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Akeley, Carl Ethan (19 May 1864–17 November 1926), taxidermist, naturalist, and inventor, was born near Clarendon, New York, the son of Daniel Webster Akeley and Julia Glidden, farmers. In his early teens he taught himself taxidermy. After two years at the State Normal School in Brockport, New York, he began work at the age of nineteen for Ward’s Natural Science Establishment in Rochester, a company that prepared laboratory and museum specimens. One of Akeley’s jobs was to skin and mount for exhibition ...

Article

Audubon, John James (26 April 1785–27 January 1851), naturalist and artist, was born Jean Rabin Fougère in Les Cayes, Santo Domingo, the son of Captain Jean Audubon, a French sea captain, planter, and slave dealer, and Jeanne Rabin (or Rabine), a young Frenchwoman employed as a chambermaid on the island. The traditional view, that Mlle Rabin was a Creole woman native to Santo Domingo, has been disproved. Audubon’s mother died before he was seven months old, and the child was cared for by another mistress of the father’s with whom he had several children. In 1791, fearing worsening conditions in Santo Domingo, Captain Audubon arranged for his son and a younger daughter by his mistress Catherine “Sanitte” Bouffard to be taken to France. There both were well cared for by Captain Audubon’s legal spouse, Anne Moynet Audubon, who had no children of her own. Both children were formally adopted by the couple in 1794, as was required if they were legally to inherit Captain Audubon’s name and property, and were baptized in 1800. At this time the boy received the name Jean-Jacques Fougère Audubon....

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John James Audubon. Lithograph in Gallery of Illustrious Americans, 1850. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-28111).

Article

Barbour, Thomas (19 August 1884–08 January 1946), naturalist and museum director, was born on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, the son of William Barbour and Julia Adelaide Sprague. The Barbours lived in New York City, but William Barbour, an international businessman dealing primarily in linen thread manufacture, often traveled, sometimes accompanied by his family. Thus, by the time he was eight, Thomas Barbour had visited various natural history museums in Europe. Also in his youth he began to collect reptiles and amphibians, both in the Adirondack Mountains during the summers and one winter at his grandmother’s house in Florida. In New York Barbour spent a lot of time at the Bronx Park Zoo as it was being developed in the late 1890s; there he begged zoo officials to let him have deceased reptiles for his collection. After a visit to the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University when he was fifteen, Barbour decided that he would someday become director of that facility....

Article

Coolidge, Dane (24 March 1873–08 August 1940), novelist, naturalist, and photographer, was born in Natick, Massachusetts, the son of Francis Coolidge, a corporal in the Civil War and, later, an orange grower in California, and Sophia Upham Whittemore. He moved with his family in 1877 to Los Angeles, where he roamed the fields and mountains around that still-small town and grew up a Republican and a Unitarian. Coolidge graduated from Stanford University in 1898, then studied biology at Harvard University from 1898 to 1899 before returning to the West....

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Fuertes, Louis Agassiz (07 February 1874–22 August 1927), artist, naturalist, and scientific illustrator, was born in Ithaca, New York, the son of Estevan Antonio Fuertes of Puerto Rico, a professor of civil engineering at Cornell University, and Mary Perry of Troy, New York. Named after but unrelated to the great nineteenth-century naturalist Louis Agassiz of Harvard, Fuertes was the youngest in a family of six. He traveled widely throughout the world but always considered Ithaca his home....

Article

Lucas, Frederic Augustus (25 March 1852–09 February 1929), naturalist and museum administrator, was born in Plymouth, Massachusetts, the son of Augustus Henry Lucas, a clipper ship captain, and Eliza Oliver. Until age eighteen Lucas lived in Plymouth, where he attended public schools. At the age of six he crossed the Atlantic on his father’s ship for the first time. Thereafter he often sailed with his father, circling the globe twice. He had no intention, however, of making sailing a career. At an early age he developed a keen interest in natural history, particularly in collecting birds, a common avocation of the period. On voyages he often caught seabirds and stuffed them, and he took advantage of time ashore in foreign lands to study local natural history. He was particularly adept at working with tools and innovating when appropriate tools were not available. He also kept detailed notes and developed exceptional artistic skills, abilities that served him well throughout his life. When he was eighteen, his skills, enthusiasm, and understanding of natural history led to employment at ...

Article

Putnam, Frederic Ward (16 April 1839–14 August 1915), anthropologist, naturalist, and museologist, was born in Salem, Massachusetts, the son of Ebenezer Putnam and Elizabeth Appleton. His early years were devoted to the study of natural history on his own, beginning with a serious interest in the study of birds. Remarkably, he became a curator of ornithology at the Essex Institute in Salem in 1856 at age seventeen. That same year Putnam entered the Lawrence Scientific Schools at Harvard University. There he was a pupil and an assistant of the eminent naturalist ...

Article

Stout, Gardner Dominick (21 April 1903–16 January 1984), investment banker, museum president, and naturalist, was born in New York City, the son of Andrew Varick Stout, a stockbroker, and Ethel Dominick. As a small boy, visits to the American Museum of Natural History first aroused Stout’s interest, he said, “in natural history and the world of animate things.” While vacationing with his family at a summer home in Rumson, he wandered along the Jersey shore, exploring the natural world and observing the behaviors of the shorebirds. Stout’s interest in nature was balanced by his commitment to the family business, and he graduated cum laude from Yale University in 1926. Later that year he joined the Wall Street banking firm of Dominick and Dominick, which had been founded in 1870 by his grandfather Bayard Dominick. In 1928 Stout purchased a seat on the New York Stock Exchange for $335,000, which was at the time the highest price ever paid for a seat. That same year he became a general partner in Dominick and Dominick. In 1930 he married Clare Kellogg, who shared his enthusiasm for travel and nature. They had three sons....

Article

Thayer, Abbott Handerson (12 August 1849–29 May 1921), painter and naturalist, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of William Henry Thayer, a physician, and Ellen Handerson. Raised in rural New Hampshire, Thayer was passionately interested in the out-of-doors; he was particularly attentive to wildfowl and became an avid trapper and hunter. His earliest artistic efforts were watercolors of birds and other animals....