Science in the Subarctic: Trappers, Traders and the Smithsonian Institute

Science in the Subarctic: Trappers, Traders and the Smithsonian Institute


By (author) Debra Lindsay

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  • Publisher: Smithsonian Books
  • Format: Hardback | 192 pages
  • Dimensions: 160mm x 236mm x 19mm | 450g
  • Publication date: 30 June 1993
  • Publication City/Country: Washington, DC
  • ISBN 10: 1560982330
  • ISBN 13: 9781560982333
  • Illustrations note: 12ill.2M.

Product description

In the mid-nineteenth century, Spencer Baird, the Smithsonian Institution's second Secretary, set out to improve knowledge of the North American flora and fauna. His efforts to increase the number of specimens gathered and to ensure their quality led to a revolution in the nature of scientific data collection - how specimens were collected and processed by whom, and why.Seeking to end ignorance of northern regions of North America, Baird sent Robert Kennicott, a skilled young naturalist, to the wilds of the Mackenzie River in what is now northwest Canada. One of Kennicott's most important innovations was recruiting fur traders and native peoples as collectors. Lindsay describes their willingness to exchange labor and expertise for money, books, and other goods, quickly integrating scientific work into existing economies. Lindsay also examines Kennicott's corporate and individual support from the Hudson's Bay Company, as well as his ill-fated Western Union expedition to Russian America.Through the efforts of Baird in Washington, D.C., and Kennicott in the Northwest, the Smithsonian received more than 12,000 natural history specimens, several volumes of field notes, ethnographic accounts from the Mackenzie River District of the Hudson's Bay Company territories, and more than five hundred indigenous artifacts that were among the earliest anthropological specimens at the Smithsonian, all between 1859 and 1868. Baird and Kennicott's pioneering collection venture became the foundation for a long tradition of Smithsonian collecting and scientific studies in the subarctic and the Arctic.

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