The Oddest Of Characters

Slovenly, impulsive, impoverished, and grotesque, Constantine Samuel Rafinesque was the greatest naturalist of his age. But nobody knew it.

It is quite fitting,” wrote a Philadelphia journalist in 1804, “that the name ‘Rafinesque’ rhymes with ‘picturesque’ and ‘grotesque,’ because so the little man is.” The subject was a struggling twenty-one-year-old scientist named Constantine Samuel Rafinesque, who actually was a rather attractive fellow when he was neatly groomed and at ease and in a good humor, but that was not often. Read more »

The “American Woodsman”

As the frontier moved westward and wildlife declined, the tireless Audubon drove himself to record its wonders

Audubon never did become a conservationist as the word is understood these days. Even as he picked oft his huge toll of feathered specimens, he was aware that his beloved frontier world was rapidly vanishing about him. He did not pretend to say whether the changes were for the better or for the worse. He only knew with passionate conviction that no one coming after him would ever have the same opportunity to record the birds of North America in their primeval haunts, and that realization drove him mercilessly to finish his inventory before it was too late.

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