Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 46.djvu/707

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SKETCH OF THOMAS NUTTALL.
SKETCH OF THOMAS NUTTALL.

IT has often happened that a young man who has begun life as a printer has afterward attained to distinction in some more intellectual pursuit. So it was with Benjamin Franklin and so with him whose story is to be told here. Whether this is due to the information which the young printer obtains from the matter constantly passing through his hands, or whether it is because the most intellectual of the young men who learn a mechanical trade take to printing, it would be difficult to say. The fact only need be noted here.

Thomas Nuttall was born in 1786, in the market town of Settle, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, England. His parents were probably in humble circumstances, for at an early age he was apprenticed to the printer's trade, either in his native town or in Liverpool, where he had an uncle engaged in this business. He worked as a journeyman for this uncle several years; then, having had a disagreement with him, young Nuttall went to seek employment in London. He was not fortunate in the metropolis, and sometimes went to bed without knowing where he would get his breakfast the next morning.

When twenty-two years of age he came to America, landing in Philadelphia. He must have devoted a large part of his spare moments to study during his early life, for he has been described on his arrival in this country as a well-informed young man, knowing the history of his country and somewhat familiar with some branches of natural history and even with Latin and Greek. A testimony to his early studious habits came to notice sixteen years later. It is thus recorded in the biographical notice of Nuttall, read by Elias Durand before the American Philosophical Society, which has been taken as the basis of this article:

"When, in 1824, Prof. Torrey was preparing for publication his Flora of the Northern and Middle States, which he dedicated to his friend Thomas Nuttall, with high compliments, the printer who was engaged upon it asked the professor who was that Nuttall so frequently referred to in his work, adding that he had once worked with a printer of that name, who spent the greatest part of his time in reading books, and he would not be surprised if he were the same man. Prof. Torrey rejoined that 'his surmise was correct; the printer of former times had proved a most arduous laborer in the field of science, and was now a distinguished botanist and an officer of one of the first scientific institutions of the country.'"

That Nuttall knew nothing of botany when he landed in the United States is shown by an anecdote that he used to tell of him-