Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 68.djvu/67

This page has been validated.
63
SPENCER FULLERTON BAIRD

SPENCER FULLERTON BAIRD
By T. D. A. COCKERELL[1]

UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO

SPENCER FULLERTON BAIRD was born at Reading, Pa., on February 3, 1823. He was the third child, as well as the third son, of Samuel Baird and Lydia Biddle Baird. Samuel Baird was a lawyer and a man of education and scholarly tastes, very much interested in natural history in a general way, although he could hardly be called a naturalist. He died when S. F. Baird was only ten years old; but it was from him, in those early years, that the latter got the original impulse toward the study of natural objects.

Professor Baird's ancestry, as we learn from Dr. Brown Goode, was English on one side; on the other Scotch[2] and German. His paternal grandfather was Samuel Baird, of Pottstown, Pa., a surveyor by profession, whose wife was Rebecca Potts. The Bairds were from Ireland, while the Potts family removed from Germany to Pennsylvania at the close of the seventeenth century. His great grandfather on the mother's side was the Rev. Elihu Spencer, of Trenton, who was one of the war preachers of the Revolution, and was so influential that, according to tradition, a price was set on his head by the British government; his daughter married William M. Biddle, a banker of an English family for many generations established in Pennsylvania.

After the death of Professor Baird's father, his mother, with her seven children, moved to Carlisle, the county seat of Cumberland County, Pa., where her nearest relatives were then living. Young Baird was educated at the grammar school at Carlisle, and at Dickinson College, in that city; graduating from the latter at the age of seventeen. The boys of the Baird family were all interested in shooting; but the oldest, William McFunn Baird, and the subject of the


  1. I am greatly indebted to Miss Lucy H. Baird for information, for access to portions of Professor Baird's diary, and especially for some unpublished notes for a memoir of her father, written by herself. The last, with her kind permission, has been freely used and incorporated in the present work. I am also much indebted to the authorities of the Smithsonian Institution for permission to examine Baird's letter-books; and to Drs. Dall, Ridgway, Gill, Mason and others for much kind help. I have also availed myself of the published memoirs of Baird, especially that of Dr. Brown Goode, with the accompanying bibliography (Bull. 20, U. S. Nat. Museum).
  2. Properly speaking, 'Scotch-Irish,' i. e., from Ireland, but of Scotch blood.