Thomas Sadler Roberts

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Portrait from Bird Lore (1903) Thomas Sadler Roberts.jpg
Portrait from Bird Lore (1903)

Thomas Sadler Roberts (February 16, 1858 - April 19, 1946) was an American physician known for his work in ornithology, bird conservation and for his book The Birds of Minnesota (1932), a comprehensive account on the birds of the Minnesota area. Roberts was an influential educator on birds and their conservation and helped establish the Bell Museum of Natural History. Thomas Sadler Roberts Bird Sanctuary in Minneapolis is named after him. He was among the many ornithologists who saw the last flocks of the passenger pigeon in Minneapolis.

Minnesota State of the United States of America

Minnesota is a state in the Upper Midwest, Great Lakes, and northern regions of the United States. Minnesota was admitted as the 32nd U.S. state on May 11, 1858, created from the eastern half of the Minnesota Territory. The state has a large number of lakes, and is known by the slogan the "Land of 10,000 Lakes". Its official motto is L'Étoile du Nord.

Bell Museum of Natural History natural history museum of the University of Minnesota

The Bell Museum, formerly known as the "James Ford Bell Museum of Natural History," is located at the University of Minnesota. The museum's new location on the St. Paul campus opened July 13–15, 2018. The world-renowned Minnesota wildlife dioramas, numerous animal specimens from all over the world, and the 120-seat digital Whitney and Elizabeth MacMillan Planetarium theater are highlighted features of the new facility. The museum's former location in Minneapolis is closed as the work to move to the University of Minnesota's St. Paul campus began in January 2017. The museum is part of the University's College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences.

Thomas Sadler Roberts Bird Sanctuary

The Thomas Sadler Roberts Bird Sanctuary is situated within Lyndale Park, a Minneapolis city park on the northeast side of Lake Harriet and part of Minneapolis’ Chain of Lakes Regional Park. The main entrance to the sanctuary is in the Lyndale Park Gardens parking lot. Trailheads are accessible through the back of the Peace Garden, and from the parking lot northeast of the Lake Harriet bandshell.



Roberts was born to John Roberts and his wife, a family of Welsh Quaker origins, in Philadelphia. His early life was spent in Germantown and later to Minnesota where his father moved after being diagnosed with tuberculosis.

Philadelphia Largest city in Pennsylvania, United States

Philadelphia, known colloquially as Philly, is the largest city in the U.S. state and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the sixth-most populous U.S. city, with a 2018 census-estimated population of 1,584,138. Since 1854, the city has been coterminous with Philadelphia County, the most populous county in Pennsylvania and the urban core of the eighth-largest U.S. metropolitan statistical area, with over 6 million residents as of 2017. Philadelphia is also the economic and cultural anchor of the greater Delaware Valley, located along the lower Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers, within the Northeast megalopolis. The Delaware Valley's population of 7.2 million ranks it as the eighth-largest combined statistical area in the United States.

Germantown, Philadelphia Neighborhood of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania, United States

Germantown is an area in Northwest Philadelphia. Founded by German Quaker and Mennonite families in 1683 as an independent borough, it was absorbed into Philadelphia in 1854. The area, which is about six miles northwest from the city center, now consists of two neighborhoods: 'Germantown' and 'East Germantown'.

Tuberculosis Infectious disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis

Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease usually caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) bacteria. Tuberculosis generally affects the lungs, but can also affect other parts of the body. Most infections do not have symptoms, in which case it is known as latent tuberculosis. About 10% of latent infections progress to active disease which, if left untreated, kills about half of those affected. The classic symptoms of active TB are a chronic cough with blood-containing sputum, fever, night sweats, and weight loss. It was historically called "consumption" due to the weight loss. Infection of other organs can cause a wide range of symptoms.

He grew up in the countryside and took an interest in natural history. He learned to skin birds from Franklin Benner who he met in June 1874. Between the age of 16 and 18 he collected and preserved nearly 600 specimens. In 1876, at the age of 18, he and several other friends from the Minneapolis High School established the Young Naturalists' Society in Minneapolis with Roberts as a secretary. Another member of this group was Clarence Luther Herrick. In his younger days, Roberts accompanied his father to shoot birds including the passenger pigeon and upland sandpiper for food. It was after 1874 that he began to carefully make notes on them. Along with Benner and Clarence Herrick, he observed nests and collected eggs. The Young Naturalists' Society was key in influencing Roberts. They discussed many topics and read books. One member Robert Williams, whose father owned a bookstore and had access to a library known as the Minneapolis Athenaeum, made it possible for them to research many of their observations. The collection included John James Audubon's Birds of America . The group read George Perkins Marsh's Man and Nature . Several member of the group continued to write notes on science in later life. [1] In his valedictory talk at the Minneapolis High School in 1877 Roberts spoke about how money was sought with vengeance by society and noted that in order to be truly happy one needed "recreation for the mind". [2]

Natural history Study of organisms including plants or animals in their environment

Natural history is a domain of inquiry involving organisms including animals, fungi and plants in their environment; leaning more towards observational than experimental methods of study. A person who studies natural history is called a naturalist or natural historian.

Passenger pigeon An extinct migratory pigeon previously endemic to North America

The passenger pigeon or wild pigeon is an extinct species of pigeon that was endemic to North America. Its common name is derived from the French word passager, meaning "passing by", due to the migratory habits of the species. The scientific name also refers to its migratory characteristics. The morphologically similar mourning dove was long thought to be its closest relative, and the two were at times confused, but genetic analysis has shown that the genus Patagioenas is more closely related to it than the Zenaida doves.

Upland sandpiper species of bird

The upland sandpiper is a large sandpiper, closely related to the curlews. Older names are the upland plover and Bartram's sandpiper. In Louisiana, it is also colloquially known as the papabotte. It is the only member of the genus Bartramia. The genus name and the old common name Bartram's sandpiper commemorate the American naturalist William Bartram. The species name longicauda is from Latin longus, "long" and caudus, "tail". The name "Bartram's sandpiper" was made popular by Alexander Wilson, who was taught ornithology and natural history illustration by Bartram.

In 1882 he joined the University of Pennsylvania medical school and graduated MD in 1885. He worked in Philadelphia hospitals before returning to Minneapolis to practice. For a while he maintained a private practice. He trained his office assistant Mabel Densmore in the study of birds and she later became an accomplished ornithologist. [3] From 1887 he served at St. Barnabas Hospital as chief of staff and from 1901 to 1913, taught pediatrics at the University of Minnesota medical school.

University of Pennsylvania Private Ivy League research university in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The University of Pennsylvania is a private Ivy League research university in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It is one of the nine colonial colleges founded prior to the Declaration of Independence and the first institution of higher learning in the United States to refer to itself as a university. Benjamin Franklin, Penn's founder and first president, advocated an educational program that trained leaders in commerce, government, and public service, similar to a modern liberal arts curriculum.

In 1898 Roberts took to bird photography, often consulting Frank Chapman on the subject. [4] While in St.Barnabas, he met Leslie Dart, another doctor with an interest in birds. [5] In 1914 Roberts served as a doctor on the Hildebret a yacht in the Everglades that was used by his patient James Stroud Bell who had been advised that the Florida sun could improve his health. Bell's son James Ford Bell was also aboard. During this visit, Roberts also met Frank Chapman at Ormond. James Ford Bell later helped Roberts establish a museum at the University of Minnesota. [6] The Bell Museum of Natural History occupied Roberts after his retirement from medical practice. [7] He died at Eitel hospital where he was taken after a heart attack. He is buried at Lakewood cemetery in a family plot. [8] [9]

Frank Chapman (ornithologist) American ornithologist

Frank Michler Chapman was an American ornithologist and pioneering writer of field guides.

Everglades wetlands area in Florida, US

The Everglades is a natural region of tropical wetlands in the southern portion of the U.S. state of Florida, comprising the southern half of a large drainage basin within the neotropic ecozone. The ecosystem it forms is not presently found anywhere else on earth. The system begins near Orlando with the Kissimmee River, which discharges into the vast but shallow Lake Okeechobee. Water leaving the lake in the wet season forms a slow-moving river 60 miles (97 km) wide and over 100 miles (160 km) long, flowing southward across a limestone shelf to Florida Bay at the southern end of the state. The Everglades experience a wide range of weather patterns, from frequent flooding in the wet season to drought in the dry season. The Seminole Tribe gave the large body of water the name Okeechobee meaning "River of Grass" to describe the sawgrass marshes, part of a complex system of interdependent ecosystems that include cypress swamps, the estuarine mangrove forests of the Ten Thousand Islands, tropical hardwood hammocks, pine rockland, and the marine environment of Florida Bay. Throughout the 20th century, the Everglades suffered significant loss of habitat and environmental degradation.

James Ford Bell American businessman

James Ford Bell was an American business leader and philanthropist who served as president of General Mills from 1928 to 1934 and chairman from 1934 to 1948.

The Birds of Minnesota

Roberts' took up the work to document the birds of Minnesota after several of his friends died and his wife had become invalid. He hired Allan Brooks to paint many of the plates for the book. He was assisted by many of his friends and his assistant Mabel Densmore. [10] The second volume of the book included a key to the species. [11] A second edition was published in 1936.

Allan Brooks Canadian ornithologist and bird artist

Allan Cyril Brooks was an ornithologist and bird artist who lived in Canada. His father William Edwin Brooks had been a keen ornithologist in India but growing up in a farming household in Canada made his entry into the career of bird art much more difficult than for his contemporary Louis Agassiz Fuertes in the United States of America. His painting style was more impressionist with a greater emphasis on the habitat than on fine details of plumage. After Fuertes' death in a road accident, he was commissioned to complete the plates for "Birds of Massachusetts".

Personal life

Roberts married Jane Cleveland in 1887 and they had two sons and a daughter. After her death in 1932 he married Agnes Williams Harley in 1937. Roberts' sister Emma was a botanical artist. [9] Agnes was a friend of his sister Emma and shared a botanical interest and they produced a collection of botanical illustrations which are now held in the Andersen Horticultural Library. [7] [12]


Roberts received the AOU's Brewster Medal in 1938 and a Sigma Xi letter of commendation for work in science in 1941. [7]

T.S. Roberts Wildlife Sanctuary was named after him on the southeastern shore of Lake Harriet in 1947. [13]


  1. Leaf:30-40.
  2. Leaf:39.
  3. Leaf:122.
  4. Leaf:120-122.
  5. Leaf:107.
  6. Leaf:133.
  7. 1 2 3 Breckenridge, WJ; Kilgore, William (1946). "Thomas Sadler Roberts" (PDF). Auk. 63 (4): 574–583.
  8. Leaf:227-228.
  9. 1 2 Leaf, Sue (2013). "A tale of two siblings" (PDF). Minnesota History. 63 (6): 236–245.
  10. Leaf: 175-191.
  11. [W.S.] (1932). "Roberts' 'Birds of Minnesota'" (PDF). Auk. 49 (3): 368–370.
  12. "Emma Roberts". Andersen Horticultural Library, University of Minnesota. Retrieved 21 November 2017.
  13. Leaf:229.

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