Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 78.djvu/351

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341
EDWARD PALMER

EDWARD PALMER[1]
By WILLIAM EDWIN SAFFORD
Than longen folk to gon on pilgrimages,

And palmers for to seken straunge strondes.
Chaucer, Gen. Prol. to Canterbury Tales.

EDWARD PALMER is a man well named. A palmer of the olden time was one who had traveled to the Holy Land in fulfilment of a vow, and brought back with him a palm branch to be placed on the altar of his parish church. Afterwards the name was applied to pilgrims who traveled unceasingly from land to land, under a perpetual vow of poverty and celibacy.

This is what our Palmer has done. From the age of early manhood until now, the winter of his life, never content to remain inactive even for a short period, he has set out upon one pilgrimage after another, bringing back many palm branches and other strange and beautiful products of distant climes, reverently to lay them on the altar of science.

He is an Englishman by birth, born January 12, 1821, at Hockwold cum Wilton, near Brandon, in the county of Norfolk, His father was a professional florist and horticulturist; so that from his earliest childhood his associations have been with flowers and shrubs and trees. When a youth of eighteen he came to America and settled at Cleveland, Ohio. There it was his privilege to meet with Dr. Jared O. Kirtland, one of the most eminent and respected scientific men of his day, in whom there was combined a peculiar personal charm and magnetism with great zeal for the study of nature.

Dr. Kirtland was not only an accomplished botanist, but a practical horticulturist as well, and a man whose greatest pleasure it was to gather young people about him and instill into them a love for natural history. He was one of the earliest members of the American Academy of Sciences, and in connection with the Geological Survey of Ohio made extensive collections of plants and animals of that state. This kind and learned man found a willing disciple in young Palmer, whom he invited to his home and, inspiring him with the display of his zoological collections and herbarium, taught him to prepare bird skins and to dry and press plants, thus laying the foundation for his future career.

  1. A biographical sketch read at a meeting of the Botanical Society of Washington, D. C, on the occasion of the eightieth anniversary of Dr. Palmer's birth.