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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 51.djvu/91

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DAVENPORT ACADEMY OF NATURAL SCIENCES.

THE DAVENPORT ACADEMY OF NATURAL SCIENCES.
By FREDERICK STARR.

THE scientific work of our Government bureaus and of the great universities of our country is of supreme importance and justly arouses the pride of every American. It is not likely to be overlooked. The work of local societies is less imposing, but is of the highest importance and calls for more than a passing word. In many American cities there are organizations of persons who are intelligently interested in science. These hold regular meetings for discussion, publish papers as new contributions to science, and gather museum collections which serve as object lessons to the public. Few persons realize how much such local organizations, supported by private means and personal enthusiasm, are doing for the cause of science. To make known the story of some of these academies of science and to sketch their work is the purpose of the series of articles of which this is the first. To present their achievements and their claims to respect and assistance is a task which the author gladly undertakes, being one of the many students who have been helped and encouraged by them.

The choice of the Davenport Academy of Science as the subject of this first article is simply from convenience. In some respects the story of its origin and development is typical, in others unusual. There is rather more of personality in it than in most, for the Davenport Academy has had a peculiar environment. When it was organized the city of Davenport was in the "far West"; opportunities for literary and scientific work were meager; the town itself was small, commercial, unsympathetic. That any organization of its kind so far from other centers should exist and thrive was astonishing.

In 1867, on December 14th, four gentlemen—Messrs. L. T. Eads, A. U. Barler, A. S. Tiffany, and W. H. Pratt—met in a business office to organize a natural history society. No one of the four was a professional scientist; all were busy men; none of them was really wealthy. They added names enough to their own to supply officers and a board of trustees, drew up a constitution and by-laws, and then and there became an actual society. Thereafter regular meetings were held and topics of more or less scientific importance were discussed. Before a year had passed the membership had grown to more than fifty, and the attendance at the meetings indicated continued interest. A cabinet of natural history was begun and a place for its display was secured in the rooms of the Davenport Library Association. The first sign.