Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 73.djvu/118

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page needs to be proofread.
114
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
hyphenated word was joined on the previous page because of the intervening image.— Ineuw talk 17:16, 11 November 2013 (UTC) (Wikisource contributor note)

of fossil-beds — have been principally elucidated by Heer, who was professor at the University of Zurich, and for many years the leading authority on fossil plants and insects. There were found more than 450 different kinds of plants, over 470 species of insects, and many fishes, reptiles and other animals. In America the corresponding locality, much more recently discovered, and much less extensively worked, is Florissant, in Colorado.

The first notice of Florissant as a locality for fossils was given by Mr. A. C. Peale in the "Annual Report of the U. S. Geological Survey of the Territories," in 1874. It was remarked that in the upper part of the valley on the South Platte River, a few miles from Pikes Peak, there was an ancient lake basin, marked by extensive deposits in which were found remains of leaves. In the years following, the place was visited by various naturalists, several of whom made collections. In 1877, Dr. S. H. Scudder, accompanied by Messrs. Arthur Lakes, of Golden, Colorado, and F. C. Bowditch, of Boston, spent the summer there, and made an enormous collection, especially of fossil insects. Mrs. Charlotte Hill, a resident of Florissant, also became interested, and with the aid of the neighboring children gathered together many valuable specimens, which are now to be found in various museums. An expedition from Princeton University, including the well-known paleontologists, W. B. Scott and H. F. Osborn, also went to Florissant, and the collections obtained were in part sent to the British Museum, and probably to other institutions. Another large collection was made by Dr. G. Hambach, of St. Louis, Mo., forming the basis of a paper on the fossil flora by Mr. W. C. G. Kirchner.

After a period of activity lasting a number of years, interest in Florissant died down, and not only were the fossil beds neglected, but hundreds of precious specimens already gathered were allowed to remain hidden away in various museums and colleges unstudied. When the material first came in, all the fossil plants were referred to Leo Lesquereux, who was at that time the one great authority on paleo- botany in this country. Lesquereux published many descriptions of Florissant plants in his great works on the " Tertiary Flora " and " Cretaceous and Tertiary Floras," issued in sumptuous form by the U. S. Geological Survey in 1878 and 1883, respectively; while Dr. Scudder took charge of the insects, and wrote several very important monographs, the largest being that on " Tertiary Insects," published by the Geological Survey in 1890. When Lesquereux died, and later Dr. Scudder was incapacitated by paralysis from doing any further work, it was natural that Florissant should be neglected, for these two men were almost the sole authorities upon the subject. Furthermore, although the Geological Survey had in former years used funds for the Florissant work, and in particular had published the results at great