Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Science: The Early Years of Minnesota's History

History of Science
Edward Hessler

I recently discovered an article on the history of the Minnesota Academy of Natural Sciences (MANS) by Martha C. Bray.

From the Minnesota Academy of Science website.

A few gleanings:

  • The Minnesota Historical Society was created in 1849.
  • The MANS was formed by 11 citizens on January 6, 1873.  The founders had previously considered a narrower and more ponderous name, "Geological, Paleontological, and Archaeological Society of Minnesota". The founders included six medical doctors, a businessman, a mathematics instructor, a dentist, a superintendent of schools, and a scientist.
  • The lone scientist was Newton H. Winchell, director of the geological and natural history survey authorized a year earlier by the state legislature.
  • It's purpose "to observe and investigate natural phenomena; to make collections of specimens illustrating the various departments of science; to name, classify, and preserve same; also, to discuss such questions as shall come within the province of the Academy."
  • The annual fee was five-dollars (not a small sum in those days) and this practice was continued for two decades.
  • At the end of 1873, the membership of the MANS was thirty-two.
  • I love the statement of an earlier contributor who sent fossils to the society. He described his contribution as "geological, bugological, fishological or illogical, I don't know which, but not being an ologist of any kind, I am unable to give the society any information. If Darwin is true, these are the ancestors of the present miners."
  • In 1891, the MANS asked school principals and college professors to comment on the state of science education in Minnesota. The correspondence is in the Academy Papers at the Minnesota Historical Society.
  • In the 1880s membership included a few women, e.g., a skilled mounter of bird skins, a corresponding secretary and a teacher at North Side High School. The total membership at that time was sixty-one.
  • In 1890 the academy provided some support to the University of Michigan for a two-year collecting trip to the Philippine Islands, a collection that came to be known as the Menage Collection. It was a long struggle, especially the financing. In 1894, "Letter from the Menage Scientific Expedition" was published in the Bulletins of the academy.  Another paper "Preliminary Notes on the Birds and Mammals Collected by the Menage Scientific Expedition to the Philippine Islands" followed in the first, and only, Occasional Papers.
  • Specimens from the Menage expedition were exhibited in the Minneapolis public library.  Admission was ten cents for adults and five cents for children.  It was well attended in the first nine weeks. The amount collected was $358.85, sufficient  enough to to hire and pay a curator.
  • A membership decline occurred during the period of the Menage expedition and the membership fee was reduced to three dollars. However, even with this a letter written in 1897 noted that "people are not falling over each other in their zeal to identify themselves with the organization."
  • In 1899 the American Association for the Advancement of Science made local group affiliation possible.  This did not attract the notice of the academy.
  • In 1904, the annual dues were again reduced, this time from three dollars to one dollar in an effort to renew interest in the organization. However, by 1910 the organization was essentially moribund.
  • The organization was officially dissolved in 1928.
  • In 1932 the current Minnesota Academy of Sciences (MAS) was organized, an affiliate of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.  MAS never had an link with Minnesota's first academy.

The complete essay may be read on-line.

No comments:

Post a Comment