Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 81.djvu/279

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273
GEORGE MARCGRAVE

book that they must have been printed from the same blocks, or that both sets of blocks must have been made from the same paintings. It is of course possible that this "certain young man" was Marcgrave himself.

These then are the scientific fruits of the life of George Marcgrave. Of his "Progymnastica Mathematica Americana" but a fragment remains. His splendid "Historiæ Rerum Naturalium Brasiliæ" was edited by an alien hand. His magnificent natural history drawings, the like of which the world had never seen before, were lost to the world for 150 years. His splendid collections were scattered to the four winds. His fate is surely a melancholy one. Cut off at the age of 34 at the very zenith of his powers, what a loss to the world. Recall the results of his six and one half years in Brazil. What would it have meant to science to have had him edit his own MSS., publish his own drawings, describe his own collections; in short, to have published his projected great "Natural History of Brazil," which was intended to embrace the inhabitants of the air, the land and the water, and of which but these splendid fragments remain, a mighty memorial to his genius. Well may Lichtenstein call them a "precious legacy," and ask if another country has ever had in its first exploration such a full and exhaustive account of its natural history. To quote further from Lichtenstein:

These. . . are. . . only a small part of what he would have accomplished in a longer life, and are an example of the pitiable fate which brought to an early end such an able student of science. How many errors, how many empty surmises, how many useless debates, we would have been spared if Marcgrave himself had been able to arrange and communicate his observations.

Had he lived, the present writer believes that our knowledge of the natural things of Brazil would have been more advanced in the year 1650 than it was in the year 1800.

After escaping the dangers of the deep, the accidents and epidemics of the camp and the siege (on two occasions of which he barely escaped with his life), after coming safely through the perils of forest and flood, of fever and wild beasts and poisonous snakes and cannibal savages, this able man came to his death of endemic fever in that pest hole of all the ages, the Gold Coast of west Africa, To die, at 34 years, at the zenith of his power, to leave unfinished his great work, what a loss to the world! Well may Lichtenstin call him one of the great heroes of science.

 
BIBLIOGRAPHY
1884. Article Marcgrave—in Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie. Leipzig.
1717. Anonymous. . . . Ausser diesem Ost-Indianischen Wercke ist in der Konigl. Bibliotheck auch ein West-Indianisches unter folgendem Titel enthalten: Theatrum rerum naturalium Brasiliae, imagines, etc. Neue Zeitungen von Gelehrten Sachen, Erster Theil, No. IV., pp. 29 and 30.
1647. Barlaeus, Caspar. Rerum per octennium in Brasilia et alibi nuper Gestarum, Historia, pp. 330-331. Amsterdam. Also Cleve, 1660, pp. 559.