Popular Science Monthly/Volume 67/May 1905/Alpheus Spring Packard

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

PSM V67 D048 Alpheus Spring Packard.png
Alpheus Spring Packard.

By Professor A. D. Mead,


ANOTHER American naturalist of the generation and the type to which belonged Leidy, Cope, Baird, Goode and Hyatt has passed away, Alpheus Spring Packard, professor of zoology and geology at Brown University.

His lineage of sturdy, scholarly men, his academic heritage from great naturalists and the freshness of natural history in America at the time he commenced his career are all perceptible in the sterling quality and the wide range of his life work. The grandfather of the naturalist, the Rev. Dr. Hezekiah Packard, was a revolutionary soldier and fought at Bunker Hill. He received from Harvard College the degrees of A.B., A.M. and D.D. and was an eminent preacher, teacher and writer. The Rev. Dr. Jesse Appleton, one of the early presidents of Bowdoin College, was Professor Packard's maternal grandfather. His father, Alpheus Spring Packard, was a member of the Bowdoin faculty for sixty-five years and served the college successively as tutor, professor of ancient languages and classic literature, of rhetoric and oratory, of natural and revealed religion; as librarian and as acting president. He was an author and a revered teacher; it was of him that Longfellow wrote in his Morituri Salutamus delivered at the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the poet's class,

"they all are gone
Into the land of Shadows,—all save one,
Honor and reverence, and the good repute
That follows faithful service as its fruit,
Be unto him, whom living we salute."

Professor Packard was born at Brunswick, Maine, February 19, 1839, and died at his home in Providence, February 11, 1905, after an illness of about six weeks. He entered Bowdoin College at the age of eighteen. In his senior year he commenced the serious pursuit of investigations in natural history and continued it with unremitting zeal until the very week of his death, when he insisted upon correcting the proof of his last memoir, published by the National Academy, of which he had long been a distinguished member. While an undergraduate student he enjoyed the friendship and the inspiring instruction of Dr. Paul A. Chadbourne, who was afterwards president of Williams College. It was through him that Packard joined the Williams College Expedition to Greenland and Labrador in 1860, and to him, many years later, he dedicated his book 'The Labrador Coast,' with grateful acknowledgment of the encouragement and many kindnesses he had received from him in early student days. Three years of graduate study (1861-64) with Louis Agassiz at Cambridge not only brought Packard under the influence of this great naturalist and scientific missionary to America, but brought him naturally into close touch with that older generation of 'lawgivers' who had passed away, but with whom Agassiz had worked; Oken, Humboldt, Cuvier Lamarck and St. Hilaire. The momentum gathered through the labors of these men in what we should call now general natural science was passed on through Agassiz to his many pupils who have rendered such splendid service to natural science in this country, Alexander Agassiz, Hyatt, Packard, Putnam, Morse, Wilder, Brooks, Verrill, Allen, Scudder, Whitman and Jordan.

To these young men American geology and the American fauna, living and extinct, offered extensive and rich choice in fields of research. Packard chose them all and has left his mark upon them all: geology; paleontology; systematic, structural and economic zoology; embryology, and even anthropology. At Cambridge while he was studying with Agassiz he was also pursuing a course in medicine—as Agassiz himself had done in Munich more than thirty years before—and received his S.B. from Harvard and his M.D. from Bowdoin (the Maine Medical School) in the same year, 1864. With respect to theoretical biology Agassiz's laboratory was an interesting place during this period following the publication of Darwin's 'Origin of Species.' Uncritical acceptance of the doctrine of organic evolution would have been impossible in view of Agassiz's attitude toward this 'notion. . . ever returning upon us with hydra-headed tenacity of life, and presenting itself under a new form as soon as the preceding one has been exploded and set aside. . . .' The theoretical phase of biology appealed strongly to Packard and to it he devoted much time and study, especially after the year 1870. He was an ardent admirer of Lamarck, adopted many of his ideas and applied them to new material; and with Cope and Hyatt founded the school of evolutionary thought for which he proposed the name Neo-Lamarckian. To all these subjects, except medicine, Packard contributed papers, memoirs, general books or text-books, and upon them all, except medicine, he lectured to his classes in Brown University.

His geological researches began with his student trip to Labrador in 1860. From these and later studies in Labrador (1864) several articles resulted; among them were the 'Glacial Phenomena of Maine and Labrador' (1866) and the book already referred to, 'The Labrador Coast' (1891). While assistant on the Maine Geological Survey 1861-62, he made discoveries of fossils in the Fish River Region which determined the age of these rocks. About five years later, 1867, he discovered the glacial striæ radiating from Mt. Washington. In 1867 he published a 'Revision of the Fossorial Hymenoptera of North America' and in 1882 the text-book 'First Lessons in Geology.' Many other geological papers have come from his pen.

His zoological articles, especially those on insects, far outnumbered those upon other subjects. Professor Samuel Henshaw in 'The Entomological writings of Alpheus Spring Packard' enumerates three hundred and thirty-nine papers, books and notes published up to 1887; among them the 'Monograph of the Geometrid Moths' 1876, the text-books, 'A Guide to the Study of Insects' 1869, which ran through eight editions in the next fifteen years, 'Insects of the West' 1877, 'Our Common Insects' 1876, 'Half Hours with Insects' 1877. Many important works upon insects have come from his pen since that date. These include the well-known monograph on the Bombycine Moths, 1895, and the text-books 'Entomology for Beginners' 1888, 'Forest and Shade Tree Insects' 1888, and the 'Text-Book of Entomology' 1898. During the last year three insect articles were completed. One of these, his last paper, is a large 'Monograph of the Bombycine Moths of America, including their Transformations and Origin of the Larval Markings and Armature' which will appear as a Memoir of the National Academy of Sciences.

Professor Packard was known through many articles and books on zoological subjects outside the field of entomology. 'The Development and Anatomy of Limulus Polyphemus' 1871, 'The Monograph of North American Phyllopod Crustacea' 1883, the 'Life History of Animals, including Man, or Outlines of Comparative Embryology' 1876, the 'Zoology for Students and General Readers' 1879, 'The Cave Fauna of North America' 1888, are some of the books which brought to naturalists and students new data or new arrangements and treatment of subjects which were highly appreciated. To-day, amid the profusion of newer text-books, it is not easy to accord to these older works their full merit or to realize their true value. Regarding the 'Life History of Animals,' Kingsley says it i was the first attempt since the day of Agassiz's Lowell Institute Lectures to summarize the facts of Embryology'; and of the 'Zoology' he says, it 'was the first attempt to give American students a truly scientific text-book in which morphology and classification were given equal prominence.'

Anthropological and ethnological investigations he followed with keen interest, and contributed to these subjects several miscellaneous notes and papers.

Of his general books that on 'Lamarck, the Founder of Evolution, His Life and Work,' 1901, is especially noteworthy. The work was the result of years of study, interpretation and defense of Lamarck's writing, and of a journey to France for the purpose of looking up the records of Lamarck's private and professional life. In this portrayal of Lamarck there may be perceived something of the personal loyalty, esteem and almost affectionate regard which Professor Packard unconsciously but inevitably showed in conversing about the 'founder of evolution.' These conversations about Lamarck and other naturalists of the past were one of the many things which revealed to Packard's friends his own unconscious genuineness. The absolute absorption of his interests by natural science made the persons, events and facts connected with it as real and natural as each day's life.

The quiet reticence which characterized Packard did not grow out of a life of contemplation without action and contact with things and men. Prom his student days he had actively participated in expeditions, commissions, surveys, foreign and domestic travel and in the founding of scientific institutions. At the end of his junior year in college, he went with Chadbourne on the Greenland and Labrador Expedition. In his senior year he went with a class on a trip to the Bay of Fundy. Immediately after his graduation, in 1861-62, he explored the wilderness of northern Maine as assistant on the Geological Survey of that state. He enlisted as assistant surgeon in the First Maine Veteran Volunteers which joined the Army of the Potomac in 1861. He joined a party organized by a Mr. William Bradford in the summer of 1864 and paid a second visit to Labrador. In 1867 he was examining the glacial traces in the White Mountains. The animals of the Florida reefs and of the Beaufort, N. C., flats engaged his attention in 1869-70, and the next year we find him studying the development of Crustacea and collecting fossil mollusca in Charleston, S. C. In 1871 he was appointed Massachusetts state entomologist, a position which he held three years. Meanwhile he visited Europe and spent much time in the study of insects at the British Museum. The summer of 1873 found him working again with Agassiz, as a teacher in the Anderson School of Natural History at Penikese. He returned the next year to the school and for a time was the dean of its faculty. He held an appointment from 1875 to 1877 as one of the zoologists on the United States Geological Survey under Ferdinand V. Hayden, and from 1877 to 1882 was a member of the United States Entomological Commission. In the latter capacity he made extensive trips in the western part of the United States, investigating the breeding grounds and distribution of the Rocky Mountain locust. In 1874 he was appointed on the Kentucky Geological Survey, and with Putnam made explorations of the great caves and observations upon the cave fauna which laid the foundations of his later works upon these subjects. He visited Mexico in 1885, Cuba in 1886, and in 1889 traveled in Morocco, Algeria, Egypt and Europe, arriving in Paris to attend the meetings of the International Zoological Congress of which he was elected an honorary president.

In the course of his long and active career he was associated with many American institutions and took a prominent part in the founding of some of them. After his service in the army he became librarian and acting custodian of the Boston Society of Natural History 186566. Then with his friends, Hyatt, Morse, Putnam and Cooke, he accepted a position in the Essex Institute in Salem which was at that time a thriving and important scientific institution. When the Peabody Academy of Science in Salem was founded in 1868 and absorbed the Essex Institute, Packard became its curator of Invertebrates and later, in 1876, was elected director of the academy. It was this group of fellow students, Packard, Hyatt, Morse and Putnam, who in 1868 founded the American Naturalist, and Packard remained its editor-in-chief for twenty years. While curator at the Peabody Institute, he lectured on entomology in the Massachusetts State College, 1869-77, in the Maine Agricultural College, 1871, and on natural history in Bowdoin College, 1871-74.

Packard was also prominently connected with a novel undertaking which has proved to be of inestimable value in the development of biological science in America. The Anderson School of Natural History at Penikese Island was inaugurated by Louis Agassiz in 1873; here Packard taught for two years and then, when this school was given up on account of Agassiz's death, Packard perpetuated the idea by establishing a summer school of biology at Salem under the auspices of the Peabody Academy. He directed this laboratory until 1878, when he left Salem to accept the professorship of zoology and geology at Brown University. The cherished idea of the seaside laboratory of natural history then took form in the Annisquam laboratory established through the efforts of Packard's colleague Professor Hyatt, under the auspices of the Woman's Education Society of Boston, and this experiment in turn led the way to the establishment of the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole. This institution, directed for so many years by a Penikese student, Dr. C. O. Whitman, and the United States Fish Commission laboratory at Woods Hole, established by Professor Spencer F. Baird. a teacher at the Penikese school, have not only afforded inspiration and opportunity for research to hundreds of biologists, but have given birth to scores of similar laboratories on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

From the colleges in which he was a student Packard received the degrees of A.B., Bowdoin, 1861; A.M., Bowdoin, 1862; M.D., Bowdoin, 1864; S.B., Harvard, 1864; Ph.D., Bowdoin, 1879; LL.D., Bowdoin, 1891.

The value of Packard's work can not be best estimated and, perhaps, is not fully appreciated by the younger generation of morphologists and physiologists, whose energies are absorbed in the amazing elaboration of cell studies; it must be left to 'the judgment of his confrères.' From these men of many countries have come unequivocal tokens of approval. The American Academy of Sciences elected him to membership in 1872, the Société Royale des Sciences de Liège, Belgium, in 1875; the Society of Friends of Natural Science in Moscow, in 1891. In 1901 he was elected a foreign member of the Linnean Society of London. In this distinction he once more renewed the comradeship of his fellow students and collaborators at Penikese, Alexander Agassiz and C. O. Whitman, who were the only other American zoological members. He was elected to membership in the entomological societies of London, Paris, St. Petersburg, Stockholm and Brussels; was one of the honorary presidents of the International Zoological Congress at Paris, and honorary president of the Zoological Section of the French Association for the Advancement of Science, and in 1898 was vice-president of the Zoological Section of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

In the latter years of his teaching, his colleagues and the students of the university where for twenty-six years he had held a professorship awarded him tokens of esteem rarely bestowed upon their colleagues and teachers. The members of the faculty constrained him to attend a banquet held in his honor, at which the address of his lifelong friend, Professor Hyatt, completed his modest confusion. A loving cup recently presented to him by his class in zoology was valued by the distinguished, genial teacher above the diplomas of many learned societies.

Professor Packard was not quite sixty-six years of age, but his active scientific career extended over a period of forty-five years, and during that time he published upwards of four hundred books and papers. He married, in 1867, Elizabeth Debby, daughter of the late Samuel B. Walcott, of Salem, who, with two daughters and a son, survives him.