By Ron Divelbiss
Today many girls and boys love to walk along the edge of a creek or watch a hawk soar overhead. But back when the science of studying nature was new, most naturalists were men.
Many naturalists started their study of nature as young boys. They liked frogs and worms and other wiggle things.
Louis Agassiz, the famous Swiss-American naturalist and geologist, as a boy caught fish and put them in a drinking fountain to study them. His later studies of fish were world-renowned.
Edward D. Cope, a great American paleontologist, at seven went with his father on a voyage and drew pictures of the jellyfish and other marine animals he saw.
David Starr Jordan (who later became President of Stanford University) at the age of thirteen listed all the plants in his neighborhood and then learned all the constellations in the northern hemisphere.
Sometimes these young naturalists had rather funny experiences. It is said that Charles Darwin as a boy was once collecting insects and ran out of containers to put them in so he carried one precious bug home in his mouth.
Our great naturalist President, Theodore Roosevelt, as a teenager, had a similar experience only much more embarrassing. He was collecting specimens along the river with some friends. When he found he had no more room in any of his bulging pockets, which were already crammed with frogs, toads, snakes and insects of all sorts, he stuck the last frog under his hat. On the way up the river bank the boys came upon the Honorable Hamilton Fish and his wife. Poor Teddy tipped his hat and lost both his frog and his dignity, and in the process scared Mrs. Hamilton out of her wits.
Not all those who study nature have the chance to become professional naturalists, so most of us are amateurs. However, a large part of the world’s knowledge has been gathered by the amateur naturalist.