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Chrono-Biographical Sketches

Cooper, James Graham (United States 1830-1902)
natural history


Cooper was the son of the prominent amateur naturalist William Cooper (1798-1864). After finishing his medical studies and practicing for a short period of time in New York City, the younger Cooper took on the first of several assignments over the next twenty years that would see him making natural history collections over a good portion of the U. S., though especially in the Far West. Cooper investigated the gamut of natural history subjects: geology, paleontology, botany, ethnology, and zoology (especially, birds, mammals, and fresh water molluscs). By about 1875 most of his collecting days were over (a result of the combination of declining health and an inability to find natural history-related employment), but through the 1890s he was still producing various systematic studies based on his earlier activities. Cooper was one of the first American naturalists to give attention to the characteristics of geographical distribution of his subjects; he is especially known for his early efforts in ornithogeography and his attempts to link the distribution of North American vegetation to underlying climatological causes.

Life Chronology

--born in New York, on 19 June 1830.
--1851: M.D., College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York
--1851-1853: physician at New York City Hospital
--1853-1855: works as physician and naturalist in Washington Territory for the Pacific Railroad Survey Expedition
--1856: practices medicine in Orange, New Jersey
--1856-1861: travels/collects in various U. S. locations
--1858: made a member of the New York Lycaeum
--1859: publishes "On the Distribution of the Forests and Trees of North America, with Notes on Its Physical Geography" in the Smithsonian Institution Annual Report for 1858
--1861-1874: collects natural history specimens along the West Coast and in California and the Colorado Valley
--1862: moves to Oakland, CA
--1864-1865: serves as surgeon in the waning months of the Civil War
--1866-1890: works as physician in several California locations
--1867: publishes his Geographical Catalogue of the Mollusca Found West of the Rocky Mountains
--1870: publishes "The Fauna of California and Its Geographical Distribution" in the Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences
--1871-1875: resides in Ventura County, CA
--1875: moves to Haywards, CA
--1893: Cooper Ornithological Club organized in his honor
--1894: publishes his Catalogue of Californian Fossils
--dies in Haywards, CA, on 19 July 1902.

For Additional Information, See:

--The Nautilus, Vol. 16(7) (1902): 73-75.
--Biographical Dictionary of American and Canadian Naturalists and Environmentalists (1997).
--James Graham Cooper, Pioneer Western Naturalist (1982).
--Dictionary of American Biography, Vol. 4 (1930).
--American National Biography, Vol. 5 (1999).
--The Condor, Vol. 88(3) (1986): 402-403.
--Bulletin of the Cooper Ornithological Club, Vol. 1(1) (1899): 1-5.

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Copyright 2007 by Charles H. Smith. All rights reserved.

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