Joseph Leidy: The Last Man Who Knew Everything

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9780300073591: Joseph Leidy: The Last Man Who Knew Everything
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Contemporaries of the modest and unassuming scientist Joseph Leidy (1823–91) revered him as the supreme consultant in questions relating to human anatomy, paleontology, protozoology, parasitology, anthropology, mineralogy, botany, and numerous other scientific fields. Leidy’s achievements and the breadth of his scientific interests and knowledge were astonishing. He seemed, in short, to be the man who knew everything.

This is the first published biography of the remarkable Joseph Leidy―a leading American scientist of the mid-nineteenth century, the foremost human anatomist of his time, the first truly productive microscopist, the author of numerous groundbreaking scientific papers and books, and a devoted professor at the University of Pennsylvania and Swarthmore College. An unflagging pioneer and an exceptional illustrator, Leidy was the first in America to use the microscope as a tool in forensic medicine. He established the concept of parasitism in America. He was also the father of American protozoology and parasitology, describing for the first time Trichina in the pig, the source of the human disease trichinosis. As the founder of American vertebrate paleontology, he was the first to describe a dinosaur and many other extinct animals in America. Leonard Warren provides a full account of Leidy’s life and accomplishments and sets them in the social and historical context of Philadelphia and the United States in Leidy’s day. Warren also explores the reasons for the puzzling disparity between Leidy’s fame and recognition during his life and virtual anonymity a century after his death.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

This well-researched biography of a forgotten scientist also suggests a revealing view of 19th-century American science. Warren, a professor at the Wistar Institute of Anatomy and Biology in Philadelphia, gives an account of the man who was once considered the most distinguished American biologist of his time, while also exploring some reasons for his present-day obscurity. Like Darwin, a contemporary, Leidy the boy was a passionate observer and collector of natural specimens. Forced by his parents to study medicine, he practiced only briefly in Philadelphia before his descriptions and drawings of mollusks brought him recognition from the leading scientific societies in the country. When he was 23, the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia named him its librarian and, soon after, chairman of its board of curators. He also became curator of the Anatomical Museum at the University of Pennsylvania and professor of anatomy, as well as chair of the anatomy department there. Although he taught anatomy and wrote a basic textbook on the subject, his love was natural historyprotozoology, parasitology, paleontology, entomology. As his reputation grew, field collectors sent him specimens from around the country to identify. He duly studied them, producing a remarkable mass of data on tens of thousands of organisms. However, the era of descriptive science, Leidys domain, was already ending, replaced by a new age of experimental science. Consequently, his work, though impressive, began to seem outmoded. Unlike Darwin, the conservative Philadelphian avoided controversy and did not theorize; no grand synthesis emerged from his work. A sympathetic portrait of a talented, diligent man who laid a foundation for others, but lacked the imagination to build a memorable monument. (29 b&w illustrations, not seen) -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Publishers Weekly:

Considered one of America's great biologists in his day but now barely remembered outside specialist circles, Philadelphia scientist Joseph Leidy (1823-1891) deserves a better fate; hopefully, Warren's absorbing biography will rekindle interest in this remarkable polymath. A master anatomist, microscopist, scientific illustrator and pioneer of protozoology and forensic medicine, Leidy in 1858 described and oversaw the assembly of a 28-foot, duck-billed, herbivorous Hadrosaurus, the first reasonably complete American dinosaur ever brought to lightAa sensational feat that launched the nation's love affair with dinosaurs. Leidy's discovery in 1846 of Trichina larvae (the parasite that causes trichinosis in humans) in pigs earns Warren's accolade as a milestone in public health, yet, as Warren acknowledges, European biologists working out the life cycle of the parasite ignored Leidy's critical find. In this instance, as in several others, the self-effacing Leidy, though a driven, tireless researcher, refused to claim credit for the priority of his work. Almost saintly by today's standards of cutthroat careerism, Leidy, who married happily at age 41, in many ways seems an atypical scientist. He wept during theater performances, revered all lifeArefusing even to step on a cockroachAand shunned the limelight and avoided scientific meetings. That his work was almost completely descriptive, not experimental, makes him seem outdated, yet his generous life, narrated against a panoramic backdrop of the transformation of American science from elitist club to rigorous discipline, illumines how science progresses and reputations are made or lost. Warren is Institute Professor at the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia and a professor emeritus of the University of Pennsylvania. 29 b&w illustrations, not seen by PW.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Book Description Yale University Press, United States, 1998. Hardback. Condition: New. New.. Language: English. Brand new Book. This is the first published biography of the remarkable Joseph Leidy (1823-91), a scientist of astonishing achievement and breadth of interests. A man who seemed to know everything, Leidy was-among many other things-the foremost human anatomist of his time, the first truly productive microscopist, the father of American protozoology and parasitology, and the founder of American invertebrate paleontology. Seller Inventory # APC9780300073591

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Book Description Yale University Press, United States, 1998. Hardback. Condition: New. New.. Language: English. Brand new Book. This is the first published biography of the remarkable Joseph Leidy (1823-91), a scientist of astonishing achievement and breadth of interests. A man who seemed to know everything, Leidy was-among many other things-the foremost human anatomist of his time, the first truly productive microscopist, the father of American protozoology and parasitology, and the founder of American invertebrate paleontology. Seller Inventory # APC9780300073591

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