Friday, February 1, 2013

Important Iowans: Samuel J. Calvin

Samuel J. Calvin
(February 2, 1840 - April 17, 1911)

--A renowned geologist and State University of Iowa professor, he was born in Wigtonshire, Scotland. In 1851 the family moved to a farm near Saratoga, New York, then within a few years to Buchanan County, Iowa. An excellent student, Samuel taught school in nearly Quasqueton at age 16. On the Iowa frontier, he reveled in exploring the vanishing native prairie landscape.


While teaching at Lenox, Calvin forged a strong friendship with a student, Thomas Macbride. The two took regualr field trips to explore the flora and geology of the surrounding prairies. Calvin left Lenox in 1869 to be a school principal in Dubuque, but he and Macbride continued their field trips, which soon ranged across the state of Iowa and throughout the United States and into Canada.

As Calvin's teaching reputation grew, the State University of Iowa invited him to deliver a series of lectures. They were so well received that in 1873 the university invited Calvin to serve on the faculty in natural sciences and as curator of the University Cabinet, the school's collection of geological specimens, fossils, and mounted animals and birds. Calvin combined lectures with laboratory and fieldwork, the latter two applied elements controversial among professors at the time. Calvin also employed photography in his teaching, becoming a renowned photographer and amassing a collection of 7,000 photos. As his lectures earned a stellar reputation, many students attended to observe their rhetorical and literary craft. Calvin's published writing also became known for its aesthetic eloquence as well as its scientific precision. Calvin took seriously his role as public scholar, seeing geology as both scientific and cultural pursuit, a subject for specialization as well as general education. He became well known across the state for his public "illustrated talks" (with slides) given before all manner of clubs and schools, predating all university's development of a formal extension program.

The Biographical Dictionary of Iowa, by David Hudson, Marvin Bergman, Loren Horton

Monday, January 28, 2013

Making Ice

Making ice the old-fashioned way in Victor.

Photo from Was This Heaven?, by Lyell D. Henry, Jr.