Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 17.djvu/703

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SKETCH OF JOSEPH LEIDY.

ent promises." The promises have been fulfilled. The young man of 1849 has gone ahead, and is now the most distinguished naturalist of America.

Joseph Leidy was born in Philadelphia, September 9, 1823. His father, Philip Leidy, was a native of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, and his ancestors on both sides were Germans from the valley of the Rhine.

His taste for natural history was exhibited at a very early age, and received judicious encouragement from the master of the school where he acquired the rudiments of an English education. In his leisure moments he, like many other boys of his age, was fond of collecting colored pebbles and curiously shaped leaves long before he had ever heard the words mineralogy and botany. An itinerant lecturer, who described himself as belonging to he "Universal Lyceum," having one day been permitted to deliver a discourse to the school on minerals, his remarks being illustrated by specimens of quartz, mica, feldspar, etc., the boy's interest was so actively engaged that he procured for himself text-books of mineralogy and botany, and began the systematic study of the two branches without any further encouragement or assistance.

At the age of sixteen he left school, with the intention of becoming an artist, as his father proposed. It is evident, therefore, that the remarkable talent as a draughtsman, which has been of such service to Dr. Leidy in his scientific work, was apparent at this early age, and it is not improbable that the world in gaining a brilliant naturalist has lost a distinguished artist. In the mean time, however, much of his leisure had been passed in a wholesale drug-store near his home. His time here was so well spent that the proprietor did not hesitate, when an opportunity offered, to recommend him as competent to take temporary charge of a retail drug-store belonging to a customer. He was encouraged, by his success in filling the trust thus reposed in him, to study the properties and art of compounding drugs as a profession.

His study of nature while thus occupied had not been neglected. To botany and mineralogy he had added comparative anatomy, his first practical studies in that branch having been made on an ancient barn-door fowl and a common earthworm. So absorbed did he become in his anatomical studies, that at the suggestion of his mother, and with the consent of his father, he gave up all intention of becoming either artist or apothecary, and resolved to devote himself to that profession which would afford him the best opportunity of pursuing those studies from which it was now evident he could not easily withdraw himself.

In the autumn of 1840, therefore, he began the study of medicine, devoting his first year to practical anatomy. Having entered the office of Dr. Paul B. Goddard, he attended three full courses of lectures in the University of Pennsylvania, presented a thesis on "The Com-