Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 33.djvu/563

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SKETCH OF SPENCER F. BAIRD.

SKETCH OF SPENCER F. BAIRD.

IN Prof. Baird we have a conspicuous example of a man who cultivated science for itself alone. While in no sense careless of his own fame, he was always willing to prefer to it the advance of knowledge; was ready to rejoice at every new contribution, though it might tend to forestall something of his own; and was often willing to aid constructive rivals, as is expressed in one of the tributes brought out by his death, by access to his own papers and workings, at the expense of his own priority in the same field. Of another trait of his scientific character Major Powell says, "Baird was one of the learned men of the world, and to a degree perhaps unexampled in history he was the discoverer of the knowledge he possessed."

Spencer Fullerton Baird was born in Reading, Pa., February 3, 1833, and died at Wood's Holl, Mass., August 19, 1887. He was of English, Scotch, and German descent, his paternal grand-father having been of Scotch parentage, and his ancestry on the mother's side English and German. One of his great-grand-fathers was the Rev. Elihu Spencer, one of the war preachers of the Revolution, on whose head a price was set by the British Government. His father, Samuel Baird, was a lawyer in Reading, who is described as having been "a man of fine culture, a strong thinker, a close observer, and a lover of Nature and of out-of-door pursuits." He died when the son was ten years old. Spencer was sent in 1834 to a Quaker boarding-school, kept by Dr. McGraw, at Port Deposit, Md., and in the next year to the Reading Grammar School, and in 1836 he entered Dickinson College, whence he was graduated when seventeen years old. His tastes for natural history and collecting were developed early, and were shared by his elder brother, William M. Baird, whose companion he became in collecting specimens of the game-birds of Cumberland County, which the elder brother had undertaken in 1836. Six years later they published conjointly a paper describing two species, supposed to be new, of the genus Tyrannula, Swainson. A number of specimens, fruits of their joint work, are now to be seen in the National Museum at Washington. He pursued his studies in general natural history in the field for several years after leaving college, making long pedestrian excursions for observation and collection, and organizing a private cabinet, which became the nucleus of the Smithsonian collections. In 1841, when eighteen years old, he made an ornithological excursion through the mountains of Pennsylvania, walking four hundred miles in twenty-one days, and the last day sixty miles. In the following year he walked more than two thousand two