Portrait of Thomas Say (1818)
by Charles Willson Peale
|Died||October 10, 1834 47) (aged|
|Known for||"father of descriptive entomology in the United States"|
|Fields||Natural history, Entomology|
|Institutions||Academy of Natural Sciences|
Thomas Say (June 27, 1787 – October 10, 1834) was an American entomologist, conchologist, and herpetologist. His definitive studies of insects and shells, numerous contributions to scientific journals, and scientific expeditions to Florida, Georgia, the Rocky Mountains, Mexico, and elsewhere made him an internationally known naturalist. Say has been called the father of American descriptive entomology and American conchology. He served as librarian for the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, curator at the American Philosophical Society, and professor of natural history at the University of Pennsylvania.
Born in Philadelphia into a prominent Quaker family, Thomas Say was the great-grandson of John Bartram, and the great-nephew of William Bartram. His father, Dr. Benjamin Say, was brother-in-law to another Bartram son, Moses Bartram. The Say family had a house, "The Cliffs" at Gray's Ferry, adjoining the Bartram family farms in Kingessing township, Philadelphia County. As a boy, Say often visited the family garden, Bartram's Garden, where he frequently took butterfly and beetle specimens to his great-uncle William.
He became an apothecary. A self-taught naturalist, Say helped found the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia (ANSP) in 1812. In 1816, he met Charles Alexandre Lesueur, a French naturalist, malacologist, and ichthyologist who soon became a member of the Academy and served as its curator until 1824.
At the Academy, Say began his work on what he would publish as American Entomology. To collect insects, he made numerous expeditions to frontier areas, risking American Indian attacks and hazards of traveling in wild countryside. In 1818, Say accompanied his friend William Maclure, then the ANSP president and father of American geology; Gerhard Troost, a geologist; and other members of the Academy on a geological expedition to the off-shore islands of Georgia and Florida, then a Spanish colony.
In 1819–20, Major Stephen Harriman Long led an exploration to the Rocky Mountains and the tributaries of the Missouri River, with Say as zoologist. Their official account of this expedition included the first descriptions of the coyote, swift fox, western kingbird, band-tailed pigeon, rock wren, Say's phoebe, lesser goldfinch, lark sparrow, lazuli bunting, orange-crowned warbler, checkered whiptail lizard, collared lizard, ground skink, western rat snake, and western ribbon snake.
In 1823, Say served as chief zoologist in Long's expedition to the headwaters of the Mississippi River. He traveled on the "Boatload of Knowledge" to the New Harmony Settlement in Indiana (1826–34), a utopian society experiment founded by Robert Owen. Say was accompanied by Maclure, Lesueur, Troost, and Francis Neef, an innovative pedagogue. There he later met Constantine Samuel Rafinesque-Schmaltz, another naturalist.
On January 4, 1827, Say secretly married Lucy Way Sistare, whom he had met as one of the passengers to New Harmony, near the settlement. She was an artist and illustrator of specimens, as in the book American Conchology, and was elected as the first woman member of the Academy of Natural Sciences.
At New Harmony, Thomas Say carried on his monumental work describing insects and mollusks, leading to two classic works:
During their years in New Harmony, Say and Lesueur experienced considerable difficulties. Say was a modest and unassuming man, who lived frugally like a hermit. He abandoned commercial activities and devoted himself to his studies, making difficulties for his family.
Say died, apparently from typhoid fever, in New Harmony on 10 October 1834, when he was 47 years old.
Say described more than 1,000 new species of beetles, more than 400 species of insects of other orders, and seven well-known species of snakes.
Other zoologists honored him by naming several taxa after him:
Frederick Valentine Melsheimer, also considered the "Father of Entomology"
New Harmony is a historic town on the Wabash River in Harmony Township, Posey County, Indiana. It lies 15 miles (24 km) north of Mount Vernon, the county seat, and is part of the Evansville metropolitan area. The town's population was 789 at the 2010 census.
Johann Carl Bodmer was a Swiss-French printmaker, etcher, lithographer, zinc engraver, draughtsman, painter, illustrator and hunter. Known as Karl Bodmer in literature and paintings, as a Swiss and French citizen, his name was recorded as Johann Karl Bodmer and Jean-Charles Bodmer, respectively. After 1843, likely as a result of the birth of his son Charles-Henry Barbizon, he began to sign his works K Bodmer.
George Ord was an American naturalist, ornithologist and writer.
Thomas Nuttall was an English botanist and zoologist who lived and worked in America from 1808 until 1841.
William Maclure was an Americanized Scottish geologist, cartographer and philanthropist. He is known as the 'father of American geology'. As a social experimenter on new types of community life, he collaborated with British social reformer Robert Owen, (1771–1854), in Indiana, United States.
The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, formerly the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, is the oldest natural science research institution and museum in the Americas. It was founded in 1812, by many of the leading naturalists of the young American republic with an expressed mission of "the encouragement and cultivation of the sciences". For over two centuries of continuous operations, the Academy has sponsored expeditions, conducted original environmental and systematics research, and amassed natural history collections containing more than 17 million specimens. The Academy also has a long tradition of public exhibits and educational programs for both schools and the general public.
Titian Ramsay Peale was an American artist, naturalist, and explorer. He was a noted scientific illustrator whose paintings and drawings of wildlife were known for their beauty and accuracy. He participated as a naturalist in several scientific surveys, in particular he accompanied Stephen Harriman Long in 1819 to explore the Rocky Mountains and later served on the United States Exploring Expedition (1838-1842).
Charles Alexandre Lesueur was a French naturalist, artist, and explorer. He was a prolific natural history collector, gathering many type specimens in Australia, southeast Asia and North America and was also responsible for describing numerous species, including the spiny softshell turtle, smooth softshell turtle and common map turtle. Both Mount Lesueur and Lesueur National Park in Western Australia are named in his honor.
Robert Kennicott was an American naturalist and herpetologist. Chronic illness kept Kennicott out of school as a child. Instead, Kennicott spent most of his time outdoors, collecting plants and animals. His father schooled him at home and convinced naturalist Jared Potter Kirtland to take him as an understudy. Soon, Kennicott was providing specimens for the Smithsonian Institution via assistant secretary Spencer Fullerton Baird.
William Kirby was an English entomologist, an original member of the Linnean Society and a Fellow of the Royal Society, as well as a country priest, making him an eminent parson-naturalist. He is considered the "founder of entomology".
André Marie Constant Duméril was a French zoologist. He was professor of anatomy at the Muséum national d'histoire naturelle from 1801 to 1812, when he became professor of herpetology and ichthyology. His son Auguste Duméril was also a zoologist.
Samuel Stehman Haldeman was an American naturalist and philologist. During a long and varied career he studied, published, and lectured on geology, conchology, entomology and philology. He once confided, "I never pursue one branch of science more than ten years, but lay it aside and go into new fields."
Charles Émile Blanchard was a French zoologist and entomologist.
Nicholas Marcellus Hentz was a French American educator and arachnologist.
Benjamin Say was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Pennsylvania.
Philip Reese Uhler was an American librarian and entomologist who specialized in Hemiptera, an insect order commonly known as true bugs. He was considered America's foremost expert on this group and was widely sought out for identification of species in this order.
Calliostoma sayanum, common name Say's top shell, is a species of sea snail, a marine gastropod mollusk in the family Calliostomatidae.
Thomas Bellerby Wilson was an American naturalist. Wilson was educated first at a Quaker school in Philadelphia, then in Darlington, England, and then at the University of Paris, France and Trinity College in Ireland. In 1828 he entered the University of Pennsylvania training as a physician. He lived in Philadelphia until 1833, then moved to New London Pennsylvania. In 1841 he moved to Newark, Delaware. He joined the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia and was their principal benefactor and donor. His (26,000 specimens bird collections bird collection was housed in the academy building, which was enlarged for the purpose of its display.
Lucy Way Sistare Say was an American naturalist and scientific artist. Say illustrated and colored 66 of 68 plates which became American Conchology, a depiction of the North American mollusks collected by her husband, Thomas Say, during his expeditions in North America. Lucy Say became the first female member of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia (ANSP) on October 26, 1841.
Dr Andrew Rodger Waterston FRSE FRES was a Scottish zoologist, specialising in malacology and entomology. He was interested in the insect fauna of the Middle East and in the fauna of the Outer Hebrides. He was generally known as Rodger Waterston.
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