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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 80.djvu/307

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FLORENTINO AMEGHINO

FLORENTINO AMEGHINO
By Dr. W. D. MATTHEW

AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY

IN the death of this distinguished paleontologist science has sustained a heavy loss. Our knowledge of the splendid succession of fossil mammalian life in the Argentine is due principally to the work of Ameghino. A collector and explorer whose energy and enthusiasm no handicap of opposition and poverty could overcome, a student of immense learning and keen insight, a writer and controversialist of extraordinary facility and dialectic skill, a broad thinker and daring speculator, above all a man of high ideals and great patriotism, his life and achievements are well worthy of admiration and' respect.

Ameghino seems to have interested himself in fossils from boyhood. In 1880, while still, it would seem, in the early twenties, he had already spent ten years of his life in collecting fossil mammals in the Pampean formation in the vicinity of Buenos Aires, and especially in searching for evidences of man contemporaneous with these extinct animals. His conclusions as to the antiquity of man had received notice in the local journals as early as 1875, but had failed to secure the endorsement of the heads of the two great Argentine museums. Failing this endorsement at home, he sought to secure it abroad, and in 1878 exhibited at the Paris Exposition a great collection of archeologic and paleontologic remains. (The fossils were purchased by the late E. D. Cope and later came into possession of the American Museum of Natural History in New York.) Fortified by the support received abroad, Ameghino published in 1880-81 a two-volume brochure entitled "La Antiguedad del Hombre en La Plata," in which his views were set forth in full, together with a history of the controversy.

In succeeding years his time was given more and more to researches in the older formations underlying the Pampean, and to the collection and study of the wonderful mammalian faunæ which they contained. To explore these formations, lying mostly far to the southward, 500 to 800 miles from Buenos Aires, involved long expeditions on the part of Ameghino's younger brother Carlos, the elder brother remaining at home to earn the necessary funds for his own and his brother's support through a small stationer's shop which he kept in La Plata. Year after year< these expeditions continued, and their results were published by Florentino in a flood of descriptive and controversial papers, amazing