Matthew Laubacher

Ph.D. Candidate
Department of History
Arizona State University

2008 to 2009
Dissertation Research Fellow

Assessing the Role of European Thought: The Culture of Collecting in 19th-Century American Natural History

The 19th century saw the birth and organization of the natural sciences, including natural history the United States. In this project I will be looking at three components of American natural history in the late 19th century. First, I am assessing the role that European systematics played within American natural history. Secondly, I seek to identify those that acted as natural history collectors in the late 19th century, and to assess the interactions between professional natural historians and those that worked to collect specimens for surveys and natural history museums. The archives of these naturalists—such as Angelo Heilprin, C. Hart Merriam, Joseph Leidy, Charles Eastwick Smith—will be examined to identify their collecting contacts and corresponding collecting networks. Thirdly, the networks themselves will be analyzed in order to describe their inherent culture, as well as to assess the role that European thought played for the collectors themselves. My research will draw on the manuscript archives at both the American Philosophical Society as well as the Academy of Natural Sciences, two of the main nexuses of 19th-century natural history, and the collections of The Wagner Free Institute of Science. Read Matthew's report on the research he conducted during his fellowship.