Haldeman, Samuel Stehman (1812-1880)

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BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE

Samuel Steman Haldeman, born at the mansion in Bainbridge on August 12, 1812, was the oldest of seven children of Henry Haldeman (1787-1849) and his wife Frances Steman (1794-1826). His father, who appreciated culture, endeavored to foster a love of learning in his children. His mother, an accomplished musician, died when Samuel was fourteen years of age. Samuel was educated in the public schools, at the classical academy in Harrisburg and at Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA. He found college routine irksome and left after two years at the age of eighteen saying, "I cannot learn from others, I must see for myself." Thereafter he educated himself by attending lectures, recording observations of bird habits, learning to stuff birds and mammals from a traveling Methodist minister, resulting in a large collection of specimens in natural history and also a scientific and linguistic library. As a child Haldeman had a penchant for collecting specimens from nature and Native American stone implements found on and near the mansion site, keeping them in his own museum. His collection included skeletons of rabbits, opossums, muskrats, and field mice, which he prepared by boiling the carcasses. It also included fresh-water shells from both banks of the Susquehanna River and its islands. A letter from Samuel to a friend, dated 1844, says, "I collected shells on the banks of the Susquehanna long before I knew the meaning of genus and species." We'll see later what an influence these early shell-collecting days on the Susquehanna River had on Haldeman's scientific scholarship. After his marriage in 1835 to Mary A. Hough of Bainbridge, he moved to a new residence at the base of Chickies Rock, Marietta. Not only did he design the stately home built by his father, he laid out the grounds with native specimens of trees and shrubs gathered from the surrounding woods, and some foreign varieties, all of which were planted with his own hands. Not having a particular fondness for business, he continued his studies of nature, but did assist his father in a saw mill and later became a silent partner in the iron business with his brothers. He wrote articles on anthracite furnaces for Silliman's Journal, and contributed sound and practical suggestions for improvements to both the mill business and construction of the blast furnace. At the age of twenty-three, Samuel contributed to the Lancaster Journal an article refuting Locke's "Moon Hoax". From then on, his life was devoted to science. For forty-five years he spent most of the time in his library, many times working sixteen hours a day. In 1836, Professor Haldeman became an assistant on the State geological survey of New Jersey, and was later transferred to a similar position in Pennsylvania. During extensive geological work, he discovered a new genus and species of fossil plant. Geology did not engross his whole attention, as he was now busy collecting and studying shells, and made substantial contributions in this field through an expertly illustrated massive work of copperplate engravings, drawn and colored from the original shells and living animals. This was finished in 1845. One professional association of Samuel Haldeman during this period of 1840 to 1850 is particularly significant for his scientific development as well as for the development of American science. In 1844 he became a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a fledgling organization just beginning to function. At the request of this organization, he prepared a paper entitled "Enumeration of the Recent Freshwater Mollusk Which are Common to North America and Europe, with Observations on Species and their Distribution." Fifteen years later, an obscure British scientist had the following to say about this paper, "In 1843-44 Professor Haldeman (Boston Journal of Natural History, United States, Vol. IV, pg. 468) has ably given the arguments for and against the hypothesis of the development and modification of species: he seems to lean towards the side of change." This scientist was Charles Darwin and he was writing in the preface to his Origin of Species, one of the most influential and controversial science books ever published. Samuel was said to have been the only American Naturalist with whom Charles-Darwin corresponded, and whose opinion Darwin regarded as authoritative." Samuel continued to write important and prize-winning essays and articles in philology, phonography, ethnology, natural history


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