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Science at Harvard University: Historical Perspectives, edited by Clark A. Elliott and Margaret W. Rossiter. Lehigh University Press, Bethlehem, 1992

Author:

Andrew L. Christenson

Prescott, Arizona, US
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Abstract

This volume contains historical studies of several sciences as practiced at Harvard University. Two of these studies have relevance to the history of archaeology.

A chapter by Toby Appel focuses upon the scientific career of Jeffries Wyman, first curator of Harvard's Peabody Museum. She contrasts Wyman's unassuming character with the dominating personality of his mentor and contemporary Louis Agassiz. Trained as a medical doctor, Wyman's main love was zoology, particularly comparative anatomy. In his mid-40s, he encountered his first shell midden and was bitten by the archaeology bug. Soon he was doing pioneering excavation in both New England and Florida. In 1866, he was selected to be the curator of the Peabody Museum, primarily upon his strong museum background but also because of the high regard with which he was held by certain influential people. His selection to this position may have made him America's first professional archaeologist.

His principal responsibilities were to collect and display archaeological and ethnological specimens and he made great steps in this direction prior to his death in 1874. Wyman's scientific work was poorly known or studied (he is best noted for having made the first scientific description of the gorilla), in part, Appel argues, because he did not seek acclaim or controversy. His greatest influence was locally through personal interactions with students and colleagues. His archaeological work is only briefly discussed in this and the following article, and there is still much to be written about this man of high character.

How to Cite: Christenson, A.L., (1992). Science at Harvard University: Historical Perspectives, edited by Clark A. Elliott and Margaret W. Rossiter. Lehigh University Press, Bethlehem, 1992. Bulletin of the History of Archaeology. 2(1), pp.17–19. DOI: http://doi.org/10.5334/bha.02104
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Published on 03 May 1992.

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