, op. 
aV.: 191-277. 


(h) Tadazane Nonomura, "Kokai Nichiroku," Man 'en Gannen kenbeishisetsu Shiiyushusei 3. 
op. cit.:n\-211 . 

(i) Kanae Sano, Man 'en Gannen Hobei Nikki, Kanazawa Bunka Kyokai, 1946. 
(j) Hidenaga Sato, "Beiko Nikki", Kengaishisetsu Nikkisanshu I. op. c;7. :405-5 1 0. 
(k) Sadayu Tamamushi, "Kobei Nichiroku," Seiyokenbimshu. op. cii. ■.7-259. 
(I) Masakiyo Yanagawa, "Kokai Nikki," Kengaishisetsu Nikkisanshu /, op. r//.: 2 09-4 04. 
The diaries of Muragaki and Yanagawa are translated in English. 
'^ Ellen Cochran Hirzy ed.. Official Guide to the Smithsonian, 1996:4. 

"* Cynthia R. Field, et al.. The Castle: An Illustrated History of the Smithsonian Building. Smithsonian 
Institution Press, 1993:1. 

" William J. Rhees, An Account of the Smithsonian Institution, its Founder. Building, Operations, etc.. T. 
McGill Printer. Washington, D.C., 1857:8-9. 
■^° Cynthia R. Field, et al., op. cit.:\. 

^' Albert E. Moyer, Joseph Heniy: The Rise of an American Scientist. Smithsonian Institution Press, 

"" William J. Rhees, op. cit.:2?>. 

'^ Edward P. Alexander, Museum Masters, American Association for State and Local History, 1983:285. 
"■* Joseph Henry, "Report of the Secretary for 1858," Annual Report of Smithsonian Institution. 1858, 
Smithsonian Institution, 1859:13. 

" E. F. Rivinus and E. M. Youssef, Spencer Baird of the Smithsonian. Smithsonian Institution Press, 

^^ Ibid.:133. 

" Spencer Baird, "Appendix to the Report of the Secretary," .Annual Report of Smithsonian Institution. I860, 
Smithsonian Instimtion, 1861:72-77. 

"' Edward P. Alexander, Mu.wums in Motion: An Introduction to the Histoiy and Functions of Museums, 
American Association for State and Local History, 1976:51-53. 

" Charles Coleman Sellers, Mr. Peale 's Museum. W. W. Norton & Co. Inc., 1980:332. 
■'" Takao Kajishima, Shiiyo Nihon Dohutsushi. Yasaka Shobo, 1 997:529-53 1 . Ichiro Yabe, op. cit. : 1 52-1 55. 
Gentaku Otsuki, Ran 'entekiho. 1817. Saburo Nishimura. op. a/.:474-475. 
Takao Kajishima, op. a7.:559-56I. 
" William J. Rhees, An Account of the Smithsonian Institution, its Founder. Building. Operations, etc., 
Collins Prmter, Philadelphia, 1863:68. 

" Ibid.:72-73. Chang-su Houchins, "Artifacts of Diplomacy: Smithsonian Collections from Commodore 
Matthew Perry's Japan Expedition (1853-1854)," Smithsonian Contributions to Anthropology no. 37, Smith- 
sonian Institution Press, 1995. 

-^■^ Ichiro Yabe. op. cit. : 1 59-1 6 1 . 

■ William J. Rhees, An Account of the Smithsonian Institution, its Founder. Building, Operations, etc.. T. 
McGill Printer, Washington. D.C., 1857:18-19. 

' Takao Kajishima, op. c;7.:364-365. Saburo Nishimura, op. c;/.: 142-1 43. 
^^ Cynthia R. Field, et al., op. cit. J5. 

William J. Rhees, An Account of the Smithsonian Institution, its Founder, Building, Operations, etc., T. 
McGill Printer, Washington, D.C., 1857:24-26. 

Takeki Osatake, Bakumatsu Kengai Shi.seisu Monogatari, Jitsugyono Nihonsha. 1948:65-66. 
William J. Rhees, .An Account of the Smithsonian Institution, its Founder. Building, Operations, etc., T. 
McGill Printer, Washington, D.C., 1857:27. 
■•' Cynthia R. Field, et al., op. cit.:ll. 

' Etsuko Taketani, "Brief Communication: Samurai Ambassadors and the Smithsonian Institute in 1860," 
Journal of the American Oriental Society 1 15:479-481(1995). 

Journal of the Commission, in Charge of the Japanese Embassy to the United States 1860. W9-I8480. 
Hagley Library Archives. 


Tadashi Aruga, "The First Japanese Mission to the United States 1 860," Abroad in America: Visitors to 
the New Nation 1776-1914, Addison-Wesley Publishing Company: 143 (1976). 

"'' Journal of the Commission, in Charge of the Japanese Embassy to the United States 1860, W9-18480, 
Hagiey Library Archives. 

Copyright O2000 by the California Academy of Sciences 

Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. California 941 18, USA. 

All rights reserved. 

West and East: The California Academy of 

Sciences and The Smithsonian Institution 



" Science and Technology Studies Program, Cornell University. Ithaca, New York 

(address for correspondence: 24 Elm Street, Hatfield, Massachusetts 01038) 

E-mail: 7306 1.2420(a'compuserve. com 

' California Academy of Sciences, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California 941 18 

E-mail: aleviton(«; 

On July 9, 1846. Rear Admiral 
John D. Sloat's American squadron 
entered San Francisco Bay and raised 
the U.S. flag over Verba Buena; two 
days earlier, it had been raised over the 
custom house in Monterey, about 100 
miles south of San Francisco. Before 
the 1849 Gold Rush, Verba Buena had 
been a sleepy little village; with the 
Gold Rush and California's admission 
to the Union in 1 850. the population of 
the town, renamed San Francisco, 
grew enonnously (Figs. 1,2). 

On April 4, 1853, seven men met 
in the law offices of Lewis W. Sloat to 
discuss the formation of a scientific 

society, which they proposed to be Figl re I . San Francisco, winter 1 849-1 850. From Soule. l S 

known as The California Academy of Natural Sciences. Lewis Sloat was, at the time, the City 
Commissioner of Deeds. He was also a nephew of Admiral Sloat whose squadron, in 1846, raised 
the American flag at Verba Buena. Another was Charles Farris. a physician who li\ed in San Jose 


Figure 2. San Francisco in 1854. From Soule. 1855. 



Nothing is known of Farris except that he attended a few early 
meetings but then left the state sometime in the summer or fall 
of 1853. The third was Henry Gibbons, who had come from 
Philadelphia a few years earlier, and who had a successful 
medical practice in San Francisco. Gibbons had wide-ranging 
interests, which included meteorology, botany, and fishes. Al- 
bert Kellogg was among the seven; also a physician, he had a 
phannacy in San Francisco, but his interests in botany were too 
distracting, and he often neglected his responsibilities to the 
phannacy. Thomas Nevins was San Francisco's first superinten- 
dent of public schools as well as an attorney. John Boardman 
Trask (Fig. 3 ) practiced medicine and, though Yale-educated, he 
did not at the time have an M.D. (the M.D. was not yet a 
requirement to establish a practice as a physician). His interests 
were in geology and, in 1853, he published two maps and the 
first of several reports on the geology of California, all based on 
surveys he had begun three years earlier. Finally, the seventh 
founder was Andrew Randall (Fig. 4), about whom there is some 
confusion. Contrary to much of what has been said in print, 
Randall came to California overland with the Col. James Collier 
party that had departed from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, on 1 7 
May 1849(Foreman, 1937:12). He was not with the Sloat party 
when it entered Monterey Bay, as oral tradition has it (see, for 
example, Miller, 1944). At the time of the flag-raising in 1846, 
Randall was an assistant to David Dale Owen on Owen's Federal 
Survey of the Northwest Territory, which included Minnesota 
and Wisconsin. Randall arrived in California in 1850 and took 
up residence for a short time in Monterey before moving to San 
Francisco where he entered in business dealings as a financier. 
By 1 856, Randall was in debt in excess of $67,000 to one Joseph 
Hetherington, a gambler in the city. On July 24, 1 856, in public, 
Hetherington shot Randall dead. Five days later, on July 29, 
while the Academy heard about the trees of California, the city's 
notorious vigilante committee took Hetherington from the jail 
and hanged him. The militia was called out but the commander 
said that without an issue of small anns from the army's armory, 
the militia could not intervene. The militia's commander was 
William Tecumseh Sherman, at th time a San Francisco 
banker. - 

Henry's Meteorological Network 

One of the first scientific efforts of the Academy was to get 
involved in the meteorological network established by Joseph 
Henry (Fig. 5), Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution in 
Washington, DC. In September 1853, Henry was elected an 
honorary member of the Academy. Less than three months later. 

Fiui RL }. John Boardman Trask ( 1863). 
Calitbmia .Acadcmv of Sciences Archives. 

RE 5. .loseph Henry, Smilhsonian Insli- 
luiion .Archives (RU 45. Nei;. #;64s2). 




Data from 

Smmsonian insiiuilmn Annual Report 

tor 1873 flB74l 

US Govt Pnnllna 0(liC6 Was-uriglcn DC 

Figure 6. Joseph Henry's meteorological network in California and Nevada. 1 854-1 873. 


on December 1 9, he offered to assist the Academy in getting meteorological and magnetic instruments 
and, by January 16. 1854, he had ordered the instruments. Henry offered that the Smithsonian would 
pay the freight charges to ship the instruments to San Francisco, but the Academy had to pay the cost 
of the instruments themselves.^ The significance of the meteorological network, insofar as California 
is concerned, is noteworthy. The network was especially strong along the Sierra foothills (Fig. 6), 
where most of the population was concentrated because of the gold mining. When weather comes in 
from the Pacific, especially during the winter months, air moving up the Sierra slope, cools and storms 
develop. This meteorological phenomenon was an important 
test case for some of the theories of storms that were being 
discussed in the United States, including ones that especially 
interested Joseph Henry.'* It was vital to have a sizable 
California network to gather data. The only problem was that 
there was only one observer in Nevada, on the rain shadow 
side, and because that observer was only active for a couple 
of years, it was hard to draw any firm conclusions. 

Another peculiarity of Henry's California network was 
that there were lots of observers in the Bay area (Fig. 7). The 
earliest person of whom we have record was a post-surgeon 
stationed at the Presidio, on the north side of the San Fran- 
cisco peninsula; his records dated back to 1852. Heavy 
coverage in the Bay area was required because it has a 
complicated micro-climate.' As anybody who has been there 

V- Santa Rosa 

V. Vacaville ■ 
f ^'v^are 

San Francisco 0^^ ^ 




SITES IN THE Monterey 


Santa Cruz 


Figure 7. Joseph Henrv's meteorological 

network in the San Francisco Bay Area 

in the 1850s. 


Figure 8. Henry Gibbons. 
California Academy of Sciences Archives. 

knows, you can have sun 
on one side of the penin- 
sula and fog and cold on 
the other. To quote Mark 
Twain, "the coldest win- 
ter I ever spent was a sum- 
mer in San Francisco." 

Interest in the mete- 
orological network at the 
Academy continued for a 
number of years even 
though the Academy ob- 
servations were some- 
times erratic. In the fall of 
1868, Henry Gibbons 
(Fig. 8) visited Joseph 
Henry in Washington, 

Figure 4. William Gibbons. 

Bancroft Library, University of 

California. Berkeley. 

where Henry briefed him on the importance of the telegraph for rapid reporting of weather.*" Speed 
was crucial in later years in order to make meteorological observations more useful for forecasting. 
In 1871, Joseph Henry visited San Francisco and the Academy where he presented a preview of his 
forthcoming rainfall article^ and also spoke about the importance of science in general. 


The next Smithsonian involvement with the Academy centered on its publications program. 
William Gibbons (Fig. 9), who we believe was Henry Gibbons' brother, had read papers on viviparous 
fishes in June, 1853. His remarks were published in The Pacific (Fig. 10), a Congregationalist 
newspaper in San Francisco self-described as "of high literary character."** Spencer Fullerton Baird 
(Fig. 1 1 ), Joseph Henry's second in command at the Smithsonian Institution, wrote a starchy letter 
in early 1 854 saying that science would not recognize the priority of papers published in newspapers. 
Gibbons disagreed and the Academy passed a resolution on March 27, 1854 stating: "In view of the 
isolated condition of this Academy from other societies, we will regard every publication of new 
species which has been or may be made through the daily papers of this city as substantial evidence 
of priority of discovery."" Also, and unbeknownst to Baird, Gibbons' viviparous fishes papers had 
anticipated the work that was published about the same time by Louis Agassiz. Agassiz, on learning 
of Gibbons' remarks as published in the newspapers a few days before his own publication appeared, 
sent a letter to the Academy, which was received April 3, accepting the priority of Gibbons's paper. "^ 
At the same meeting the Academy also set up a committee to look into ways of establishing a more 
formal scientific program of publications. In September, 1854, the Academy arranged for the more 
elegant presentation of its transactions with The Pacific. What they did was, essentially, reset the type 
from the newspaper into a journal fonnat. 

In October 1854. Baird received a copy of the new publication and said that he now saw no 
problems with scientists acknowledging priority from that. He also advised them on how to properly 
date the sheets." On January 22, 1855. Baird was elected an honorary member. He continued to 
advise the Academy on matters relating to its publications program, on one occasion remarking that 



CiIl)C jpacit'ic 

•\i.iiiii;ma. iuidak jink :j). 

. .BHSKjacsBaMHialSH 

Figure 10. The Pacific. San Francisco's Congrcgaiionalist's newspaper that sent k, ^^adeniy meetings and then 

published the proceedings. Papers given by Academy members m which new species were described were published verbatim. 
This continued until September, 1854. at which time the Academy began issuing its own publication, the Proceedings of the 
CcililoiniLi .-IcLidcmy of Natural Sciences. 

FKiLRE 1 1. Spencer Fullerton Baird. 

Smithsonian Institution Archives 

(RU 95. Neg. #64750). 

Fici RE 12. William Healey Dall. 

Smithsonian Institution Archives 

(RU95, Neg. #SA-I156). 

FKiL RF I 3. James Graham Cooper. 

California ,'\cademy of Sciences 



250 copies was too few and advising at least 500 of each part be printed. As it turned out, Baird was 
correct. The 1854 Proceedings had to be reprinted in 1873 because of demand. 

Newspaper publication of scientific work reported at Academy meetings served another function 

— in its early days, it was the Academy's principal form of popular outreach inasmuch as it did not 
yet have a museum that it could open to the public. The daily and weekly papers in San Francisco, 
among them, the San Francisco Daily Bulletin, the Alta California, and the Scientific and Mining 
Press, sent representatives to the Academy's weekly meetings. Even one of the city's German 
language newspapers covered the Academy. Despite his initial criticism of newspaper publication, 
Baird himself eventually came to terms with the idea of popularizing science in this way, especially 
in the 1870s when he began his own dissemination of science through Harper's and the A'evv York 
Tribune J ~ Popularization through the public media, however, proved to be a mixed blessing to 
scientists. William Dall (Fig. 12) and James Cooper (Fig. 13), for example, both complained about 
the inaccuracy of the reports and their inability to check proof before something came out in the 

Building the Collections and Library at the Academy 

A major problem that quickly emerged during the early years of the Academy was that of finding 
a home for the rapidly growing collections of artifacts and biological specimens. In the 1850s, 
Academy members met in a series of rented rooms. The Academy was perpetually short of funds so 
that the landlords, Lewis Sloat and Col. Nevins (Fig. 14), both Academy members, often "forgave" 
the rent. '■* But, the needs of the fledgling organization could not be easily dismissed. The 1 860s began 
with serious agitation for a new building. The Geological Survey of California was started under 
Josiah Dwight Whitney (Fig. 15) who, on his arrival in San Francisco, became a member of the 
Academy, as did other Survey staff Whitney's was a large field-party effort, much different from 
Trask's reconnaissance efforts during the early 1850s. Initially, Whitney sent his type specimens of 
rocks, plants and animals to the Smithsonian Institution. But in 1 86 1 , he drew up a plan under which 
the collections from the Survey would be split, with the agricultural ones — mostly botany — going 
to the Agricultural Society in Sacramento for a museum there. The general natural history specimens 

— geological and zoological specimens that were unrelated to agriculture — would be given to the 
California Academy of Natural Sciences to form the nucleus of a state museum, which itself would 
be managed by the Academy on behalf of the Survey. The collections deposited with the Academy 
would remain under state geological survey control until the Survey was finished, and then they would 
pass on to the Academy. Whitney even went so far as to submit a floor plan for Spencer Baird to look 
over.'"' However, the scheme was derailed by a combination of politics and lack of money. Even if 
Whitney had gone through with his plans, the arrangement would have had trouble because the 
managing board included two politicians and only one scientist. 

In the 1 870s, Dall desperately wrote to Baird that he could not work in the cold, damp rooms of 
the Academy. In 1 872, Harvard zoologist Louis Agassiz visited San Francisco on his return from his 
South American expedition and, in place of a scientific report, gave a rabble-rousing lecture on the 
past successes of the Academy, on the need to support science, and the need for a new home for the 
Academy. Academy member Robert Steams (Fig. 16) told Baird about Agassiz's paper and specu- 
lated that it should finally result in material aid to the Academy once monetary conditions improved. "" 

In 1873, George Davidson, then president of the Academy, wrote to Joseph Henry about a lot 
that had been deeded to the Academy by San Francisco entrepreneur James Lick (Fig. 17) and asked 
Henry whether he could write a letter of thanks to the benefactor that the Academy could also use to 


Figure 14. Col. Thomas Nevins. 

California Academy of Sciences 


Figure 15. Josiah Dwight Whitney. 

Smithsonian Institution Archives 

(RU 7177, Neg. #78-106). 

Figure 16. Robert Edwards Carter 

Steams. Bancroft Library. University 

of California. Berkeley. 

Figure 17. James Lick. 
California Academy of Sciences Archives. 



approach other philanthropists to raise money for the building itself. Lick's original offer had a 
number of drawbacks and the Smithsonian was kept well-apprised of them. Dall wrote to warn Baird 
about Lick's earlier offers to other San Francisco groups who were then unable to raise the money to 
erect suitable structures. For instance, initially. Lick did not perniit the Academy to take out a 
moilgage, and he placed other restrictions on the gift, notably that the Academy had only two years 
to raise the funds and erect a building. 

On March 10, 1873, Henry's letter to Lick in response to Davidson's request began by drawing 
an analogy between Lick and James Smithson and wa.xed eloquent for five pages in Victorian prose 
about what a fine benefactor Lick was for science, how he would have immortality, and so forth. On 
page six, Henry got down to brass tacks; he warned Lick that to be successful, the building would 
require curators, maintenance, and a research program.' '' This letter was taken seriously because, by 
October 1 873, Lick had modified the plan and included a bequest to pay for a building and to endow 
its maintenance. Although James Lick died on October 1, 1876, it was some years before the 
intenninable wrangling over Lick's estate ended and monies were released to the Academy for the 
purposes intended. 

Meanwhile, in 1874 the Academy and its collections moved into the old First Congregationalist 
Church on the southwest comer of California and Dupont Streets."* They were to stay there until the 
new building was completed in 1 89 1. This church building was described by Robert Steams as 
"smelling of hell and brimstone." and it was not f 
adequate for the display of the Academy's rapidly 
growing accessions. In 1882, for instance, through 
the largess of railroad magnets Charles Crocker and 
Leland Stanford, for the sum of S8,000 each, the 
Academy acquired a large natural history collection 
from Ward's Natural History establishment that, at 
the time, was being displayed in San Francisco at the 
Mercantile Library. This collection, thereafter 
known as the Crocker-Stanford Collection in Geol- 
ogy, Mineralogy, and Natural History,''^ remained 
on display in the Mercantile Library. This proved 
unacceptable and, in 1884, the collection had to be 
moved and stored in the old church where dampness 
and mold took their toll.-" In 1888, the Academy 
finally stalled to build its own home, a project that 
took three years to complete. It consisted of two 
buildings, one fronting on Market Street (Fig. 18), 
the second immediately behind and connected to the 
Market Street building by a bridge at the level of the 
second floor. You can see the sign "Califomia Acad- 
emy of Sciences." One entered through the front 
hall, went up the Grand Staircase and walked 
through the bridge corridor to the rear building, 
which was the actual museum area. The front build- 
ing was dedicated to offices, which the Academy ' '^'L^e is. Facade of the Academy's Market Street build- 
. , , ,- ■ Ti -T-u u ij- c I'lR Thi.s buildins was used tor commercial purposes. ,\ 

rented out tor mcome.- The museum buildmsj tea- ,, ,, r , , , ... j .u L 

second buildmg benmd this one supported the Museum, 
tured exhibits that had been previously displayed in California Academy of Sciences Archives, 





Figure 19. Main exhibit floor of the Academy's museum building, circa 1902. 
The mammoth restoration was among the items purchased from Wards Scientific Establishment 
in 1882 and first on display at the Mercantile Library. California Academy of Sciences Archives. 

the Mercantile Library, then, in part, in the Congregationalist Church, and finally in all their glory in 
the new building (Fig. 19).-- 

The founders of the Academy overwhelmingly were collectors of natural history specimens, but 
the Academy's resources in the 1 850s were miniscule and all too often one reads in the minute books, 
"no cash" (Hittell in Leviton & Aldrich, 1997:22).-'' In 1857, William Or^'ille Ayres (Fig. 20) wrote 
to Spencer Baird at the Smithsonian saying that the entire 
small-bird collection fit in a large cigar box.-'' Initially, there 
were manifold advantages to sending collections to the Srnith- 
sonian rather than keeping them in the Academy. In exchange 
for the specimens, the scientists received publications or Eastern 
material for cornparison, and sometimes they were paid for their 
collections. Nevertheless, there was a problem of competition 
between the Smithsonian and the Academy, and also there were 
plenty of other individuals who competed with Baird to get 
collections from California. Louis Agassiz, in particular, paid 
well and often walked off with the choicest material.-^ How- 
ever, George Davidson favored the of the Academy of Natural 
Sciences of Philadelphia, and sent them his "personal" collec- 
tions, as he called them. This practice irritated Baird, because 
to ship them Davidson had used the Smithsonian exchange Fioi_ re 20. William Orville Ayres. 
system. Davidson would box the material, take it to the wharf California Academy of Sciences Archives. 



and ask that it be loaded onto the steamer ahead of other packages going to the Smithsonian. Davidson 
used the system to get the collections to the Smithsonian, and then Baird had to trans-ship it to 
Philadelphia. -*" There were also a number of Europeans who came to San Francisco and collected in 
cooperation with the Academy. Ainong them were Franz Steindachner and Baron Ferdinand Rich- 
thofen. Richthofen, especially, made the California scientists nervous because he shipped all of his 
fossils back to Prussia and the Califomians rushed to get their descriptions out in their own journal 
before Richthofen's friends scooped them.-' 

There were several conflicts with Sinithsonian personnel 
about priority in describing new species. Early on, Charles 
Girard and William Ayers clashed over birds, but the most 
long-standing dispute was between Theodore Gill (Fig. 21 ), 
who had arguinents with both Ayers and Williain Lockington 
regarding fish taxonomy. Gill had the U.S. Exploring Expe- 
dition material, giving him what he considered proprietary 
rights on all North Pacific fishes. Gill was severe in his 
criticism of Ayers and, in fact, of anyone who tread upon what 
he considered his turf At one point Ayers described the shark 
genus Nolorhynchiis, which Gill first rejected, but later rede- 
scribed using the Ayres' genus and species names but attrib- 
uting them to himself (the dispute was finally resolved in 
Ayres' favor by strict application of the International Code 
of Zoological Nomenclature). The westerners regarded Gill 
as an ann-chair naturalist who had the print resources of the 
Library of Congress available to him, which stirred up a great 
deal of resentment. In 1881, Gill was still fighting with 
William Lockington over fishes.-** Baird sometimes mediated these conflicts but sometimes he was 
a source of irritation himself At one point he received a box of specimens from James Cooper that 
had material for the Smithsonian and for two other collections. Baird went through the box. took what 
he wanted, adjusted the invoices for the others, and sent them on. The result was that Cooper ended 
up about $80 short, because he was selling his other specimens.-'^ 

A major problem for the Smithsonian in temis of collecting in the West was making its exchange 
system work. Several Academy members, such as Benjamin Redding, were professionals in the 
transportation companies in the West and were vital to the economical running and the success of the 
Smithsonian exchange system. The earliest notable example is Samuel Hubbard of the Pacific Mail 
Steamship Company. The Pacific Mail designated a certain number of cubic feet on every steamer 
that left San Francisco for shipping material under the Smithsonian exchange system and did not 
charge for it. Before the advent of the railroad, that was the only way to ship bulky packages.''^' 

California's attitude toward the railroad changed over time and affected the shipping of scientific 
specimens. There was initial euphoria over the idea of the railroad; it was begun in 1 863 from Oakland 
and the feeling was that it would bind the nation and end the economic isolation of California. 
Califomians took great pride in its construction up to 1 869, but the railroad did not bring the prosperity 
and the population that the state expected, and it was the first experience many of them had with a 
large easteni-style corporation. Furthermore, the four men who headed the Central Railroad. Leiand 
Stanford, Collis Huntington, Chades Crocker, and Mark Hopkins, were not especially gentle, lovable 
people.-" There were endless rate disputes, especially over the issue of short- and long-haul, and 
science was caught in the middle. When Baird asked for free, or at least favorable, rates on the railroad, 

Fl( lURE 2 1 . Theodore Nicolas Gill. 

Smilhson-lan Institution Archives 

(RU95. Neg. #SA-602). 


he was lumped in with the big fanners and friends of the "big four" who were getting favors. The 
legislature passed laws against this practice and for a while the Smithsonian exchange system got 
bogged down by the resulting requirements.'- At least two of the rail magnates were active in the 
Academy, Crocker and Stanford, and they regarded scientific work in the West as part of the civilizing 
of the area that would contribute directly to the success of the rails. 

In terms of the mid-level personnel on the Central Pacific Railroad, the most useful to Baird was 
Benjamin Redding, the land agent who previously had served as California's Secretary of State as 
well as the state's fish commissioner. The Central Pacific had been financed by bonds, loans, 
construction grants, and by large grants of land, which were then sold off It was Redding's 
responsibility to sell the land and, during his tenure, this was handled reasonably fairly.'-' The situation 
described in Frank Norris's novel. The Octopus, in which the land agent lures people to develop the 
land and then jacks up the prices, portrayed a later agent. 

In contrast to the Pacific Mail Steamship and Central Pacific Railroad, Baird had a notable lack 
of success in getting any rate reduction from Wells Fargo, which operated as a Federal Express of 
the West. Wells Fargo served the same flinction as Adams Express in the East in terms of getting 
small packages transported rapidly. Wells Fargo contracted with the railroads to do that but also 
tracked the freight as it crossed the country. Scientists involved in Wells Fargo during this early period 
never could help Baird get free shipments or even preferential rates. ''' 

Ostensibly, the Smithsonian exchange was for European materials, primarily publications. But 
the Academy scientists and Baird used the exchange system for moving domestic packages and 
scientific specimens as well. The Academy would package its books, and while still in San Francisco 
add whatever postage was necessary to cover mail from Washington, D.C. to the final destinations 
along the East Coast or Europe. It then would ship a box of packaged books to the Smithsonian. On 
arrival in Washington, Baird had only to drop the separately packaged books in the mail in 
Washington. This kept the material intact instead of spread out all over the place and was much more 
successful and significantly less costly than mailing multiple packages directly from San Francisco. 
The Academy also became an important trans-shipping agent for the Smithsonian on the West 

Another feature of the exchange system was that the California Academy and the Smithsonian 
Institution used it to introduce species from the West to the East, and vice versa. In 1 874, Steams sent 
Baird eleven species of conifer seeds and fourteen species of flowers to try to establish in the East. 
Similarly, in his capacity as fish commissioner. Redding introduced shad to the West and attempted 
to introduce the Pacific salmon to the East.'*" The scientists were aware of the downside risks of this 
kind of transaction; the English sparrow was universally condemned, and they had seen introduced 
plant species crowd out desirable natives. 

An aside, an incident related to the exchange system for shipment of specimens by the Academy 
to the Smithsonian, occurred in 1887. The Academy accidentally used a large container of alcohol 
that the Smithsonian had set aside for David Starr Jordan, who was still in Indiana at the time. This 
was seen as a serious violation of IRS interstate regulations, because if the alcohol were not used by 
the person who initially paid the bond — in this case, the Smithsonian — then large taxes were due; 
furthermore, both parties' bonds could be suspended. Baird and Reese took up the matter and wrote 
the Commissioner of Internal Revenue a letter explaining what had happened. In a letter that amazes 
one when read today, the Commissioner replied, in essence, "it was used for the purpose for which 
it was designed, so I don't see that this is an issue; and neither of the bonds are threatened."''' 

Another cooperative arrangement between the Smithsonian and the California Academy in- 
volved what was called "the great want of books here, which has been the bane of workers." In the 



1860s, foreign scientific publications flowed in 50 to 100 at a time under the exchange system. In 
1873, Baird told Robert Steams that [Secretary Joseph] Henry had finally decided what to do with 
the duplicate books left over from transfer of the Smithsonian library to the Library of Congress. The 
Secretary had decreed that the world of science needed a first-class reference librai-y at the greatest 
possible distance from the Smithsonian. Several institutions qualified, and Baird urged Dall to have 
the Academy write first to preempt them.'"' George Davidson took the hint and in November asked 
Heniy for the books and, on the 12th of December, Henry wrote to Davidson infomiing him that 
fifteen cartons were shipped, "consisting of all the duplicates of publications ... in the possession of 
the Smithsonian Institution . . . ," over 2,000 volumes, weighing 3,000 to 4.000 pounds. Some of them 
were broken sets but those were easy to fill and accessions to the library from the Smithsonian 
continued. Other institutions also sent books, including major donations from the Academy of 
Sciences of Philadelphia; these were especially welcome following the devastating 1906 San 
Francisco earthquake and fire that left the Academy's physical plant in ruins. ""' 

Staffing the Academy 

With the Lick bequest, the Academy was no longer preoc- 
cupied with money or survival, although the handling of the new 
wealth certainly raised a whole set of new problems, but it was 
not the end to change and innovation, especially in staffing. The 
personnel within the Academy differed somewhat from that in 
eastern scientific establishments. Eusebius Molera (Fig. 22) was 
one of the prominent Hispanic professionals in San Francisco at 
the time. Bom in 1846, he was a civil engineer and architect. In 
May of 1 873, he became a member of the Academy, frequently 
presented papers on a variety of subjects and, in 1886, was 
elected to the Academy's Board of Tmstees, on which he served 
for some years. Because of his architectural and engineering 
background, he was very active while the building was going 
up. His main scientific interest, apart from matheinatics and 
engineering, was Aztec calendars, on which he published a 
major paper.""^ 

Theoretically, women could join the Academy since its founding in 1853, but they did not 
actually start attending meetings until the early 1870s, and several joined en bloc in 1878. Women 
began giving papers at the Academy in 1881 and continued to do so with increasing frequency 
thereafter. They also donated large collections, Mrs. E. D. Crocker being especially noteworthy in 
that regard.^' In June 1883, Mary Katharine Layne [Curran] (Fig. 23), who had received an M.D. 
degree from the University of Califomia several years earlier, became the first woman curator hired 
by the Academy. She was a botanist, and within six months had moved from an unpaid to a paid 
position. Rosa Smith (later Rosa Smith Eigenmann) (Fig. 24) was appointed Curator of Fishes in 
February 1884. In 1892, on the recommendation of [Mary] Katharine Layne [Cunan] Brandegee 
(Katharine had by this time had married Townshend Brandegee), Alice Eastwood (Fig. 25) was 
appointed to the botany department. ""- 

After Baird died in 1 887. the Academy's relations with the Smithsonian Institution changed, but 
it was also a sign of the times. Now, instead of Secretary of the Smithsonian to President of the 
Califomia Academy, relations became scientist to scientist. For instance, John Van Denburgh (Fig. 

Figure 22. Eusebius Molera. 
Califomia Academy of Sciences Archives. 



Figure 23. Mary Katharine Layne 
(Curran) (Brandegee). Hunt Institute 
for Botanical Documentation. Carnegie- 
Mellon University. 

FiGLRE 24. Carl and Rosa Smith Eigenmann. 

November 1889. Courtesy Scripps Institution of 

Oceanography Archives 

Figure 26. John Van Denburgh. 
California Academy of Sciences Archives. 

Figure 25. Alice Eastwood. 
California Academy of Sciences Archives. 


26), the Academy's Curator of Herpetology, carried on correspondence and exchanged specimens 
with Leonhard Stejneger, his counterpart at the Smithsonian's National Museum.''-' The botanists, 
notably Alice Eastwood and Katharine Brandegee and her husband Townshend, are also good 
examples of this shift in activity. Katharine Brandegee and Alice Eastwood corresponded with and 
exchanged specimens with Joseph Nelson Rose and C. L. Pollard in the Smithsonian's National 
Museum's Division of Plants, and with George Vasey and Frederick Vernon Coville in the Depart- 
ment of Agriculture's Botany Division, whose connection with the Smithsonian was indirect, through 
the Department of Agriculture and the National Herbarium. Plant culture was among the things that 
interested the botanists most, especially Alice Eastwood. As earlier with the publication exchange 
system, Eastwood asked for Eastern aquatic plants to be shipped to her because the sportsmen's club 
wanted to plant them to attract ducks; she in turn sent seeds back to the Eastern scientists to watch 
their development.'*"' This was a different use, not connected with introduction of the materials there; 
propagation was being studied as a scientific issue. Eastern scientists advised Alice Eastwood and 
her colleagues on preservation techniques, and there was, of course, the ongoing loan and exchange 
of plants that persists to this day among curators of nearly all major natural history museums. During 
these years, Eastwood was adding 5,000 to 10,000 plants a year to the Academy's herbarium, so she 
was extremely active in the field. In 1902, on one trip, carrying her luggage on her back, she walked 
22 miles into the Coast Ranges when the temperature was 104 in the shade, stayed overnight, and 
walked back the next day."*^ And because samples of western plants were eagerly sought by eastern 
curators for their herbaria, which is one reason why the exchange system among herbaria and other 
museum collections works, Eastwood was able to build a major herbarium in near-record time. The 
process and etiquette of exchanging and priority had been understood and regularized for some time. 
Scientists collected to fill in gaps in their collections and to write papers, some jointly, and they helped 
one another with identifications. If a new species was found in material shipped East, the eastern 
scientist was welcome to identify it, but the western scientist expected that the description would be 
published in the California Academy's Proceedings series and that the types would be sent back. The 
eastern scientist could retain a sample fi'om the duplicates. 

This peaceftil and productive chapter in the Academy's history ended abruptly on April 1 8, 1 906 
when a heavy earthquake hit the area. The earthquake's epicenter was in Marin County, 20 miles 
north of San Francisco. It cracked the city's water rnains and that rnade it nearly impossible to put 
out the fires, which actually did most of the damage (Fig. 27-28). The morning of the earthquake 
several of the curators went to the Museum to examine the damage. The stairs and the bridge between 
the two buildings had collapsed. The galleries' floors — cement-reinforced, among the first in San 
Francisco — remained intact. The curators started to rescue the types and records. The people mainly 
involved in this were Alice Eastwood, John Van Denburgh, Curator of Herpetology, Leverett Loomis, 
Director of the Museum, and Mary Hyde, the Librarian. Before the fire reached the Academy's 
building, they managed to get out a few type specimens, mostly from the herbarium, and the 
entomology and herpetology collections, the Museum catalogues, a few books from the Library, most 
of the minute books of Academy meetings dating back to 1 853, and a 324-page manuscript of a history 
of the Academy that had just been completed by Theodore Hittell (see Leviton and Aldrich, 1997).'"' 

Within six months of this devastating event, the schooner .4ca(/ewv returned from its voyage. It 
had left in 1 905 to collect in the Galapagos Archipelago, where it spent over a year. When the schooner 
returned in November 1906, the collections were stored in a walled-off portion of the building (Fig. 
29).'" The damage to the Academy was widely publicized in letters to Washington scientists, 
especially Edward Nelson, who saw to it that those letters were published in Science magazine.''^ 
Many offers came to help rebuild the Academy's scientific collections. The Smithsonian, for instance. 



Figures 27-28. (27) The remains of the California Academy of Sciences following the devastating earthquake and fire of 

18-19 April, 1906. The elevator shaft alone remains standing of the Market Street building; the building immediately 

behind and to the left was the Academy's museum building. (28) The interior of the Academy's museum building 

following the devastating earthquake and fire of 18— 19 April, 1906. California Academy of Sciences Archives. 



Figl:re 29. Walled-otY space made available in the earthquake-damaged museum building for storage of the Galapagos 
collections on return ol the Schooner .-fcWt'Hir in November. 1906, seven months after the earthquake and tire had substantially 
destroyed the Academy's buildings on Market Street. California Academy of Sciences .■Xrchivcs 

I'.iN'K.N Til riih; 

(jaiifuniid AcdiUmy 0/ Sac'i/cs 


The Academy of Natural Sciences 


After ti.c Earthquake And Fire of April, 1906 

FiGtiRE 30. Book plate acknowledging the donation of books to 

the Academy's Library replacing those lost in the April 18. 1906 

earthquake and fire that destroyed the Academy's buildings. 

California Academy of Sciences Library. 


offered to send plants to Alice Eastwood to refUrbish the herbarium but she asked them to delay until 
a new building was put up. Julius Hurler sent Van Denburgh collections of eastern amphibians.'*'' 
And, almost immediately, to replenish the Library, the Smithsonian responded by donating thousands 
of books to the Academy, as did other organizations, like the Academy of Natural Sciences of 
Philadelphia (Fig. 30), and 170 other organizations, including several European book dealers. 

The Smithsonian Institution began in 1846, less than ten years before the Academy was founded 
a continent apart. The Institution had an endowment left by James Smithson that supported the 
research program envisioned by Joseph Henry, while its museum was funded largely from Congres- 
sional appropriations. The Academy struggled financially for years, until the Lick funds enabled it 
to operate on a steady basis: by then, Henry was able to guide the Academy's donor to make his gift 
more helpful to western science. Meanwhile, Henry himself benefited from the Academy's commit- 
ment to research in the form of participation in his meteorological data gathering. His assistant and 
successor, Spencer Baird, also had a symbiotic relation with the Academy, in part through an ongoing 
correspondence with Academy-based scientists, such as William Healey Dall and Robert Stears, but 
also, for instance, in receiving collections from the West Coast for the Smithsonian's museum in 
exchange for advising the Academy on and assisting in the distribution of the latter's scientific 
publications. The Academy became the western outlet for the Smithsonian's extra library accessions, 
a crucial resource before the growth of major university libraries in the West. As both institutions 
matured, an equilibrium came about, with curators exchanging specimens and information, and 
publishing in each other's reports and journals. By the end of the century, their mutual relationship 
became a major factor in defining science in the United States. 


A large amount of the material for what has been presented here came from the Smithsonian 
Archives and could not have been collected without the diligence of Bill Cox, Bruce Kirby, Tammy 
Peters. Terrica Gibson, Susan 'Woody' Glenn, Pamela Henson and all the other people who assisted. 
Josephine Jamison, the Archives' patient and understanding receptionist, allowed herself to be drafted 
by the two impetuous researchers on more than one occasion. Everybody was very cooperative. We 
also acknowledge the assistance of the Henry Papers in dealing with the issue of meteorology; both 
Kathleen Dorman and Marc Rothenberg were of great assistance. An early version of this paper was 
presented in 1996 in Washington, D.C. on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the Smithsonian 
Institution. A taped version of that talk was transcribed by Ms Caroline Farquhar to whom we are 
indebted for her faithful rendering of the presentation in hard copy. Anita Karg, archivist at the Hunt 
Institute for Botanical Documentation, Carnegie-Mellon University, Pittsburgh, as always, was 
extremely helpful in locating portraits of hard-to-find individuals. The Bancroft Library, University 
of California, Berkeley, kindly permitted us to use several portraits from their collection, as did the 
Scripps Institution of Oceanography Archives. We are indebted to two reviewers, J. Thomas Dutro, 
Jr. and Pamela Henson, for their heipftil comments and criticisms. And last, but assuredly not least, 
at the California Academy of Sciences, archivist Michele Wellck and Special Collections librarian 
Karren Elsbrend gave unstintingiy of their time in response to our many needs to access their unique 


Note bene: The "Hittell" references cited below refer to a now published 324-page handwritten 
manuscript that had been saved from the earthquake and fire that devastated the California 
Academy of Sciences on 18 April 1906. The manuscript was among the few items saved by 


Academy staff on the scene. It was resurrected and edited by Leviton and Aldrich (see Leviton, 
Alan E.. and Michele L. Aldrich, 1997, Theodore Heniy HitteU's The California Academy of 
Sciences. 1853-1906. San Francisco: California Academy of Sciences, xv + 623 pp., 144 illus.), 
with significant additions to the original Hittell text by the editors; the editors were also 
responsible for all footnotes and for the appendices with the exceptions of Appendix A and 
Appendix H (Appendix A was written by Hittell and presented orally in 1903, Appendix H was 
prepared by G. W. Dickie, L. M. Loomis, and R. Pratt as a memorial for Hittell; it was published 
in 1918). The editors also are responsible for choosing the illustrations that accompany the text. 
As noted earlier in this volume (see Ertter, pp. 203), for convenience and consistency, quotes 
and references from this source are cited simply as Hittell, unless derived from the footnotes or 
appendices that were added by the editors. 

Soule, Frank, John H. Gihon, and Joseph Nisbet. 1855. The Annals of San Francisco; Containing a 
Summaiy of the History of the First Discoveiy, Settlement, Progress, and Present Condition of California, and 
a Complete Histoiy of All the Important Events Connected with Its Great City: to which are added. Biographical 
Memoirs of Some Prominent Citizens. D. Appleton & Co., New York, San Francisco, London. 824 pp., illus. 

" Hittell, pp. 1 1-1 9 and 46-48. On Henry Gibbons, see National Cyclopedia of American Biography ( 1 889), 
vol. 7, p. 287. On Kellogg, see Anonymous (but probably penned by Katharine Brandegee), "Dr. Albert Kellogg," 
Zoe, vol. IV (April 1893), p. 1-2. On Randall, see Clay Preston Butler, Andrew Randall: Editor and Geologist: 
Founder of the California Academy of Natural Sciences, in two manuscript volumes (undated but assembled 
sometime before 1982) in the Archives of the California Academy of Sciences; see also Grant Foreman, The 
Adventures of James Collier: First Collector of the Port oj San Francisco (Chicago: Black Cat Press, 1937, 61 
pp.). On Trask, see Alan Leviton and Michele Aldrich, Jo/;« Boardman Trask: Physician-Geologist in California, 
1850-1879 in Leviton et al.. Frontiers of Geological Exploration of Western North America, Pacific Division 
Amer. Assoc. Advance. Science, San Francisco (1982), pp. 37-69. On Sloat, see Robert C. Miller, Calif Hist. 
Soc. Quart. (1942, vol. 21, no. 4, p. 363-364), also Pacific Dwroi-m' (1953, vol. 6, no. 2, pp. 18-25); Ewan, 
San Francisco as a Mecca for Nineteenth Centuiy Naturalists, in E. Babcock et al., eds., .4 Centuiy of Progress 
in the Natural Sciences, California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco ( 1 953 ), p. 9. On Nevins, see references 
for Sloat (op. cit.),p. 9. 

■ Hittell, pp. 21-24. 

James Rodger Fleming, A/ereora/ogi'm.^njenco, /S00-/S70(Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 
1990, xii + 264 pp.), pp. xx-xxii, 81-82, 101, 127-128, 132, 135, and 170-172. 

' Smithsonian Institution, Annual Reports for 1852-1860 (Washington DC: Smithsonian Institution, 
1853—1861) inclusive provide the names of observers in Henry's weather network. Marc Rothenberg and 
Kathleen Donnan graciously shared their insights into the relevance of observations on California for Henry's 
ideas. Their work on the weather network is embodied in vols. 7 et seq. of The Papers of Jo.'ieph Henry 
(Washington DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1996). 

" Hittell, p. 107. 

^ Hittell, p. 135. 

William Gibbons, fish articles. The Pacific. 

' Hittell, p. 29. Gibbons to Baird, 14 September 1854, vol. 7, p. 272, Assistant Secretary Incoming 
Correspondence, RU 52, Smithsonian Institution Archives (hereafter SIA). Baird to CAS early 1854. 

'° Loc. cit. 

" Baird to W. Gibbons, 10 October 1854, vol. 9, p. 353, Outgoing Assistant Secretary Correspondence, RU 
53. SIA, transcribed in Hittell, pp. 33-34. 

'' Baird to Dall, 1 December 1873, Box 7, William Dall Personal Papers, RU 7073, SIA. E. F, Rivinus and 
E. M. Youssef, Spencer Baird of the Smithsonian (Washington DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992), pp. 

'-'' Cooper to Baird, 18 February and 18 April 1871, vol. II, pp. 294-296 and 299, RU 52, SIA. Dall to Meek, 
30 May 1 869, Box 2, folder 1 , Fielding B. Meek Papers, RU 7062, SIA. (Note: The Dall to Meek letter does not 
bear a year. However, based on other evidence, namely a letter from Meek to Dall dated 24 May 1869 to which 


this letter appeares to be a response (N.B. the Dall to Meek letter begins. "Yours was duly reed and I hasten to 
reply . . .," the year seems probable [according to W. Cox, SI A Archives [pers. conimun.. Cox to Leviton, 14 
July 2000], "The Dall to Meek letter ... is simply dated May 30, . . . no year. But. I'm almost positive it was 
written in 1 869. The Dall collection contains a letter from Meek dated May 24, 1 869. which discusses the same 
tertiary rocks of Alaska.") 

'■* Hittell. pp. 22-23, 

'"'' Vol. 24, pp. 292 et seq.. Record Unit 52, SI A, transcribed and sketch reproduced in Hittell, pp. 512-513. 

'^ Dall to Baird, 29 December 1872, Box 18, RU 7002, SIA. Hittell, pp. 146-147. Steams to Baird, 23 
October 1872 and 27 January 1874, Box 36, folder 13, RU 52. 

'^ Hittell, pp. 151-153. The letters are cited and transcribed or summarized there: Davidson to Henry, 19 
February 1873, vol. 162, p. 147 and 3 April 1873, vol. 132, p. 486-487 in Secretary Incoming Correspondence, 
vol. 162, p. 147, RU 26, SIA, and Henry to James Lick, 10 March 1873. Secretary Outgoing Correspondence, 
vol. 33. p. 40. Record Unit 33. SIA. See also Dall to Baird. 23 February 1873, Box 18, RU 7002 and Steams to 
Baird, 17 October 1873, Box 36. folder 13, RU 52. 

'^ Hittell, pp. 164-165. 

" Hittell, pp. 243-244. 248. 269-271 . 

-° Hittell, pp. 280. 

-' Hindi, pp. 318-326. 

" Hittell, pp. 243-245 and 323-325. 

" Hittell. p. 22. 

-■' Ayres to Baird, 18 May 1859. vol. 16. p. 30. RU 52. 

-^ Baird to Dall, 8 November 1872 and 18 March 1873, Box 7, RU 7073. Steams to Baird, 17 November 
1873, Box 36, folder 13, RU 52. 

^^ Baird to Dall, 17 November 1873, Box 7, RU 7073. 

" Steams to Baird 23 October 1872, Box 36, folder 13, RU 32. 

'* Hittell, pp. 35, 43, 64, 69, 196, and 239. Based in part on letters as follows: Ayres to Baird, 19 July 1859, 
Box 14, item 1 10 in Baird Personal Papers, Record Unit 7002, SIA and Lockington to Dall, 21 December 1878, 
Box 13, folder 25, Dall Personal Papers, Record Unit 7073, SIA. 

'' Cooper to Baird 20 January 1874, vol. II, p. 326, RU 52. 

^° Hittell, p. 85 and Steams to Baird, 9 December 1873 and 27 January 1874, Box 36, folder 13, RU 52. 
Letters from Academy members in RU 26 (Secretary Incoming Correspondence) routinely mention shipping 
via the Pacific Mail boats. 

William Francis Deverell, Railroad Crossing: Californians and the Railroad. 1850-1910 ( 1 994. Univer- 
sity of Califomia Press. Berkeley, xiii -•- 278 pp.). pp. 3-18. Steams to Baird. 19 May 1873, Box 36, folder 13, 
RU 52, where Steams says "Everything is badly mixed and jumbled since the railroad was completed — and 
the outlook is not promising." 

" Hittell, p. 170, based largely on letters of Redding to Baird in Assistant Secretary Incoming Correspon- 
dence, Record Unit 52, SIA. 

-" Hittell, pp. 169-170. 

'•^ Baird to Dall, 13 October 1872, Box 7, RU 7073. 

Baird's official correspondence at the SIA is replete with letters documenting this. See for example letters 
from Trask, Ayres, Steams, Dall, and Cooper. 

The salmon story has been told by other authorities. Among the older literature, the most useful to us is 
Dean Allard. Spencer Fullerton Baird and the U.S. Fish Commission (New York: Amo Press, 1 978), pp. 1 37-1 57 
and 266-268. For a comprehensive recent survey of writings on the topic, see Joseph E. Taylor, Making Sahnon: 
An Environmental Hisloiy of the Northwest Fisheries Cm/.? (Seattle: University of Washington Press. 1 999), p. 
380-385. Allard also deals with the shad question, pp. 136-137 and 143. On seeds, see Steams to Baird, 31 
January 1874, Box 36, folder 13, RU 32. 

" Joseph Miller to William Rhees, 4 June 1887, RU 33. 

'** Dall to Baird, 28 December 1873, Box 18, RU 52. Baird to Dall, 17 December 1873. Box 7, R 7073. 
Hittell, pp.42, 80, 164-165, and 196. George Davidson to Joseph Henry, 29 November 1873 and 24 December 


1873, vol. 136, p. 232 and vol. 142, p. 1, Secretary Incoming Correspondence, Record Unit 26, SIA. Steams to 
Baird, 27 January 1 874. Box 36, RU 52, confirms arrival of 1 5 cases of books, as yet unopened, because of move 
of the Academy into the old First Congregationalist Chuch building as its temporary quarters. 
-"^ Hinell, pp. 478^79 and 561-567. 

Molera's biography appeared in the Transactions of the Technical Society of the Pacific Coast, an 
engineering society in which he was active. 

■*' Hittell, pp. 2 1 , 206. 211, 232-233. and 246-247. 

" Biographical sketches for Katharine and Townshend Brandegee see William A. Setchell. "Townshend 
Stith Brandegee and Mary Kathanne (Layne) (Curran) Brandegee," Univ. California Piihl. Botany ( 1926, vol. 
13, no. 9, pp. 1 55-1 78, pis. 13-14); also Frank S. and Carol D. Crosswhite, "The Plant Collecting Brandegees, 
with emphasis on Katharine Brandegee as a liberated woman scientist of early California. "Desert Plants ( 1 985, 
vol. 7, no. 3, pp. 128-162), Elizabeth Rush, "On her terms: Katharine Brandegee: First woman of Western 
botany," Pacific Discoveiy (1997, vol. 50, no. 1, pp. 22-27, 6 illus.), and Nancy G. Slack, "Mary Katharine 
Brandegee." American National Biography (1999), vol. 7, pp. 414—417 and "Townshend Stith Brandegee" {op. 
cit.), pp. 417^18. Several biographical sketches of Alice Eastwood exist but see in particular Frank Mace 
MacFarland in the Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences ( 1949, ser. 4. vol. 25. pp. ix— xxiv), Carol 
Green Wilson's Alice Eastwood's Wonderland, (San Francisco: California Academy of Sciences, 1955, 222 
pp.), "Eastwood. Alice." in Notable American Women: The Modern Period. A Biographical Dictionary (edited 
by B. Sicherman, et al., 1980, Cambridge: Belknap Press, Harvard University), pp. 79—80, and more recently, 
Elizabeth Keeney, "Alice Eastwood," American National Biography (1999), vol. 7, pp. 255-256. A brief 
biographical sketch and portrait of Rosa Smith Eigenmann appear on p. 15 of Women in Science: A Selection of 
1 6 Significant Contributors, published by the San Diego Supercomputer Center ( 1 997) (a copy of this publication 
can be found in the GS Myers/AE Leviton Biographical and Portrait Files of Natural History, Department of 
Herpetology, California Academy of Sciences). 

' John Van Denburgh correspondence with Leonhard Stejneger, January 15, 1906 to June 17, 1927, 
Department of Herpetology Archives, California Academy of Sciences. 

Eastwood to Joseph Rose, 15 November 1894, Box 9, US National Museum, Division of Plants, Record 
Unit 221. SIA. 

^ Hittell, p. 364, quoting Alice Eastwood to Joseph Rose, 27 August 1 896, and Eastwood to Rose, 1 1 August 
1902, Box 9, RU 221. 

'*" Hittell, pp. 467-474 and 499-506. 

'*'' Hinell, pp. 446^-449, 461-466, 477 and 481. 

Hittell, pp. 475—476, 499, and 505—506. The Science magazine versions appeared in New Series, vol. 23 
(25 May 1906), pp. 824—826. Four of the original letters are in Box 4, folder 2 (Eastwood) and Box 7, folder 1 
(Loomis) of E. N. Nelson and E. A. Goldman Collection, Record Unit 7364, SIA, and the fifth is in Box 9, 
Eastwood folder, of US National Museum, Division of Plants, record Unit 221, SIA. They are tran.scribed in 
Hittell, pp. 500-506. We thank William Cox of the Smithsonian Institution Archives for drawing our attention 
to them. 

Julius Hurler to John Van Denburgh correspondence, December 17, 1906 to August 11,1916, Department 
of Herpetology Archives, California Academy of Sciences. 

Copyright £2000 by the California Academy of Sciences 

Golden Gale Park, San Francisco, California 941 18, USA. 

All rights reserved. 

People, Plants, and Politics: The Development of 

Institution-Based Botany in California 



University and Jepson Herbaria 

University of California. Berkeley. CA 94720-2465 


The second half of the nineteenth century witnessed the almost overnight transforma- 
tion of a remote outpost into the bustling metropolis of San Francisco, situated in the midst 
of an undescribed wealth of biological diversity'. This period accordingly also saw the 
founding and development of most of the major scientific institutions of California: the 
California Academy of Sciences, the California Geological Survey, the University of 
California, and Stanford University. As demonstrated by a focus on the botanical compo- 
nent, the early histories of these institutions are tightly intertwined, with overlapping casts 
of colorful personalities. Those who exerted the greatest influence on botany during this 
period were Albert Kellogg, Hans Hermann Behr, Josiah Dwight Whitney, W illiam Henry 
Brewer, Henry Nicholas Bolander, Mary Katharine Layne Curran Brandegee, Edward 
Lee Greene, Harvey Willson Harkness, William Russel Dudley, and Townshend Stith 

Botanists in California have long been a popular topic for biographical sketches, due in large 
part to the dramatic exploits and colorful personalities of such well-known figures as David Douglas 
(e.g., Mai^vood. 1973), William Henry Brewer (Farquhar, 1930), Edward Lee Greene (Mcintosh, 
1983; McVaugh, 1983), and Alice Eastwood (Wilson, 1955). More recently significant attention has 
been given to Kathainne Brandegee (Crosswhite & Crosswhite, 1985; Bonta, 1991; Rush, 1997), 
making up for nearly a century of undeserved obscurity. These biographical sketches, however, 
generally focus on a single person, and as a result have failed to capture the rich interplay of 
personalities, the feuds and alliances, that left their indelible marks on the fledgling scientific 
institutions of California. The origins of these institutions are themselves intertwined, due to the 
overlapping and shifting involvement of many of these same individuals. Critical "missing pieces" 
have been provided by the recent publication of Theodore Henry Hittell's manuscript history of the 
California Academy of Sciences, which had languished in the Academy archives since 1906.' 

Only Gleanings Left to Us of the Present Day 

From a beginning-of-the-2 1 st century perspective, it is difficult to appreciate that California was, 
at the beginning of the 19th century, one of the farthest comers of the earth, accessible from the 
Atlantic only by a long and arduous voyage around Cape Horn, or by an even more hazardous overland 
voyage through uncharted wilderness. Long after thriving colonial cities had been established in 

' Resurrected and edited by Leviton and Aldrich (1997). with significant additions to the original Hittell text by the editors; 
the editors are also responsible for all footnotes and for the appendices with the exceptions of Appendix A and Appendix H 
(Appendix A was wrilten by Hittell and presented orally in 1903; Appendix H was prepared by G. W. Dickie. L. M. Loomis. 
and R. Pratt as a memorial for Hmell). For convenience, quotes and references from this invaluable source are cited herein 
simply as Hittell. unless derived from the footnotes or appendices that were added by the editors. 



Mexico and along the South American coasthne, only tenuous footholds existed in western North 
America. Even as Spanish, English, and Russian settlements became established along the Pacific 
coast of the continent, visiting ships routinely depended on the Hawaiian Islands as the closest outpost 
of Western civilization where provisions could be reliably obtained. 

The gradual colonization changed abruptly and dramatically with the discovery of gold in 
California in 1849, leading to the nearly overnight appearance of a full-tledged city in the heart of 
prime botanical hunting ground. The gold nish soon peaked, with the bulk of ininers moving on to 
newly discovered fields outside of California, but the rise of new industries (e.g., whaling) ensured 
that the young city of San Francisco could support the rise of culture and learning. It was still very 
much an outpost of civilization, however, and would remain isolated from the centers of culture in 
the eastern United States for nearly two decades, until the completion of the first transcontinental 
railroad in 1869. 

It was in this setting, in 1853, that seven gentlemen scholars met to establish the California 
Academy of Natural Sciences. The situation is perhaps unparalleled, wherein the intellectual 
resources of an isolated 19th century city were situated intimately with so much uncatalogued 
biological diversity. The very first issue of the Academy's Proceedings, for example, included the 
description of a new fish that was being sold in local markets, Lcibnis piilcher Ayres. Plants provided 
an equally rich source of novelties, with well more than half of the currently known flora of California 
remaining to be discovered and catalogued (Ertter, 2000). This fact, however, was not fully appreci- 
ated at the time. In 1 858, for example. Thomas Bridges wrote to his mentor in England. Sir William 
.1. Hooker: 

I can scarcely describe to you how pleasing and gratifying it has been to me to learn that in my 
collections you ha\'e found some new and rare plants — I was partially under the impression 
that from the labours of Douglas, Hartweg, Jeffrey. Lobb and other travelers from Europe with 
the many United States Exploring Expeditions that little or nothing remained to be discovered 
and only gleanings were left to of us of the present day. (quoted in Jcpson, I n7i. pp. S5— 86) 

That Good-hearted and Impractible Fellow 

At the time the Academy was founded, "science" was mostly not a profession but rather a joint 
pursuit of amateurs, often as members of "philosophical" or "natural science" organizations. Very 
few of the botanists during the 19th century, men or women, held professional positions. Two of the 
primary exceptions were John ToiTey. professor at Columbia College, and his protege Asa Gray, who 
founded the herbarium at Harvard University. Working together. Torrey and Gray represented 
botanical authority in North Ainerica and were attempting a massive synthesis, A Flora of North 

The seven founders of the Academy exemplified the gentleman scholar approach to natural 
science, with the members meeting weekly in a rented room to present their scholarly findings. The 
proceedings of these meetings were initially published in local newspapers (Daily Aha California 
and The Pacific j. only retroactively collated into volumes that could be used for exchange (Hittell, 
p. 33; Curran. 1887). Prospective new members had to be nominated and elected, with not all 
applicants successful. Curatorships were also elected offices, rotating and unsalaried at least during 
the early years. The only financial resources were membership dues ($1 per month), with the growth 
of both library and collections accordingly dependent on contributions and exchange programs. By 
the end of the third year, in 1855, the library consisted of 65 books, and a single cabinet was shared 


by all curators (Hittell, p. 38). This represented the height of 
scientific resources on the West Coast at that time. 

Several of the founders and other early members had at 
least some interest in botany, if only as a then-essential part 
of medical practice. Dr. William P. Gibbons, for example, 
although primarily interested in ichthyology, also became an 
expert on the logged-over redwood forest in the Oakland Hills 
(Hittell, p. 91; Gibbons, 1893). The founder whose name 
became synonymous with this phase of California botany, 
however, was Dr. Albert Kellogg (Fig. I ), whose passion for 
plants was at the expense of his profession as a physician: "Dr. 
Kellogg, who kept a drug-store, was almost too much en- 
grossed with hunting and working over new plants to patiently 
wait upon customers" (Hittell, p. 35). One of his subsequent 
supporters noted that: 

[Kellogg] practiced his profession . . . with success in all but 

what pertained to his own needs. He was careful to enter in 

his books, the account of every fee due him. and as careful Figure 1 Albert Kelloi'i' 

(or careless) never to present a bill. It was the opinion of one Courtesy Jepson Herbarium Archives, 

who knew him in those days, that he did not once, in all his University of California, Berkeley. 

career as a physician, request a payment. Naturally, he failed 

to obtain in medicine the means of subsistence, and abandoned his profession. (Greene, 


Instead, Kellogg devoted his time to the botanical riches surrounding him, with enthusiasm taking 
the place of formal training: 

Dr. Kellogg would not have claimed for himself the place of a scientific botanist, nor have wished 
others to claim it for him. He had a great love for all forms of plant life, more particularly of 
trees; and he had a keen eye for detecting varietal and specific differences. He was fond of 
sketching them and writing about them; and when wiiting upon a species which he thought was 
new to science (and, in his earlier years of California life he met with many which scientific 
botanists knew nothing of), he liked to give it a Latin name and a formal description; but his 
terminology was .somewhat original and his way of making Latin adjectives even more so. 
(Greene, 1887, pp. 148-149) 

Among Kellogg's originalities was his fondness for Biblical references, such as his choice of 
Mcirah for a genus of wild cucumbers. Although a Latin derivation for the generic name is commonly 
stated (e.g., Schlising, 1993), Kellogg's protologue indicates instead a Hebrew origin, with the 
tantalizing note that "The significance of the name we have chosen would be better understood by 
perusing Exodus xv:22— 26" (Kellogg, 1855:38). This leads one to the follov\'ing passage, as Moses 
led the Hebrews through the wilderness: "When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water 
because it was bitter. That is why it was called Marah [Bitterness]." The use of Marah as a genus 
name was challenged by Torrey and Gray on the grounds that "it was neither a native nor a personal 
name, nor one derived from either Greek or Latin," a charge countered by Kellogg's defenders; e.g., 
"it is a naine taken from a literature with which we are all familiar, and its application appears a 
sufficiently happy one to any person who has accidentally tasted the copious watery juice of the fruit" 
(Curran, 1885:129-130). 



Independent of any eccentricities, Kellogg's devotion to the Academy endeared him to his fellow 
members. As a result, and in recognition of his financial straits, Kellogg's unpaid dues were canceled 
in 1864 (Hittell, p. 68), he was declared the first life member two years later (Hittell, p. 80), and in 
1868 he became the first member to receive a salary "raised by subscription," as special assistant to 
the Secretary (Hittell, p. 103). Asa Gray, on the other hand, while referring to Kellogg as "that 
good-hearted and impractible fellow" (quoted in Dupree, 1959:396), provided the following advice 
to another California botanist, John Gill Lemmon: "If you knew what a nuisance in the science Dr. 
Kellogg's name is — good meaning soul that he be, you would not envy his botanical reputation" 
(quoted in Dupree, 1959:398). 

He Gave It the Name of His Backbiter 

Although the original members were all self-taught natu- 
ralists, this changed after the first year, with the arrival of Dr. 
Hans Hemiann Behr (Fig. 2). A scion of Gennan aristocracy. 
Behr had studied medicine and natural science at the universi- 
ties of Halle. Wurzburg, and Berlin. He then traveled in Aus- 
tralia, the East Indies, South America, and the Philippines, 
becoming acquainted with the botany, entomology, and native 
languages of the various countries (Gutzkow et al., 1905). His 
professional contacts, especially in Australia, played a sub- 
sequent role in the development of California science, includ- 
ing horticulture. 

Behr joined the Academy in 1854: 

Into this group of worthy but little-.schooled gentlemen came 
Behr with his thorough scientific training, his solid learning, 
his rich experience gathered during long and successful trav- 
els, and his ability to distinguish the truly new and interesting 
from observations and discoveries that had been made before. 
(Gutzkow et al., 1905:3) 

FUjURE 2. Hans Hermann Behr. 

Courtesy California Academy of 

Sciences Archives. 

In addition to his training and experience, Behr's copy of Endlicher's Genera Plantarum also proved 
an invaluable addition to the Academy's scientific resources. 

Parallel to Kellogg, Behr had trouble making a living as physician, but for different reasons: 

He was outspoken in his opinions and a swom enemy to scientific humbugs and professional 
quacks. This characteristic . . . made him many enemies and [was] not favorable to his financial 
success as a practitioner. One of the most obnoxious of his adversaries was a doctor, or so-called 
doctor, who had charge of a local German newspaper and for a time filled its columns with abuse 
of Dr. Behr. particularly on account of his being a member of the Catholic Church and asserting 
that he was a 'Jesuit' of the most sinister designs — a calumny which had more or less effect 
upon its object's professional clientage. (Hittell, pp. 427—428) 

Behr had his revenge, however: "on discovering a particularly despicable and obnoxious new species 
of louse, he gave it scientifically the name of his backbiter" (Hittell. p. 428). 

Behr is primarily remembered as an entomologist, but his botanical contributions were also 
significant. In addition to describing several new species (e.g.. Cordylanfhus paliisire. Oxyhaphus 
froebelii), he also left us with the most complete description of the original vegetation of San Francisco 


(Behr, 1884, 1888, I89I, 18%). However, what might be Behr's most significant impact is a matter 
of speculation; specifically, the decision of members of Academy, with a library of less than 100 
books and no access to authenticated comparative material, to publish new species independent of 
established authority. Given Behr's aristocratic background and solid scientific credentials, it is 
reasonable to speculate that his self-assuredness inspired, or at least bolstered, inclinations towards 
autonomous publication of new species. One area where Behr and his frontier colleagues parted ways, 
however, was in the use of Latin: "It met with no encouragement from the Academy, partly because 
the members generally were not as good Latinists as Dr. Behr and partly because is was felt that plain 
English was better, or certainly good enough" (Hittell, p. 37). 

In whatever language, the right to autonomous publication was resisted by Eastern and European 
scientists, who considered Academy members to be "amateurs and upstarts" ( Hittell, p. 29). After the 
priority of publication of several new species in the Proceedings was ignored, the Academy 
accordingly passed the following resolutions in 1854: 

Resolved, That in view of the isolated condition of this Academy from other societies, we will 
regard every publication of new species, which has been or which may be made through the 
daily papers of this city, as substantial evidence of priority of discovery. 

Resolved, That the corresponding secretary be directed to furnish to other scientific bodies a 
copy of the above resolution, accompanying it with explanations which have led to this 
conclusion. (Hittell, p. 29) 

The battle for scientific recognition continued for years, with the Academy never backing down, 
and full acceptance was eventually attained. This is indicated in an 1881 presentation of a new 
Ranunculus by John Gill Lemmon, one of the many self-taught botanists in California who became 
Academy members, which also reiterates the rationale for autonomous publication of new species 
even in the face of limited library resources: 

[Lemmon] proceeded to say that he had been encouraged by Dr. Asa Gray to make descriptions 
of new species, even if all the literature upon the subject were not on hand or available. There 
were only ten libraries in the world where all the botanical works were to be found, and only 
one of these on this continent. We had only a nucleus of one here in California. He said he was 
therefore, on account of want of all the most recent publications, apt to make a mistake and name 
as new something that had already been described. It had been the custom of some Eastern men 
to describe all sorts of California plants from any kind of specimens, without ever having seen 
them grow, and take the chances as to their being new and the descriptions accurate; and they 
had not infrequently received credit which should have remained in California. ... Dr. Behr said 
that California botanists had been roughly handled by Eastern scientists for describing old things; 
that is, plants already described; but they did not take into consideration the fact of the want of 
scientific literature on the Pacific Coast. (Hittell, p. 239) 

A Hallmark of Enlightened State Administration 

By I860, the flush of Gold Rush wealth was well past and new directions of economic 
development were sorely needed. The young state of California was accordingly receptive to the 
concept of a state geological survey, already established in many eastern and midwestern states as "a 
hallmark of enlightened state administration, a source of local cultural pride, and the means whereby 
exploitable resources might be cheaply located and advertised to would-be investors" (Goetzmann, 
1966:355). Farquhar (I930:xv) credits Stephen J. Field, a Supreme Court justice, with convincing 
"the more sober minds of the state that definite scientific knowledge was needed to give better 


Figure 3. Josiah D\\ ight Whitney. Courtesy 

Courtesy Smithsonian Institution Archive 

(Neg. # 7K-106). 

direction to the development of resources." According 
to Brewster (1909:183), however, "The credit ... be- 
longs in soine small measure to her who was bom 
Elizabeth Whitney. It had been her dream, from the time 
she married and went to California to live, to have her 
beloved brother at once her neighbor and the head of a 
state survey." 

Elizabeth's "beloved brother," Josiah Dwight 
Whitney (Fig. 3), a veteran of several state surveys in 
the Midwest, was among those lobbying vigorously for 
a California geological survey. As a result of these 
collective activities, on 21 April 1860, Governor John 
G. Downey signed into law the following legislation 
that would have a lasting impact on the natural history 
of California: 

J. D. Whitney is hereby appointed State Geologist, 

whose duty it shall be, with the aid of such assistants 

as he may appoint, to make an accurate and complete 

Geological Survey of the State, and to furnish, in his 

Report of the same, proper maps and diagrams 

thereof, with a full and scientific description of its rocks, fossils, soils, and minerals, and of its 

botanical and zoological productions, together with specimens of the same, which specimens 

shall be properly labeled and arranged, and deposited in such place as shall be hereafter provided 

for that purpose by the legislaUire. (quoted in Brewster, 1909, pp. 184—185) 

Although Whitney was married and had recently become a father, the men he hired as assistants 
would all have to be single, in that the funds available for salaries were insufficient to support 

dependents (Brewster, 1909). One of these men was William 
Henry Brewer (Fig. 4), a graduate of Sheffield Scientific 
School and chemistry professor in Pennsylvania whose exper- 
tise centered around agriculture. Tragically, Brewer's wife 
had recently died following childbirth, and the son shortly 
afterwards, so Whitney's offer represented a way to escape 
unhappy associations (Farquhar, 1930). Brewer proved to be 
ideal, not only filling the role of botanist but becoming Whit- 
ney's right-hand man. 

Whitney and family. Brewer, and other members of the 
initial core arrived in San Francisco on 14 November 1860. to 
a gratifying reception: "the survey was popular; the Governor 
friendly. The newspapers were complimentary, and chron- 
icled every movement of the surveyors. Prominent citizens 
called, to make the acquaintance of the staff (Brewster, 
1909:191). The Survey team outfitted itself and immediately 
began field work, starting in southern California. 

While Brewer stayed with the field crew, Whitney peri- 
odically spent his time lobbying in Sacramento to obtain 
continued funding. His efforts paid off the first year, with 

Figure 4. Wilham Henry Brewer. 

Courtesy University Herbarium Archives. 

University of California, Berkeley. 



sufficient appropriations to hire three more men: Dr. James Graham Cooper as surgeon-naturalist, 
Charles F. Hoffmann as topographer, and William More Gabb as paleontologist. Troubles in the state 
Treasury began at the same time, however, with the result that salaries were not available for months, 
not only for the Survey, but for all State officers, up to and including the governor. Funds were 
borrowed to allow the Survey to proceed, with much of the money obtained from Whitney's 
well-to-do father (Brewster, 1909). 

Alas, disastrous winter floods of 1861-1862 devastated the California economy and further 
depleted the Treasury. Throughout the state most bridges were gone, roads were washed out, and 
communication was accordingly cut off Kept indoors by the incessant rains, the Survey members 
became active in the California Academy of Natural Sciences. Although a setback to the Survey, this 
might very well have ensured the survival of the struggling young 
Academy, which only two years previously had been described 
by John Xantus as "in a deplorable condition," with only eleven 
members and a collection "entirely eaten by the miriads of mice 
and rates [sic]" (quoted in Leviton & Aldrich, 1 997:5 1 ). Accord- 
ing to Hittell (p. 54), participation by Survey members "put a sort 
of new life into the institution, and gave it an impetus which 
materially assisted in enabling it to continue its struggle for 
existence and in the end to triumph over all obstacles." At the 
annual election of 6 January 1862, Brewer was elected corre- 
sponding secretary; Whitney, librarian; Cooper, curator of zool- 
ogy; and Gabb, curator of paleontology. Another addition to the 
Academy the same year was Henry Nicholas Bolander (Fig. 5), 
who had moved to California for reasons of health (Jepson, 1 898). 
A school teacher by profession, with botanical training from Leo 
Lesquereux, Bolander immediately become interested in the local 
flora, with special attention paid to grasses and cryptograms. 

FiciURE 5. Henry Nicholas Bolander. 

Courtesy California Academy of 

Sciences Archives. 

Petroleum Is What Has Killed Us 

Once the rains let up, and by dint of additional borrowing and frugal use of funds, the Survey 
resumed, though downscaled. In spite of continued accomplishments in the field, however, long-tenn 
prospects for the Survey dwindled. By mid-year, the State owed Whitney $15,000, and the initial 
enthusiasm for a state survey had decidedly cooled. In an 1862 letter, Whitney noted that "State 
officers would be my best friends if I would be their confidential adviser in their interest in claims 
and stocks, but as it is, I do not know one of them who cares a rye-straw for the work [of the Survey]" 
(Letter from Whitney to S. F. Baird, 1 5 December 1 862, quoted in Leviton & Aldrich, 1 997:66). This 
included Downey, who, as Governor in 1860, had signed the act bringing the Survey into existence, 
but who was now "down on [the Survey] because Professor Whitney would not use his official 
influence as State Geologist to aid him in mining speculations" (Brewer in Farquhar, 1930, letter of 
20 September 1863, p. 452). Whitney's discouragement is evident in another letter: 

I do not think there is any fear that the survey will be formally killed, but am rather disposed to 
think that the appropriation may be so small that I shall not feel disposed to carr\' on the work 
any longer. ... 1 cannot afford the wear and tear of mind and body merely to make a piddling 


sur\ey with one or two assistants, and the necessity of iTiai<ing economy the predominating 
thought. (Letter from Whitney to G. J. Brush, 5 June 1862, quoted in Brewster, 1909:219-220) 

The Survey nevertheless continued into 1863, with the Civil War at its height. Brewer noted that 
"the Union element is vastly in the majority [in California], unconditionally loyal. This state has had 
so many southern scoundrels in office that the people are afraid of them" (Brewer in Farquhar, 1930, 
letter of 26 July 1 863, p. 427). When surveying around Lake Tahoe, Brewer later commented: 

Its Indian name. Tahoe, was dropped and it was called after Governor Bigler, a Democratic 
politician. He was once of some notoriety here, since he has turned "Secesh" [secessionist] all 
the Union papers have raised the cry to have his name dropped, and the old Indian name has 
been revived and will probably prevail. (Brewer in Farquhar, 1930, letter of 23 August 1863, p. 

In the midst of the 1863 field season, in the face of uncertain funding. Brewer was offered a 
part-time professorship in chemistry at the private College of California in Oakland, and subsequently 
taught at least one course (Constance, 1978). Whitney continued to alternate his time among the field 
crew, Sacramento, and San Francisco, presenting a paper to the Academy in May in which he 
summarized the accomplishments of the Survey to date (Hittell, p. 65). Among the most significant 
events of 1863, however, was a chance encounter by Brewer, on a steamer from Sacramento, with 
two recent graduates of his alma mater: James Terry Gardner and Clarence King. Both young men 
joined the Survey, initially as volunteers, with King eventually going on to become, in 1 879, the first 
director of the United States Geological Survey. 

In 1864, Whitney returned to the East to initiate the printing of the Survey reports, "for printing 
in California cost three times its proper price, and engraving was not to be had on any ternis" 
(Brewster, 1909:235—236). Even thus separated from California, he was not out of reach of a new 
challenge that threatened the very credibility of the Survey. Although the petroleum reserves of the 
Santa Barbara area had been noted by the Survey, they had not been deemed to be of immediate 
economic value, in that existing technologies and uses (primarily as a substitute for dwindling 
whale-oil) had been developed only for kerosene-grade petroleum, such as that coming out of the 
Pennsylvania oil fields, not for the thick crude that characterized the Santa Barbara deposits. 
Nevertheless, in 1 864 speculation fever for Santa Barbara petroleum was triggered, and the effec- 
tiveness and credibility of the Sun'ey was called into serious question for overlooking such a 
seemingly valuable resource. Whitney, as State Geologist, took it upon himself to challenge claims 
of the petroleum's value, sending one assistant back to Santa Barbara to verify the Survey's initial 
evaluation of the asphaltum's negligible economic potential under existing technology. "Petroleum 
fever" nevertheless continued to build, and the credibility of the Survey to fall, until an independent 
study in 1 865 exhaustively tested samples from all the major sites in southern California, found none 
matching the sample used for promotional purposes, and accordingly suggested that refined Penn- 
sylvania oil had been substituted in a deliberate swindle (Goetzmann, 1966:381). Unfortunately, 
vindication came too late for the California Geological Survey ever fully to regain its initial prestige 
and state support, especially against a background of continued financial difficulties and a prolonged 
Civil War. 

The botanical component of the Survey had been eliminated from the 1864 budget, though 
Brewer nevertheless collected a hundred or so specimens while pursuing the mandated portions of 
the Survey. This phase of botanical activity ended abruptly, however, when Brewer, at the end of the 
1 864 field season, received an offer of a professorship in Yale. In spite of "the cheering news that we 
would probably be paid up in January next" (Brewer in Farquhar, 1930, letter of 22 December 1864, 


p. 564), the lukewarm prospects for the Survey could not compete against such a prestigious post. 
Even when support for the Survey temporarily improved the following year, the botanical component 
was never fully reinstated. Instead, Bolander was periodically hired, apparently on a contract basis, 
to collect in those areas where Brewer had not been (e.g., the North Coast Ranges, which had been 
the stronghold of hostile Indians). Cooper also made some significant botanical collections, primarily 
in conjunction with a winter spent at Fort Mohave (Brewer et al., I876:vii). 

Bolander was even more active in the Academy than Brewer had been, becoming curator of 
botany in 1865 and publishing the first catalogue of plants of San Francisco (Bolander, 1870). He 
was also a member of the committee that amended the constitution and dropped "Natural" from the 
name of the Academy in 1868 (Hittell, pp. 93, 95). Whitney, returning from the East, also became 
actively involved in the California scene, being elected to the Academy presidency in 1 867, planning 
for the proposed state University, and heading a board of three commissioners to manage the newly 
established Yosemite Park (Brewster, 1909). The importance of Survey participation in the life of the 
Academy is evidenced in a letter from Whitney at this time: 

[0]f late I have been much engaged with the affairs of the California Academy, as wc have had 
to move into and fit up new rooms, and have tried to resuscitate in general. We seem now to be 
in a fair way to live; but when I came back last year, it seemed as if it was as dead as a doornail, 
(quoted in Evvan, 1955:19) 

The Survey itself, however, continued its downhill slide, as summarized by Whitney: 

The prospects of the survey remain as uncertain as ever. Two committees have been at the 
office and exhibited even more than their usual amount of stupidity and ignorance. Since the 
Yosemite Valley bill [to give settlers 160 acres apiece] passed over the Governor's veto, I feel 
so disgusted with California that I can hardly stand it much longer. Still I am running the survey 
along in a small way at my own expense, waiting to see what the jackasses at Sacramento will 
do. ... I am told, on good authority, that this legislaUire is by far more corrupt and reckless than 
any of its predecessors. It is a fact — at least everybody believes it to be — that votes can only 
be had this year by purchase. (J. D. Whitney to W. D. Whitney, 26 February 1868, quoted in 
Brewster, 1909:264) 

' Petroleum" is what has killed us. By the word 'petroleum," understand the desire to .sell worthless 
property for large sums and the impolicy of having anybody around to interfere with the little 
game. (J. D, Whitney to W. D. Whitney, 13 April 1868, quoted in Brewster, 1909:266-267) 

Thus, in spite of a supportive governor and a testimonial from the Academy to the Legislature 
in favor of the Survey (Hittell, p. 1 00), funding temporarily ceased. Even before the axe fell, Bolander, 
Kellogg, and Behr had withdrawn from any further Survey-related activities in a show of solidarity 
for Whitney (Leviton & Aldrich, 1 997: 1 1 ), a move that would prove more permanent for them than 
for Whitney. At the 20 April 1 868 ineeting of the Academy, a report strongly condemning the "abrupt 
and shabby" discontinuance of the State Geological Survey was accepted, approved, and adopted 
(Hittell, p. 100). At a subsequent ineeting, Bolander, as corresponding secretary, "stated that he had 
received two letters from scientific men in the East, commenting in such violent tenns of condemna- 
tion on the recent action of the Legislature in superseding the State Geological Survey that he declined 
to read them publicly" (Hinell, p. 102). Nevertheless, "As the discontinuance of the Survey deprived 
Professor Whitney of his occupation in California and necessitated his return to the East, he resigned 
his office as president of the Academy and accompanied his withdrawal with a few farewell remarks" 
(Hittell, p. 100). 


An Asylum for Rebel Professors 

The same year ( 1868) that a hostile Legislature pulled the plug on the State Geological Survey 
saw the establishment of the University of California, by the merger of the private College of 
California in Oakland with a proposed State Agricultural, Mining, and Mechanical Arts College 
(Constance, 1978; Stadtman, 1970). It isreasonabletoassume that this was not strictly a coincidence; 
at the very least, the University represented an equally prestigious alternative to the Survey for the 
State to parade before the general public and the nation at large, and one more palatable to those 
legislators who had a personal vendetta against Whitney. If so, there is some irony in the fact that 
Whitney had played a significant role in the founding of the University, and even served as chainnan 
for the commission that drafted the plans for the State University (Brewster, 1909; Stadtman, 1970). 

In 1861, Whitney had prepared "Outline of a plan for the disposal and care of the specimens 
collected by the State Geological Survey of California," in which he proposed that the specimens be 
divided among the State Agricultural Society at Sacramento and the California Academy of Natural 
Sciences (Appendix E in Leviton & Aldrich, 1997:512-513): 

The State Agricultural Society shall receive a full set of the plants, soils, and other specimens 
illustrating the agriculnjral resources of the State; also a set of the rocks, minerals and ores, 
exhibiting its geological structure and mineral wealth. These shall be arranged in the hall of the 
Society, in a room or rooms provided for that purpose and fitted with cases by the Society. The 
an"anging and labeling of the specimens shall be done by the geological corps. 

The remainder of the specimens collected on the Survey shall be deposited in a building to be 
erected at San Francisco and called the 'State Museum." This building shall be erected by private 
funds subscribed by the citizens of San Francisco and the State in general, aided by an equal 
amount furnished by the Legislature. The Governor, the President of the Academy, and the State 
Geologist shall constitute the committee to take charge of the erection of the building, purchase 
a suitable lot of land, and make the other necessary arrangements. 

Whitney proceeded to draft a proposed floorplan for a State Museum, to serve as the headquarters 
for the Survey during its existence and subsequently to revert fully to the Academy, "to be used by 
them as a place of meeting, and for all the purposes required by the Academy, and it shall be the duty 
of the Academy to keep the collections in order, to make such additions to them as they may be able 
to do, and to make the whole museum available as far as possible, and is consistent with its safety, 
for the purposes of scientific and popular education." 

However, the passage of the Morrill Act in 1862. providing grants of land for state agricultural 
colleges,'^ led the California state legislature to turn its sights instead on "establishing a State 
University, embracing an Agricultural College, a School of Mining and a Museum, including the 
geological collections of the State" (Hittell, p. 65). Whitney accordingly chose to put his influence 
where it would do the most good, serving as chainnan for the commission that drafted the plans for 
the future State University (Brewster, 1909:241 ). His proposal, known as the "Museum Plan," was 
based on the rationale that: 

' The Morrill Act, or Agricultural College Land Grant Act. was signed into law on 2 July 1 862 by Abraham Lincoln. It gave 
each state 30.000 acres of public land per senator and congressman, for the purpose of "the endowment, support, and 
maintenance of at least one college where the leading object shall be. without excluding other scientific and classical studies, 
and including military tactics, to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanical arts, in such 
a manner as the legislatures of the States may respectively prescribe, in order to promote the liberal and practical education of 
the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life" (quoted in Stadtman. 1 970:25). The Morrill Act also provided 
the funds for the new professorship at Yale that was used to entice Brewer away from the California Geological Survey (Slack, 



[T]he establishment of the Geological Survey was in fact the first step towards the production 
of a State University. Without the information to be obtained by that Survey, no thorough 
instruction was possible on this coast, either in geography, geology, or natural history; for the 
student of these branches requires to be taught in that which is about him, and with which he is 
brought into daily contact, as well as that which is distant and only theoretically important, 
(quoted in Stadtman, 1970:27) 

Although Whitney's full proposal proved overly ambitious, Section 24 of the Organic Act 
bringing the University of California into existence (Assembly Bill 583) specified that: 

The collections made by the State Geological Survey shall belong to the University, and the 
Regents shall, in their plans, have in view the early and secure arrangement of the same for the 
use of the students of the University, so soon as the geological survey shall be completed, and 
of giving access to the same to the public at large and to visitors from abroad; and shall in every 
respect, by acts of courtesy and accommodation, encourage the visits of persons of scientific 
tastes and acquirements from other portions of the United States and of Europe, to California. 
The said collections shall be arranged by the resident Professors of the University in a building 
by themselves, which shall be denominated the 'Museum of the University." ... the Board of 
Regents may allow duplicates to be taken from said collections of the State Geological Survey 
and made a part of some other museum under the care of an incorporated Academy of science, 
which shall become responsible for the custody and return of same. 

There is at least some evidence of mutual support and sharing of resources, at least in the scientific 
realm, between the fledgling University (Fig. 6), the Survey, and the Academy. Following the 
precedent of Brewer, who had a brief association with the College of California before returning East, 

' -fc-V 


^m" Xl 

'•Ti»a.-v^' ^ 


.--iS^-'^ * 

' W 


■^ . ^ 



Figure 6. University of California. Berkeley, from the east Ku.king lou.iid San Francisco Bay (Harmon Gymnasium, South 
Hall, North Hall, and Mechanical Arts. 1879). Courtesy Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley (Image 3:228). 


members of the Survey and the Academy taught several courses at the University during its early 
years: Forestry by Bolander, Field Botany by Kellogg and Gibbons, and Lower Fonns of Vegetable 
Life (e.g., fungi) by Harvey W. Harkness (Constance, 1978). A special meeting of the Academy in 
1 875 was held at Berkeley, at the invitation of University President Oilman, at which it was remarked 
that "the Acadeiriy would have to depend mainly upon the University to fill its ranks as time thinned 
it of pioneers" (Hittell, p. 181). Bolander even served as an ev o//;r/o Regent in 1871-1875, by virtue 
of his position as State Superintendent of Public Instruction at that time (Stadtman et al., 1967). 

Bolander's brief presence notwithstanding, relations between the Regents of the University and 
the Survey were another matter. At the final demise of the Survey, Whitney noted that "I have not 
the support but the opposition of the Regents of the University" (Letter from Whitney to F. von 
Richthofen, 1 June 1877, quoted in Brewster, 1909:333). Antagonism between the Regents and the 
Academy is also evident, such that a verbal proposition by the Regents in 1870 to incorporate the 
Academy as part of the University was "very decidedly objected to" (Hittell, p. 123). James Cooper, 
zoologist for the Survey and director of the Academy museum at the time, was particularly vehement 
in his rebuttal: 

... the Academy is flourishing considering the hard times and laughs at the wise professors and 
regents of the University who kindly informed us that we must be swallowed up in that Asylum 
for rebel Professors or be extinguished. On the contrary they have managed so recklessly that 
their President admits they are on the verge of bankruptcy, and nothing but a liberal appropriation 
by the Legislature will save them! This will be had ... as the University is a popular hobby & 
will probably swallow up all that the state has to give. (Letter from Cooper to S.F. Baird, 24 
March 1871, quoted in Leviton & Aldrich. 1993:123) 

Succumbed to Stupidity and Malignity 

Following the legislative setbacks of 1868, Whitney returned to his professorship at Harvard, 
rented Asa Gray's garden home, and prepared two more volumes of Surrey reports and a popular 
scientific guide to the Yosemite Valley region, all at his own expense (Brewster, 1909). In the winter 
of 1869— 1870, he returned to California to take up the battle anew: 

As soon ... as the new legislature convened, Whimey repaired to Califomia and laid siege to 
the new body. Of his scientific friends in the East, Dana, Henry, Guyot. and Agassiz gave special 
aid; while of the Califomiaiis, Leiand Stanford lent the weight of his very considerable influence 
and Edward Tompkins, who was state senator, took charge of the details of the campaign. 
Governor Haight was, as always, favorable. Among them the bill went through. (Brewster. 

The 1870 appropriation allowed the field crew to be reassembled, though without a botanical 
component. Furthemiore, the Survey no longer held its original appeal even to Whitney: "I can do 
other scientific work which will bring me in just as much scientific reputation as this, without half 
the wear and tear which this survey demands, and for which I am getting less fitted as I get older." 
(Letter from Whitney to wife. 13 August 1870. quoted in Brewster, 1909:275). Whitney's malaise 
apparently extended to his involvement in Academy affairs, where his report on the Survey at the 4 
December 1871 meeting (Hittell, p. 138) may have also marked his final appearance. The following 
year, he disparagingly indicated that the Academy was now in the hands of "business men" (quoted 
in Leviton and Aldrich. 1997:138), presumably referring to the newly established Board of Trtistees 
(Hittell, p. 130). 

Support for the Sur\'ey made it through the 1872 legislature, but there subsequently turned out 



to be no funds available for it in the Treasury (Brewster, 1909). At a special meeting of the Trustees 
of the Academy, a petition was drawn up to be sent to the State Legislature: 

The Trustees of the California Academy of Sciences, as requested by an unanimous vote of thai 
body, respectfully pray that a liberal appropriation may be made at this session of the Legislanire 
for the continuance of the State Geological Survey and the publications thereof as at present 
organized and conducted under the direction of Professor J. D. Whitney. (Hindi, p. 142) 

At a subsequent meeting, the esteemed visiting sci- 
entist Louis Agassiz, after praising the Academy, "also 
spoke of the excellent and valuable work of the State 
Geological Survey, and of the bright promise of the 
University of California for the cultivation, promotion, 
and diffusion of knowledge" (Hittell, p. 146). At the 
same meeting were John Torrey, botanist extraordinaire 
from New York, and, as an introductory appearance. 
Daniel Coit Oilman (Fig. 7), president-elect of the Uni- 

Contrary to Cooper's previously quoted glib state- 
ment that "the University is a popular hobby & will 
probably swallow up all that the state has to give," 
Whitney and Oilman soon found themselves united in 
battle against a common foe in the form of the 1874 
legislature. Oilman's efforts at academic innovation ran 
afoul of "the social unrest of the 1870s, when Califor- 
nia's farmers and workinginen were challenging estab- 
lished wealth, established authority, and established 
intellectual values, [and] found the University, even as it 
then existed, too rich for the needs of the common man" 
(Stadtman. 1 970:69). As a result, just one year after the 
Berkeley campus opened, Whitney wrote: 

Figure 7. Daniel CoitGilman (1872). 

Courtesy Bancroft Library. 

University of California. Berkeley. 

Oilman is engaged in a hard fight to save the University from the claws of the grangers who 
want to make a manual-labor school of it. Oilman feels very much discouraged, especially as he 
now realizes fully that a state institution must always be in hot water. For each legislature can 
undo the work of its predecessors, and they have full power to pull down and alter as they please. 
Already, by the New Code, all the Regents are appointed by the Governor, and by the constitution 
of the slate, can hold otTice only for four years, so that politics and change must ever be the 
predominating elements in the concern. (Letter from J.D. Whitney to W.D. Whitney. 3 March 
1874. quoted in Brewster. 1909:288) 

Oilman resigned the following year, accepting a post at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland. .As 
for the Survey, Whitney at last threw in the towel for good: 

The survey has succumbed to the stupidity and malignity of the legislature, backed by the 
same characteristics on the part of the Governor. The Committee reported in favor of continuing 
the work, purting it under the supervision of a 'Board of Survey" ... 1 would not have acted 
under this had it passed, and had the place been offered to me; but the discussion turned entirely 
on me and my work, without any hint of the possibility of the employment of any one else. I 
was accused of ha\ ing given all the collections to Harvard; and it was stated over and over again. 


that the sui-^'ey had been run by me for the benefit of Harvard University! (Letter from J.D. 
Whitney to W.D. Whitney, 19 March 1874, quoted In Brewster, 1909:289-290) 

The Generosity of a Few Citizens 

The insinuation that Whitney was acting on behalf of Hai^ard at the expense of California was 
grounded in the reality that Hai^ard University was in fact where at least the botanical specimens 
were sent for processing. This violation of the Academy's efforts at autonomous publication of the 
California flora triggered this summary by Gibbons: 

. . . three sets [of California plants] have been made up; one for the California Academy of 
Sciences; one for the University of California; while one has been sent out of the State, and 
eastern botanists have the credit of devoting their time to working it up, in occasional paroxysms, 
without remuneration. It would have been far better for the interests of the State and of science 
had this [California Geological] commission never existed . . . 

California scientists would have accomplished more work, without aid from the State, than 
has thus far, to all practical purposes, been achie\'ed by the commission, (quoted in Ewan, 

Nevertheless, in spite of Gibbons" confidence in his colleagues' abilities, an undeilaking of the 
magnitude of a brand new state flora, especially up to Brewer's and Whitney's standards, required 
the resources and expertise that could only be found at an established major herbarium. Most vascular 
plant specimens frotn the Survey were accordingly shipped to Harvard University, where Asa Gray 
was feverishly working on his and John Torrey's magnum opus, A Flora of North America. Part and 
parcel with his work on the Flora. Gray was not only willing but needed to have the flood of new 
collections froin the western regions pass through his hands (Dupree, 1959). 

After leaving the Survey and taking up a professorship at Yale, Brewer joined in the time-con- 
suining task of analyzing collections, writing treatments, and assembling the whole into what would 
becoine the first complete flora of California. However, although the original legislation mandated 
that the reports of the Survey be copyrighted and sold for the benefit of the common school fund, no 
funds were allocated, so that Brewer's efforts took the fonn of a labor of love: 

I received no pay whatever after the closing of my connection with the Survey of Califomia — 
neither for the time nor the expense in working up results. I spent an aggregate of two years time 
— a little more rather than less — and over two thousand dollars in cash, besides deducting 
another one thousand dollars from my salary from college because of time taken out from my 
work — that is, absence during term time at work on my plants at the Cambridge Herbarium, 
(quoted in Farquhar. 1930:xxiii) 

Whitney was eventually able to secure additional State funding for the publication of several 
Survey reports, but not for botany. Instead, a select group of California's wealthier citizens, at the 
urging of University President Gilman, came forth and provided the necessary funds from their own 
pockets: Leiand Stanford. D. O. Mills, Lloyd Tevis, James C. Flood, Charles McLaughlin, Robert B. 
Woodward, William Norris, John O. Earl, Henry Pierce. Oliver Eldridge, and S. Clinton Hastings. 
As a result, Sereno Watson, who had becoine familiar with the western flora while serving as botanist 
for Clarence King's spin-off survey of the Fortieth Parallel (Watson, 1871; Da\'is, 1994), was 
employed to finish what Gray and Brewer had started. Whitney sununarized the situation in the 
introduction to the first of the resultant two volumes (Brewer et al., 1876; Watson. 1880): 

The Survey not being able to pay any one for devoting his whole time to this investigation, the 



J. U. WlUTiS'EV, Statk UEoLOUI^T. 


T A N Y. 





iiv w. II, i;i;i;\VKi; and 8i:i;i;x() watson. 

Kv ASA fil.'AY. ~r' n"^'^ Vj 


' '1 

( ; 1 


fAMitmnr;!-; mass.: 


Figure 8. Title page of the botany volume for the California Geological Suney. 


year 1 874 had been reached and the printing had not yet begun. The Legislature of 1 873-74 put 
an end to the wori< by refusing any further appropriations for the Survey, and the present volume 
would have remained unpublished, had it not been for the generosity of a few citizens of San 
Francisco, who came forward and placed in the hands of the [former] State Geologist a sum 
sufficient to insure the publication of one volume of the Flora of California. (Brewer et al., 

In recognition of the collective contributions and efforts of all involved, the Academy passed a 
motion "that the names of the continbutors should be enrolled upon the records of the Academy as 
Benefactors of Science. And it was further ordered that honorable mention should be made and 
recorded of Professor Asa Gray, Professor J. D. Whitney, Professor Watson and Professor William 
H. Brewer for their personal devotion, without pecuniary considerations, to the work" (Hittell, p. 

The Extent of Botanical Activity at that Time 

Although the first set of the botanical collections amassed by the California Geological Survey 
still resides in the Gray Herbarium at Harvard University, a duplicate set was eventually deposited 
at the University of California, fomiing the core of the current University Herbarium. Although 
tradition has it that this herbarium was established in 1872 with the receipt of the Survey specimens, 
the earliest extant records in the herbarium archives concerning Survey material date only from 1901, 
by which time the herbarium already contained nearly 27,000 specimens. The earliest "Herbarium 
Records" book in the University Herbarium archives begins in 1 898, at which time 24, 1 79 specimens 
were censused. On pp. 152-153 is the following entry: 

Prof. Brewer's donation of State Survey Specimens, 1901. Under date of Oct. 24, 1901 Mr. 
Coville [botanist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, where the U.S. National Herbarium 
was then housed] wrote to Prof Setchell as follows: 'At the request of Professor W.H. Brewer, 
I send to you by mail today a set [of] 1,714 specimens of his collections of 1860 to 1867 on 
which the Botany of California was largely based. The specimens are to be the property of the 
University of California. Professor Brewer will probably write you farther regarding them'. 

Although the exact number is not tabulated, there are probably significantly more than 1,714 
California Geological Survey specimens among the current holdings of the University Herbarium, 
including numerous duplicates. 

It is evident nevertheless that there was strong support for botany nearly from the University's 
inception, as befit the provisions of a land grant university. The establishment of a College of 
Agriculture was given first priority by the Organic Act, with the Secretary of the Board of Regents 
instructed to "receive and distribute such rare and valuable seeds, plants, shnibbery and trees ... as 
may be adapted to our climates and soils, or to purposes of experiment therein" (Sec. 16). In his 
1872—1873 report. President Gilman called for "a professor whose province it is to teach the Laws 
of Vegetation — all that pertains to the growth and structure of plants, of Botany; in its scientific and 
economic aspects; and there should also be a competent gardener, and perhaps a forester employed 
at once to take charge of the grounds" (quoted in Constance, 1978:2). 

The first full-time faculty member to teach botany courses was Joseph LeConte (Fig. 9), Professor 
of Geology, Natural History, and Botany, whose appointment in 1869 placed him among the original 
faculty of the newly established university. LeConte and his brother John, heirs of a cotton plantation 
in Georgia, had actively pursued positions at the new university, seeking a refuge from the social 
upheaval and privations of the Reconstructionist South (Stephens, 1982). The botanical component 



expanded significantly in 1875, when Bavarian-bom 
Eugene W. Hilgard (Fig. 10) was recruited. Hilgard 
promptly took on the challenge of developing the full- 
fledged College of Agriculture required by the Organic Act 
and campaigned for by Bolander in his capacity as an ex 
officio Regent (Stadtman, 1979; Stadtman et al., 1967; 
Weislander, 1965), and also established the Agricultural 
Experiment Station (taking advantage of the 1 887 Hatch Act 
[Stadtman, 1970]). The LeConte brothers and Hilgard (who 
had spent a significant portion of his professional life in 
Mississippi) are presumably high on the list of "rebel Pro- 
fessors" scorned by Cooper (quoted earlier). All three were 
nevertheless elected resident members of the Academy, the 
LeConte brothers in 1870 (Hittell, p. 120) and Hilgard in 
1896 (Hittell, p. 367), though none played a particulariy 
active role in Academy affairs. 

As previously noted, some botany courses were also 
offered by Bolander, Kellogg, and Gibbons, all of whom had 
strong Academy involvement. In addition, visiting lecmrers 
were occasionally employed, providing us with the follow- 
ing account by Charles E. Bessey: 

Arriving in Oakland we were advised that it would be best 
for us to find quarters in town rather than to attempt to do 
so in Berkeley, then only a much scattered village of but 
a few people. A horse car ran towards Berkeley at long 
intervals, and a couple of miles out in the country it 
stopped in a discouraged sort of way, and the passengers 
were obligated to wait on an open platform for a smaller 
car drawn by a single mule at a very slow place. In time, 
however, the car brought one to the edge of the University 
grounds, at that time marked by a brook and a fine Cali- 
fornia Laurel tree. We crossed the brook on a plank, and 
walked a little distance to the two buildings which housed 
the University of that day. I think it took a full hour to 
make the trip from Oakland to Berkeley, (quoted in Con- 
stance, 1978:3) 

Figure 9. Joseph LeConte. 

Courtesy Bancroft Library, University 

of California, Berkeley (Image 13:4419). 

Figure 10. Eugene W. Hilgard. 

Courtesy Bancroft Library, University 

of California, Berkeley (Image 13:281). 

In spite of the steady growth of the University, the 
Academy remained the botanical center for the San Fran- 
cisco Bay Area. This is evidenced by the following 1914 account by Samuel Bonsall Parish, the first 
resident botanist in southern California, reminiscing on a visit to the Bay Area some "thirty odd years'" 

Berkeley at that time was not a botanical center by any means. I remember coming over from 
San Francisco ... to call upon the only working botanist in Berkeley. I suppose there was 
somebody up at the University, tho I do not know. But the only working botanist was the Rev. 
E. L. Greene, afterwards Professor of Botany in the University, but who was at that time 
[1881-1884] rector of a little wooden church [St. Mark's Episcopal Church]. ... I came over 



and attended the morning sen'ice and afteiAvards went with the rector to his home and we tali<ed 
about plants the rest of the evening. That seemed to be the extent of botanical activity in Berkeley 
at that time. What activity there was on the coast of California at that time centered in San 
Francisco at the old Academy of Sciences, which then occupied a church at the top of the hill, 
and the botanical department was located in the gallery of the old church. There were perhaps 
three or four persons in the Academy who were more or less interested in botany. (Madrono 
1:71, 1922) 

Parish goes on to describe Behr as "the best educated botanist," whose interest had turned to 
spiders: Kellogg, "in his shirt sleeves and his old red flannel waistcoat, making drawings of twigs"; 
Kellogg's co-worker, William Harford; and Harvey Harkness, who was working on fungi. More will 
be said on Greene, Harford, and Harkness later, but noteworthy at this point, in the absence of any 
mention by Parish, is the person who was possibly already curator of botany at this time: Mary 
Katharine Curran. 

I Began to Make Myself Useful 

The connection of Mary Katharine (Kate) Layne 
Curran Brandegee (Fig. 1 1) to California botany origi- 
nates with the founding of the Toland Medical College 
in 1 864, which was accepted as the University's medical 
school in 1873 (Stadtman, 1970). When the recently 
widowed Curran decided to pursue a medical career in 
1 875, at the age of 3 1 (Dupree & Gade, 1971), she was 
only two years behind Lucy Wanzer, the first woman to 
force her way into the University's medical school; Cur- 
ran presumably faced many of the same obstacles. Wan- 
zer's admission had required a reluctant ruling by the 
Regents that the Organic Act of the University gave an 
equal opportunity to both sexes, but significant resis- 
tance remained. The dean of the medical school encour- 
aged Wanzer's fellow students to make her so 
uncomfortable that she would choose to leave (Doyle, 
1934). One anecdote is particularly priceless both for 
showing the degree of hazing, and the spirit that allowed 
Wanzer to persist; 

FKiURE 1 1. Mary Katharine (Kate) Layne Curran 

Brandegee. Courtesy Hunt Institute for Botanical 

Documentation. Carnegie-Mellon University. 

When [Wanzer] was present at an eye clinic, the pro- 
fessor in charge stated: "A woman has no business to 
study medicine. If she does, she ought to have her 

ovaries removed." She quietly replied: 'If that is true, the men students ought also to have their 
testicles removed!" (Doyle. 1934:239) 

As a separate but closely affiliated college, the California College of Pharmacy was established 
in 1872, becoming part of the University only two months later. Beginning in 1874, College of 
Phannacy courses were taught in the Toland Medical College building, on Stockton Street between 
Chestnut and Francisco streets. This location was only about a mile away from the Academy, which 
was at that time at the comer of California and Dupont (now Grant) streets. This tnade it convenient 
for Behr to be a professor at the College of Phannacy, teaching botany as the basis for a large 


percentage of the available phannacopoeia. While pursuing her medical degree, Curran accordingly 
came under the tutelage of Behr. As described by Wanzer: 

We were all much interested in Materia Medica. Our professor was a very busy man and could 
not always give the time he wished to give to the subject: Therefore Mrs. Curran with a number 
of us who were members of the Academy of Sciences decided to go out with the Phannaceutical 
Class — Dr. Herman Behr our instructor — and study the flora and plant life of the bay region 
usually Marin, Contra Costa and San Mateo Counties. Whatever was collected of value or of 
special interest was taken or given to the Academy of Sciences. Mrs. Curran was a very close 
student and observer — so also was Dr. Behr and his deep interest in the Academy — and the 
flora and plant life of California had a chann for the entire class. (Letter from Lucy Wanzer to 
Eleanor Stockton [Curran's niece], 25 July 1925. in UC Herbarium archives) 

Curran received her M.D. in 1878 (with honors, according to Wanzer [see above, Wanzer to 
Stockton]), but was subsequently unsuccessful in establishing a medical practice (Setchell, 1 926). As 
noted by Rush ( 1 997), this cannot be ascribed simply to her gender, in that several other women were 
practicing medicine in San Francisco, including Wanzer. Although retaining a lifelong interest in 
medicine (Herre. ca. 1 960), Curran accordingly began spending more and more time at the Academy, 
where, with Behr's backing, she was elected a member in 1879, only one year after the first women 
were accepted as members.'' Curran did not begin as a botanist (her first presentation to the Academy 
was "On Caenums of the Hare" [Hittell, p. 242]), and she confessed decades later that "With me 
botany was accidental. I would have preferred the study of birds or more strongly still, the study of 
insects" (quoted in Setchell, 1926:168). Independent of her initial orientation, Curran eventually 
found her niche in the herbarium: "As a member of the California Academy of Sciences in San 
Francisco, with considerable spare time on my hands, I began to make myself useful especially about 
the herbarium, which was in a shocking condition" (quoted in Setchell, 1 926: 1 67). 

As a result, in 1883 Curran was appointed joint curator of botany with mycologist Justin P. 
Moore, who was also serving as first vice-president (Hittell, p. 252). '^ The following four years the 
curatorship was held jointly with Edward Lee Greene (Greene listed first in 1884 and 1886 [Hittell, 
pp. 266, 278], Curran first in 1 887 [Hittell, p. 283]), after which she was sole curator until 1 892. As 
an exception rather than the rule for curators at that time. Curran was awarded a salary of $40 per 
month (Hittell, p. 260), and in 1885, was furthermore elected an honorary life member (Hittell, p. 
272). In choosing to provide her with a salary, it was noted that Curran had "for many months given 
her whole time to the proper arrangement and classification of the botanical collections of [the] 
Academy, and travels at her own expense to different parts of the country to fill wants in the collection, 
etc. From knowledge of her successful labors on this special unit, the Council unanimously recom- 
mends this action" (Hittell, pp. 260-261). As examples of her contributions to Academy curation, 
Curran standardized herbarium sheet size, instituted a new method of gluing specimens, provided 
packets "containing fragments for lending," and advocated the mounting of multiple collections on 
a single sheet'' (Brandegee, 1901b). She also donated three volumes of Bentham and Hooker's Genera 
PlaiUarum to the Academy (Hittell, p. 264). 

In addition, Curran revived an outlet for Academy publications, which had languished for some 

The election of women as members finally implemented a policy adopted by the Academy the year of its founding: "on 
motion by Dr. A. Kellogg, Resolved, as the sense of this society that we highly approve of the aid of females in every department 
of natural science, and that we earnestly invite their cooperation" (Hittell. p. 21 ). 

Justin P. Moore was sole curator of botany in 1882. Previous curators had been Albert Kellogg. Dr, T. L. Andrews ( 1855). 
Hiram G. Bloomer, and Henry N. Bolander 

' This last policy has been the bane of subsequent curators, who are routinely faced with the need to divide sheets on which 
more than one species (as currently circumscribed) were mounted. 


years (as discussed later). In 1 884, she instituted the Bulletin of the California Academy of Sciences, 
serving as "acting editor" (Hittell, p. 267; Crosswhite & Crosswhite, 1985). The first volume of the 
Bulletin contains one of her most significant scientific contributions (Curran, 1885), a careful and 
critical evaluation of all the plant species described over the preceding three decades by Kellogg, 
Behr, and Bolander, taking advantage of the newly available Botany of California (Brewer et al., 
1876; Watson, 1880). As noted in her introduction: 

When the arrangement of the Herbarium of the Academy was undertaken two years ago, the 
necessity of bringing these scattered descriptions of species together in some form, soon became 
apparent . . . The preparation of this list has been a matter of more difficulty than would be 
supposed, on account of the scattered and fragmentary condition of the material. The types of 
many of the species have disappeared from the herbarium, and many have been identified from 
drawings by Dr. Kellogg, which have only recently become accessible to us. In the labor of 
identification, the writer has received the constant advice and assistance of the Rev. E. L. Greene. 
(Curran, 1885:128) 

A Gentleman, Well and Carefully Dressed 

Curran's generous words refer to Edward Lee Greene 
(Fig. 12), who had infomially received his botanical training 
from the expatriate Swedish naturalist, Thure Kumlein 
(Greene, 1888), and had been ordained an Episcopal priest in 
1873. Greene was subsequently assigned to a series of par- 
ishes in Colorado, New Mexico, and California (Mcintosh, 
1983). When assigned to Vallejo in 1874, he became a mem- 
ber of the Academy (Hittell, p. 170), but then was relocated 
out of the state after one year. He renamed to the Bay Area 
seven years later, to become rector of St. Mark's in Berkeley 
in 1881. Greene quickly resumed his association with the 
Academy, was elected a resident member in April 1883 
(Hittell, p. 260), and, as previously noted, served as joint 
curator of botany with Curran in 1884—1887. 

Although Jones (1932, 1933) credits Greene with giving 
Curran her botanical training, it is evident that she was already 
active in the Academy before Greene's arrival, under the 
tutelage of Behr. It is nevertheless quite possible that Greene's 
long-standing passion for botany encouraged her own new- 
found interest in the subject, as suggested by Ewan (1942). In 
any event, at the beginning of their association there are only 
indications of mutual support and respect, including joint field work (e.g., to Donner Lake [Greene, 
1885:78]). Greene named a Mimulus. Astragalus, and Senecio after Curran, using her maiden name 
of "layneae," and referred to her as "my zealous, clear-seeing and most efficient co-laborer in the 
field of California botany" (Greene, 1885:84). 

Alas, the relationship soon deteriorated, eventually leading to full-fledged warfare. By the 1 890s, 
the following kinds of comments characterized Curran's [by then Brandegee] increasingly sharp 
criticisms in her published reviews of Greene's work: "The specific descriptions of Mr. Greene are 
a disgrace to botany" (Brandegee, 1893b:65), and: "A year or two before his death Dr. Gray dubbed 

FiouRE 12. Edward Lee Greene. Courtesy 

Setchell Collection, University Herbarium 

Archives, University of California. Berkeley. 



Figure 1 3. Willis Linn Jepson ( 1 899). 

Courtesy Setchell Collection, University Herbarium 

Archives, University of California, Berkeley. 

[Greene] 'The New Rafinesque." In this he was unjust 
to Rafinesque who was at once a great egotist, a little 
mad, and somewhat of a genius. Prof. Greene lacks the 
genius" (Brandegee, 1894:420). Greene in his turn re- 
ferred to Curran/Brandegee as a "she devil" (Jones, 
1932, 1933), an opinion shared by at least some other 
male contemporaries (e.g., Britton, 1891). 

Greene's animosity was passed on to his protege, 
Willis Linn Jepson (Fig. 13), as discussed in greater 
detail later in this paper. The passage presented as evi- 
dence here, recalling Jepson's romanticized first meet- 
ing with Greene, serves also to provide a rich description 
of Academy facilities at the time. Jepson casts Curran 
as an "unkempt woman" with "an unpleasant voice," 
only grudgingly helpful and clearly (and properly) sub- 
ordinate to the eulogized Greene: 

In a June of the early eighties of the last centun,' a 
lad came out of the edge of the bordering foothills of 
the Sacramento Valley and set his face towards San 
Francisco on a great quest. Beneath the facetiousness 
of a smart reporter's newspaper article he had derived 
the existence of the California Academy of Sciences 
which harbored a staff of 'worthy fossils' laboring in 
behalf of the advancement of science and which contained, above all things else, to the boy's 
mind, an herbarium — an ordered collection of plants. The lad climbed the broad stone steps 
rising to Dr. Stone's old church on the comer of California and Dupont streets and knocked on 
the great door, timidly at first and, growing bolder, yet again and again and again. 

After a while there came down the narrow choir stairs one who inquired in an unpleasant voice 
what he was doing there. And without waiting for a reply the woman — for it was a woman — 
demanded to know why he should be knocking and calling all away from their work. The lad 
looked at the unkempt woman, found tongue and in a few words told his story. The woman 
regarded him for a space as if in astonishment, and then said shortly, 'Come up. ' The lad followed 
her up the stairs. 

At the top of the stairs the gallery of the old brick church opened out before his shining eyes, 
filled with rows and rows of the most wonderful herbarium cases, such an array, the boy was 
sure, as the world had never seen before. The woman showed him the plants he wished to see, 
explained the herbarium, and answered his questions. Meantime he noticed a gentleman, well 
and carefully dressed, sitting at a table, intently studying the plants before him and occasionally 
writing. His face was youngish and clean-shaven, his skin clear and slightly ruddy, his features 
regular and full, but most remarkable was his thick head of hair which was not gray, but white 
as cotton. 'That,' said the woman, 'is Mr. Greene. He is studying in the Herbarium and is now 
engaged on a revision of Mimulus. Very able revisions of Eschscholtzia, Brodiaea, and other 
California genera, he has already completed. He is a very wonderful man.' Upon that she took 
the boy along the gallery to the table where the botanist sat, who then looked up from his work, 
greeted the lad and laid down his pen. The lad saw that his eye was bright and kindly, and his 
voice carried a certain richness akin to mellowness. (Jepson, 1918:24) 

An entry in one of Jepson's voluminous notebooks is also revealing, not only of Jepson's opinion 
of Curran/Brandegee but perhaps of his own vulnerabilities: 


[Mrs. Brandegce's] life has been a peppery one. Undoubtedly with a genuine interest in botany 
and with real ability, she has yet used her botany to gratify personal hatreds. It has been used as 
a means of attacking someone whom she chose to dislike. And it was necessary for her to have 
some one to attack. It was her life to 'follow up' the work some one was publishing and find in 
it as many mistakes as possible. It is needless to say that any one can find plenty of occupation 
at such a task. (Jepson fieldbook 25:23, 31 May 1912, Jepson Herbarium archives) 

In contrast, Setchell claimed that "her outbreaks of sarcasm were professional rather than 
personal and she was amazed at those who could not distinguish between the two, to her, very different 
attiuides" (Setchell, 1926:168). Support for this statement is provided by Curran/Brandegee's 
comment on Per Axel Rydberg, a splitter on par with Greene: "We disagree constantly but get along 
very well, and I tell him I like him much better than his botany" (Letter from K. Brandegee to T.S. 
Brandegee, from New York, 28 September 1913, in UC Herbarium archives). She was fijrthennore 
capable of poking fun at herself in this regard, e.g.: "Femaldjust read me a criticism of the new edition 
of Britton & Brown, that is nearly as sarcastic as some of mine" (letter from K. Brandegee to T.S. 
Brandegee. from Harvard, 1 1 October 1913, in UC Herbarium archives). This latter quote also makes 
the point that Curran/Brandegee's acid pen, rather than setting her apart from her male colleagues, 
was instead a comnton characteristic of the era. 

This point was among those noted by Albert W.C.T. Herre (ca. 1960) in his diatribe in defense 
of Curran/Brandegee. which was more personal than factual in nature (e.g., taking aim at Greene's 
alleged homosexuality). She had other defenders as well, most notably Marcus E. Jones ( 1 932, 1933), 
who, like Herre, knew her only during the later periods of her life. Jones' highly opinionated 
biographies are riddled with factual flaws; e.g., stating Carson City, Nevada, as Curran/Brandegee's 
birthplace (Jones, 1933), rather than Tennessee, as she herself reports (Setchell, 1926). Nevertheless, 
in addition to being exceptionally entertaining, Jones's biographies are a rich source of character 
sketches such as the following: 

It is said of [Katharine Brandegee] that she was a very beautiful young woman. As I knew her 
she was a person rather angular and unconventional, with a very strong face, compelling 
consideration and respect without an effort on her part . . . Her mind was masculine in its grasp, 
philosophical, discriminative to the degree, and her keenness of observation and memory of 
things, and capacity to correlate was marvelous. I was always impressed by the mental grasp she 
had on any subject she tackled. (Jones, 1932, p. 267 of reprint) 

Jones' comments on Greene, on the other hand, were significantly less complimentary: e.g., "Greene's 
hatred of people was limited only by his capacity to define them" (Jones. 1932, p. 267 of reprint). 

There are nevertheless hints of an eventual reconciliation with Greene, in which a homesick 
Katharine socialized with an increasingly isolated Greene (who was by this time residing in 
Washington, DC.) during her 1913 tour of eastern herbaria: 

Mr. Greene is full of gossip and is rather frank in his opinion of the pinhead selfishness of most 
of the botanists about the department [= the U.S. National Herbarium]. ... He took me out to 
lunch and we luxuriated riotously at ten cents per. He is as scary of the street cars and autos as 
a country girl and grabbed me hysterically at every crossing. If it had not rained I would have 
gone out botanizing with him yesterday — violets. ( LeUer from K. Brandegee to T.S. Brandegee, 
from Washington, D.C.. 17 November 1913. in UC Herbarium archives) 


To Sneer at Misguided Mortals Who Differ 

Given the prominent roles that Curran/Brandegee and Greene subsequently played in California 
botany, the question of what triggered their mutual animosity has relevance beyond the purely 
biographical. Several possibilities can be inferred, all of which might have been involved to a greater 
or lesser extent. For e.xample, Ewan's suggestion that "her particular vitriolic criticisms of Greene 
were surely in part the aftermath of unrequited love" (Ewan, 1942:773), although vociferously 
challenged by Hene (ca. 1960) and dismissed by Crosswhite and Crosswhite (1985), cannot be 
completely ruled out. After all, Curran was a recent widow, Greene was described as markedly 
handsome, and the fact that the falling-out coincided with her marriage to Townshend Brandegee 
certainly indicates that at least an element of spumed interest could have been involved. 

Even if tnie, however, the emotional undercurrent probably only added intensity to a diversity 
of equally compelling reasons for mutual animosity. High on the list is the dramatic divergence 
between their taxonomic philosophies, which recapitulated as personal drama the battles that 
penneated the biological community following the publication of Charles Darwin's theories of natural 
selection and the origin of species. Following her mentor Behr{e.g., Behr. 1884), Curran became an 
early convert of the Darwinian interpretation of natural history. In contrast, as befit his religious 
orientation, Greene remained steadfast to creationist doctrine, to the disdain of Curran/Brandegee: 

He openly contemns [sic], as inconsistent with the Mcsaic record, the theory of evolution held 
in greater or lesser degree by almost all biologists, and proclaims his belief in the special creation 
and the fixity of species, taking occasional opportunity to sneer at the misguided mortals who 
differ from him. (Brandegee, lS93b, p. 64) 

Greene's philosophy predisposed him to treat all recognizable variants as distinct species. e\en 
at the expense of consigning inconvenient intennediates to the waste bin as "the works of the devil" 
(Jicie Herre, ca. 1960:3). In Cuiran/Brandegee's disparaging view- 
Mr. Greene . . . makes it perfectly evident that a species is not with him as with most of us a 
form of life with characters sufficiently and constantly different from others to admit of a clear 
description and with a name conveniently expressing relationship, but a distinct entity not 
necessarily in any close relation to other forms now or previously on the earth and to be hunted 
to its remotest lair properly labeled and put away on shelf for all time. This kind of botany was 
taught, probably, in the middle ages to which Mr. Greene properly belongs. (Brandegee. 1 893b. 
p. 65) 

Putting her disdain for Greene's approach into action, with perhaps a personal vendetta adding 
incentive, Curran/Brandegee dedicated much of her subsequent career to critically evaluating 
Greene's species, even to the extent of revisiting type localities to study what variation existed in the 
living population (Ewan, 1942). Many of her herbarium specimens cleariy demonstrate this focus, 
such that the entire sheet is filled with a stunning diversity of flowers representing infraspecific 
variation within a population (e.g., Calochortus luleus. Clarkia biloba). In addition, she was an early 
proponent of experimental systematics: 

The life history of a single species, its limit of variation, and its hybrids, if any, would be far 
more useful than a dozen 'decades' of new violets or Senecios. A few years ago 1 happened upon 
a very instructive object lesson of this kind. . . . [Luther] Burbank infonned me that he had 
transferred a single plant [oi Zauschneria] from a locality not far away, and saving all the seeds 
produced by this self-fertilized individual, had planted them to see what variations he could get. 
In this row were all the forms, both of tlower and foliage, which have been observed in the genus. 


except the extreme narrow or revolule leaf which is ciimatai variation of drier regions. A few 
experiments of this i<ind would rid us of a host of species. (Brandegee. 1901a:96) 

In this also she was following Behr, who in the preface to his flora of San Francisco noted that: 

Many of our CaHfomian species split into numerous variations, which mingle frequently with 
variations of related, equally \ariable species. Some of these variations owe their existence to 
hybridization; and this circumstance is probably the reason why several species described and 
characterized by different authors have not been found again. In annuals such spurious species 
will only reappear occasionally. Questionable types can be investigated only by cultivation. Up 
to this time California does not possess a botanical garden or experimental grounds where such 
questions could be definitely settled. (Behr, 1888:3^) 

Ironically, while Behr and Curran/Brandegee shared philosophies that represented the cutting 
edge of botanical inquiry at that time, and which draw our sense of kinship in the current day, it was 
Greene who had the better appreciation of how much undescribed diversity still existed in California, 
even by late 20th century standards (Enter, 2000). Contrary to Cuiran/Brandegee's assessment that 
"It is safe to say that not more than one in ten of [Greene's] species is tenable, and probably one in 
fifteen or twenty would be nearer the mark" (Brandegee, 1893b:64), a respectable 70% of those 
species described by Greene while he was residing in California have stood the test of time (Mc Vaugh, 
1983). On the other hand, Curran/Brandegee 's propensity towards explaining variation as repre- 
senting intraspecific diversity or resulting from hybridization meant that, in spite of a career spent in 
the midst of unrecognized novelties, she described only a handful of California's wealth of species 
(tellingly, mostly before her rift with Greene; e.g., Curran. 1 884). So extreme was this propensity that 
her husband in later years "sometimes humorously remarked that he thought her flora [of California, 
never completed] would finally contain only a single species" (Setchell, 1926:166). 

For the Want of Confidence in Its Management 

Another prominent explanation for the rift between Curran and Greene, which is most relevant 
to the institutional focus of the current narrative, is their respective alignment in opposing camps in 
the Academy politics that peaked in the late 1880s. Although the acrimonious elections of 1887, 
which resulted in the election of an opposition slate of officers, are clearly recorded, the issues at 
stake are to some extent a matter of conjecture. The most illuminating document in this regard is the 
1887 Reform Ticket (copy in UC Herbarium archives), which presents as stated goals: 

• To reform the Administration of the affairs of this Society. 

• To save and protect its property from rot and waste. 

• To advance the cause of Science instead of the aggrandizement or profit of individuals. 

• To furnish suitable buildings or rooms, indispensable for its Museum. Laboratory, and 


• To provide for the publication of the Proceedings — neglected for years. 

• To put the Society in a position of respectability before the world, such as to deserve the large 

Bequests and Donations which are being withheld for the want of confidence in its 

• And generally; to make the California Academy of Sciences a success in furtherance of the 

hopes and desires of its friends. 

These are serious charges, ranging from inadequately housed collections to alienated donors, and 
are presumably aimed at George Davidson (Fig. 14), a well-respected member of the United States 



Figure 14. George Davidson. 

Courtesy California Academy of 

Sciences Archives. 

Figure 15. Harvey Willson Harknes; 

Courtesy California Academy of 

Sciences Archives. 

Coast Survey who 
had been president 
ofthe Academy for 
the previous 16 
years. According 
to Ewan (1987:6), 
"For sixty years he 
was the best known 
scientist on the Pa- 
cific Coast." In the 
bitterly contested 
election of 1887, 
which resulted in a 
complete turnover 
of the slate of offi- 
cers, Davidson was 
ousted by Harvey 
Willson Harkness 
(Fig. 15). Hark- 
ness, a retired phy- 
sician with a strong mycological interest, had significant political connections; for example, at the 
ceremony of completing the Transcontinental Railway in 1 869. he was "chosen to present, on behalf 
ofthe State of California, the golden spike used upon that occasion" (Hittell, p. 441 ). According to 
Hittell, "an antagonism had been growing between Professor Davidson and Dr. Harkness, which to 
a considerable extent involved their friends" (Hittell, p. 277), with Greene apparently in the Davidson 
camp and Curran in Harkness's. 

Tantalizing evidence of how visible this episode in Academy politics was beyond the walls of 
the institution can be seen in a subsequent address by David Starr Jordan, who replaced Harkness as 
President ofthe Academy in 1896: 

For some time previous to my election the Academy membership had been divided into two 
warring factions — one led by Dr. Davidson, the other by Dr. Harkness . . . Both men were 
vigorous and rather intolerant, a combination of qualities which was not rare in pioneer days, 
and disrupted more than one California organization even as it affected the famous 'society on 
the Stanislow.' Indeed, it is reputed that the discords in the institution furnished the motive for 
Bret Harte's satirical verse, (quoted in Ewan, 1955:37) 

Before the reasons for Greene's and Curran's alignments in the opposing camps can be 
understood, the issues underlying the antagonism against Davidson must first be discerned. The most 
obvious explanation, ironically enough, involves the bequest that singlehandedly changed the 
Academy from a scholarly club into a full-fledged scientific institution: that of prominent philanthro- 
pist James Lick, "the eccentric cabinetmaker whose investments had made him a millionaire" 
(Stadtman, 1970:108). Lick's attentions had been turned to the Academy by Hiram G. Bloomer, one 
ofthe early members with an interest in botany, best known for his membership in San Francisco's 
notorious Vigilance Committee. According to Jepson (1899:165-166), "Bloomer was the first to 
interest Mr. Lick in the nature and extent of scientific work, to explain the needs of its devotees, and 
to introduce him to the Academv." 


This Fine Building, in Which We Meet 

High on the list of Academy's needs was a suitable pennanent home for the increasingly valuable 
library and natural history collections, which had long outgrown the solitary shared cabinet of the 
1850s. For the first two decades of its existence, the Academy occupied quarters at 622 Clay Street, 
"at the generous sufferance of Pioche, Bayerque & Co." However, the building was damaged in an 
1 865 earthquake, "to such an extent as to induce those in charge of the library and collections to pack 
them up and store them where they would not be exposed to the weather" (Hittell, p. 79). Rooms were 
subsequently rented at the comer of Montgomery and Sacramento streets, but these also proved 
inadequate, so two years later the Academy returned to its previous site once repairs had been effected 
(Hittell. p. 84). 

In 1869, the San Francisco authorities reserved an "Outside-Land lot," near the comer of Point 
Lobosand First Avenues, "for the purposes of an 'Academy of Sciences"' (Hittell, pp. 108—109). No 
building funds were allocated, however, and Academy income ($1,760 in 1868) was woefully 
inadequate for undertaking a constmction project. Instead, in 1874 the Academy relocated to the 
fomier First Congregational Church on Califomia and Dupont (now Grant) streets (Hittell, p. 164). 
The short-comings of this facility for natural history collections quickly became evident: 

[T]he old First Congregational Church . . . had been built in 1853 of brick made with salt water, 
which had been so poorly burned and were so soft that they absorbed moisture like a sponge and 
did not dry out from one rainy season to another. ... A deep foundation had been necessary for 
the foundation of this structure, and into this excavation the water from the hill continually 
seeped, keeping the foundation walls constantly soaked. (Hittell, p. 280) 

Lick's initial gift therefore appeared as a godsend: the deed to a piece of land on Market Street, 
near the southwestern comer with Fourth Street, worth SI 50,000 (Hittell, pp. 151—152). When first 
offered in 1 873 (the same year that Lick was elected a life member of the Academy), the deed carried 
several stipulations: "that the premises should be used and devoted solely and exclusively for 
scientific purposes, and none other," and that: 

The Academy was required to erect and maintain on the premises, and covering the whole lot 
except a small space in the rear for light and ventilation, a substantial and elegant brick edifice, 
three stories in height, with a substantial granite front faced with appropriate scientific emblems: 
and its structure and design should be classic and such as would readily distinguish it from 
buildings used for business or commercial purposes. (Hittell, p. 151 ) 

Two years were designated in which the Academy was supposed to come up with the funds 
necessary to build such a magnificent stmcture, with $200,000 estimated to be the amount necessary 
for constmction and maintenance (Hittell, p. 153), or else the deed would be forfeit. Although the 
Academy had previously been the recipient of other relatively large bequests,^ this was a seriously 
daunting prospect. Over the next several years the deed was accordingly modified, and in 1875 (the 
same year Cuixan entered medical school) the property was donated to the Academy outright, with 
no stipulations attached (Hittell, p. 186). 

This still left the Academy unsure what to do with the prime downtown real estate, since even a 
more modest facility was well beyond the members' means. Lick's death in 1876, while suitably 
mourned, looked to provide an answer, in that his Tmst Deed specified that, after certain bequests 
*■ ForemosI among these was 520,000 from Charles Crocker in 1881. "in aid of scientific research under the auspices of the 
Academy" (Hittell. p. 237). This established the Crocker Scientific Investigation Fund, which played a significant role in 
subsequent years, including as the source of curatorial salaries. Crocker himself was elected an honorary life member in 1 882 
(Hittell, p, 241). 


were filled (including $700,000 to establish the Lick Obsei^atory [Hittell, p. 186]), the remainder of 
his estate was to be divided between the Academy and the Society of California Pioneers (Hittell, p. 
187). The will, however, was contested by a son who had been left out of the inheritance (Hittell. p. 
199), and the Academy was accordingly unable to draw from the Trust Deed until 1879. Funds were 
then available as a mortgage with the Lick Trustees, but exactly how much the Academy's share of 
the estate would mm out to be was not immediately apparent. In fact, it was not until 1895 that it 
could be determined that the Academy's portion of the Trust Deed was the princely sum of 
$604,654.08 (Hittell, p. 357), more than the most optimistic expectations. 

The ironic result was that, rather than catapulting the Academy into more wealth than it had ever 
dreamed of, the immediate impact of Lick's munificence was a period of extreme indebtedness, due 
to the need to pay property taxes on the Market Street property (e.g., $1,444.50 in 1876 [Hittell, p. 
1 92] ). The Board of Supervisors of the City and County of San Francisco even attempted a suit against 
the Academy for taxes on the "Outside-Land lot" in 1885 (Hittell, p. 183), and then proceeded to 
"confiscate" the land for "school purposes" in 1887 (Hittell, p. 289).^ The financial situation was so 
dire that in 1879 there was concern that there would be "no other course open to them except that of 
closing the Academy" (Hittell, p. 22 1 ). 

Even after mortgages could be obtained against the Lick Trust, there was evidently disagreement 
within the Academy as to when and how the new wealth was best allocated, especially given that its 
exact magnimde was not yet known. This dissension is accordingly what lies behind the 1 887 Refonn 
Ticket. For example, as one controversial belt-tightening move, publication of the Proceedings had 
been suspended in 1877 (Hittell, p. 205), depriving the members both of an outlet for publication and 
of their main exchange item for library materials from other institutions. The Proceedings did not 
reappear until 1 889 (Hittell, p. 302), several years after Curran had instituted the Bulletin as an interim 
publication outlet. 

Even more pressing, however, was the continued deterioration of the First Congregational 
Church as suitable facilities for housing the collections. By 1 886, "the metal roof had rusted and rotted 
away; and a new roof was necessary, or other quarters, before it rained again" (Hittell, p 280). 
Although some repairs were subsequently effected, Behr chose to remove his personal collection to 
preserve it from damage, and even "asked to be excused from serving as curator of entomology as 
long as the Academy occupied the building it was then in" (Hittell, p. 278). 

Although new quarters were obviously a high priority, and the Academy had now both the land 
and means to construct its long-desired pennanent home, the decision to proceed was delayed by 
critical disagreement on the best use of the Market Street property. When Lick's original stipulations 
were withdrawn in 1875, as previously discussed, the prospect of using such a prime piece of 
downtown real estate as income-generating property became an attractive option (e.g., Hittell, p. 263). 
Such a use would not only provide a permanent source of funds for Academy activities, but would 
also support the maintenance of a facility that could either be purchased or constructed at a less 
expensive site. 

Although Harkness is recorded as being "favorable to selling the Market Street lot" (Hittell, p. 
263), planning and construction on the property began almost immediately following the election of 
the Harkness slate, implying that some crucial deadlock had been broken. The solution to the income 
vs. museum question was elegant: a commercial building was built facing Market Street (Fig. 16), 
with a central portal leading to a back building, which housed the .Academy's offices, collections, 
and display areas (Hittell, pp. 319-324). The new building was completed in time for the 5 January 

This move was challenged by the Academy, eventually resulting in a suit brought the City and County of San 
Francisco, and the Board of Education (which had begun building on the lot), in 1890 (Hittell, pp. 290, 299, 307). 







1891 annual meeting of the Academy. 
Confirmation of Harkness's hand in its 
constmction is provided by the following 
tribute, given at a 1905 meeting: 

It was during [Harkness's] incumbency 
as president that this fine building, in 
which wc meet, was designed, erected 
and dedicated as the home of science in 
this great metropolis of the Pacific 
Coast. He placed its comer-stone, and 
gratuitously labored with a sort of fa- 
therly superintendent interest over 
every part of its construction, watching 
with jealous inspection every brick that 
was laid and every trowel that was han- 
dled in its building. And when it was 
completed, it was he, more perhaps that 
any other, that directed and guarded the 
careful removal and transportation of 
its treasures from the dark, dingy, dusty 
and dilapidated old quarters on Dupont 
Street to the bright, airy and well-kept 
galleries above us. (Hittell, 1905:6) 

As counterpoint views. David Starr 
Jordan, in the 1896 presidential address 
quoted previously, described the result as 
"a large office building . . . [with] the 
museum occupying cramped quarters at 

the rear" (quoted in Ewan, 1955, p. 37). In later years Curran's successor, Alice Eastwood, likewise 
expressed her dissatisfaction with the Market Street facility, accusing Harkness of a lack of concern 
for the well-being of the collections after shading caused by a newly built adjacent stnicture created 
a humidity problem in the herbarium (Wilson, 1955). 

1 1 11^ 

Figure 16. California Academy of Sciences. Markel Street Building. 
Courtesy California Academy of Sciences Archives. 

Friend and Protector of the Gentle Kellogg 

This account does not yet answer the question of why the 1887 election would have contributed 
to the rift between Curran and Greene, given that they both presumably appreciated the pressing need 
for suitable collections space and a publication outlet. Curran is well-established as a backer of the 
opposition slate; given that she was editing the Bulletin, it is reasonable to speculate that she may 
have even printed the Reform Ticket. Behr was her inentor, and Harkness had also given her early 
encouragement and support.** A contemporary newspaper account implies that the female voting bloc 
detennined the election (Leviton & Aldrich, 1997:288), and Jepson (1933:84) outright states that "the 
first political upheaval of the Academy [was] largely engineered by Mrs. Mary K. Curran." At least 
one other contemporary shared a similar view, as shown in a letter from Charles Christopher Parry, 
a venerable western botanist, to S. B. Parish: 

However, a mushroom that Harkness initially indicated would be named after Curran (Hittell. p. 243) was instead described 
as Polyplocium califoniicum Harkness, now treated as Gyrophmgmnim culifonuciim (Harkness) Morse (Zeller. 1943). 



Acad[em]y affairs as you will infer are run a la Curran and nobody else has anything to say in 
the matter — Greene draws off to Berkeley — how long this state of things may last quien sake. 
I enclose Harkness's inaugural written as I understand by Curran. (quoted in Ewan, 1955:32) 

Parry's comments refer to the termination of joint curatorship by Greene and Curran, with 
indications of implications beyond botany. The reasons for Greene's opposition to the new admini- 
stration are not clearly stated, but are probably based at least in part on loyalty to Kellogg. Kellogg's 
antipathy to the new regime was so severe that, upon his death several months after the elections, he 
chose not to leave his botanical drawings to the Academy. So acrimonious was this issue that when 
Gibbons read a paper "regarding the drawings of the late Dr. Albert Kellogg and his reasons for not 
leaving them to the Academy while the present administration was in power," it was resolved "After 
a great many desultory remarks . . . that the paper was not in proper tone and should not be received 
by the Acadeiny" (Hittell, p. 299). Greene's loyalties to Kellogg and defiance of the new administra- 
tion can be inferred from Greene's involvement in publishing Kellogg's drawings, as noted in an 
1889 meeting: 

There was some discussion as to the publication of a new volume, entitled 'West American Oaks' 
by Dr. Albert Kellogg. It was edited by Edward L. Greene and contained matter and particularly 
drawings, which seemed to have been prepared by Dr. Kellogg while in the employ of the 
Academy and was claimed to belong to the Academy. After Dr. Kellogg's death. Dr. William 
P. Gibbons, E. L. Greene and a few others seem to have published the book as a work independent 
of the Academy. (Hittell, p. 303) 

The reasons for Kellogg's antagonism to the Harkness administration are not explicitly stated, 
and would seem to be at odds with his best interests. Not only were his precious specimens, like 
Behr's, threatened by deteriorating facilities, but the cessation of the Proceedings undermined his 
hard-won battle for autonomous publication. This is clearly noted in his biographical sketch attributed 
to Curran/Brandegee: 

During the years 1877-1883 publication by the California Academy of Sciences ceased, and 
with the exception of a few which appeared in a San Francisco newspaper, the Rural Press, the 
species described by [Kellogg] thereafter remained in the herbarium 
of the Califomia Academy of Sciences with the MS. diagnoses. 
Several of these, as Eunanus angustus [Gray], Sphaeralcea fiilva 
[Greene], Calypiridium nudum [Greene], etc., have been described, 
either wholly or in part, from the types of Dr. Kellogg's unpublished 
species, and no mention made of his work. (Brandegee, 1893a:l ) 

What apparently mattered most to Kellogg was his personal ties 
to Davidson, perhaps developed when Kellogg and Davidson par- 
ticipated in an 1867 expedition to the newly acquired territory of 
Alaska. The strength of this friendship is seen in Davidson's remi- 
niscence: "We lived in the saine contracted temporary deck cabin 
for four or five months under many trials and inconveniences, and 
the sweetness of [Kellogg's] character was as pervading and refresh- 
ing as the beauty and fragrance of the flowers he gathered" (quoted 
in Ewan, 1955: 1 1 ). Kellogg would have also felt personally affected 

by the ouster of William G. W. Harford (Fig. 1 7), who was also on 

., . , , J... J I r-v- . x-K FiCiLRE 17. William Harford. 

the Alaska expedition and who, as Director of Museum, was among councsy California Academy of 

those who lost his position in the insurrection. Primarily a concholo- Sciences .Archives. 


gist. Harford had particular significance to the botanical community as "the friend and protector of 
the gentle Kellogg, especially in Kellogg's later years" (Jepson, 1933:84). The two men made 
extensive plant collections together in California and Oregon in 1868 and 1869, and at least during 
Kellogg's last years shared a house in Alameda (Jepson, 1933). 

With the loss of his paid position at the Academy in 1887, Harford spent the next four years at 
the University, as an assistant to James John Rivers, "Curator of the Museum at the University of 
California" (Jepson, 1933:84).*^ The University may have acted as a stronghold for resistance to the 
new Academy administration in general, as evidenced by the appearance of Joseph LeConte as 
candidate for Academy president on an unsuccessful opposition ticket in the 1890 election (Hittell, 
p. 306). LeConte's disdain for Academy politics is clearly stated: "Under the presidency of J. D. 
Whitney the Academy was prosperous and held a high position among the scientific institutions of 
our country; but from that time, because of internal dissensions, it dropped lower and lower" (quoted 
inEwan, 1955:32). 

The Faithful of His Flocli Behind Him 

As mentioned by Parry in his letter to Parish (previously quoted), Greene had also taken refuge 
at Berkeley, in a successful bid for the first strictly botanical appointment at the University of 
California, in 1 885. Eugene Hilgard had vigorously lobbied for such a position, which was included 
in the President's report for 1884-86: 

It is important that a separate department of general and economic Botany should be formed, 
and that a Professor of Botany should be appointed at a salary of $3,000 a year. He will require 
an assistant for the purpose of taking charge of the herbarium and aiding in instruction of the 
classes ai S600 a year. The formation of a large herbarium .should be seriously begun, (quoted 
in Constance, 1978:4) 

Greene's career move was dictated not only by Academy affairs, but also by the fact that Greene 
had converted to Catholicism in 1884 and accordingly lost his post as rector of St. Mark's Episcopal 
Church in Berkeley. He did not go quietly, however, and his subsequent attempts to teach Catholic 
doctrine to a congregation that was ultra-Protestant aroused strenuous objections (Mcintosh, 1983). 
As a result: 

It was a case, not without precedent, in which the vestry locked the doors of the church against 
the priest; and we have preserved for us the picture of the Reverend Mr. Greene, in surplice, 
passing down Bancroft Way. an axe over his shoulder and the faithful of his tlock behind him, 
beating down the doors of St. Mark's and leading his people in to service, sennon and 
benediction. That service, the legend runs, was his last office in the Episcopal Church. (Jepson. 

Although Greene had previously taught an occasional course for the University, for a stipend of 
$900 per year (Constance. 1978). he was now a full-time professional botanist for the first time in his 
career. In 1890 he became chair of the new Department of Botany (Fig. 18). established within the 
College of Natural Sciences "to meet the wants of students not caring for the courses in the colleges 
of applied science" (quoted in Constance. 1978:4). Greene was assisted by Marshall Avery Howe, 

The only reference to James J. Rivers in the Centennial Record of the University of California (Stadtman et al.. 1967) is the 
enigmatic note by Smith ( 1967:85) that Rivers was "curator of the University Museum from 1881 to 1895, [and] was also active 
in entomology," along with Hilgard. This appears to be the only mention of a "University Museum" in the Centennial Record. 
Ewan ( 1995:30). who provides slightly more information, refers to Rivers as Curator of Organic Natural History. The fate of 
either the "University Museum" or "Organic Natural History" has not been determined. 



Figure 1 8. UC botany lab and herbarium in South Hall, 1 893 (with Willis Linn Jepson. Marshall Howe, Ivar Tidestrom, 
and Joseph Burtt-Davy). Courtesy University Herbanum Archives, University of California. Berkeley. 

as instructor of vegetal structure, morphology, and cryptogamic 
botany. Joseph Burtt-Davy (Fig. 19) joined the faculty in 1892, 
teaching economic and commercial botany, with special atten- 
tion paid to grasses and early range studies. Willis Linn Jepson 
became Greene's assistant even before receiving his Ph.D. in 
botany in 1899 (the first at the University), after which he was 
promoted to assistant professor. Another noteworthy student was 
Ivar Tidestrom, who made an early start on establishing a botani- 
cal garden. 

With the burst of activity in Berkeley, the Academy was no 
longer the only center for botanical activity in the San Francisco 
Bay Area. Eiytheo, founded in 1893 and primarily edited by 
Jepson, served as an alternate (and strictly botanical) profes- 
sional outlet to Acadeiny publications and Zoe (discussed 
later).'" It became the outlet of choice for members of the 
Chamisso Botanical Club, which was organized at the University 
in 1891, "by officers and students interested in botanical work. 
The promoters of the club had especially in view the collection F'"'-'*'^ '"^ ■'"^'^P'^ Bimt-Da\y (18W). 

c .-1 u- I. .. c ji II ..I-.", I Courtesy Uni\ersily Herbarium .Archives. 

of matenal upon which to round local plant-lists (Jepson, ,, ' .^ cr- ic d i i 

^ r '' r • University of California, Berkeley. 

Greene had previously founded his own journal. Piltonia. in 1 887. This was. however, used almost exclusively as his personal 
publication outlet, saving him from having to submit his work to be reviewed and approved by his critics. 



1894:171). Members staked out individual territories, in 
which trespassing by rivals was discouraged, with one 
exception; "Professor Greene as the Great Chief was of 
course free from all restrictions. We had too much to gain 
from his friendship to object to his hunting on our 
grounds" (Frederick Theodore Bioletti, quoted in Ewan, 
1955:35). One of Greene's disciples, Elmer Reginald 
Drew, went on to become a professor of physics at Stan- 
ford, and most of the other Chamisso club members also 
found prestigious posts (Ewan, 1955). 

The hive of activity continued after Greene resigned 
in 1895, to accept a post at Catholic University in Wash- 
ington, D.C. He was accompanied by Tidestrom, and also 
took his herbarium with him (which was eventually de- 
posited at the University of Notre Dame). After some 
concern that Hilgard would succeed in claiming botany 
for the College of Agriculture, departmental autonomy in 
the College of Natural Sciences was assured with the 
recruitment of William Albert Setchell (Fig. 20) as pro- 
fessor and chair (Constance, 1978). Setchell brought for- 
mal training from Yale and Harvard, along with broad 
interests in phycology, plant evolution, and phytogeogra- 
phy. He was elected a member of the Academy in 1895 
(Hittell, p. 359), but does not appear to have been overly active beyond presenting a few papers and 
serving on the publication committee (Hittell, p. 404). Howe also departed, to be replaced by W. J. 

Figure 20. William Setchell (circa 1892-1894). 

Courtesy Setchell Collection. 

University Herbarium Archives, 

University of Califormia, Berkeley. 

In, I Ki 21. Botany Building, Unuersity of" California. Berkeley (circa 1898). 
Courtesy University Herharuini Archives, University of California, Berkeley. 



V. Osterhout as co-instructor with Jepson while both 
worked to complete doctoral degrees (Constance, 1978). It 
was during this period, in 1897, that the Department of 
Botany and herbarium moved from their original quarters 
in South Hall, which had been taken over by the College of 
Agriculture (Stadtman, 1970: 146), to a new two-story Bot- 
any Building (Fig. 21) on the north bank of Strawberry 
Creek (Constance, 1978). 

It Surely Was a Droll Affair 

Coinciding with Greene's crisis of faith, Curran's life 
was also undergoing a major change, due to the arrival of 
Townshend Stith Brandegee (Fig. 22) in San Francisco. 
Brandegee, a graduate of the Sheffield Scientific School 
and veteran of several territorial surveys (e.g., the Hayden 
survey in 1875), arrived in California in 1885, to collect 
trunk samples of various trees for the American Museum 
of Natural History in New York (Setchell, 1926; Ewan, 
1942). As recorded by Marcus E. Jones, one of Greene's 
most opinionated detractors, with a liberal amount of hy- 
perbole and post-facto speculation: 

Figure 22. Townshend Stith Brandegee. 

Courtesy University Herbarium Archives, 

University of CaHfomia, Berkeley. 

It was opportune that Brandegee came to California at this 

time with a lot of Columbia Basin and north Pacific plants to name, for he was the oldest and 
most accomplished botanist in the country, and his presence would command respect and dispel 
the aura that Greene had cast about himself like a human god. Brandegee never squabbled. He 
was a very insignificant looking and little man who did not have to blow about himself (like 
Greene) to be heard. The atmo.sphere cleared at once, and everyone saw the beginning of a new 
era. Mrs. Curran fell "insanely in love" with Brandegee, as she put it in a letter to her sister. It 
surely was a droll affair, a most intensely masculine woman desperately in love with the most 
retiring and effeminate man, and both of them dead in earnest about it, the man too with other 
women buzzing around like flies in fly-time. (Jones, 1933:15) 

Curran and Brandegee married in 1 889; their honeymoon was a collecting trip on foot from San 
Diego to San Francisco. It was at this time that Mary K. Curran became Katharine (Kate) Brandegee: 
"My first name being the same as my mother's, I was never called by it, and on marriage to Mr. 
Brandegee it was dropped as making an unwieldy combination" (quoted in Setchell, 1926:168). 
Townshend had a sufficient inheritance ($49,000 in Jones, 1932; only $40,000 in Jones, 1933) for 
financial independence, and to initiate a new journal, Zoe. in 1890, initially with assistance from 
Harkness (later repaid). Overtly founded "as a medium for recording in accessible fomi the numerous, 
of^en unconnected observations, pertaining more particularly to the western part of North America, 
made by amateurs as well as working naturalists" (anonymous introduction to Vol. 1 , 1 890), Zoe also 
specifically served to provide Katharine a freer rein for her published critiques of others' works 
(Setchell, 1926; Crosswhite & Crosswhite, 1985). 

In 1891, Katharine started the California Botanical Club, a counterpart of the California 
Zoological Club, to serve the growing community of regional botanists. At its inception, the club 
encompassed professionals and amateurs alike, including among its early members such well-known 



western botanists as W. C. Cusick, L. F. Henderson, Thomas Howell, M. E. Jones, S. B. Parish, and 
W, N. Suksdorf (Brandegee, 1892). As perhaps the first botanical club on the West Coast, it was 
highly popular for group excursions (Setchell, 1926), and resulted in the publication of initial floristic 
surveys of Yosemite Park (Brandegee, 1891) and San Francisco (Brandegee, 1892). In spite of the 
early professional involvement, however, the club's focus apparently soon shifted to local enthusiasts, 
especially women, with the club serving as both a social outlet and a source of volunteer assistance 
and funding for the Academy's herbarium." 

The same year that the California Botanical Club was founded saw the first appearance at the 
Academy of Alice Eastwood, a young schoolteacher and self-taught botanist from Colorado (Wilson, 
1955; Moore, 1996). The Brandegees were impressed enough with Eastwood during her 1891 visit 
that they encouraged her to move to San Francisco the following year, at which time Katharine gave 
up her salary so that Eastwood could be hired as joint curator of botany, at $80 per month (Hittell, p. 
337). Additional ftinding was approved for an assistant in the botany department at $40 per month, 
a position filled in 1 893 by Effie A. Mclllriach (Hittell, p. 339).'- Katharine herself received a formal 
accolade from the Academy, in the form 
of a resolution "that the zeal and effi- 
ciency evinced by Mrs. Brandegee dur- 
ing the years of her labors in the 
herbarium had been such as to merit our 
highest commendation" (Hittell, p. 

Shortly thereafter, in 1894. the 
Brandegees left San Francisco and 
moved to San Diego, leaving Eastwood 
in charge of the herbarium and the Cali- 
fornia Botanical Club. The announced 
reasons for the Brandegees' move were 
"partly for the more agreeable climate 
and partly to be nearer the chosen field 
of Mr. Brandegee's botanical labors 
[Mexico]" (Zoe 4:421, 1894), but the 
proximity to Katharine's sister in Ra- 
mona, as well as the distance fi-om 
Academy politics, might have likewise 
factored in. The ample space for a year- 
round botanical garden (Fig. 23), on the 
mesa above San Diego, could have also 
tempted Katharine with the opportunity 
to begin putting into practice her incipi- ^^^^^^^ ,3 -^^^^ Brandegee garden and brick herbarium ni San Diego, 
ent leanings towards experimental sys- Courtesy University Herbarium Archives. 

tematics. University of California. Berkeley. 

' ' The professional function was subsequently claimed by the California Botanical Society, founded by Jepson m 1 9 1 3 ( Ewan. 


'■ Mclllriach's duties were later changed to assistant secretary and librarian for the Academy, a position she "was relieved of 

after becoming Mrs. Cloudsley Rutter in 1902. However, she continued to receive a monthly salary for supervising and 

proof-reading Academy publications (Hittell, p. 406). 



Botany Taught According to Modern Methods 

The flowering of botanical activity at the University of California, and the beginning of what 
would become the decades-long Eastwood era in botany at the Academy (Wilson, 1 955; Moore, 1 996; 
Chickering, 1989), coincided with the inception of the third major institutional center for botany in 
the San Francisco Bay Area, when Stanford University opened 
its doors in 1892. Leland Stanford, founder of the university, 
had been a staunch supporter of the California Geological 
Survey and was one of the benefactors whose private funds 
allowed the completion and publication of Botany of Califor- 
nia (Brewer et al., 1 876; Watson, 1 880). In 1 88 1 , Stanford had 
also been a nominee for the University of California Regency. 
at which time there was the possibility of Stanford bestowing 
his philanthropic intent to "do something for education" on the 
existing University, but politics intervened, such that "Stan- 
ford was lost to the University's cause forever after" (Stadt- 
man, 1970:95). 

A published announcement of the opening of Stanford 
University, technically anonymous, was undoubtedly written 
by Curran/Brandegee, huriing as it does yet one more stone at 
Greene (also technically anonymous), at the time when Greene 
was on the faculty at Berkeley: 

Prof. W[illiam] R[ussel] Dudley [Fig. 24], late ofComell, has 
taken the chair of systematic botany at Stanford University. 
With such men as he and Prof. Douglas H. Campbell [Fig. 
25] in charge of the botanical work at Stanford University, 
where botany is taught according to modem methods, we may 
expect to have in time, a body of resident botanists whose 
entire stock of botanical knowledge is not confined to the 
possession of a limited terminology and a large capacity for 
discovering new species that do not exist. (Zoe 3:378, 1893) 

Dudley's focus was the systematics of vascular plants, 
especially conifers, combining traditional with experimental 
methodologies acquired during studies in Europe in 1887. The 
other two faculty in the botany department, Douglas Houghton 
Campbell and George James Pierce, were even more repre- 
sentative of the increasingly laboratory-oriented "new bot- 
any," with expertise in cryptogamic botany and plant 
physiology respectively. The resultant emphasis on "modem 
methods," as lauded in the preceding quote, presages the 
eventual decision by Stanford University to divest itself from 
traditional systematics entirely in the 1970s, when the herbar- 
ium and other natural history collections were transferred to 
and merged with those of the California Academy of Sciences 
(Timbv, 1998; Chickering, 1989). '^"'^^'^ ~^- °°"^^'^^ Houghion Campbell. 

' . . o ' Courtesy DepartmenI of Botany. 

Traditional systematics nevertheless had a strong presence California .Acadenw of Sciences. 

FiGLRE 24. William Russel Dudley. 
Courtesy Department of Botany. 
California Academy of Sciences 


at Stanford University during its early years, with perhaps the first significant gift to the University 
consisting of the William H. Harvey collection of 70,000 herbarium specimens. This largesse, several 
times larger than the contemporaneous herbarium at the University of California, was used by 
Stanford University's first president, David Starr Jordan, to recruit Dudley from Cornell University, 
where Dudley had become Jordan's successor as instructor of botany (Timby, 1998). Unfortunately, 
conditions at the fledgling university were far from ideal following Dudley's arrival in 1892, in that 
Leiand Stanford died the next year. As a result, "the university entered upon a period of anxiety and 
privation, which was only tided over by the noble and self-sacrificing devotion of Mrs. Stanford" 
(Campbell, 1913:12-13). Dudley's office, laboratory, and herbarium during this period were accord- 
ingly all housed in the attic of a shop building. In spite of these poor facilities and various health 
problems, Dudley built up the herbarium (which was subsequently named in his honor) to some 
120,000 specimens by the time of his retirement in 1910 (Timby, 1998). 

Conservation provided a further arena where Dudley played a significant pioneering role in 
California, especially concerning the preservation of coast redwoods and Sierran big trees. In this 
capacity Dudley served as an early officer for another venerable institution established in California 
during this period: the Sierra Club. Now ranked among the world's foremost conservation organiza- 
tions, the Sierra Club was founded in 1 892 by John Muir and three professors from the University of 
California (including Willis L. Jepson), with Jordan, Kellogg, and LeConte among its early officers 
(Slack, 1993 ). As a different expression of the same goal, Dudley also attempted to establish a forestry 
program at Stanford University, but lost out to the University of California (Wieslander, 1965). 

In the end, Dudley's contributions to the botanical legacy consisted largely of his collections, his 
conservation efforts, and his students (listed on pp. 29-32 of his memorial volume, and including his 
eventual successor, LeRoy Abrams), rather than substantial publications or institutional involvement. 
This is presumably due in large part to his sensitive personality, in kinship with Kellogg's poetic soul 
of a generation earlier, which left him ill-equipped to elbow his way onto the battleground that 
characterized the field of his day. As summed up in his eulogy by the Vice President of Stanford, 
John Branner, who had been a student, classmate, and fraternity brother of Dudley at Cornell 
University, in words that are just as relevant today: 

To be rather than to appear was the steadfast principle of [Dudley's] life. Modesty, gentleness, 
unobtrusiveness, decorum, and purity of life were his most prominent characteristics. He never 
did anything for the sake of display; he never courted popularity. His whole life, within and 
without, was one long, living protest against vulgarity in all its forms. ... 1 am sure my friend 
would not thank me to apologize for the modest part he played in this or any other community, 
but in closing I am constrained to say a word on behalf of him and all such men: It behooves us 
not to lose sight of this blessed truth, that there are fine men and women in this world of ours 
— and plenty of them, too — who keep out of the limelights, whose names we never see in the 
headlines of the newspapers, but who lead quiet, sane, and wholesome lives. Such people always 
suggest to me the foundations of a great structure. These foundations lie deep within the surface 
of the ground; we never see them; we seldom think of them; they are not decorated with flying 
flags or written across with gaudy colors or blazing electric lights. But they stand fast and fmn, 
and the stability and the real worth of the entire superstructure depends upon them. (Branner, 
1913:8, 10) 

Both Dudley and Campbell (though not Pierce) quickly became active members of the Academy, 
with Dudley serving with Setchell on the editorial committee for botany, but it was Jordan who played 
the most prominent role in Academy affairs. In 1896, Jordan was elected president of the Academy 


on the slate that finally ousted the Harkness administration, which had been in power for nearly a 
decade, ushering in a new era of close ties between the Academy and the universities: 

[I]t was deemed proper to give the presidency to Professor David Starr Jordan, president of 
Leland Stanford. Jr. University; and apparently as a counterpoise, the first vice-presidency to 
Professor William E. Ritter of the University of California. It was the start of what was commonly 
known as the 'University Regime of the Academy,' which lasted seven years. (Hittell, p. 360) 

Harkness apparently retired voluntarily in favor of Jordan, who claims to have "then endeavored, 
with fair success, to put an end to the old feud" (quoted in Ewan, 1955:37). 

They Gave Unstintedly of Their Resources 

During this period the Brandegees pursued a diversity of activities from their idyllic retreat on 
the outskirts of San Diego: collecting extensively in California and Mexico, publishing in 2oe. and 
perhaps putting some of Katharine's ideas on experimental taxonoiny to the test in their magnificent 
garden. Unfortunately, the "agreeable climate" of San Diego ultimately proved to be incompatible 
with Katharine Brandegee's health, and the isolation from research centers also took its toll. As a 
result, twelve years after leaving the Academy, Katharine wrote to Setchell. then chair of the 
Department of Botany at the University of California: 

You remember that I have found the summer climate not to agree with me in San Diego — 
In consideration of this fact 1 will try to induce Mr. Brandegee to part with his herbarium. It has 
absorbed too much of our means to be given away, and as I would much prefer it went to the 
University, 1 desire your opinion as to the feasibility of disposing of it to the Regents. 

There are about 50,000 sheets averaging I suppose nearly two specimens to the sheet (two 
collections) in small plants sometimes as many as ten or a dozen from different localities are 
mounted on the same sheet, as they do at Harvard, and there are about 200 types. We would 
transfer the whole herbarium, library, cases, etc. to the University — for SI 00 a month for the 
remainder of our lives. — We would prefer selling outright, but this plan would probably be 
much to the advantage of the University. 

This would at once give the University the best herbarium and the best working library on the 
coast, and we would deposit therein all our fuUire types, (undated letter from K. Brandegee to 
Setchell. UC Herbarium archives) 

Arrangements were subsequently made whereby, in exchange for the donation of their extensive 
library and herbarium, the Brandegees would have full use of the University's facilities (but 
apparently not the requested reinuneration). Townshend was appointed Honorary Curator and 
thereafter devoted most of his time to describing the flood of new species sent to the Brandegees by 
Carl Albert Purpus from Mexico.''' As for Katharine: "Without compensation and refusing all 
personal or official recognition or commendation, she labored in the Herbarium of the University of 
California for fourteen years, as regulariy and as faithfully as if she had held a salaried position. She 
gave to it of her best and was content to feel that she had contributed her quota toward a better 
knowledge of the flora of California" (Setchell, 1926: 168). 

The Brandegee Herbarium and Brandegee Library were collectively the single most significant 
contribution ever received by the University Herbarium. A total of 76,166 specimens was presented 
in August 1906. effectively doubling the size of the existing herbarium (censused at 74.800 on 1 July 

Carl Albert Purpus. a freelance botanical collector from Germany, was appointed botanical collector without pay for the 
herbarium in 1907 (Herbanum Records, p. 109. University Herbarium archives). His initial contact with the Brandegees, at 
first Katharine, occurred in 1894. about the time that they moved to San Diego (Sousa, 1969; Enter. 1988). 



1906) and allowing the University of California herbarium to draw ahead of Stanford University's. 
The library was equally valuable, making readily available an outstanding selection of rare botanical 
literature. Back issues of Zoe were also turned over to the University, with the provision that funds 
from the sale of same were to be used for subscriptions to botanical journals. The Brandegee donation 
coincided with the availability of new fire-proof quarters for the University Herbarium on the third 
floor of the new Hearst Mining Building, where one room was designated the Brandegee Room (p. 
106-108 of Herbarium Records, University Herbarium archives). 

The Brandegees' generosity was posthumously acknowledged by Setchell: 

In 1 906, shortly after central California had received its baptism by earthquake and fire, there 
came to the University of California two botanists, husband and wife, who devoted all their 
accumulations of knowledge to the service of the University and entrusted all their books and 
specimens to its guardianship. They gave untirmgly and unstintedly of their services and of their 
resources to the herbarium from the time of their coming to the time of their passing away. Their 
generosity and their devotion have placed in their debt all those botanists who in future years 
will come to the University to study the systematic botany of the western United States and of 
Mexico — a sUidy made possible because of the rich and abundant material given to the 
University by these unselfish workers. (Setchell, 1926:155) 

At the time the Brandegees chose to move to Berkeley, Greene had been gone for nearly a decade, 
but at least some of the eninity had been passed on to his protege Jepson; it was, after all, while the 
Brandegees were at Berkeley that Jepson wrote his tribute to Greene, in which Katharine was cast as 

Figure 26. Katharine and Townshend Brandegee (date unknown). 
Courtesy University Herbarium Archives, University of California, Berkeley. 



an "unkempt woman" with "an unpleasant voice" (Jep- 
son, 1918). In contrast, Jepson is one of the few authors 
whose floristic work Katharine had previously approved, 
as indicated by her review of the results of his doctoral 
work. Flora of Western Middle California: "Throughout 
the book there is evident the most careful and painstaking 
proof reading and considering the difficulties encoun- 
tered in a Flora of even a restricted region of California, 
the author is to be congratulated on having done so well" 
( Brandegee, 1 90 1 c : 1 46). In addition to loyalty to Greene, 
Jepson's antagonism to Katharine might have resulted 
from his personal animosity toward Setchell, who he had 
initially admired but with whom he then become disen- 
chanted (mss. in Jepson archives). The Brandegees were 
obviously at the University under Setchell 's aegis, and as 
such may have represented a perceived assault on Jep- 
son's aspirations to being the ultimate authority on the 
California vascular flora. 

As a result of interactions with another member of 
the Setchell camp, Harvey Monroe Hall (Fig. 27), 
Katharine might have even exerted a subtle influence on 
the future direction of botany at Stanford, which she had 
already (albeit anonymously) commended as the place 

"where botany is taught according to modem methods" (Zoe 3:378, 1893). Hall received his Ph.D. 
at Berkeley the same year the Brandegees arrived, after already having earned undergraduate and 
Master's degrees there and becoming Burtt-Da\'y's replacement on the botany department faculty 
(Babcock, 1934; Constance, 1978). He also became the first paid assistant in the herbarium in 1902 
(at $400 per annum) and was placed in charge of the herbarium a few months later when Jepson 
stepped down (p. 104 of Herbarium Records, University Herbarium archives).'"* 

Setchell credits Harvey and his wife Carlotta Case Hall (a fellow student at Berkeley, with an 
interest in ferns) with providing much of the biographical information on the Brandegees, implying 
well-developed social ties (Setchell, 1926:178). One can easily imagine the conversations that must 
have occurred between Katharine and Harvey on their shared philosophies of systematics, which Hall 
would eventually have a chance to develop when he subsequently accepted a position with the newly 
established Carnegie Institute of Washington at Stanford University. Echoing Katharine, and even 
Behr, with such statements as "experimental and quantitative methods promise to turn taxonomy from 
a field overgrown with personal opinions to one in which scientific proof is supreme" (quoted in 
Babcock, 1934:359), Hall is recognized as one of the founders of experimental taxonomy, or 
biosystematics, pioneered at the Carnegie Institute in the first half of the 20th century. 

Figure 27. Harvey Monroe Hall. 

Courtesy University Herbarium Archives, 

University of California, Berkeley. 

My Own Destroyed Work I Do Not Lament 

As noted in Setchell's tribute, the year of the Brandegees" return to the Bay Area was the same 

The position of herbarium assistant was then filled by Harriet A. Walker, a graduate of Mt. Holyoke College with twelve 
years experience in the botany department of Wellesley College and three months in the Gray Herbarium. Walker spent the 
remaining 22 years of her career at the University Herbarium, making e.xtensive collections and eventually leaving a substantial 
endowment for the ongoing support of the herbarium (.lep.son, 1929). 



year of the great San Francisco 
Earthquake and Fire. Regular earth- 
quakes had been well known in the 
San Francisco area, to the extent that 
at one point it had jokingly been 
suggested that the Academy appoint 
a curator of earthquakes "whose 
duty it should be to collect speci- 
mens of earthquakes and place them 
in the museum, taking care, how- 
ever, to purge such specimens of 
their gases to avoid dangerous con- 
sequences" (Hittell, pp. 117-118). 
but the magnitude of the one that 
occurred in the morning of April 1 8. 
1906, was far beyond any that had 
previously been experienced. The 
Academy building, Harkness's 
proud legacy, had been designed to 
be fireproof (HittelL p. 321), but a 
full -fledged firestorm proved more 
than it could withstand (Fig. 28). The 
building had in fact survived the 
earthquake with only moderate dam- 
age, but after the fire what remained 
was a gutted shell (Hittell, pp. 471- 
474). Essentially the entire library of 
some 15 000 volumes was destroyed Figure 28. Remains of the California Academy of Sciences following the 
mittpll r. 47^^ -k; «/pH a<: thp va<it eartliq^ake and fire, April 18, 1906. The building seen in the left rear is the 
(nilieil, p. Hi:>), as wcii as iiic vasi remains ofthe Museum; the rubble of the front Market Street building has been 
bulk of the collections. Due to the largelycleared.Counesy California Academy of Sciences Archives, 
heroic efforts of Eastwood and oth- 
ers, who braved a broken stairwell to the upper floors in order to rescue what was deemed most 
valuable, the type speciinens and other particularly significant subsets of the natural history collec- 
tions were saved from the approaching flames, as were various records and documents, including 
Hittell's unfinished manuscript (Hittell, p. 472; Wilson, 1955; Moore, 1996). In a single catastrophic 
event, what was undoubtedly the largest and most significant botanical collection on the West Coast 
at that time was reduced to a mere 1,497 specimens (Chickering, 1989), whose intrinsic value 
admittedly far exceeded the numbers alone. 

One room of the gutted building actually survived well enough to be repaired for temporary 
storage (Hittell, p. 477), but new quarters were essential for general Academy functions. A temporary 
office was first rented at 1 806 Post Street (Hittell, p. 474), followed by "more ample and convenient 
quarters" at 1812 Gough Street (Hittell. p. 477). Here began the rebuilding of the Academy's natural 
history collections and library, helped greatly by the flood of generous donations sent by other 
institufions around the world (listed in Appendix M of Leviton & Aldrich, 1997:561-563). Rather 
than rebuilding a new museum on the Market Street property, the Academy chose to lease that 
property for commercial purposes, eventually selling it in the mid-1980s. For its own purposes, the 



Academy negotiated to have new facilities housed in Golden Gate Park, opening the doors of the first 
of a seven-building complex to the public in 1915 (Leviton & Aldrich, 1997:505). 

Within this setting, it would obviously have been both fitting and a magnificent boon if the 
Brandegees had donated their library and herbarium to the Academy that had once served as their 
professional home, and why they chose not to is a question that begs to be addressed. One possible 
explanation is that the Brandegees were in need of immediate, not future, working facilities, and 
convenient housing would also have been hard to come by in post-Fire San Francisco. However, a 
letter from Leverett Mills Loomis, director of the Academy's museum, claims that adequate facilities 
were available by June 1906: "The Academy has secured fine temporary quarters [at Gough Street], 
and we have ample room for books and specimens. In short, we are ready to receive everything now 
— while the tear is still in the eye" (letter from Loomis to E. W. Nelson, 4 June 1 906, quoted in Leviton 
& Aldrich, 1 997:505). It is also unclear if the Brandegees had approached Setchell before or after the 
earthquake destroyed the Academy. 

One might further speculate that, with Harkness no longer president, Katharine might have felt 
less than welcome at the scene of her earlier political battles. Perhaps she also felt it would be awkward 
finding a niche in the herbarium where her successor now reigned supreme. As analyzed by Moore 
(1996), the on-going relationship between Brandegee and Eastwood combined elements of both fond 
support and professional rivalry, setting the stage for a complex tension that would have made 
coexistence under the same roof decidedly uncomfortable. Consider, for example, the following 
evaluation of Eastwood's taxonomic abilities by Brandegee: 

I was informed that Miss Eastwood had arranged [Harvard's] Lupines, whereupon I presented 
them with my opinion of Miss E. from a botanical standpoint. I show on the enclosed card her 
arrangement. Of course about half the species won't go into any of these groups, and they are 
stuck in higgledepiggledy. As an exhibition of pure idiocy, it must be hard to match. (Letter from 
K. Brandegee to T. S. Brandegee, from Harvard, 1 1 
October 1913, in UC Herbarium archives) 

However, Alice Eastwood (Fig. 29), who had 
gained fame because of her efforts to save the botani- 
cal type specimens, had also taken shelter at 
Berkeley, at least temporarily: 

Things can be sent to me at 2705 Hearst Avenue, 

Berkeley. I am in Geo. Hansen's house I do not 

want botanical stuff sent [to the Academy address 
at Post Street] as 1 cannot attend to it while 1 can at 
my own place and with the use of the librar>' and 
herbarium at the Univ. of Calif I think that I wrote 
you that Prof Setchell had most hospitably put 
everything at my service and had given me the use 
of a room. (Letter from Eastwood to E.W. Nelson, 
22 May 1906, quoted in Leviton & Aldrich, 
As previously noted, Berkeley already housed 
another rival claimant to the throne of expertise in the 

California flora, in the form of Greene's successor 

, ,, .. 1 o I 11 iti 11 FiciLRE 29. Alice Eastwood, possibly taken about 1910. 

Jepson. However, it is evident that Setchell and Hall, ^.^^^.^^ ^ n^,^^, ^3, ^j.^ she' identified, 
who befnended the Brandegees, were fully in charge Counesy California Academy of Sciences Archives. 


by this time, with Jepson ah'eady becoming marginahzed within the departmental power structure. 
We are nevertheless left with the bizarre image of the Brandegees, Eastwood, and Jepson all working 
under the same roof, apparently doing their best to ignore each other's presence, with the exception 
of occasional sniping. A marvelous example of the last-named activity is provided by Jepson"s notes, 
under an entry for Eastwood: 

Has been working in our herbarium more or less since August. 1906, More cocksure and 
unscientific than ever. She brought in the Manzanitas. Before Mrs. Brandegee she said; 'Any 
one who says these two species of mine are not distinct is a fool.' Said Mrs. B. quietly: 'No one 
would say that they are not distinct but they have both been described before"! (Jepson field 
book 16: 19S. 1906. in Jepson Herbarium archives) 

Other letters by Eastwood during this time cany clues that political factors may have been a 
detennining factor for the Brandegees' decision, specifically involving the director of the Academy's 
museum at that time, Leverett Mills Loomis. It is evident that Eastwood at least had a serious distrust 
of Loomis, with an initial "stiff upper lip" giving way to an increasingly pessimistic attitude 
concerning the fate of botany at the Academy: 

1 do not feel the loss to be mine but it is a great loss to the scientific world and an irreparable 
loss to California. My own destroyed work I do not lament, for it was a joy to me while I did it 
and I can still have the same joy in starting it again. ... I am beginning already to recollect and 
intend to go to type localities as much as possible and shall not hesitate to beg hospitality of my 
friends. I expect to have very little aid from the Acad, but have a tiny income of my own and 
can get along I feel sure. The Bot. Dept. has a fund of $5000. of its very own besides. I feel sure 
that the Board of Trustees will not pemiit Loomis to divert all the funds to his own particular 
ends. (Letter from Eastwood to E.W. Nelson, 7 May 1906, quoted in Lcviton & Aldrich, 

I am not at all sanguine about the future of the botanical department of the Academy; for those 
who are in charge act as if they were hostile to it and me and give me no help whatever. I even 
had a bill sent me for dues not long ago, for the first time since I have been connected. It is all 
so uncertain that for the present, it is best for you as for me to do nothing and plan nothing. 
(Letter from Eastwood to J.N. Rose, 2 May 1907, quoted in Leviton & Aldrich, 1997:505-506) 

If Loomis's policies and personality were in fact instrumental in diverting the Brandegees' 
herbarium and library from the Academy to Berkeley, it was not the only time that blame can be laid 
on his doorstep for the University profiting at the Academy's expense. According to Barbara Stein 
(pers. comm., 1998), Annie Alexander's displeasure with Loomis's curatorial policies probably 
influenced her decision to establish and generously endow both the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology 
and the Museum of Paleontology at Berkeley, rather than at the Academy. 


Independent of Loomis's impact, and in spite of Eastwood's reservations, botany at the Academy 
did recover, and went on to thrive and interact with the other scientific institutions in the San Francisco 
Bay Area to the present day. Eastwood, Jepson, Setchell, and Hall all continued to make significant 
contributions to California botany, as did Dudley's student and successor, LeRoy Abrams. Other 
major centers sprang up elsewhere; at the San Diego Natural History Museum, Rancho Santa Ana 
Botanic Garden, and the new campuses of the University of California in Los Angeles and Davis. 
However, the period from the founding of the Academy to its destruction in 1906 represents a 
well-circumscribed era, with a suitable stopping place. It has also been one of the least known eras 


in California's botanical history, undoubtedly in large part because of the massive disruption caused 
by the 1906 Earthquake. It has been the goal of the current paper to rectify this situation, by bringing 
back to light the extensive foundation that was laid by Kellogg, Behr, Brewer, Bolander, Curran/Bran- 
degee, Greene, Dudley, and their contemporaries. 


The thoughtful and helpful criticisms of Nancy Slack and Thomas Daniel, who served as 
reviewers, are gratefully acknowledged, as are the many stimulating discussions with Slack, Robert 
Omduff, Patricia Moore, Richard Beidleman, Lincoln Constance, Peter Raven, James L. Reveal, 
Betty Smocovitis, Elizabeth Rush, Anne Zwinger, Marcia Bonta, Arnold Tiehin, Annetta Carter, 
David Charlet, Patricia L. Packard, Elihu Gerson, Michael Ghiselin, Alan Leviton, Michele Aldrich, 
Sara Timby, Elizabeth McClintock, Barbara Stein, and numerous others (whose names regrettably 
escape me at present). The generosity of Sharon Kingsland in making available her insightful 
manuscript (provisionally entitled "An American Science: A Study in Ecology, Evolution, and 
Society") is deeply appreciated. Special mention goes to Richard Beidleman for unearthing the 
treasures in Jepson's fieldbooks, and to Isabelle Tavares for successfully tracking down the fate of 
"Polyplocium Cwranii. " 


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Copyright €'2000 by the California Academy of Sciences 

Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California 941 18, USA. 

All rights reserved. 

Agassiz's Notions of a Museum 
The Vision and the Myth 


Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology 

University of Toronto and Victoria College 

73 Queen's Park Crescent, Toronto. Ontario M5S 1K7 Canada 


When I had Dr. Hagen here to show him how I wanted the Crustacea put up, he was appalled, 
so different are my notions of a Museum from those prevailing even among the most advanced 
students. — Louis Agassiz, July 21,1 868 

Visitors to the Mu- 
seum of Comparative 
Zoology at Hai^'ard 
may feel that its arrays 
of stuffed animals are 
rather old-fashioned, 
but 1 can testify that in 
the late 1950s the ex- 
hibits looked even more 
antique than they do to- 
day. As a high school 
student working there 
summers, peering into 
cases crowded with 
crabshells or pickled 
fishes, I could slip back 
in tr.y imagination to 
the nineteenth century, 
for in fact many of the 
specimens and their ar- 
rangement, and even 
some of the labels, 
dated from the 1880s. I 
was aware that the mu- 
seum had been founded 


Figure 1. 1892 photograph of the MCZ's first floor "Synoptic Room — Zoological" viewed 

from the gallery level. Beneath the life-size model of an octopus are cases containing 

examples of mammals, birds, reptiles, fish, and the major invertebrate groups. 

By permission of the Ernst Mayr Library of the Museum of Comparatxe Zoology, 

Harvard University. Copyright President and Fellows of Harvard College. 

by Louis Agassiz a hundred years earlier, in 1 859. 1 also knew that the building had grown in stages, 
for I was told that the room in which I worked, in Bill Clench's MoUusk Department, was older than 
the rooms where the public stared at stuffed sharks.- 1 am sure I assuined the inuseum had simply 
grown in size over the years, without changing its nature. Many years later, while writing a book on 
the MCZ, I arrived at a very different picture of its development (Winsor, 1991). Close reading of 
the yearly Annual Reports (which include statements from the curatorial staff as well as the director) 
led me to conclude that the museum's eariy decades were fundamentally different from the inature 




museum. The metaphor of growth so commonly applied to institutions, as if they were living things, 
will not do for Agassiz's museum, unless perhaps we recall the life story of a butterfly. The schemes 
that Louis Agassiz nursed in the 1 860s for arranging his museum had scant resemblance to the chaotic 
reality that sorely tried the patience of his supporters, and scant resemblance too to the arrangement 
ordering the museum in the 1880s and later. 

In his heyday, Agassiz was distinctly proud of his novel ideas about museum arrangement; my 
epigraph refers to his new employee, the distinguished Gennan entomologist Hermann Hagen. What 
probably appalled Hagen was not so much the novelty of Agassiz's "notions of a Museum," but that 
his scheme would greatly multiply curatorial labor. Hagen and the other assistants were to make 
considerable progress by 1870 in dissuading the MCZ's founder from his pet plans. After Louis 
Agassiz's death in 1873, the impractical notions of museum arrangement he had cherished were 
consigned to oblivion, and this happened not just through the ordinary forgetfulness of later 
generations, but because of the steadfast loyalty of his only son. In the late 1 870s and 1 880s, Alexander 
Agassiz transformed the MCZ into an impressively modem museum, and he made sure the museum's 
successes reflected back upon his father's reputation. Inspecting the hapless schemes of Louis 
Agassiz, who, in spite of all his faults, was a man of passionate vision, we find at their core a robust 
faith that collections of specimens are a powerful tool for uncovering new biological knowledge. 

Alexander Agassiz's Thoroughly Modern Museum 

Come back with me, please, and let us visit together the MCZ when its exhibit halls were new. 
A number of large photographs taken in 1892 display the museum's interior (Figs. 1~5).- The rooms 
in Figures 1, 2, and 3 were two stories high, though of modest width; the upper row of windows, 
avoided by the photog- 
rapher, supplied sun- 
light to the gallery 
level, where a walkway 
was supported by slen- 
der iron columns. The 
stairway leading to the 
galleries is visible in 
Figure 2 on the right. 
Although these photo- 
graphs contain consid- 
erable infonnation, 
what they cannot con- 
vey is the impression 
that those rooms could 
make on 19th century 
visitors. In the 1880s, 
techniques of taxi- 
dermy were improving 
rapidly, so that a 

mounted deer, bison, or '"'"^'^^ 2. 1892 photograph of the MCZ's th,rd noor 

. ■■Systematic Collection — Mammals" viewed from the gallei^ level. 

even nummmgDira gy peimission of the Emst Mayr Librat^- of the Museum of Comparatve Zoology, 

looked much more life- Harvard University. Copynght President and Fellows of Harvard College. 




Figure 3. 1892 photograph of the MCZ's third floor "Systematic Collection of Radiates.' 

By permission of the Ernst Mayr Library of the Museum of Compararve Zoology, 

Harvard University. Copyright President and Fellows of Harvard College. 

like than had been pos- 
sible even ten years be- 
fore. The lack of back- 
ground or vegetation 
around the specimens 
would disappoint no 
one, for museum dio- 
ramas were a thing of 
the future (Wonders, 

One visitor has left 
us a record of his im- 
pressions, although he 
was by no means a dis- 
interested reporter. The 
great English naturalist 
Alfred Russel Wallace, 
while on a lecture tour 
of the United States, 
went twice to the MCZ, 
during November and 
December of 1886 
(Wallace, 1905). He 

was welcomed by Alexander Agassiz, who had every reason to be proud as he conducted Wallace 
through the exhibit halls and behind the scenes. A self-made millionaire, the younger Agassiz had 
supervised and paid for the MCZ's recent expansion. Wallace inspected the research collections, 
where row after row of specimens were stored in cabinets of drawers, he saw the library, and he 
walked through the public exhibition rooms with their glass cases and neat labels. He described his 
visit in the popular English magazine The Fortnightly Review. In its day, his article added a bit to 
Wallace's small income as well as giving encouragement those who were striving to upgrade old 
museums; now it serves as a precious source of evidence about the historic MCZ. 

Although never himself employed in a museum, Wallace was an exceptionally well-infonned 
observer; before his American trip he had written endorsements of the importance of public museums 
of natural history (Wallace, 1869; 1870; 1873; 1882). He seized this opportunity to preach to his 
countrymen about museum policy. In spite of the vast quantity of material that has accumulated in 
the British Museum, Wallace declared, 

the Harvard Museum is far in advance of ours as an educational institution, whether as regards 
the general public, the private student, or the specialist; and as it is probably equally in advance 
of every European museum, some general account of it may be both interesting and instructive, 
especially to those who have felt themselves bewildered by the countless masses of unorganized 
specimens exhibited in the gloomy halls and galleries of our national institution. (Wallace, 

The natural history department of the British Museum in London had only recently moved from 
Bloomsbury to South Kensington, where a building had been specially designed for it. The elaborate 
new museum had been designed under the direction of Richard Owen after more than twenty years 



of debate (Steam, 1981; Girouard, 1981; Rupke, 1988; Forgan, 1994). It was opened to the public 
between 1881 and 1883, so how could its halls, only six years old or less, be "unorganized" and 
"gloomy"? Wallace's criticisms were presumably not aimed at Owen, now retired, but at those 
curators who were resisting the reforms of his successor, William H. Flower. There was one display 
in South Kensington reportedly quite pleasing to visitors; a series of British birds, each pair mounted 
on appropriate vegetation in natural poses with their nest and eggs (Gunther. 1975; Wonders, 1993). 
Wallace acknowledges the effort as "interesting," but otherwise, he complains, 

the great bulk of the collection still consists of the old specimens e.\hibited in the old way, in an 
interminable series of over-crowded wall-cases, while all attempt at any effective presentation 
of the various aspects and problems of natural history, as now understood, is as far off as ever. 
What may be done in this direction, and how a museum should be constructed and arranged, so 
as to combine the maximum of utility with economy of space and of money, will be best shown 
by an account of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard. (Wallace. 1887:348-349) 

By "natural history, as now understood," Wallace meant evolution. 

His phrase "how a museum should be constructed and arranged" encompasses two related but 
distinct issues: how specimens are arranged within each room, and how much access to those rooms 
is allowed to the general public as opposed to serious students and expert researchers. Wallace begins 
with the question of public access. "The first thing to be noticed is the small proportion of the whole 
building open to the general public, as compared with that devoted to the preservation and study of 
the bulk of the collections" (Wallace. 1887:350). In the rooms housing inost of the museum's 
speciinens. there is space well designed for study, the tables situated at the windows so that chosen 
specimens can be examined in sunlight, Wallace notes approvingly. We can see one such workroom 
in Figure 4. Alexander Agassiz explains in his Annual Reports how he transfonned the original 
building to achieve the 
large number of non- 
public rooms."" Origi- 
nally the building, 
constructed to Louis 
Agassiz's specifica- 
tions, consisted of a 
basement plus only two 
complete floors; each 
room was tall, with two 
rows of windows and a 
gallery, and the layout 
of all the rooms was the 
same. The structure 
(but not the contents) of 
those original rooms is 
clear in Figure 3. Addi- 
tions to the building 
during the founder's 
lifetiine. which dou- 
bled its length, fol- 
lowed the same design 
(except that the roof of 

Figure 4. 1892 photograph of the MCZ's first floor paleontological workroom. 

By permission of the Ernst Mayr Library of the Museum of Comparatve Zoology, 

Harvard Universiry. Copyright President and Fellows of Har\ard College. 


the whole was raised to add a top floor). Alexander Agassiz increased the floorspace by adding 
sections to the building and by flooring across the galleries in many of the rooms. Figure 4 shows a 
side effect of that process; in one of the paleontological storage and work rooms on the main floor, 
the floor of the old gallery is visible as the plastered portion of the ceiling, contrasting with the 
underside of the new second floor level. ^ Alexander Agassiz announced in 1876 his intention of 
flooring over most of the galleries (Annual Report. 1875). 

Gray's 1864 Proposal to Separate the Exhibits 

The policy Wallace was praising in 1887, that most of a museum's collection should be stored 
away from public view, had originated in the mind of John Edward Gray of the British Museum about 
30 years before. Gray spelled it out in a public address of September 1 864; printed in October, Gray's 
speech was widely distributed and discussed by museum workers everywhere (Kostering, 1999, and 
Nyhan, personal communication).^ His exposition was forcefiil and unambiguous. Public museums 
have tuo distinct objects. Gray said: 

1st, the diffusion of instruction and rational amusement among the mass of the people; and 2nd, 
to afford the scientific student every possible means of examining and studying the specimens 
of which the museum consists .... 

What the largest class of visitors, the general public, want, is a collection of the more interesting 
objects so arranged as to afford the greatest possible amount of information in a moderate space, 
and to be obtained, as it were, at a glance. On the the other hand, the scientific student requires 
to have under his eyes and in his hands the most complete collection of specimens that can be 
brought together, and in such a condition as to admit of the most minute examination .... 

In the futile attempt to combine these two purposes in one consecutive arrangement, the 
modem museum entirely fails in both particulars .... 

... for the purposes of scientific study, the most complete collection . . . would be best kept 
in cabinets or boxes from which light and dust would be excluded, in rooms especially devoted 
to the purpose, and not in galleries open to the general public .... (Gray. 1864:284—286) 

Since today this is how most major museums are designed, it may be hard for us to understand 
what a disturbing departure from existing policy Gray's plan was. Yet, during the preceding centuries 
of museum evolution, from the Renaissance through the Enlightenment, there was no reason to 
differentiate between specimens according to audience, and whenever the public helped pay the bills, 
it seemed important to make as large a show as possible. Gray's boss, Richard Owen, rejected the 
idea that much of the natural history collection at the British Museum should be hidden away, although 
Owen did propose that visitors would be helped to understand the whole collection if selected 
specimens were used as a kind of introduction to the rest. What Owen called an "index museum" 
would be examples illustrating the main taxonomic groups (Rupke, 1994). 

When Alexander Agassiz took charge of the MCZ. after his father's death, he explicitly set out 
his commitment to Gray's plan (without mentioning Gray). 

The number of [planned] exhibition-rooms will undoubtedly seem small, compared with the 
total amount of space, to who are accustomed to wander through room after room of such 
museums as the British Museum, the Jardin des Plantes; and still smaller, when compared \\ith 
the new museums contemplated in London, Vienna, and Berlin. This brings us to the fundamental 
difference existing between the two systems possible in museums: one of which is to place before 
the public everything in a single series; the other to make such a selection from the general 
collection, and also such other combinations and special expositions, that, while the Museum 
retains in its stores the archives of the .science, the exhibition may place before the public an 


exposition ofthe problems ofnatural science in a condensed and easily intelligible form. (Annual 
Report. 1875:12) 

Alexander Agassiz had announced this policy as early as 1876, not, as I have wrongly stated, 
1 878 (Winsor, 1 99 1 ). The United States National Museum ofthe Smithsonian in Washington adopted 
this plan in 1 88 1 . as Berlin did around 1 888, while Paris and London dragged their heels (Winsor, in 

Wallace, in his 1887 article, moved on from the collections behind the scenes to the rooms open 
to the public, and detailed the themes which governed their content. Some of his remarks echo Gray's 
views, that with only a limited number of specimens on show, visitors have a chance of making sense 
of what they see; other remarks of Wallace's have to do with the particular choices of what specimens 
are grouped together. 

On entering the building the visitor finds opposite to him an open room, over which Is painted 
in large letters, "Synoptic Room — Zoology," 

(His description fits exactly the room in Figure I, where the words "Synoptic Room" can be seen on 
the door at lower right. He calls the room "open" because it is two stories high. Wallace mentions a 
"suspended . . . model of a gigantic cuttle-tlsh twenty feet in diameter." The octopus was generally 
temied a "cuttlefish" and was labelled, the photograph shows, with both names.) 

. . . this room contains a Synopsis, by means of typical examples, ofthe whole animal kingdom 
.... its contents and purpose are clearly indicated to every visitor, each group and each specimen 
being also well and descriptively labelled ... the specimens are comparatively few in number, 
not crowded together, and so arranged and grouped as to show at the same time the wonderfully 
varied forms of animal life, as well as the unity of type that prevails in each ofthe great primary 
groups .... (Wallace, 1887:352) 

Gray's policy called for the labelling of every specimen and each glass case. Alexander Agassiz went 
a step further and made a point of labelling each room (Annual Report, 1875:13). The idea ofthe 
MCZ's Synoptic Room was the sarne as Owen's Index Museum, planned but never installed in 

Next Wallace describes five rooms, all with gallery levels, in which specimens are arranged 
taxonomically: a large room for the mammals, with whale skeletons (Fig. 2), and four others 
containing representative birds, fishes, Crustacea, insects, mollusks, echinoderms, coelenterates, 
worms, and sponges.' In Figure 3, the labelling of some corals is visible, including fossils in the table 
cases, but we cannot see the "beautiful glass models" of sea anemones that caught Wallace's attention. 
Each of these "systematic collections" is a synopsis of one taxonomic group, just as the first room 
gave a synopsis ofthe whole animal kingdom, but in his report Wallace adopts the museum's tenn 
rather than repeating the word "synopsis." Wallace stresses that while individual specimens may later 
be replaced by better ones, the number of specimens will not increase, "because they are already quite 
as numerous as the average intelligence even of well-educated persons can properly understand" 
(Wallace, 1887:353). 

Wallace then moves on to a set of rooms arranged according to a different principle, and one 
especially close to his own heart. Wallace had written three books arguing that biogeography provided 
powerful evidence for evolution, so no wonder he admired 

the special feature ofthe museum, and that which is most to be commended, the presentation to 
the public ofthe main facts ofthe geographical distribution of animals. This is done by means 



of seven rooms, each one devoted to the characteristic animals of one great division of the earth 
or ocean .... 

He explains that one room of the museum is devoted to the fauna of North America, another to animals 
of South America. Comparing this to the room containing African fauna, Wallace declares. 

The most cursorv' inspection of these two rooms will teach the visitors a lesson in natural history 
that he will not learn by a dozen visits to our great national storehouse at South Kensington -- 
the lesson that each continent has its peculiar forms of life, and that the greatest similarity in 
geographical position and climate may be accompanied by a complete diversity in the animal 

Wallace reports the contents of the Indo-Malayan room, the one for the fauna of Europe including 
Siberia, and finally Australia. He concludes his tour of the faunal rooms by declaring. 

It is a remarkable thing that so interesting and instructive a mode of arranging a museum, and 
one so eminently calculated to impress and educate the general public, has never been adopted 
in any of the great collections of Europe .... It is a striking proof of the want of any clear 
perception of the true uses and functions of museums that pervade the governing bodies of such 
institutions, and also perhaps, of the deadening influence of routine and red-tapeism in rendering 
any such radical change as this almost impossible. (Wallace, 1887:357) 

Wallace also saw two more faunal rooms in preparation, for the Atlantic Ocean (Fig. 5) and the Pacific, 
plus four rooms on the first floor not yet open to the public, intended to display fossils of the Cambrian, 
Devonian, Jurassic, and Tertiary periods. Envisioning the future, the Englishman was beside himself. 

The last room of the 
series will be devoted 
to the Tertiary depos- 
its, and will show the 
many curious lines of 
modification by which 
our most highly-spe- 
cialised animals have 
been developed. If 
some of the preceding 
rooms contain the 
most marvellous prod- 
ucts of remote ages, 
here assuredly will be 
the culminating point 
of interest in seeing the 
curious changes by 
which our existing cat- 
tle and horses, sheep, 
deer, and pigs, our 
wolves, bears, and li- 
ons, have been gradu- 
ally modified from 

Figure 5. 1892 phuiograph ot the MCZ's third floor "Faunal Collection." ^^^^'' ^"'' "^°^^ gener- 

By permission of the Ernst Mayr Library of the Museum of Comparatve Zoology, alised ancestral types. 

Harvard University. Copyright President and Fellows of Harvard College. Of all the great im- 


provemcnis in public museum arrangement which we owe to the late Professor Agassiz and his 
son, there is none so valuable as this. Let any one walk along the vast palaeontological galler>' 
at South Kensington, and note the crowded heaps of detached bones and jaws and teeth of fossil 
elephants and other animals, all set up in costly, mahogany and glass cases for the public to stare 
at . . . all crowded together in one vast confusing series from which no clear ideas can possibly 
be obtained, except that numbers of strange animals, which are now extinct, did once live upon 
the globe, and he will certamly admit the imperfections of this mode of exhibition, as profitless 
and puzzling to the general public as it is wasteful of valuable space and inconvenient to the 
student or the specialist. (Wallace, 1887:358) 

But plans and their realization are two different things. Nine years would pass before two of the 
paleontological e.xhibit rooms were opened, the third after another nine years (Annual Report, 
1895-18%, 1904-1905). It is not clear if "the culminating point of interest," the Teniary room, was 
ever finished. 

Based on Wallace's understanding of the planned fossil e.xhibits as well as the geographic and 
taxonomic rooms already open, and because Alexander Agassiz assured him that the "general plan 
of the building and the airangement of the contents were carried out in accordance with Professor 
[Louis] Agassiz's views" (Wallace, 1887, p. 349), Wallace saw an irony that he could use to further 
shame his countrymen into remedial action. Towards the close of his article he wrote. 

It is surely an anomaly that the naturalist who was most opposed to the theory of evolution should 
be the first to arrange his museum in such a way as best to illustrate that theory, while in the land 
of Darwin no step has been taken to escape from the monotonous routine of one great systematic 
series of crowded specimens arranged in lofty halls and palatial galleries, which may excite 
wonder but which are calculated to teach no definite lesson. (Wallace, 1887:358-359) 

Everyone knew that Louis Agassiz was a leading opponent of evolution (a theory his son quietly 
accepted), and that Wallace was Darwin's co-discoverer and a staunch ally, so this was powerful 
rhetonc. Was it really true, however, that Louis Agassiz had designed the museum arrangement 
Wallace saw in 1886? 

The Myth of Louis Agassiz''s Founding Plan 

If Wallace's infonnation about the MCZ's history came from the mouth of Alexander Agassiz 
and from copies of the Annual Reports, as is most likely, he could certainly have concluded that all 
its virtues should be credited to the father. Alexander Agassiz asserted that when Louis Agassiz died, 
"and indeed far earlier, from the very beginning of the institution, the general plan was sketched out 
in the mind of the founder" {Annual Report, 1882-1883:3). Indeed, he had even pointed out how 
ironic it was that his father's plans now seemed so evolutionary. A year before Wallace's visit 
Alexander Agassiz had reported: 

By a strange coincidence the foundation of the Museum dates from the publication of the "Origin 
of Species." Of course so powerful a movement in the scientific thought of the time could not 
fail to modify the problems which the institution was intended to illustrate and to solve. Yet the 
usefulness of the plans laid down for the Museum remains unimpaired by the new methods of 
treating questions of affinity, of origin, of geographical and geological distribution. Should the 
synoptic, the systematic, the faunal, and the paleontological collections cease to bear the 
interpretation given to them by the founder, their interest and importance, even for the advocates 
of the new biology, would not be one whit lessened .... 

The plans of the founder have been realized, perhaps, far beyond his most sanguine expecta- 
tions .... {Annual Report. 1884-1885:4-5) 


Wallace most likely had a copy of this report before him when he composed his article. 

Wallace would ha\e had no reason to cross-examine Alexander Agassiz about possible differ- 
ences between the museum of the 1 880s, Louis Agassiz"s ideas in the last years of his life, and Louis 
Agassiz's ideas in 1 859. The evidence that tells us that a policy like Gray's was not part of Agassiz's 
thinking in 1859 forces us to interpret Alexander Agassiz's statements about the "founder's plans" 
as referring only to the principle of synoptic, systematic, and faunal airangements, not to the 
separation of exhibit halls from scientific storage. On close examination, one finds Alexander Agassiz 
making no explicit claim that his father originated the concept of separating research from exhibit 

That claim was first made a few years later, by a museum director from Dresden, Adolf Bemhard 
Meyer (1840-19 II). 

As far back as 1 860, L. Agassiz, perhaps the first to carefully consider such a plan, had developed 
the principles on which he meant to separate an exhibition collection for visitors from a scientific 
collection for investigators .... He actually carried out these plans a few years later. (Meyer, 

Meyer had paid an official visit to the MCZ between October 5 and 19, 1 899. At that time, both 
Alexander Agassiz and the museum's Keeper, William McMichael Woodworth, were away, leaving 
Samuel Henshaw in charge (Annual Report, 1899-1900:7-8). Alexander Agassiz supplied Meyer 
with material, however, sending several Annual Reports, the printed version of his 1902 remarks on 
MCZ history, and the reference to a lecture Louis Agassiz delivered on July 1 1, I860.'" It was that 
reference, which Meyer gives as a footnote, that lends authority to his statement. Speaking to the 
Mercantile Library Association in Boston, Louis Agassiz had proclaimed his intention to arrange his 
tnuseum by subdividing the specimens into synoptic, faunal, paleontological and other collections 
(L. Agassiz, 1862)." Yet nowhere in that speech had Louis Agassiz suggested the kind of differences 
in public access to any of these collections which lay at the heart of Gray's policy. 

Meyer's easy assertion that Louis Agassiz "actually carried out these plans a few years later" 
warns us not to trust him as an historical source. Louis Agassiz's own Annual Reports boast no such 
success; instead they explain why his mushrooming collection cannot yet be arranged as it ought to 
be. The state of the museum at the time of Louis Agassiz's death in 1873 was described, ten years 
later, by Alexander Agassiz, as one of "confijsion." 

... the difficulties involved in the initiation of so large an undertaking prevented Professor 
Agassiz from developing his schemes. From want of rooms and of means for proper distribution, 
the immense accessions constantly accumulating upon his hands invaded, little by little, the space 
devoted to special objects. It became evident, at the time of his death, that nothing short of a 
radical rearrangement of the collections could bring out his plans and give them distinct 
expression. This rearrangement has been completed only within the past year, and no sign of the 
former confusion, due to a too rapid accumulation of material, is left. (Annual Report. 1882- 

Clearly Meyer had been encouraged to imagine that the "general plan" in Louis Agassiz's mind from 
the very beginning had included the separation of exhibits from research material as well as the 
concept of faunal versus synoptic collections, but his own reading of the documents was uncritical. 
Samuel Henshaw repeated the gist of Meyer's claim in 1907 (Annual Report, 1906—1907:3), but 
this does not constitute fresh evidence. Henshaw's association with the Agassiz Museum dated from 
1891 when Hagen fell ill. Curator from 1904, Henshaw did his best to please the retired Agassiz. 
Henshaw's 1907 story of the museum's history carried the authority of his office, but he was surely 


reading the same documents Meyer was, as well as talking to Alexander Agassiz. Meyer's statement 
is evidently the source for subsequent claims to the same effect, such as L. V. Coleman's (1939, 

If the plans Alexander Agassiz put into effect in the 1870s and 1880s had really been present in 
Louis Agassiz's mind in 1859, he would deserve credit for the innovations advocated by Gray in 
1864. What record is there enabling us to reconstruct Louis Agassiz's early ideas of museum 
arrangement? In 1 854 he had declared that he wanted to create a museum "which . . . would be as 
important for science as those founded by John Hunter in London or by Cuvier in the Jardin des 
Plantes" (Lurie, 1960:215). Both of these, the Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons and the 
Museum d'Histoire naturelle, were research institutions whose collections were used by professors 
to teach medical and other advanced students. The public was admitted at certain times to make 
whatever sense they could of those saine specimens. This did not inean, however, that every specimen 
in such museums was equally open to view. Special furniture, like cabinets for household china, held 
some speciinens on open shelves, others behind glass, and others in drawers or behind doors, so the 
contents of each room would be experienced differently by the casual visitor glancing at what was 
open to view and by the expert who would be pulling out the drawers. 

The first time Agassiz announced that his museum would be unusual in its anangement was on 
December 21, 1859, speaking at the Boston Society of Natural History. 

In the great collections, he said, even that at the British Museum, the sole object seems hitherto 
to have been to exhibit animals according to the supposed natural affinities. ..he intended to 
arrange the Cambridge Zoological Museum in a totally different manner, viz: according to 
natural zoological provinces; in this way, he hoped to be able to define such provinces, which 
as yet were but imperfectly known, and to arrive at important conclusions on the correlations of 
animals of the different classes. (L. Agassiz, 1861 ) 

The belief that geographic distribution of species is as much a part of God's order as are the patterns 
studied by inorphologists, embryologists, and paleontologists was an idea Agassiz promoted in the 
"Essay on Classification" he had published in 1857 (L. Agassiz, 1962). 

This report of remarks made shortly after his collections were transferred to the new MCZ 
provides a striking clue to Agassiz's thinking. Here we find a novel and intriguing idea: the notion 
that attempting to arrange aniinals by "natural zoological provinces" will help him discover those 
provinces. Thus the process of arrangement becomes a fonn of research, which is a very different 
thing than constructing didactic exhibits, whose function is to display relationships already known. 

The report of his 1859 Boston Society comments continues. 

He intended to do the same with fossils, showing independent creations and distinct zoological 
provinces in geological as well as modem times. For purposes of study and comparison, to this 
he purposed to add a very small collection of typical genera and species, exhibiting the natural 
affinities of animals. — also a third collection, exhibiting the embryonic series of every animal 
type, — a fourth, embracing the domesticated animals, to show what are species, varieties, 
breeds, &c., with such products from them as have a coirunercial value, — and finally, a museum 
of men, skulls, skeletons, &c., for the study of the human races. (L. Agassiz, 1861 ) 

To maintain that a policy like Gray's was in Agassiz's mind at the founding of his inuseum. one 
must deal with the fact that on these public occasions he omitted to menfion it. Neither the layout of 
the rooms, which were all the same, nor the language of his letters and speeches, inakes any mention 
of spaces dedicated to different purposes. Rather, he seemed to assume that, like Hunter and Cuvier. 
he could invite outsiders to see what his students saw; in a speech of January 1859, he explicitly 


promised that were he given enough space he could "allow tree access to the rooms for the public as 
well as the students . . ." (L. Agassiz, 1859). 

One could conjecture, in support of Meyer's claim, that Agassiz intended to exclude the public 
from the working core of his collection but did not say so for fear of weakening the public's 
willingness to support his museum financially. Such a conjecture would violate the historians' sacred 
principle that people are presumed to mean what they say unless there is compelling evidence to the 
contrary. In this case, such evidence may seem to exist, consisting of Louis Agassiz's jealous reaction 
when Gray's paper appeared. He confessed himself afraid of losing credit to Gray. In the MCZ's 
Annual Report, after complaining that lack of space prevents him from arranging his specimens as 
he intends, Agassiz says, 

I regret the more any delay in that respect, since I see that the directors of other Museums begin 
to fee! the imperfections of the present arrangement of their collections, and are proposing as 
new, schemes identical with those which for many years have been in active operation with us. 
I would particularly refer to the recent suggestions of Dr. J. E. Gray ... the burden of which 
coincides, though on a limited scale, with what we have been doing upon a much more extended 
plan for several years past. (Annual Report, 1864: 13) 

But what was it that Agassiz had been doing which Gray now proposed? The separation between 
research rooms and public rooms in Gray's proposal was fundamental and absolute, not "on a limited 
scale." Gray also mentioned another innovation that did closely coincide with what Agassiz had 
advocated publically. Agassiz wanted to allocate his specimens into several distinct series or 
collections, and one of these, the synoptic, was suitable for novices. His 1860 lecture had eloquently 
set out the problem the synoptic collection was designed to solve, the massing of hundreds of 
thousands of specimens in one great taxonomic series. 

No human intelligence can take in such an assemblage. Not long ago I visited, until I was tired 
of it, the magnificent and immense collection of birds of the British Museum. Rather than 
teaching me, it made me dizzy. There one fmds, one may say, all the known birds, one beside 
the next, so similar in species and family and so uniform in appearance, that the most acti\e and 
searching eye can neither detect nor remember the differences. The spirit is confused . . . . (L. 
Agassiz, 1862:537) 

(His London visit, in 1859, had included meetings with Gray, so there may be some doubt as to the 
complete independence of their ideas.) 

It was there that I was struck with this idea, that a museum arranged only in order to exhibit all 
zoological facts fails in its purpose; because the naturalist cannot, without constantly retracing 
his steps, see how the various ducks, for example, differ from one another. A collection which 
will put everything that is different under the observer's eyes in a small space, leaving to the 
side what is similar, will answer much better the needs of those .seeking to educate themselves. 
(L. Agassiz, 1862:537) 

Gray's paper addressed the same problein, stating that the 

general visitor perceives little else than a chaos of specimens, of which the bulk of those placed 
in close proximity are so nearly alike that he can scarcely perceive any difference between them 
... the eye both of the general visitor and of the student becomes confused by the number of the 
specimens .... (Gray, 1865:76) 

Gray suggested that a few selected specimens could be arranged in special cases, one to show 
the classes of the animal kingdom, another the orders of each class, and so on. This synoptic or index 


idea could have been the point that generated Agassiz's fear of being upstaged, and Agassiz's idea 
of fauna! collections certainly constituted "a much more extended plan" than Gray's. We are not 
forced to conclude that Gray's policy of splitting a museum into public and restricted collections was 
a secret scheme of Agassiz's. 

Louis Agassiz's 1867 Instructions to Hagen 

Although Agassiz was proud of the ideas he had explained to audiences in Boston in 1859 and 
1860, Alexander Agassiz would later remember them as "ideas which had floated vaguely through 
Professor Agassiz's mind" (A. Agassiz, 1 902 ). Alexander Agassiz was twenty-four years of age when 
the museum was founded and deeply involved in assisting in its management. His tenn "floated 
vaguely" points to the distance between his father's inspirational Boston lectures and the challenges 
faced within the museum's walls, where "everything had to be sacrificed to the exigencies of the 
collections, which accumulated at first far too rapidly for their proper arrangement" {Annual Report, 
1877-1878:4). (So loyally did he guard his father's reputation, however, that the tenn "floated 
vaguely" present in the typescript of his 1902 talk was deleted from the printed version that was sent 
to Meyer.)'- By the mid- 1 860s, however, vague ideas would no longer do. The student assistants of 
the museum's first years were replaced by full-time employees. Hiring the entomologist Philip R. 
Uhler in 1864, Agassiz wrote a letter setting out the conditions of work, including the requirement 
that insect specimens should fomi four distinct series, namely: Special Systematic Collections for 
each order, Faunal Collections for each zoological province, Embryological Collections, and Ana- 
tomical Collections.'-^ The Faunal and Embryonic had been mentioned in his 1859 Boston lecture, 
the Anatomical was the arrangement of Hunter and Cuvier, and the Special Systematic was described 
as "'single representatives of each species with the view of illustrating their affinities." It would, thus, 
be much richer than a synopsis or index, where a whole family or order is represented by an individual, 
but leaner than the full collection, where for some species scores or hundreds of specimens were 

In 1 867, Louis Agassiz, safely home after an expedition to Brazil, refreshed and excited, resumed 
control of the MCZ (thus releasing his son to run the copper mine which later made him rich). The 
MCZ's Annual Reports for that year and the next contain numerous mentions by the museum 
assistants of various instructions Agassiz had issued, tailored for each department. Uhler left for a 
better paying post, and in the middle of October, 1867, Hennann Hagen arrived to replace him 
(Winsor, 1991). A 13-page manuscript labelled, in Hagen's distinctive script, "(Instructions given by 
Prof L. Agassiz October 1867)" survives. The document itself is not in Hagen's handwriting, nor in 
Agassiz's; presumably it was dictated by Agassiz to an amanuensis. My transcription of it is 
published, by pennission of the Museum of Comparative Zoology Archives, Harvard University, as 
an appendix to this paper. It deserves a closer study than I gave it in 1 99 1 . 

Agassiz's 1867 instructions spell out the "notions of a Museum" that appalled Hagen. and we 
have to agree that they were utterly "different . . . from those prevailing even among the most advanced 
students." Gray's lucid exposition of the advantages of dedicating some rooms to research and other 
rooms to exhibits had been circulating for three years, yet Agassiz says nothing about specimens or 
collections being open or closed to the public, except for a comment that the synoptical collection 
will be useful to beginning students and to visitors. The prevailing notion was that a museum had a 
single collection, subdivided taxonomically. yet Agassiz demanded the four separate collections he 
had specified to Uhler. 

Within the 1867 document, three of the four headings — "General Systematic Collection," 


"Faunal Collections," and "Synoptical Collection" — resemble the titles Wallace later saw painted 
on the walls of the exhibition rooms. On closer examination, however, interesting differences emerge. 
The 1 867 Synoptical Collection illustrated the taxonomic groups of insects, while Alexander Agassiz 
used the term only for his synopsis of the whole animal kingdom. Thus, the Synoptical concept of 
1 867 was realized in Alexander Agassiz' public Systematic Collection of insects. Nothing in the later 
exhibits seen by Wallace corresponded to what was meant by the term "Systematic" in 1867. Louis 
Agassiz explained to Hagen that a General Systematic Collection should contain only specimens 
identified to species by a trustworthy authority, making it, "as it were, a register, systematically 
arranged, of authentic specimens, the identification of which maybe trusted" (L. Agassiz, 1867:1).''' 
We can only conjecture what the rationale was for separating such specimens from others. Many of 
the specimens arriving in the MCZ were newly collected by all manner of people, and so the scientific 
name appropriate to each specimen would either not exist or be open to doubt; at other times 
recognized naturalists or their heirs sold or donated a collection to the museum, and in those cases 
the identification already attached to each specimen was part of the value of the collection. (Agassiz 
told Hagen that labels in an expert's handwriting should be carefully retained.) Probably by 
establishing this series Agassiz hoped to protect material of archival value from careless treatment. 
We may think these correspond to the "type" specimens which, in modem museums, are usually 
distinctly marked and segregated, but types must have been named by the one person who first 
christened that particular species, whereas in 1867 Agassiz was proposing that the identification can 
have been made by any skilled taxonomist. Hagen must have seen in this instruction a source of 
unending labor, for because he was an expert himself, every time he made a finn identification of a 
specimen he would have to transfer it into this series. A specimen of which the collecting locality 
was not known would be welcome in this series, for an expert detemiination of its name would make 
the specimen a useful reference object. 

Agassiz's 1 867 instructions to Hagen included what he called a "structural" collection, by which 
he meant a series of specimens dissected to reveal internal anatomy. He emphasized that its purpose 
was not to study the physiology of organs (which was the purpose of the comparative anatomy of 
Hunter and Cuvier) but to display the characteristic features of ta.xa; this was a continuation of the 
theory he had announced in his "Essay on Classification" that each taxonomic category, from genus 
and species up to order and class, had distinct kinds of characters.'^ 

The "Faunal Collections" of the 1867 instructions must have been what Alexander Agassiz was 
remembering when he created a set of rooms ordered geographically, but Louis Agassiz's concept 
was utterly at odds with the small displays of typical examples of a few major regions his son mounted. 
Louis Agassiz told Hagen that all specimens of which the place of ongin is precisely known must be 
arranged geographically rather than taxonomically. If he continued to go on collecting trips, and invite 
contributions from naturalists and admirers whom he educated about the importance of precise 
collecting data, most of the specimens entering the building would go to the faunal collections. Any 
specimen with only a general provenance, such as "Switzerland," is not allowed in this series. Such 
a specimen could not even be retained in the MCZ, unless its specific name has been authoritively 
detemiined; it will be cast into the pile of "duplicates" waiting to be sent to a less fussy museum in 
trade for something more scientifically usefiil, or else it would be dissected and join the "Structural" 
series. The faunal collections will be works in progress, Agassiz explains, demanding "great 
discretion, & an unknown amount of patience to start rightly . . ." (p. 4), because the appropriate 
geographic boundaries are not yet known. Here we recognize an elaboration of Agassiz's sketch of 
1859, when he told the Boston Society of Natural History that the boundaries of unknown zoological 
provinces would be discovered in the process of arranging his specimens. Certainly Agassiz in 1867 


did not have in mind areas as large as the ones his son would later use to define exhibits — North 
America, Africa, Indo-Asia — for he tells Hagen that there may be "three faunae within ten miles of 
Cambridge . . " (1867:5). Great discretion would surely be needed, to arrange things by province 
when the provincial boundaries are unknown. 

In practical tenns, the scheme may have been less fantastic than it sounds, and perhaps even 
reflected a common occurence in his growing museum. When he or one of his collectors packed 
material in the field, the contents of boxes or kegs would be taxonomically heterogeneous (various 
families of animals, unsorted), but geographically homogeneous (all collected in one locality). Such 
a container could be immediately placed in the faunal collection without even being unpacked. To 
satisfy Agassiz's conviction that natural faunal provinces exist, however, all the museum staff would 
have to have been contributing to the same enterprise. The birds, mammals, fish, mollusks, and insects 
of eastern Massachusetts should be arranged together, all helping to reveal the boundaries of the 
several faunal provinces that might exist there. Yet, there is no hint in Agassiz's several instructions 
that the assistants in charge of those different taxa were to meld their faunal collections. 

Agassiz tells Hagen that faunal collections "may be of great importance for the progress of 
Science," (p. 4), which reminds us of the high hopes he cherished for biogeography. After the 
correlation of fossil fomis to embryos had convinced him, early in his career, that zoology was the 
study of God's unfolding plan, he then decided that animal distribution was another grand topic for 
a similar breakthrough. Lamarck's theory, in Agassiz's view, gave physical agents the responsibility 
for life, which was absurd. In 1848 he explained what he expected from biogeography: 

The geographic distribution of organized beings displays more fully the direct intervention of a 
Supreme Intelligence in the plan of the Creation, than any other adaptation in ihe physical world 
.... evidence must rest upon direct observation and induction, just as fully as mathematics 
claims the right to settle all questions about measurable things. There will be no sdentiftc 
evidence of God's working in nature until naturalists have shown that the whole Creation is the 
expression of a thoughi, and not the product of physical agents. Now what stronger evidence of 
thoughtful adaptation can there be, than the various combinations of similar, though specifically 
different[,] assemblages of animals and plants repeated all over the world, under the most 
uniform and the most diversified circumstances? (L. Agassiz, 1850:144-145) 

Later, when confronted by Darwinism, Agassiz again hoped that this latest version of the old 
error could be disproved by showing that distributional patterns made no sense physically but 
displayed the workings of divine intelligence. He made this point explicit in his Boston address of 
1 860, and explained it to his companions on their way to Brazil in 1 865 ( L. Agassiz and E. C. Agassiz, 
1868:8-9; Winsor, 1991:144-145). 

In content and in method, Agassiz's biogeography is a confusing mix of the familiar and the 
strange. His repeated insistence that collectors must record localities with precision, that specimens 
were scientifically useless if identified only by the port where they were purchased, seems modem. 
Scientists today, however, explain fauna and flora as complex products of historical events, many of 
them essentially accidental, but Agassiz's views excluded accident, evolution, and even historical 
contingency; he believed that species were divinely created extending over their full natural range 
(L. Agassiz, 1962:44-45). 

How far his world view differed from ours is vividly shown by one example from his 1 857 "Essay 
on Classification." In one family of lizards, the skinks, he knew more than thirty genera, ranging from 
ones with four legs having five toes on each foot, to others with four, three, two or only one toe, down 
to two-legged species, ending with the snake-like legless skinks. Agassiz made a list arranged by the 
number of legs and toes and concluded triumphantly (L. Agassiz, 1962:51), "Who can look at this 


diagram, and not recognize in its arrangement the combinations of thought?" Noting where each 
genus lives, he was satisfied to find that 

the home of these animals stands in no relation whatsoever to their zoological arrangement. On 
the contrary, the most remote genera may occur in the same country, while the most closely 
related may live far apart .... they are scattered all over the globe, but not so that there could 
-^ be any connection between the combinations of their structural characters and their homes. (L. 

Agassiz, 1962:50,52) 

The pattern of limb number showed thought, and the lack of pattern of distribution showed freedom; 
"such freedom indicates selection, and not the working of the law of necessity" (p. 5 1 ). (His meaning 
is that the Creator exercised freedom in selecting where to place His creatures. Agassiz did not know 
that "selection" would be a key word in Darwin's theory, which was still secret when Agassiz wrote 
this.) Agassiz passed over in silence the lack of freedom in the distribution of species within each 
genus, whose contiguous homes accord well with the hypothesis of coinmon ancestry. 

In one of Agassiz's remarks about the numerical arrangement of skink legs and toes there lies 
an intriguing clue to his thinking about museum arrangement. Although the ta.xonomic hierarchy he 
presents is based on one "drawn up [by Leopoldo Fitzinger {Vienna}, copied by August-Marie-Con- 
stant Dumeril and Gabriel Bibron {Paris}] to classify animals preserved in the Museum of the Jardin 
des Plantes in Paris," its orderly pattern or "arrangement ... is in reality inscribed in Nature by these 
animals themselves and is only read off when they are bought together and compared side by side" 
(p. 5 1 ). Thus, for Agassiz, arranging speciinens in a museum is not a matter of imposing our order 
on nature's chaos, but an opportunity to "read off an order really present in nature but only discerned 
through the medium of the museum. 

As I was struggling to picture how this idea of a geographically-arranged collection would work, 
my memory lit upon those long-ago summers, when one of my jobs was to make entries in a 
geographical card file, a tool the Mollusk Department was experimenting with to aid biogeographic 
research. Politically-bounded areas, such as nations or the states of the U.S.A., each had a card, onto 
which I entered the department's holdings. This meant methodically combing the taxonomically-ar- 
ranged collection, drawer after drawer, and copying onto the cards the accession number, scientific 
name and particular locality from each specimen's label. The hope was that queries could be 
answered, about the fauna of Florida for example. Perhaps because of this experience, my first 
reaction to Agassiz's instructions to Hagen was, why didn't he just make a card file? It is siinpler to 
arrange and rearrange bits of stiff paper than to move specimens, or to copy data from the 
Massachusetts card onto new Eastern Massachusetts and Western Massachusetts cards. (Later, in 
California, Joseph Grinnell, clear-eyed in his commitment to using museums as tools for the study 
of ecological regions, would nevertheless arrange the specimens themselves in taxonomic order 
[Griesemer, 1990].) Yet, when Agassiz first fonnulated his novel concept of faunal collections, card 
files were not the standard tool of data management they later became. Libraries, including the one 
in the MCZ, kept catalogues in the fonn of bound books. I imagine that even if some state-of-the-art 
champion of card files had explained their virtues to Louis Agassiz in 1867, he would have stuck to 
his own scheme; he would have explained that effective comparison requires objects, not just the 
names of objects, to be brought together. 

In the museums Agassiz admired — the great Museum d'Histoire naturelle in Paris, where Louis 
Agassiz spent several crucial months in 1832, and the Museuin of the Royal College of Surgeons 
based on John Hunter's collections — specimens were arranged in two different ways. Comparative 
anatomists ordered material by physiological system, while zoologists followed taxonomic groups. 


Thus both Hunter and Cuvier, as anatomists, organized material by function, such as the siceietal 
system, digestive system, reproductive system and so on; they would place a horse's skeleton beside 
the skeleton of a pig, while the horse's stomach was located elsewhere, laid out for comparison next 
to the stomach of a pig. Except for Cuvier, the zoologists in the Paris museum were assigned 
responsibility along taxonomic lines: Latreille the insects, Lamarck the other invertebrates, Lacepede 
the fish and reptiles, Geoffroy St.-Hilaire the mammals and birds. Agassiz invented a new term, 
"comparative zoology," to signal that his museum would build upon both traditions, zoology and 
comparative anatomy. 

Alw ays a loyal soldier, Hagen responded to the 1 867 instructions by proposing a modified version 
of Agassiz's plan, suggesting practical reasons for excluding the public from the workspace. 

Since most of these collections require to be kept as much excluded from light and air as possible, 
there will be a collection for public exhibition, contaming species remarkable for their beauty, 
or as being either useful or obnoxious; besides, a collection representing types of families, and 
genera for entomological students. The other collections will always be accessible on special 
application, or for purposes of study. (Annual Report. 1868:30) 

The very fonnulation — the insects are especially delicate, they will still be accessible — implies 
that Hagen knew he was proposing an exception to the policy Agassiz intended for the rest of his 

Louis Agassiz clearly intended, in his 1867 instaictions as in 1859, that the faunal collections 
would allow scientists to uncover new truths about nature. And his hopes soon bore fruit, for the 
assistant in charge of birds reported, "In connection with the faunal arrangment of the collection, a 
special investigation of the Geographical Distribution of the Birds of North America has been 
commenced" (Annual Report, 1868:24). Thus did Joel Asaph Allen begin the biogeographic studies 
for which he is still remembered. For the most part, though, the complexity of Agassiz's plans weighed 
against their ever being accomplished, and his friends woiTied that he would die without having left 
a clear impression of his ideas in the arrangement of his museum. 

The plan that Alexander Agassiz executed did honor to his father's memory by including both 
the idea of synopsis and of geographic arrangement in the public rooms, but in each research 
department, where the vast majority of specimens were stored in a single taxonomic arrangement, 
Louis Agassiz's novel notions were forgotten. There are hints in the Annual Reports that this shift in 
plan was underway even before Louis Agassiz's death, having begun soon after Hagen and other 
curatorial staff were faced with the practical difficulties of following Agassiz's instnictions. During 
the planning of the building expansion that took place in 1871-1872, father and son very likely 
discussed museum arrangement. If so, Alexander Agassiz's attribution of the "general plan" to his 
father may not have been disingenuous. 

From this distance, Alexander Agassiz's reasons for celebrating his father are as transparent as 
Wallace's frustrations at the slow refonn of British and Continental museums. What of our own 
motives and interests? Is the job of historians only to set the record straight? Here the evidence, while 
not strong enough to assign credits, is enough to justify withholding priority for Gray's policy from 
Louis Agassiz. Yet, our interest in the past surely includes the appreciation of unfamiliar ways of 
thought, and we can be inspired by schemes that failed as well as by those that succeeded. The 
strengths of Gray's proposals were proven when, after considerable delay, museum directors began 
to adopt them (Nyhart, 1998). In contrast, Louis Agassiz's "tiotions of a Museum. . ., so different. . . 
from those prevailing even among the most advanced students," were stillborn. It may be that they 
were so fraught with false assumptions and impracticalities that any attempt to implement them was 


doomed. Yet. his Utopian vision of a museum where researchers' tentative arrangements would be 
exposed to public gaze, that is, where there is no separation between exploration and teaching, has a 
certain charm missing from Gray's sensible plan. 


I am grateful to Michael Ghiselin, who invited me to the California Academy of Sciences in May, 
1 994, and to him and Giovanni Pinna, who together invited me to the Museo Civico di Storia Naturale 
di Milano in November, 1996, for two congenial workshops which caused me to explore this story 
more thoroughly than I had done in 1 99 1 . On those occasions, I profitted from stimulating discussions 
with Paula Findlen. James Griesemer, Kevin Padian, David Lindberg, Nick Arnold, Claudine Cohen, 
and especially with the remarkable Elihu Gerson. I also received helpful advice from Peter Stevens, 
Sharon Kingsland. and Lynn Nyhart. Staff of the Museum of Comparative Zoology's Ernst Mayr 
Library, notably Robert Young and Dana Fisher, provided generous assistance at critical moments. 
The suggestions offered by two anonymous referees improved my presentation, but I thank Alan 
Leviton for allowing some of my fancies to stand. My research was supported by the Social Sciences 
and Humanities Research Council of Canada, through the University of Toronto and Victoria 


' Louis Agassiz to Theodore Lyman, July 21, 1868. Lyman Family Papers, Massachusetts Historical 
Society, Boston. 

" The space I occupied on the fourth floor was similar to that on the second floor pictured in Winsor ( 1 99 1 , 
p. 220). 

In the Annual Report for 1892-93, Alexander Agassiz wrote, ". . . considerable time was spent by the 
Professors and Instructors in preparing an exhibit for the [World's] Columbian Exposition [in Chicago], specially 
intended to illustrate the methods of instruction, and fonning a part of the Harvard Universiry exhibit. The 
Museum sent plans of the Building, prepared under the supervision of Dr. Wolff, who also charged himself with 
advising the Harvard Camera Club in regard to the views of the most characteristic Exhibition Rooms of the 
Museum which accompanied them. The plans, and the photographs taken by the Camera Club and by Mr. J. L. 
Gardner, will be hereafter most useful . . ." (p. 4). In my 1991 book, others from this set are reproduced (figs. 
34, 35, and 39). 

■* He includes complete floorplans, first in 1878 and again in 1 889; the later ones are reproduced in Winsor 
(1991; 184-1 89). 

^ The location of this room can be seen in Winsor (1991; 1 85, fig. 29); the Annual Report for 1875 gives 
plans that show its gallery. Another of the oldest rooms, at gallery level, can be seen in fig. 43 (p. 220). 

* Lynn K. Nyhart mentions evidence for the early impact of Gray's ideas in a book on Gernian museums 
now in progress. 

' Of the five systematic rooms, the only one open to the public today is that for mammals, the others having 
been made into workrooms by being floored across at the gallery level. Wallace saw two whale skeletons in the 
mammal room, for the sperm whale in Figure 2 was added a few years later (Annual Report. 1890-1891:4). 
Thankfully the museum authorities have been sensitive enough to this room's history that the words ""Systematic 
Collection of Mammals" remain painted on the wall. 

** Wallace relates his frustration with petty museum red tape in his 1905 autobiography. \'ol. 2. pp. 376-377. 

** Meyer (1905) is a translation of Meyer (1904). where the original reads "Schon 1860 hatte L. Agassiz. 
vielleicht als erster. die Grundsatze enuvickelt.*) nach denen er in dem vergleichend zoologischen Museum, das 
er in Cambridge in den Vereinigten Staaten einzurichte hatte, eine Schausammlung fiir den Besucher von einer 
wi.ssenschaftlichen Sarrunlung fur den Forscher zu trennen beabsichtigtc. was er denn auch wenige Jahre spater 
ausfuhrte" (pp. 93-94). 


'" I am indebted to Dana Fisher, Special Collections Assistant at the Ernst Mayr Librai^, for locating the 
Meyer correspondence and summarizing its contents for me. 

The lecture was delivered in English but published in French, because his Boston audience included 
George-Aiiguste Matile ( 1 807-1 88 1 ), who sent a report of what Agassiz had said back to Switzerland, where it 
was published. 

'■ 1 am indebted to Dana Fisher, Special Collections Assistant at the Ernst Mayr Library, for comparing the 
two versions of Alexander Agassiz's 1902 speech. 

' ^ L. Agassiz to P. R. Uhler, 6 April 1 864, Special Collections, Ernst Mayr Library. Museum of Comparative 
Zoology, Cambridge, Massachusetts. 

'** References to the 1867 "Instructions" are to the page numbers of the manuscript, indicated in brackets in 
my transcript. 

'^ I discuss this taxonomic idea in Winsor( 1991 : 19-27), but my claim there that he fell silent about this idea 
soon after publishing his 1857 "Essay on Classification" is mistaken, for clearly he still hoped to find support 
for it within his museum in the late 1860s. 


Agassiz, A. 1902. Remarks [on completion of Geological Museum, 1902]. Typescript in possession of Anna 

Prince Jones. 
Agassiz, L. 1850. Lake Superior: Its Physical Character. Vegetation, and .-tiiimals. Compared with Those of 

Other and Similar Regions. Gould, Kendall and Lincoln, Boston. 
Agassiz, L. 1859. [speech to Visiting Committee of Lawrence Scientific School, January 1859] .American 

Journal of Science 27: 295-299. 
Agassiz, L. 1 86 1 . [the best arrangement of a Zoological Museum] Proceedings of the Boston Society of Natural 

Histoiy 7:\9\-\92. 
Agassiz, L. 1 862. Des Musees d'Histoire naturelle. Bibliothequc Univer.selle 1 4:527-55 1 . 
Agassiz, L. 1867. Instructions given by Prof L. Agassiz, October 1867. Manuscript UAV.298.367 in Special 

Collections, Ernst Mayr Library, Mu.seum of Comparative Zoology, Cambridge, Massachusetts. 
Agassiz, L. 1962. f.^ai' on Classification [1857], edited by E. Lurie. Belknap Press, Cambridge. 
Agassiz, L. and Agassiz, E. C. 1868. A Journey in Brazil. Ticknor & Fields, Boston. 
Annual Report of the Museum of Comparative Zoology. Published by the MCZ starting in 1860, it is cited 

according to the period covered, not the year of publication. 
Coleman, L. V. 1939. The Museum in .America: .4 Critical Study. American Association of Museums, 

Washington. 3 vols. 
CuviER, G. 1803. Notice sur Tetablissement de la collection d'anatomie comparee du Museum. .Annales du 

Museum d'Histoirc Naturelle 2:409-414. 
Flower. W.H.I 898. "Modem museums" ( Presidential address to the Mu.seums Association, 1 893 ) in his E.s.says 

on Museums ami Other Subjects Connected with Natural Histoiy, pp. 30-53. MacMillan, London. 
Forgan, S. 1994. The architecture of display: museums, universities and objects in nineteenth-century Britain. 

W/.vton' of Science 32: 139-162. 
GlROUARD, M. \98\. Alfred Waterhouse and the Natural Histoiy Museum. British Museum (Natural History), 

Gray, J. E. 1864. On museums, their use and improvement, and on the acclimatization of animals. Annals and 

Magazine of Natural Histoiy 14:283-297 (reprinted in Report of the British Association for the Advance- 
ment of Science 1865:75-86). 
Griesemer, J. R. 1990. Modeling in the museum: on the role of remnant models in the work of Joseph Grinnell. 

Biology and Philosophy 5:3—36. 
GuNTHER, A. E. 1975. A Centuiy of Zoology at the British Mu.seum through the Lives of Two Keepers: 

IH15-I9I4. Dawsons, London. 
KosTERlNG, S. 1999. Museumsbau und Museumsrefonn: Plazierung, Gebaude- und Raumkonzeptionen von 

Naturkundemuseen in Deutschland, 1871-1914. Pages 159-176 in A. Geus, T. Junker, H.-J. Rheinberger, 


eds., Reprdsenlalionsformeii in den hiologischen Wissenschafien. (Beitriige zur 5. Jahrestagung der 

DGGTB [Deutsche gesellschafi fiir Geschichte und Theorie der Biologie] in Tubingen 1996 und zur 7. 

Jahrestagung in Neuburg ad. Donau 1 998.) Verhandhingen zur Geschichte und Theorie der Biologie. Bd. 

3. Berlin. 
LuRiE. E. 1963. Louis Agassiz: A Life in Science. University of Chicago Press. Chicago. 
LYM.AN F.^MILY PAPERS, Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston, 
Meyer, A.B.I 904. Das Bestreben der americanischen naturwissenschaftlichen Museen. breitem Schichten des 

Volkes zu dienen. Pages 93-96 in Die Museen als Volksbildungsstdtlen. Schriften der Ceniralstelle fiir 

Arheiter-Wohlfahrtseinrichlungen no. 25. Carl Heymann, Berlin. 
Meyer, A. B. 1905. Efforts of the American natural history museums to increase their usefulness. Pages 93-94 

in Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institution. U.S. National Museum for 1903. Government Prmting 

Office, Washington, D.C. 
NYH,^RT, L. K. 1998. Civic and economic zoology in nineteenth-century Germany: the "Living Communities" 

of Karl Mobius. his 89:605-630. 
RUPKE, N. A. 1988. The road to Albenopolis: Richard Owen (1894 1892) and the founding of the British 

Museum of Natural History. Pages 63-89 in N. A. Rupke, ed.. Science. Politics and the Public Good: E.tsavs 

in honour of Margaret Cowing. Macmillan Press, London. 
Rupke, N. A. 1994. Richard Owen: Victorian Naturalist. Yale University Press, New Haven. 
Stearn, W. T. 1981. The Natural Hi.-story Museum at South Kensington: A History of the British .Museum 

(Natural Hisloiy) 1753— 1 9S0. Heinemann, London. 
Wallace, A. R. 1869. Museums for the people. MacMillan 's Magazine 19:244-250. 
Wallace. A. R. 1870. [Comments on Sclater's paper]. Nature 2:465. 
Wallace, A. R. 1873. East India Museum. Nature 8:5. 

Wallace, A. R. 1882. [Review of H. Housman, The Stoiy of Our Mu.'^eum.] Nature 25:407^0S. 
Wallace, A. R. 1887. American museums: the Museurn of Comparative Zoology. Harvard University. 

Fortnightly Review 42:347-359. 
Wallace, A. R. 1 905. My Life: A Record of Events and Opinions. Chapman and Hall, London. 2 vols. 
WiNSOR, M. P. 1 99 1 . Reading the Shape of Nature. University of Chicago Press. Chicago, 
WiNSOR, M. P. In press. "Museums." Cambridge Histoiy of Science, vol. 6. 
Wonders, K. 1993. Habitat Dioramas. Uppsala University Press, Uppsala. 


Transcnption of handwntten document UAV,2')8.3(i7 in the Special Collections of the 
Emsl Mayr Library, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University 

(Instructions given by Prof. L. Agassiz October 1867) 

[This written by Hermann Hagen. Text dictated by Louis Agassiz to an unknown amanuensis,] 

General systematic Collection 

This Collection is to record all the work done in the Museutn. to identify the specimens: — it is 
not intended to exhibit the characteristic features of the species — This will be done in the faunal 
collections. The systematic collection is to be, as it were, a register, systematically arranged, of 
authentic specimens, the identification of which may be trusted: select specimens of all the species, 
which have been named by recognized authorities ought therefore to be put up in this Collection, & 
as far as possible provided with labels in the hand writing of those who named them. It is equally 
desirable that the origin of these species should be well authenticated, & the precise origin of the 
specimen ought to be recorded, on the label, with the name; but specimens, the origin of which is 


unknown are not to be excluded from the systematic collection whenever their name has been 
identified by trust worthy authorities. 

With reference to the airangment of the Collections still ui bulk in the Museum, only such 
specimens should at first be transferred to the systematic Collection which are already 

[/;. 2] labelled by some acknowledged authority. & if the specimens are numerous, only one or two 
should be transferred to the systematic collections, and the rest reserved for the faunal Collections. 
In disposing of the specimens, the following considerations should serve as a guide. Whenever the 
specimens are exactly alike & no essential differences exist between the males & females, one 
specimen alone should be transferred to the systematic collection; — but whenever there exist marked 
sexual differences, a pair should be selected, & the original label should be transferred to the 
systematic collection with the specimens: — a new label is to be written out to remain with the 
specimens that are not transferred to the Systematic Collection, — this new label is to contain every 
information which the original label furnished. The specimens so provided with new labels may now 
be transferred to the faunal Collections to which they belong, if they are provided with an authentic 
indication of their origin; but if the origin is doubtful or only general, the specimen had better be 
transferred to the duplicates, rather than to the faunal collections. 

[p. 3] Faunal Collections 

All the specimens gathered in the Museum, the origin of which is perfectly authentic ought to 
serve as basis for the anangment of faunal collections. It is of no consequence whether the specimens 
are named or not; all that is required to give them a place in the faunal collections is that there should 
be no doubt as to their origin; & by this I mean not in a general way the country in which they were 
collected, or even the state; but the special locality must be known; — specimens labelled as collected 
in Brazil, or Australia, or in the United States, or in Europe have no claim to a place in a faunal 
Collection: if from Switzeriand it must be known whether they were collected in the Jura, or in the 
plain, or in the Alps, in Subalpine, or higher Alpine regions etc. If in France, whether in the Pyrrenees, 
or Mountains of Auvergne. or the Cevennes, or in the lowlands of the West, or in the departments 
along the Mediterranean, or in those bordering the British Channel etc. Specimens from Europe 
without such precise locality must be transferred to the systematic Collection, when carefully named, 
or treated as duplicates. The same applies to specimens from all other parts of the world; and North 

[p. 4] insects, in the Museum, not carefully labelled in this way may be put up in the systematic 
collection, if they are provided with authentic labels, or with the duplicates for our foreign exchange. 
In collecting specimens for the faunal Collections it ought to be remembered that these collections 
are to afford infonnation, which is not recorded with sufficient accuracy or to a sufficient extent 
elsewhere, and that when fairiy arranged they may be of great importance for the progress of Science. 
As it is impossible beforehand to detennine within what geographical areas these faunse are 
circumscribed, nor indeed where their centre & their periphery may be, the first attempts at an 
arrangement must at all events be considered as provisional. It is indeed possible that the most valuable 
collections we possess have been gathered in localities where two faunas meet. & in a manner overlap 
one another. It is therefore possible that even those collections we possess from the best authenticated 
localities are a mixture of two distinct faunas, & may therefore furnish no accurate indication of the 
zoological character of either the one, or the other of these faunas. It will require great discretion, & 
an unknown amount of patience to start rightly in laying a foundation for these faunal collections — 
1 conceive for instance that the neighborhood of Boston & Cambridge 


[p. 5] afford special difficulties in studying the faunal arrangement of the insects. Guided by the little 
experience I have thus far had, I believe that to the east of the hills of Somerville, excluding the 
immediate sea-shore, the fauna will partake of the character of Maine, south of the White Mountains, 
— while the flats of Charles river & East and South Boston, Dorchester etc — will share the character 
of the maritime shore throughout New England. If this be true, it is evident that a collection made 
promiscuously within ten miles of Cambridge, with this place as a centre, would contain repre- 
sentatives of two distinct fauns, and I have satisfied myself that the summit of the prominent hills 
about Waltham nourish species which belong to the White Mountain fauna. There are therefore three 
fauna? within ten miles of Cambridge, & it is evident therefore that the collection, embracing all the 
insects that may be found within ten miles of Cambridge would be a mixture of three different faunae. 
As the faunal Collections are intended to exhibit the species in their natural relation to their homes, 
the specimens for these collections should be so selected as to represent each species in all its stages 
of growth with everything that may illustrate its history — 
In the first place it should contain 

[p. 6] a good many adult specimens with all their varieties, and in the case of insects, undergoing 
metamorphosis, it should contain several chrysalids, in all their stages, & also a number of eggs. In 
the case of insects with imperfect metamorphosis, such as the grasshoppers, it should contain a series 
of immature specimens of all sizes, from their first escape from the egg to maturity, & eggs also — 
In the second place and with reference to insects remarkable for their skill in building shelter or 
otherwise providing for their progeny, all these structures should be carefully collected. | {The 
question as to the best arrangement of all these materials will require farther thought & consideration. 
As long as the natural boundaries of the different faunas are not confidently ascertained, it would 
seem preferable to include the perfect insects only in the systematic arrangement of the faunal 
collections; and to arrange the larvae, with the various structures of these insects separately, & it is 
my opinion that in the end it will be desirable to devise an arrangement that will admit of a combination 
of all these things in one series, & thus disclose which are the industrious insects, & which are not, 
which are useful & which injurious to man, animals & vegetation, & which undergo a more perfect 
metamorphosis, or none at all. It will be particularly desirable to keep up a regular intercourse with 
farmers & agriculturalists in order to give them desirable infomiation, & to obtain from them large 
supplies of insects invading cultivated lands and the regular crops of our gardens & fields. 

[p. 7] Synoptical Collection 

The Class of insects is so numerous that a systematic collection embracing all the species we 
now possess in the Museum would be of little use to students, who have not yet made much progress 
in the knowledge of these animals. To satisfy the wants of this class of visitors & students, it is 
desirable to put up a synoptical collection, containing only a limited number of representatives of the 
different orders, families & genera of insects. It will at first be difficult to find the tme limits of a 
synoptical collection, & in the beginning we inust in a great measure be guided by our supplies, 
admitting perhaps such species to represent their genus, which are not the most characteristic, but 
may be the only one we possess. 

In course of time we may replace those species by others that will answer the purpose better. 
Groups that are largely represented in nature should also have several representatives in this synoptical 
collection, while groups which are not numerous should be indicated by few species, so that the 
student, at the very outset, learns, even froin so small a collection as this must of necessity remain, 
what are in reality the numeric proportions of different types of insects. 


I hold for instance that among the carnivorous beetles, Manticora should be represented by a 
single specimen, Cicindela by half a dozen of the different types of one genus, such as 

[p. 8] Gennanica, Hybrida, Maritima, Chinensis &c — Cychrus by one single specimen — Calisona 
by one single specimen. Carabus by ten or twelve of the different types, Procrustes by a single 
specimen — and so on; so that the whole collection of Cleoptera [sic] may be included in two or three 
cases, — the different families being separated by an interval & labelled in larger letters, — and the 
genera separated by a smaller interval & labelled in smaller letters. 

I think the whole collection of Orthoptera might be at first contained in a single case, that of 
Lepidoptera may occupy three cases, — that of Hymenoptera two cases etc — But the proper 
measure of all this must be ascertained by experiment. As this synoptic collection is to give to the 
students the first idea of the systematic relation of the class or insects & their general character, — it 
ought to contain all the indications that may be furnished concerning the metamorphoses of the insects 
selected to represent their natural groups, & in putting up the larvas by the side of the perfect insect, 
the student may be taught in the very beginning that the scientific study of Entomology does not 
consist mainly in an investigation of the characteristics of the perfect insects but should embrace all 
their stages of growth. Preparations, exhibiting the most obvious characters of the principal groups, 

[/7. 9] such as the structure of the wings and the parts of the mouth, should be placed at the head of 
each larger group. Students, who enter the laboratory with the view of studying insects may be directed 
to make such preparations, and when successful their work may be put up in this synoptic collection. 
In former years I caused Mr. Scudder, Packard & Shurtleff, while they were students in the laboratory, 
to make a good many such preparations; but they were never properly put up, & have been allowed 
to decay. 

[p. 10] Structural Collection 

There is one side of the study of insects which is rarely represented by special collections even 
in the largest & best organized Zoological Museums, and only finds its place in Museums of 
Comparative Anatomy. 1 think that the isolation of anatomical investigation of insects from their 
zoological study is greatly detrimental to the scientific progress of entomology. At all events in a 
Museum, which has the name of a Museum of Comparative Zoology, and which is therefore not 
intended to contain merely zoological specimens, but to illustrate at the same time the anatomical 
structure of all the objects it embraces, such a separation of the collections into an anatomical & a 
zoological collection is not admissable. I hold therefore that our entomological collection must 
embrace anatomical preparations, illustrating in the fullest manner the anatomical stucture of all the 
articulates. But here the preparations necessary for this purpose ought to be arranged in a different 
manner from that usually adopted in anatomical Museums. The aim of the Museum of Comparative 
Zoology is not to illustrate the functions of the organs of insects, as contrasted with those of the other 
great types of the Animal Kingdom; it cannot be our object 

[p. 11] to illustrate the various modifications of the ner\ous system through the whole series of 
articulates, or the various forms of the digestive, respitory [sic] or reproductive organs. Our object 
must be to show what are the combinations of these different systems of organs in each of the more 
comprehensive, & in all the subordinate groups of the type of articulates. 

Thus I would have preparations made to show what are the characteristic, structural features of 
the type of articulates as a whole, & these preparations should not enter into any exhibition of any 
anatomical detail by which insects for instance may be distinguished from Crustacea, or Crustacea 


from womis; but only such anatomical preparations which show the characters common to them ail, 
whether in their perfect condition, or in their lar\'al state. The second series of preparations should 
exhibit all the anatomical characters, which distinguish the classes of articulates one from the other 
— that is to say, the anatomical peculiarities, which distinguish the insects as a class from the 
Crustacea as a class, and the worms from both. 

The result of this study must decide the limitations of the classes, & teach us for instance whether 
the insects proper constitute a different class from the Arachnids & the Myriapods, or whether all 
three belong to one class. The same investigation must settle the question 

[p. 12] whether Annelids & Helminths belong to one & the same class, or form two distinct classes, 
and whether the Rotifera are to be associated with the worms, or with the Crustacea. { {The third 
series of preparations ought to illustrate the anatomical characters of the orders in each class, & these 
preparations will decide for instance such questions as whether Myriapods, Arachnids and true insects 
are orders of one and the same class, or not, or whether Coleoptera, Orthoptera, Neuroptera, 
Hymenoptera, Lepidoptera, Hemiptera, Diptera &c are natural divisions of the character of orders, 
or not; for I hold that such questions can no longer be left to the arbitrary decision of entomologists; 
but are subjects to be decided by special scientific investigations. { {The fourth series of preparations 
ought to illustrate the anatomical characters of all the natural families in each of the larger groups of 
the Articulates, & these preparations are to decide whether the many groups, which have been called 
families by entomologists are really natural families, deserving to be considered as such, or may be 
groups of a higher, or lower standing: { { Finally the fifth series of preparations ought to illustrate the 
anatomical characters of each genus deserving a place in the natural system as a genus. 

[p. 13] The various structures built by insects, such as the nests of bees, and all the various means 
which insects employ to provide for their existence, or that of their progeny, are natural manifestations 
of their faculties, which we commonly call instinct. But inasmuch as insects of allied groups, and 
which have therefore a similar anatomical structure build in a similar way, it seems natural to assume 
that all these industries of the different insects are as many manifestations of their diversified 

I hold therefore that all the various productions of the different groups of insects are to be 
considered as much as characteristics of their respective groups, as the various implements of different 
races among men are characteristic of their intellectual capacity, and therefore 1 hold that repre- 
sentations of the various characteristic industries of the different types of insects ought to be included 
in this structural collection. I do not mean to say that we should put by complete collections of these 
industrial products in the structural collection; for the endless diversity of these products belongs to 
the faunal collections, but I would include in the stuctural collections speciinens of each kind of insect 
industry, which characterises a special mode of life, & is therefore indicative of a special faculty in 
the insects from which they originate. 

Copyright ©2000 by the California Academy of Sciences 

Golden Gate Park. San Francisco, California 941 18, USA. 

All rights reserved. 


A Bioeconomic Perspective on the 
Organization of the Naples Zoological Station 


° Center for the History and Philosophy of Science, California Academy of Sciences. 

Golden Gate Park. San Francisco. California 941 18 USA (E-mail: 1 10640.301 1 (; 

'' Stazione Zoologica «Anton Dohm». Villa Comunale. 80121 Napoli. Italy (E-mail: groeben(a;alpha. 

Maiine stations are widely recognized as an important kind of scientific institution, and historians 
have devoted a considerable amount of attention to them (Benson, 1995). One reason is that they can 
be pleasant places to work, not just for scientists, but for historians too. Another is that some very 
important research has been done at them. Such research forms major chapters in the biographies and 
autobiographies of many biologists. The institutional setting is crucial to the understanding of what 
went on. 

A particularly important example of such an institu- 
tion is the Zoological Station at Naples, Italy. It was a 
remarkably successful institution, and its success can be 
largely attributed to the organizational and administra- 
tive genius of its founder, Anton Dohm (1840-1909) 
(Fig. 1). Indeed, Dohm's performance in creating the 
institution has led to a de-emphasis by historians of his 
accomplishments as a scientist. Here we shall argue to 
the contrary. Dohm was in fact a good scientist, and the 
kind of science that he did helps to explain his success as 
an administrator. He was a comparative anatomist with a 
functional outlook, and that may help to explain his 
capacity to understand how things are, and should be, 

It is important to emphasize the difference between 
such a functional anatomical approach, and the kind of 
morphology that traditionally has treated fiinction as of 
no particular interest (see Reif, 1983; Ghiselin, 1994, 
1996). Dohm treated the organism as a coadapted system 
of interdependent parts, and the station as he created it 
had just such organismal qualities. One point that 

emerges from the present study is the manner in which labor was both divided and coinbined within 
the organization. The traditional theory of the division of labor that goes back to Adam Smith tended 
to presuppose that the further tasks are subdivided, the better. Bioeconomists have emphasized the 
advantages of combining labor as well as dividing it (Ghiselin, 1974, 1978). Combining functions 
within an organization is particularly important where there is a need for communication among its 

In the present essay we look at Dohm's accomplishment from a broadly economic point of view. 
For those unfamiliar with recent developments in the science of economics, it should be stressed at 
the outset that we are only incidentally concemed with the financial aspect of the enterprise. 
Economics is the science of resources; it is not by definition a social science and has no necessary 

Figure 1. .Anton Dohm, 



connection with business (Ghiselin, 1986). We are rather concerned with how organisms obtain and 
allocate resources, including their time and their skills. It does not matter whether we apply optimal 
foraging theory to a shore-bird or a marine biologist: the laws and principles are one and the same. 
For those interested in the more traditional aspects of economics, there is already an outstanding book 
by Partsch (1980) that provides detailed information about the funding of the Station and its political 
circumstances. The literature on Dohm and the Station contains a lot of material that can be pressed 
into service in such an analysis as this (Kiihn, 1950; Fischer, 1980; Groeben, 1985; Heuss, 1991; 
Ghiselin and Groeben, 1997). We should also give credit to an excellent, but brief article written 
from the managerial point of view (De Masi, 1987). 


Investigative behavior often includes moving from one place to another. That takes time and 
energy that might be expended in some other way. If equipment is involved, or if there are specimens 
to be brought back, there is a cost of carriage additional to that of transporting the scientist. It therefore 
stands to reason that a scientist undertaking an excursion into the field will engage in the sort of 
economic behavior that characterizes animal life in general. Various steps will be taken to maximize 
the amount of return on time and other resources that are invested. If the field work involves hiking 
and camping out, the economic rationale may be much the same as that of a recreational hiker and 
camper. One uses light-weight equipment and keeps it to a minimum. Gear may be shared with 
traveling companions. 

Scientists, however, have somewhat different goals and interests from those of tourists. A look 
at how scientific excursions to the shore gave rise to permanent bases of operation there should help 
to explain why such laboratories came to exist. We can then press the analysis a bit further, and see 
how the manner in which the Naples laboratory was organized also illustrates some important 
principles of institutional economic organization. 

This study focuses on marine biology, a science for which permanent laboratories at the shore 
have had a particularly important role. Similar considerations might be made for other disciplines, 
such as limnology. Marine biology, of course, has also been done on board ships, which solve some 
of the traveling scientist's problems but create others. Let us say just a few words about this mode of 
operation as part of the introductory background material. Transport by water is cheap, and a 
passenger on board a ship can have a fairly large amount of equipment with him: perhaps a substantial 
library. Space, however, is at a premium on ships, and for this and other reasons it is harder to work 
on board than on shore. A lot of scientists who worked on board ships did so attached to teams that 
were sent out for exploration or other purposes. Darwin is a familiar example. A common practice 
was to combine the labor of medical and scientific personnel on board: good examples are Darwin's 
friends and supporters Thomas Henry Huxley ( 1 825-1 895) and Joseph Dalton Hooker (1817-1911). 
A ship's doctor's essential duties could be discharged on a part-time basis under routine conditions. 
However, the arrangement could be rather unsatisfactory from the scientist's point of view. Dohm 
actually took advantage of such situations; he set up a training program in marine biology so that 
Italian naval officers could do something useful in their spare time (Groeben 1988). Where the ship's 
captain wanted to go was not necessarily where the scientist did. Dedicated research vessels designed 
and operated to serve the scientists' needs were a later development. They were also expensive. Even 
the Challenger expedition of the late nineteenth century, however well equipped and staffed it was 
scientifically, had its tasks largely determined by the government's prionties and of course things 
have never changed altogether (Ghiselin, 1989). 



Traditional Excursions 

Scientists might travel by themselves or with one or a few companions. There were distinct 
limitations in the amount of equipment that they could take with them as baggage. From the accounts 
of travelers who were on their own much of the time, there were some basic pieces of equipment that 
may be treated as fixed costs: a microscope, rudimentary collecting gear, materials for dissecting, 
drawing, and preserving. Traveling in pairs or small groups has the advantage that certain items might 
be shared. There could be more division of labor within the kit of equipment that was carried. They 
could also provide one another with other things that they valued, such as intellectual companionship 
(and perhaps drinking companionship). 

It makes sense, therefore, that groups of scien- 
tists, including teachers with their students, would 
make a joint venture of a visit to the shore. Professor 
Johannes Muller (1801-1858) of Berlin was largely 
responsible for the tradition of annual trips to Helgo- 
land (Fig. 2) (Florey, 1995; Zissler, 1995). Both his 
smdent Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919) (in 1854) and 
Haeckel's student Dohm (in 1865) participated in 
such trips. So did a lot of other important nineteenth 
century biologists. 

Among German scientists there was also a most 
venerable tradition of traveling to Italy. There was a 
superb role model in Goethe's travels as described in 
his Italienische Reise. There was not just a mystique, 
but outright mysticism, in Goethe's quest for the 
Urpflanze. It is hard to say how much mystical bag- 
gage Haeckel took with him, but he made a literary- 
artistic bash of his trip to Italy in 1 859 and 1 860, just 
as the Darwinian Revolution was beginning 
(Haeckel, 1921). Haeckel's (1862) monograph on 
Radiolaria, which initiated his campaign for Darwinism, was based on work done in Italy. 

The scientific travelers found quite a number of good places to visit, most notably Messina with 
its rich semi-tropical biota (Groeben, 1996). Somewhat to the north lay Naples, and there were also 
various sites, such as Villefranche-sur-Mer, along the Riviera, Trieste and finally Naples. But they 
did not have fixed bases of operation. When in Naples, Haeckel set himself up in rented rooms on 
the water front. Others, such as the Russians Kowalevsky and Metschnikoff obviously did much the 
same. From favorite sites to more permanent establishments at such sites is not a big step, but there 
were both incentives and disincentives. Among the incentives were, of course, the solution of such 
problems as the cost of carriage already mentioned. Another important incentive was the reduction 
of various transaction costs. The travelers had to negotiate for such amenities as housing. They might 
also need to arrange for the rental of boats or the assistance of local fishennen. This might take a 
considerable amount of time. The disincentives may be a bit less obvious. Mobility allowed the 
scientists to get away from circumstances that prove unsatisfactory. It also meant that they could visit 
a larger range and variety of sites. This was particularly important for those whose work depended 
upon such variety, especially systematists. We should also note that in the beginning the relative 
advantages of the various sites was still being explored, and that the needs of the scientists were 

Figure 2. Haeckel (standing nght), Dohm (standing 
left) and sUidents at Helgoland. August 1 865. 


changing. It was hard to predict what site would be optimal for a pennanent base. And unless a 
substantial number of scientists could agree that a site would be optimal, they could not enjoy the 
economies of scale that result from all of them working together in the same place. Therefore, any 
number of reasons would inhibit them from sinking capital into such an establishment, over and above 
whether such capital was available. 

Karl Ernst von Baer ( 1 792-1 876) was generally recognized as the greatest of living embryolo- 
gists when Dohm sought his assistance in founding the Station (see Groeben, 1993). Von Baer was 
strongly supportive, and also helpful because of his ability to influence the Russian government and 
scientific establishment. His enthusiasm no doubt had something to do with his frustrations in 
attempting to work in temporary quarters. In 1845 he had great difficulty obtaining sea-urchin 
embryos at Trieste. Towards the end of his stay he succeeded, but the chambermaid, not knowing 
what they were, threw them out. 

Early Efforts to Establish a Permanent Laboratory 

Carl Vogt (1817-1895) was a zoologist and geologist who was notorious for his materialistic 
philosophy. He also was an enthusiast for evolutionary thinking at a time when it was considered 
reprehensible but still had some following, especially among political dissidents. Vogt translated the 
Vestiges of the Natural Histoty of Creation, a popular work on evolution published anonymously by 
Robert Chambers (1844, 1847), from English into Gemian (Vogt, 1858). Vogt's efforts to establish 
a pennanent marine laboratoi^, and also the advice and assistance that he gave to Dohm, have been 
described in considerable detail by Groeben (1998). He worked at Nice during the winters of 
1846-1847 and 1850-1852. In the early 1860s he attempted to establish a pennanent laboratory, first 
at Nice, then Villefranche, and finally at Naples, but without success. His radical politics and lack of 
the proper connections may have had something to do with it, but probably the need was not yet 
strongly felt by enough of the scientific community. The more conservative Frenchman Henri de 
Lacaze-Duthiers (1821-1901) was more successfial. He established a laboratoiy at Roscoff in the 
north of France at around the same time that Dohm established the Naples laboratory (Pruvot, 1902). 

Anton Dohm ( 1 840-1 909) had certain advantages over Vogt. Not the least was the circumstances 
of his family. Because his father was a rich industrialist and a serious amateur entomologist, he was 
well connected both politically and scientifically. Anton Dohm worked on insects early in his career, 
but switched to crustaceans when he came under the influence of Darwinian thinking. He studied at 
Konigsberg, Bonn, Jena and Berlin. Dohm was associated with Haeckel at Jena early in his career, 
but broke with him partly on philosophical grounds. They were together at Helgoland in the summer 
of 1865, which was the year before Haeckel's Geiierelle Morphologie was published. Dohrn's shift 
away from insects, the topic of his doctoral dissertation (Dohm, 1865), to other arthropods and 
especially crustaceans, occurred that year as well. The rationale for this shift is clear enough. The 
science of phylogenetics had become recognized, and ambitious scientists were now looking for more 
remote connections among organisms. The principle of embryonic recapitulation was propounded 
by Fritz Miiller (1864) and then given a central place in Haeckel's approach (Haeckel, 1866). The 
early branching events in the metazoan tree had taken place in the sea, and that is were Dohm and 
others began to look in order to fill in the big picture. They were not disappointed. A. O. Kowalevsky 
( 1 866) was able to relate the vertebrates to a particular group of invertebrates on the basis of the larvae 
of tunicales. Dohm's choice of crustaceans as material was perhaps serendipitous, but it put him in 
a particularly good position to understand Darwin's bamacle phylogenetics. Correspondence between 



Danvin and Dohm began on 26 November 1 867 and Dohm 
visited Darwin on 26 September 1870. Darwin was a strong 
supporter of Dohm's efforts to found the Station (Groeben, 

Dohm habilitated at Jena on 1 1 November 1867, thus 
becoming a junior faculty member in Haeckefs department. 
In 1868 Dohm spent several months with David Robertson 
(1806-1896) near Glasgow, Scotland. He had a home near 
the water and the advantages must have been quite evident. 
While there he invented a portable aquarium (Fig. 3) for the ; i ~. -. - 
use of scientists. This he took with him to Messina in October 
where he worked together with the young Russian zoologist ^'"^'^""^ - • ''°"''^''' ''^"'"■"' 

Nikolai Miklucho Maclay (184(>-I888). At that time Dohm began to take steps to found a permanent 
station at Messina. It would be one of many small stations in various localities. He discussed his plans 
with Vogt and others. 

The Naples Station 

In 1870 Dohm decided to build the station at Naples (Fig. 4) rather than Messina. There were 
several reasons for choosing Naples. It had a good biota, and it was reasonably accessible. But the 
reason most often given was Dohm's idea of associating it with a public aquarium. Naples was a 
major tourist center, and the price of admission would provide an economic base for the scientific 
enterprise. Once the station was built it did indeed contain a superb public aquarium, and it did bring 
in a substantial amount of income. However, the net receipts were somewhat disappointing, and the 
aquarium never sufficed to cover the expenses of the Station. There are both advantages and 
disadvantages to such an integration of a profit-making enterprise into what is basically a non-profit 
institution. The sometimes unreliable nature of the income is one example of a disadvantage. The 
tastes of tourists are apt to change. And there were cholera outbreaks in Naples that kept both tourists 
and scientists away. On the positive side, the combination lowered fixed costs. A seawater system, 
with all its pumps and pipes, is costly both to build and to maintain, but serving both the aquarium 
and the laboratories lowered the fixed costs. Likewise there were advantages with respect to obtaining 
animals for both research and display. The supply department branched out and sold collections of 
preserved specimens. The techniques for anesthetizing and preserving the specimens were worked 
out in house, largely through the efforts of Sal vatore Lo Bianco (1860-1 9 10) (Fig. 5), who joined the 
staff at the age of fourteen and became a scientist in his own right. The practical need for scientists 
to know when the animals were available and reproducing led to publications that were of no small 
interest from the point of view of pure science (Lo Bianco, 1888, 1899, 1909). For some time the 
preservation techniques were kept a trade secret, which is, of course, a standard means of creating 
and maintaining a monopoly. It tumed out, however, that publishing the techniques used in preser- 
vation had no significant effect on sales because Dohm had a sufficiently effective organization that 
others could not compete with his. One problem with the arrangement was that fishemien who brought 
in specimens wanted to maintain their own monopoly and not reveal where the specimens came from. 
This tended to militate against the scientists collecting and observing the organisms that they studied 
in the field (Fig. 6). Dohm considered the possibility of supplying living organisms, but decided that 
doing so would over-extend the station's resources. Transport of living animals over long distances 
was still quite difficult in those days and a laboratory at Rovigo had already specialized in this service. 



Figure 4. Stazione Zoologica «Anton Dohm», 1875, engraving. 

Figure 5. Salvalore Lo Bianco (3rd from left) in the Sorting Room, ca. 1S90. 



Figure 6. Diver (Harry Luman Russell) stepping down into the water, 1891. 

The real monetary base lay elsewhere. Dohm used a lot of his personal fortune plus contributions 
from his father to build and equip the Station; it remained his property and was passed on to his heirs. 
There were also substantial contributions from other wealthy persons and a subvention from the 
German government. He might have charged the visiting scientists "bench fees" for using the 
facilities. However,