Nuttall Club in the New York Times

November 29, 2011 • 1:02 pm

by Greg Mayer

To show I don’t hold a grudge against birds, I’d like to point out that the New York Times today has a fine article by Cornelia Dean on the Nuttall Ornithological Club, the oldest ornithological society in the country, based at Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology. Theodore Roosevelt, one of the few (only?) presidents to publish scientific papers, was a member.

Woodpeckers form the MCZ collection on display for the Nuttall Club. Top to bottom: imperial, ivory-billed, and pileated. MCZ photo.

The Club’s journal, the Bulletin of the Nuttall Ornithological Club began publishing in 1876, and in 1884 was taken over by the American Ornithologist’s Union as The Auk, which is to this day arguably the world’s premier bird journal, rivaled only by the British Ornithological Union‘s Ibis.

  Volume 1 of the Bulletin is available at the Biodiversity Heritage Library here, and the other volumes, also at BHL, are available here. (The BHL is a great resource for older biological literature. Its coverage is hit and miss, and its searches a bit clunky, but items it has are in high quality pdf scans. Whole volumes are scanned as single documents, so they have to be electronically ‘cut up’ to get single articles or numbers as pdfs.) The Auk is available through 2001 on another fabulous website, the Searchable Ornithological Research Archive (SORA), which contains pdfs of most North American ornithological journals up to about 1999-2008 (varying by journal).

The Club currently publishes two monograph series, Publications of the Nuttall Ornithological Club, and the Memoirs of the Nuttall Ornithological Club; several issues of both are on the shelf to my right as I type this.

20 thoughts on “Nuttall Club in the New York Times

  1. Funny you should mention woodpeckers…there’s one in the neighborhood that’s been making quite a racket the past few days. Not with head-banging…s/he’s got quite a raucous call.


  2. The two (probably) extinct species remind me that it’s about time to take a trip to the Field Museum to see their taxidermy displays. There’s some fascinating stuff there, but it generally loses out to the dinos and mummies. Probably because it is essentially the same display as when I was a kid, and I take it for granted.

    1. As Dominic (who in turn got there ahead of me :)) highlights in his link, Jefferson’s paper was read before the american Philosophical society on March 10, 1797, and published in 1799. Do we imagine Dick Cheney presenting a scientific paper the week he became vice-president? Dan Quayle? Spiro Agnew? Alben W. Barkley? “Cactus Jack” Nance Garner?
      A PDF facsimile of Jefferson’s memoir is available courtesy of JSTOR:

        1. I loved the previous article – Mode of Drying Marshes –
          “every blaft from thefe two oppofite points will ventilate 200 miles of country, bearing along the fumes of all the marfhes, while the great vifto or avenue fkirted with wood at both fides would furniflh the moft falubrious and confequently valuable fituation for fettlers.”

  3. Wow. I didn’t realize how much bigger the IBW was than the pileated. And the imperial – which I’ve never heard of – is huge.

    1. The Imperial Ivorybill was one of the most spectacular birds in the world. It lived in northern Mexico. George Plimpton wrote a great article in the 1977 Audubon magazine about his search (accompanied by Victor Emanuel and John Rowlett) for the last individuals. The title was “Un gran pedazo de carne.”
      Plimpton, G. (1977) Un gran pedazo de carne. Audubon Mag. 79 (6): 10–25.

  4. FWIW, maybe not a scientific paper in the usual sense, but in addition to the successful translation of De Re Metallica with his wife, mentioned here not that long ago, Herbert Hoover wrote Principles of Mining (193pp, McGraw-Hill, 1909).

    1. He was interested in things biological, too, and while Secy Commerce in the 20’s was twice president of the Izaak Walton League. His address on assuming that presidency was published in book form in 1930 as A Remedy For Disappearing Game Fishes. (As Commerce Secretary he lobbied, among other things, for restrictions on offshore fishing.)

        1. Yep, from the progressive wing back then. I read his 3-part Memoirs back when W was still president and at times almost wanted to cry at the contrast. He headed relief efforts to get food thru the British blockade and into Europe during WWI (without claiming to be on a mission from God) and as a result the word ‘hooveri’, meaning generosity, apparently entered the Finnish lexicon (I’m curious if it’s still used there).

          Coincidentally, his last literary achievement, his Magnum Opus, which has been embargoed for nearly 50yrs since his death, was only released this month. Over 900pgs, but I plan to read it.

    2. I didn’t know about Hoover. I was going to mention Carter. He has a BS from the Naval Academy (from 1946, when all their degrees were generalized engineering degrees), and spent his last year in the Navy in the nuclear submarine program under Rickover. During that year he spent time at the Atomic Energy Commission and doing some graduate work. He also was involved cleaning up a damaged reactor in Canada. He taught nuclear engineering to sailors, but resigned before his sub was completed. Not sure if he ever wrote anything, but he was certainly highly literate technologically and in at least some areas of science.


      1. And (I think this is right), Carter was the first seriously agricultural president since the early Virginia plantation presidents.

        One last bit re. Hoover and things in the plant kingdom. His wife enjoyed collecting samples of the local flora around his fishing camp on the Rapidan River. She would take them back to the camp for guests to try to identify.

        Three remaining cabins at the camp have been restored and can be visited from Shenandoah Nat’l Park. It’s a nice ~1.5 mi hike.

      2. Two accurately-aimed emails later, and now just for the sake of getting all of this in one place, HH authored these two journal pieces relating to De Re Metallica:
        ‘Theories of ore deposition prior to the 17th century’ Mining and Scientific Press 105 (1912), 430.
        ‘Notes on the development of mining law’ Engineering and Mining Journal 94 (1912), 823-825.

        Further, I have pdfs of a bibliography of some two dozen further articles he published, mostly in mining journals and that I’m going to try to get put online. But, there’s one in Science 20: 716 (1904) that’s flanked by a piece by William Sydney Thayer and a review by RA Millikan. Nice company.

        And, speeches he gave after leaving the presidency, from 1933-1960, have been collected in eight volumes as Addresses Upon the American Road. I haven’t dug thru them yet, but per one of his archivists, he frequently spoke on the “importance of science, basic research and engineering.”

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