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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 46.djvu/563

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SKETCH OF CHARLES A. LE SUEUR.

SKETCH OF CHARLES A. LE SUEUR.[1]
By DAVID STARR JORDAN,

PRESIDENT OF THE LELAND STANFORD JUNIOR UNIVERSITY.

SOME years ago I began to collect material for biographical sketches of several of the early naturalists in America. Among these was Charles A. Le Sueur, the artist, traveler, and naturalist, who was "the first to study the ichthyology of the Great American Lakes." Le Sueur traveled widely in Pennsylvania, New York, and New England from 1817 to 1828. He was an artist of high degree, a careful and faithful observer, and according to accounts, a man of most genial and attractive character. He had won a high reputation in Europe as an artist. As a naturalist he had been around the world with Péron and La Pérouse. He was one of the founders of the Academy of Natural Sciences at Philadelphia. When the famous socialistic colony was established by Robert Owen at New Harmony, Ind., Le Sueur was one of its members. He came down from Pittsburg in the famous "boat-load of knowledge" with which the colony was intellectually equipped.

During his stay at New Harmony, Le Sueur made considerable collections and many drawings, some of which are still preserved, and others have been published in the Journals of the Academy at Philadelphia. A most spirited portrait of the old Governor Vigo is still extant. I have received an account of the drop-curtain painted by Le Sueur for the old theater in New Harmony. On this curtain were represented a rattlesnake and the Falls of Niagara, as two natural features most characteristically American.

After the failure of the New Harmony colony, Le Sueur returned to Philadelphia, and probably went from there to Paris, where, according to Swainson, he earned a precarious livelihood as a teacher of painting. For the latter part of his life he was curator of the museum at Havre. His scientific work was done chiefly in America, and it ranked with the best of its kind at the time. Le Sueur's most important memoir was a monograph of the suckers, a group of American fishes constituting his genus Catostomus, each species being represented by a clever and accurate figure—drawing and engraving being both by the hand of Le Sueur. In 1878 I had occasion to speak of this paper as "an excellent one, comparing favorably with most that has since been written on the group." Other valuable papers were on certain blennies, rays, and flying fishes, accounts of new species from the West Indies, and descriptions of tortoises and other reptiles.

The Royal Society's Catalogue of Scientific Papers contains the titles of nine papers of which Le Sueur was joint author with

  1. Charles Alexander Lesueur (Wikisource contributor note)