Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 36.djvu/414

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
400
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

borders, and they need not then afflict other countries by their immigration. The losses that accrue to them through this false theory are both positive and negative. It occasions an enormous outlay upon profitless offerings that must be bought with money earned by hard labor; and it prevents their use of the wealth stored in their lands. Affecting daily the welfare of hundreds of millions of persons, it well illustrates the practical evil of false doctrine, and, by contrast, shows the great economic value of truth.


Rule Segment - Span - 40px.svg Rule Segment - Span - 40px.svg Rule Segment - Flare Left - 12px.svg Rule Segment - Span - 5px.svg Rule Segment - Circle - 6px.svg Rule Segment - Span - 5px.svg Rule Segment - Flare Right - 12px.svg Rule Segment - Span - 40px.svg Rule Segment - Span - 40px.svg
SKETCH OF ALEXANDER WILSON.

A PECULIAR interest attaches to the lives and labors of pioneers. The circumstances which led to the discovery of a new continent, the first application of one of the forces of nature to the service of man, the making of the first instrument for viewing the stars, and the first description of the animals, plants, or physical features of a country, always have eager readers. Then, too, the personality of a man who has the courage and originality to set forth into an untrodden field is generally picturesque and inspiring. All these claims to attention are possessed by the pioneer American ornithologist.

Alexander Wilson was born on the 6th of July, 1766, at Paisley, in Renfrewshire, which lies just south of the river Clyde. His father, Alexander Wilson, was a weaver, and reached the age of eighty-eight years, dying in 1816. During the latter part of his life, at any rate, the father was rated as a most exemplary citizen, but there is a glamour of "moonshine" about his early manhood, in the sense that, when not occupied with tending the loom, he operated a "wee still," from which trickled good Scotch whisky that was consumed without paying tribute to the tax-collector. This has naturally been denied, but not with entire success. His wife was a Mary McNab, of a strictly pious character, and with the beauty that frequently accompanies a tendency to consumption. Of this disease she died when young Alexander, who was one of three children, was ten years old.

Like many devout Scottish folk, the parents of "Alic," especially his mother, cherished the ambition that their boy should "wag his head i' the puppit yet," but his genius did not lie in the direction of the ministerial office. He attended the Grammar School of Paisley, but his schooling must have been interrupted and of no great amount, for much of his boyhood was otherwise occupied, and his deficiencies in grammar, spelling, etc., clung to him till manhood. He is known to have struggled with his backwardness in arithmetic after emigrating to America. His hand-