Cultures of collection in late nineteenth century American natural history
Natural history is, and was, dependent upon the collection of specimens. In the nineteenth century, American naturalists and institutions of natural history cultivated and maintained extensive collection networks comprised of numerous collectors that provided objects of natural history for study. Effective networks were collaborative in nature, with naturalists such as Spencer Baird of the Smithsonian trading their time and expertise for specimens. The incorporation of Darwinian and Neo-Lamarckian evolutionary theory into natural history in the middle of the century led to dramatic changes in the relationship between naturalists and collectors, as naturalists sought to reconcile their observations within the new evolutionary context. This dissertation uses the careers of collectors Robert Kennicott, Frank Stephens, Edward W. Nelson, E.A. Goldman, and Edmund Heller as case studies in order to evaluate how the changes in the theoretical framework of late nineteenth century natural history led to advances in field practice by assessing how naturalists trained their collectors to meet new demands within the field. Research focused on the correspondence between naturalists and collectors, along with the field notes and applicable publications by collectors. I argue that the changes in natural history necessitated naturalists training their collectors in the basics of biogeography - the study of geographic distribution of organisms, and systematics - the study of the diversity of life - leading to a collaborative relationship in which collectors played an active role in the formation of new biological knowledge. The project concludes that the changes in natural history with regard to theory and practice gradually necessitated a more professional cadre of collectors. Collectors became active agents in the formation of biological knowledge, and instrumental in the formation of a truly systematic natural history. As a result, collectors became de facto field naturalists, the forerunners of the field biologists that dominated the practice of natural history in the early and middle twentieth century.