Popular Science Monthly/Volume 50/January 1897/Sketch of George Brown Goode
THE United States has had no more assiduous working naturalist than Dr. G. Brown Goode; and few if any of them have contributed as much as he to the development and increase of the resources of our country. He was also one of the world's greatest museum administrators, and an anthropologist of most comprehensive views.
George Brown Goode was born in New Albany, Indiana, February 13, 1851, and died in Washington, D. C., September 6, 1896. While he was still a boy his parents removed to the State of New York. He cultivated the taste for natural history, which he manifested early, and it found food and encouragement in the Reports of the Smithsonian Institution, which formed part of the family library, and which he was accustomed to read. As a student in Wesleyan University, whence he was graduated in 1870, he was marked by his predilection for natural-history studies and the interest he took in museum methods. After graduation he entered Harvard University as a graduate student, and enjoyed the teaching of Agassiz. On the erection of Orange Judd Hall at Wesleyan University, he was invited by the faculty of that institution to arrange the collections in natural history. He performed the work with a skill and discrimination that marked him as specially adapted for it, and had, no doubt, great influence in deciding his future career. His first contribution to scientific literature was a note published in the American Naturalist in 1871, recording the occurrence of the billfish in fresh water in the Connecticut River; and his first paper exhibiting range of investigation and power to collate facts was one showing that snakes do actually receive their young within themselves by swallowing them, on the appearance of danger, to let them out again when the danger is past. For the purpose of this inquiry he sought evidence through an advertisement in the American Agriculturist, asking for the communication of observations on the subject. He had become interested in the work of the United States Fish Commission, and meeting Prof. Baird at the meeting of the American Association in Portland, Me., in 1873, was invited by him to become a member of its staff. In that capacity he was for several years a member of the commission's summer parties. He also became connected with the National Museum as assistant curator, and served it for a time without other compensation than duplicate specimens, and these he turned over at once to the museum in Orange Judd Hall. He was named in a short time assistant director of the museum, and in 1887 assistant secretary of the Smithsonian Institution in charge of the National Museum, the position which he still held at the time of his death. On the death of Prof. Baird, he became for a short time Commissioner of Fish and Fisheries. This appointment. Science observed at the time, "meets at once the requirements of an exacting office and the exceptional provision of the law creating it. Prof. Goode is intimately acquainted with the methods of Commissioner Baird, whose scientific zeal and knowledge he shared, and his experience and attainments in practical fish culture and in the science of ichthyology made him first among those whose qualifications the President has been called upon to consider." The law, however, gave no salary for this office, and during the few months Dr. Goode held it he performed the duties of two offices for the pay of one. In time the law was amended, the office of Fish Commissioner was made independent of the National Museum, and Dr. Goode was relieved by the appointment of Marshall McDonald to it.
Most of Prof. Goode's contributions to science were made during his connection with the National Museum, and for information concerning them we are largely indebted to the admirable summaries published by Dr. Marcus Benjamin and Mr. Theodore Gill in Science. In 1876 he published in the Bulletin of the United States Museum a Catalogue of the Fishes of the Bermudas, and the Classification of the Collection to illustrate the Animal Resources of the United States; which latter work was expanded three years afterward into the Catalogue of the Collection to illustrate the Animal Resources and the Fisheries of the United States, a volume nearly three times as large, prepared with reference to the Smithsonian exhibit in the Centennial. He published numerous monographs, many of them in collaboration with Dr. Tarleton Bean, chiefly descriptive of new species of fishes, and some dealing with special groups, of which perhaps the most important was that on the menhaden, first published in the Report of the Fish Commission, and afterward as a separate work. In connection with the tenth census, of 1880, Dr. Goode had charge of the work relating to fish and fisheries; and of the five sections of the seven large quarto volumes comprising the report on that subject he himself mainly prepared Section I, on the Natural History of Aquatic Animals. It covered more than nine hundred pages of text, and was illus rated by two hundred and seventy-seven plates. "This book was intended to reflect as exhaustive an investigation of the subject as possible. The scheme drawn up by Dr. Goode embraced the natural history of marine products; accounts of the fishing grounds, the fishermen and fishing towns, apparatus and modes of capture; preparation, care, and manufacture of fishing products; and economy of the fisheries. For the purposes of the studies necessary to its preparation, tHe coast, lakes, etc., of the country were mapped off into twenty-four districts, each of which was assigned to a field assistant. "This work," says Mr. Gill, "was by far the most complete survey of the economical fishes of the country that had ever appeared, and has since been the most prized. It led to another." This other was American Fishes; a Popular Treatise upon the Game and Food Fishes of North America, with Especial Reference to Habits and Modes of Capture. This volume was prepared, the author said in his prologue, for "the use of the angler, the lover of Nature, and the general reader." It was not intended for naturalists, and the technicalities of zoölogical description were therefore avoided. Prof. Goode's plan, in selecting from the seventeen hundred and fifty species of fish indigenous to our waters those to be described in the book, was to include every North American fish which was likely to be of interest to the general reader, either on account of its genuineness or its economical uses. The physical features of each fish were described, its range and season were marked, its habits in regard to feeding, migration, and breeding were delineated, and something was told about the method of capturing it and its value as food; but it contained "no discussions of rods, reels, lines, hooks, and flies, and no instructions concerning camping out, excursions, routes, guides, and hotels." Mingled with these facts were information about the different names of fishes in different places, exciting fishing adventures, and excursions into the literature of the .
In the meantime Dr. Goode had (1879-1881) prepared the text for a work on the game fishes of the United States, intended to accompany twenty large folio colored plates by S. A. Kilbourne. The collections made by the Fish Commission and the steamers Blake, Albatross, and Fish Hawk were carefully studied by Dr. Goode and Dr. Bean, and the fruits of their labor were put forth in a book in two volumes, with one hundred and twenty-three plates, on Oceanic Ichthyology, a Treatise on the Pelagic and Deep-sea Fishes of the World, which came from the press only about two weeks before Dr. Goode's death. In 1880 Dr. Goode published the story of The First Decade of the United States Fish Commission: its Plan of Work and Accomplished Results, Scientific and Economical. The same subject was presented in a paper read before the American Association at its Boston meeting, 1880, the aim of which was declared to be to show, in a general way, what the commission had done, was doing, and expected to do — "its purposes, methods, and results." In 1881 he published Epochs in the History of Fish Culture, and in 1882 an encyclopædic article on The Fisheries of the World. He was author of the article on Pisciculture in the Encyclopædia Britannica, an admirable presentation, in four pages, of the necessity of special measures for preserving fish and preventing their destruction, and of putting into practice the art of breeding them, with the history of the art and its present condition, in which the part taken by the United States in the fish-cultural enterprises is fully set forth. He had almost completed an elaborate memoir on the distribution of abyssalian fishes, in which he recognized for them a number of different faunal areas — a thing which no previous student of them had done. He had been engaged for some time previous to his death in the preparation of a Half-Century Book of the Smithsonian Institution which he had projected. He contemplated a complete Bibliography of Ichthyology, to include the names of all genera and species published as new, and had collected the materials for it. In this department he completed as part of a series of Bibliographies of American Naturalists, those of Spencer F. Baird (1883) and of Charles Gérard (1891), and one not yet published, but printed, of Philip Lutley Sclater, Secretary of the Zoölogical Society of London and a distinguished ornithologist. A sketch of the life and work of this naturalist, published in Science for September 4, 1896, is, so far as at present appears, his last published article. Other articles, only partly showing the broader range of Dr. Goode's interests, are his two addresses before the Biological Society of Washington, in 1886 and 1887, on The Beginnings of Natural History in America, in which his "diligence in the collection of data and skill in presenting them are well exemplified"; a paper on The Origin of the National Scientific and Educational Institutions of the United States, contributed to the American Historical Association in 1890, in which a connected view is given of the growth of such institutions from their beginning in the attempt of Mr. Boyle, Bishop Wilkins, and others, to establish in the colony of Connecticut a society for promoting knowledge; a paper on Museum History and Museums of History, read before the American Historical Association, in which is included a statement of the author's ideas of what a museum should contain, what purposes it should be intended to serve, and how it should be arranged and managed; and an address before the American Philosophical Society on the one hundredth anniversary of the death of Benjamin Franklin, on that great American's Literary Labors, in which he showed that Franklin never wrote for literary fame, but only for the good he might do by disseminating his thoughts and suggestions. Prof. Goode's contributions to ichthyology, in the Reports of the Fish Commission, Harper's Weekly said in 1887, "are not all of a purely scientific, but for a large part of a practical character. The most thorough and exhaustive researches ever made by any one about a special fish is that on the menhaden, due to Prof. Goode, and is a model of clearness, of industry displayed in collecting the facts, and of practical usefulness. Material furnished by him for the study of the swordfish is of equal value. In connection with Captain Collins, R. E. Earl, and A. Howard Clark, a life history of the mackerel was prepared, which remains to-day one of the completest of treatises on one of the most valuable of American fishes. Prof. Goode's notes on the life history of the eel have settled all questions in regard to the peculiar habits of this fish."
It was Dr. Goode's lot, by virtue of his skill in museum organization, to bear a prominent part in the arrangement and installation of the exhibits of the United States in the various international and general exhibitions which were held during his active career. He was thus associated with the Smithsonian exhibits at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876; at the Fisheries Exhibitions in Berlin in 1880 and London in 188; at New Orleans, Cincinnati, and Louisville; at the Chicago Columbian Exhibition in 1893; at the Columbian Historical Exhibition in Madrid, Spain, in 1892–’93; and at the Atlanta Cotton States Exhibition. In recognition of his services at the Madrid Exhibition he received the Order of Isabella the Catholic, with the grade of commander.
Next to being a zoölogist and particularly an ichthyologist, Dr. Goode was perhaps most eminently an anthropologist. Mr. Gill observes that his catalogues embraced the outlines of a system of anthropological science; and Prof. Otis T. Mason, in a sketch of him in the American Anthropologist, says that in his system of museum classification he insisted that all the sciences of every kind are essentially anthropological. The earth was to be regarded as man's abode, and was studied by him as such, both in its astronomical relations and its geological aspects. In the same way physiographic studies were regarded by him "as leading up to a knowledge of the earth's surface, as ministering to life, and especially to the health and happiness of man"; and meteorological apparatus and phenomena, geographical explorations and voyages, technographic resources, physics, mechanics, chemistry, botany, zoölogy, etc., were all regarded by him predominantly as they bore upon man's life and welfare. "Beyond the material resources of the earth and the forces by which they are regulated and shaped lay in Dr. Goode's scheme the special human industries devoted to the exploration of the earth, the elaboration of materials, the transportation and exchange of productions, and their utilization as well as their enjoyments. From the foregoing studies Dr. Goode's comprehensive plan led up to the social relations of mankind in their material manifestations, then to the intellectual co-operations of mankind as manifested in the arts, sciences, and philosophies, terminating with education, reform, and climaxes of human achievement. This great anthropological syllabus of all knowledge Dr. Goode used as the modulus of his own thoughts and a plan by which he arranged his books, his pictures, his clippings from newspapers, useful facts gathered here and there, and everything of a material nature which he desired to preserve."
He was interested in botany and versed in it, making the study of the flowers one of the attractions of his excursions; an earnest student of all matters pertaining to American history, a delver in genealogy from his boyhood, author of a work on his family history, and one of the editors of the Wesleyan University Alumni Record; one of the founders of the American Historical Association and a member of the Southern Historical Society; was interested in patriotic societies, and an officer of those of the Sons of the Revolution and Colonial Wars. He was a founder of several scientific societies in Washington and a member of others in this country; was a past president of the Philosophical Society and the Biological Society of Washington; was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 1888; had been chosen in the American Association to be vice-president for the Section of Zoölogy at its meeting of 1897; and was a member of the Zoölogical Society of London.
Great as were Dr. Goode's scientific attainments and achievements, his friends and biographers are most emphatic in their testimonials to his personal attractiveness. Prof. S. P. Langley, whose associate he was in the Smithsonian Institution for many years, says, in the memorial he contributed to Science: "I have never known a more perfectly true, sincere, and loyal character than Dr. Goode's; or a man who with a better judgment of other men or greater ability in molding their purposes to his own, used these powers to such uniformly disinterested ends, so that he could maintain the discipline of a great establishment like the National Museum, while retaining the personal affection of every subordinate. . . . His historical powers in grouping incidents and events were akin to genius. His genealogical writings showed wide and accurate research, while his literary faculty displayed itself with singular charm in some of his minor writings. But how futile these words seem to be in describing a man of whom perhaps the best, after all, to be said is that he was not only trusted but beloved by all with an affection that men rarely win from one another!"
Mr. Gill says: "His disposition was a bright and sunny one, and he ingratiated himself in the affections of his friends in a marked degree. . . . But in spite of his gentleness, firmness and vigor in action became manifest when occasion called for them."
Prof. Mason says: "It would be difficult to find among those who are professional anthropologists a man who had a more exalted idea of what this science ought to be. . . . In addition to this comprehensive and appreciative view of anthropology, Dr. Goode was among the foremost scholars in the line of his own studies, and the bibliography of his works fills many pages of manuscript. He was, in addition to this, a good man, with a gentle, affectionate spirit, a lovely family life, a patriotic heart, and a singular devotion to the interest of the public. He never lost sight of the fact that Mr. Smithson's bequest was not only for the ‘increase of knowledge’ to glorify discovery, but for the ‘diffusion of knowledge’ to bless all mankind."
The memorial resolutions of the Biological Section of the New York Academy of Sciences, after referring fittingly to his scientific work, add that "those of us who had the good fortune to know Prof. Goode personally recall his genial interest in the work of others, his true scientific spirit. We have thus lost one of our ablest fellow-workers and one of the truest and best of men."