Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 47.djvu/267

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.


IN Philadelphia, early in the present century, there was a strongly developed taste for natural-history pursuits, and eager collectors of the local fauna naturally became so acquainted and thrown together that the formation of a club and then the organization of the Academy of Natural Sciences were the logical outcome. Previous to this, local zoölogy had not been overlooked, as the quartos of the American Philosophical Society show, and Peale's Museum was also an incentive to natural-history studies; but all was more or less chaotic until the academy came into existence. Then fresh enthusiasm was roused and every member became a collector, and every collector a describer of new species. To-day these old naturalists would irreverently be called “species mongers”; but if possibly there was a little less “science” in their labors, all credit is due them for excellent intentions, and every evidence of careful, correct, and valuable work, which has not had to be done over. Looking back to the time when Say, Nuttall, Rafinesque, Lesueur, Vanuxem, Troost, Harlan, Morton, and Conrad filled the pages of the academy's journal, we get a glimpse of a remarkable company, who collected eagerly and studied carefully their “finds” and spicily defended their positions when the great question of “priority of publication” came up. These men were not given to theorizing; evolution was not in their vocabularies, although we see at times some evidence of looking beyond a species to its real significance. De Maillet's strange book had been translated and informally discussed, but, as a general thing, no one troubled himself with Lamarck, or all accepted Cuvier without question. In short, these Philadelphia naturalists gathered specimens all day, and when they had the material sat up all night describing new species. And among them all there was no one more eager in the quest and more popular with his fellows than Solomon White Conrad, the father of the subject of the present sketch. That the elder Conrad was a remarkable man all who remember him assert without reserve. That he was a popular one, the fact that his house was a favorite gathering place for all the scientific notables of the city clearly proves. His was the first natural-history salon opened in Philadelphia, and being a matter of six days in the week, instead of at stated intervals, was fully as popular as the celebrated Wistar parties.

A descendant of Thones Kunders (subsequently anglicized to Dennis Conrad), who left Crefeld, Germany, July 24, 1683, and settled at Germantown, then nine miles from Philadelphia, but now in the city limits, like his American ancestry, Solomon W.