Some Biogeographers, Evolutionists and Ecologists:
Chrono-Biographical Sketches

Marsh, George Perkins (United States 1801-1882)
philology, physical geography, diplomacy

People who have applied themselves to as wide a range of subjects as Marsh did have been few in number in American history. After graduating from Dartmouth he tried teaching briefly but decided to become a lawyer. This too was unable to fully absorb his attention, but meanwhile he was involving himself in various business commitments and continuing an extraordinary avocation for language and linguistics. By the middle of his life he knew twenty languages and was a leading authority on Scandinavian forms and the history of the English language. His energy and enthusiasm was soon channeled into public service, where he served three terms in Congress and spent over twenty-five years as a foreign minister. Marsh dabbled in other things, often successfully, as well: for example history, architectural design (his most famous structure: the Washington Monument), and tool design. But none of these things is what he is most remembered for today. In 1864 he published his famous study on the deterioration of natural resources, Man and Nature, or Physical Geography as Modified by Human Action. Through this work Marsh became the father of conservation studies by passionately arguing, and demonstrating through example, that humankind was assuming an increasingly important role among the forces shaping the earth's surface environment.

Life Chronology

--born in Woodstock, Vermont, on 15 March 1801.
--1820: graduates B.A. from Dartmouth College with highest honors
--1825: admitted to the bar
--1825-1842: practices law in Vermont; involves himself in various business enterprises
--1838: publishes his A Compendius Grammar of the Old Northern or Icelandic Language
--1843-1849: serves as a Representative in the U. S. Congress; helps found the Smithsonian Institution
--1847: regent, Smithsonian Institution
--1849-1853: serves as U. S. Minister to Turkey
--1856: publishes his The Camel, His Organization, Habits, and Uses...
--1857: publishes report on fisheries expansion in Vermont
--1857-1859: serves as state railroad commissioner in Vermont
--1860-1861: lectures on the English language at Columbia University
--1860: publishes his Lectures on the English Language
--1861-1882: serves as U. S. Minister to Italy
--1862: publishes his The Origin and History of the English Language
--1864: publishes his Man and Nature, or Physical Geography as Modified by Human Action
--dies at Vallombrosa, Italy, on 23 July 1882.

For Additional Information, See:

--Biographical Memoirs, National Academy of Sciences (U.S.A.), Vol. 6 (1909).
--American National Biography, Vol. 14 (1999).
--Biographical Dictionary of American and Canadian Naturalists and Environmentalists (1997).
--Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Vol. 18 (1883): 447-457.
--George Perkins Marsh: Versatile Vermonter (1958).
--George Perkins Marsh, Prophet of Conservation (2000).

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Copyright 2005 by Charles H. Smith. All rights reserved.

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