In Dana's journeyings he had to surmount hardship and peril, and to meet the coldness of those who knew not the value of the quest which he pursued. He and his contemporaries were like the knights errant of chivalry, devoting their lives to an ideal. They were men of faith, who combined the spirit of the missionary and the inspiration of the poet with the clear vision of the observer.
The largeness of Dana's work was commensurate with the largeness of his inspiration. It fell to his lot not only to fill out many pages of the record of the building of the world, as written in the fossil life of America, but to show in important ways the methods by which that building was accomplished. His creative brain never rested content with mere description of facts. He had the more distinctively modern impulse to reconstruct the process by which those facts were brought to pass. From his observations of coral islands in the various stages of their growth he deduced a geologic principle of world-wide importance. It is this characteristic which makes the great modern German school of geologists headed by Suess look to Dana as their precursor, more than to any other man of his generation.
He was not content with the work of discovery alone. The teaching spirit was strong within him. The pioneers in science needed editors and expositors who should make their results known. In each of these capacities Dana's achievements were phenomenal. Of his work as an editor, he has left the files of The American Journal of Science as a monument. Of his work as an expositor those who have heard his lectures and attended his class-room exercises can speak with unbounded enthusiasm. He was one of the rare men who by presence and voice and manner could bring the truths and ideals of science home even to those pupils with whom scientific study could never be more than an incident in their lives.
But above all his works and above all his qualities stands the figure of Dana himself—more than an explorer, more than a discoverer, more than a teacher; his countenance, as it were, illuminated by a touch of the light of a new day for which the world was being prepared.
His life was gentle; and the elements
So mixed in him that Nature might stand forth
And say to all the world, 'This was a man.'
Spencer Fullerton Baird
By Dr. HUGH M. SMITH
The life, the character, the work of Spencer Fullerton Baird entitle him to recognition in any assemblage and on any occasion where honor is to be paid to those who have been their county's benefactors through illustrious achievements in science.