Thomas Say

Last updated
Thomas Say
Thomas Say.jpg
Portrait of Thomas Say (1818)
by Charles Willson Peale
Born(1787-06-27)June 27, 1787
DiedOctober 10, 1834(1834-10-10) (aged 47)
Nationality American
Known for"father of descriptive entomology in the United States"
Scientific career
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. [1] [2]

Contents

Early life and education

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.

Career

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.

Say's Phoebe Thomas Say's Phoebe.jpg
Say's Phoebe

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. [3]

Papilio turnus (= Papilio glaucus), from 'American Entomology' Papilio glacusSayP040CAA1.jpg
Papilio turnus (= Papilio glaucus ), from 'American Entomology'

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.

Legacy and honors

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. [4]

Other zoologists honored him by naming several taxa after him: [5]

Published Works

See also

Frederick Valentine Melsheimer, also considered the "Father of Entomology"

Notes

  1. Mallis, 1971
  2. Pitzer, 1989
  3. Say T (1823). In: James E (1823). Account of an Expedition from Pittsburgh to the Rocky Mountains, Performed in the Years 1819 and '20, by Order of the Hon. J.C. Calhoun, Sec'y of War: Under the Command of Major Stephen H. Long. From the Notes of Major Long, Mr. T. Say, and other Gentlemen of the Exploring Party, Vol. I. Philadelphia: H.C. Carey and I. Lea. 503 pp.
  4. Schmidt, Karl P.; Davis, D. Dwight (1941). Field Book of Snakes of the United States and Canada. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons. 365 pp. ("History of the Study of Snakes in the United States", Thomas Say, p. 12).
  5. Hans G. Hansson. "Charles-Alexandre Lesueur". Biographical Etymology of Marine Organism Names. Göteborgs universitet . Retrieved November 27, 2012.
  6. Beolens, Bo; Watkins, Michael; Grayson, Michael (2011). The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. xiii + 296 pp. ISBN   978-1-4214-0135-5. ("Say", p. 234).

Related Research Articles

George Ord American naturalist, ornithologist and writer

George Ord was an American zoologist who specialized in North American ornithology and mammology. Based in part on specimens collected by Lewis and Clark in the North American interior, Ord's article "Zoology of North America" (1815), which was published in the second American edition of William Guthrie's Geographical, Historical, and Commercial Grammar, has been recognized as the "first systematic zoology of America by an American".

Thomas Nuttall English botanist and zoologist in America

Thomas Nuttall was an English botanist and zoologist who lived and worked in America from 1808 until 1841.

William Maclure 18th/19th-century American geologist and cartographer

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.

William Elford Leach, MD, FRS was an English zoologist and marine biologist.

Johann Friedrich von Eschscholtz Baltic German explorer and scientist

Johann Friedrich Gustav von Eschscholtz was a Baltic German physician, naturalist, and entomologist. He was one of the earliest scientific explorers of the Pacific region, making significant collections of flora and fauna in Alaska, California, and Hawaii.

Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University Natural history museum in Pennsylvania, 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 Peale American painter

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).

Constantine Samuel Rafinesque naturalist

Constantine Samuel Rafinesque-Schmaltz, as he is known in Europe, was a 19th-century polymath born near Constantinople in the Ottoman Empire and self-educated in France. He traveled as a young man in the United States, ultimately settling in Ohio in 1815, where he made notable contributions to botany, zoology, and the study of prehistoric earthworks in North America. He also contributed to the study of ancient Mesoamerican linguistics, in addition to work he had already completed in Europe.

Charles Alexandre Lesueur French naturalist

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.

William Kirby (entomologist) English entomologist (1759-1850)

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".

Robert Templeton Irish entomologist

Robert Templeton was a naturalist, artist, and entomologist, and was born at Cranmore House, Belfast, Ireland.

Robert Patterson, FRS (1802–1872) was an Irish businessman and naturalist born in Belfast, Ireland.

Belfast Natural History Society Northern Irish learned society

The Belfast Natural History and Philosophical Society was founded in 1821 to promote the scientific study of animals, plants, fossils, rocks and minerals.

Adam White (zoologist) Scottish zoologist

Adam White was a Scottish zoologist.

<i>Magicicada septendecim</i> species of 17-year periodic cicada

Magicicada septendecim, sometimes called the Pharaoh cicada or the 17 year locust, is native to Canada and the United States and is the largest and most northern species of periodical cicada with a 17-year life cycle.

Henry Shimer American entomologist

Henry Shimer was a naturalist and physician in Mount Carroll, Illinois. He was also a teacher at the Mount Carroll Seminary, which later became Shimer College; he was the husband of the seminary's founder, Frances Shimer.

Thomas Bellerby Wilson American biologist (1807-1865)

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 collection was housed in the academy building, which was enlarged for the purpose of its display.

Thomas Harrison Montgomery Jr. professor of zoology at the University of Pennsylvania

Thomas Harrison Montgomery Jr. was an American zoologist who made important contributions to cell biology–especially in chromosomes and their roles in sex determination–as well as the biology of birds and several groups invertebrates, naming many species of ribbon worms, rotifers, and spiders. He studied in Berlin before becoming a researcher and professor at the University of Pennsylvania, where he primarily worked until his death at the age of 39. In his short career he published 80 scientific papers and two books.

<i>Berosus sayi</i> Species of beetle

Berosus sayi is a species of hydrophilid beetles native to the United States. It is a synonym of Berosus striatus, which was originally described by Thomas Say in 1825, and females can be characterized by a small tooth on the suture near the apex of each elytron.

Reuben Haines III was a Quaker scientist and social reformer from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Haines was a founder and first president of the Philadelphia Hose Company, the first organization in the United States devoted to fighting fires by pumping water through a leather hose. The first meeting of the company was held at his home on December 15, 1803. Haines served as the corresponding secretary of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia for 17 years (1814–1831), and was the first life-member of the American Institute of Instruction, where he also served as vice president.

References

Further reading