Buckley, Samuel Botsford (1809-1884)

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BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE

Samuel Botsford Buckley, State Geologist of Texas from 1874 to 1875.

BUCKLEY, Samuel Botsford, naturalist, born in Torrey, Yates County, New York, 9 May, 1809; died in Austin, Tex., 18 February, 1884. He was graduated at Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, in 1836, and in 1837-'8 made botanical collections in Virginia and Illinois. In 1839-'40 he was principal of Allenton, Alabama, academy, and in 1842 traveled extensively through the south, discovering twenty-four new species of plants and a new genus, which was named Buckleya. He also discovered and obtained in Alabama a nearly complete skeleton of a zeuglodon. In 1843 he studied at the College of physicians and surgeons, New York, and in the same year, in an expedition to Florida, he discovered thirteen new species of shells. From 1843 till 1855 he lived on the homestead farm. In 1858 he determined barometrically the height of several mountains in Tennessee and North Carolina, and one of them, Mount Buckley, North Carolina, bears his name. In 1859-'60 he traveled south and west to collect materials for a supplement to Michaux and Nuttall's Sylva. He was assistant geologist and naturalist of the Texas geological survey in 1860-'1, and from 1862 till 1865 was connected with the United States sanitary commission. He was state geologist of Texas from 1866 till 1867, and again from 1874 till 1877, and prepared two geological maps of the state. He showed by his investigations that Texas had deposits of iron and coal of much greater extent than had been supposed. In 1871-'2 he was scientific editor of the "State Gazette," Austin, Tex. From 1877 till 1881 he was engaged in preparing a work on the geology and natural history of the state. He was a member of various learned societies, and contributed largely to scientific publications. He also published several valuable reports as state geologist. A list of his scientific papers may be found in "Alumni Record of Wesleyan University" (Middletown, Connecticut, 1883).

Buckley was married four times. Charlotte Sullivan of Naples, New York, whom he married in 1852, died in 1854. In 1855 he married Sarah Porter of Naples, who died in 1858. Probably during the early 1860s he married Mary Huttner. In 1864 he married Libbie Meyers of Elbridge, New York. Sources indicate that Buckley fathered three children. According to his will, one daughter survived him. Buckley died in Austin on February 18, 1884.


ANT TAXONOMY

Buckley described 67 species of ants from North America. His species are too vaguely described to be recognized with any degree of certainty.

Wheeler (1902) had the following to say about Buckley's Formicidae taxonomy efforts:

"The sixty-seven odd (ant) descriptions are, indeed, fearfully and wonderfully made. With a persistency, which at times seems almost intentional, the author selects for description the worthless, insignificant features of the ant's body*, [* Such, e.g., as the distance (sometimes measured to within one or two hundredths of an inch!) to which the wing tips of the female project beyond the abdomen as if, forsooth, the abdomen of these insects were incapable of expansion or contraction.] and passes without a word over the important, distinctive characters. His conception of generic characters is even more nebulous than his appreciation of specific differences. Sometimes he mistakes the sex of the form he is describing, and at other times confounds several very distinct forms in a single description.

No wonder, therefore, that Prof. Forel wrote, in 1884: "Quant aux descriptions de Buckley, elles sont telles que je suis obligé d'en faire absolument abstraction, vu qu'elles ne permettant pas de reconnaître un seule espèce, ni même les genres." Dr. Gustave Mayr and Prof. Emery, however, who have occupied themselves somewhat more extensively with the ants of the United States, have gone to considerable pains to determine the species described by the Texan geologist. They have, indeed, succeeded in identifying some of the forms more or less accurately, but the bulk of Buckley's names still clogs our taxonomy and exasperates the student."

Lattke (2011) provides a more contemporary perspective: S.B. Buckley described many species of plants and animals during his lifetime and left a legacy of poor descriptions and apparent absence of type specimens which have since vexed myrmecologists and other taxonomists (Mayr 1886b; Wheeler 1902). At least some ant types existed during the late 1870’s in the collections of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, but regrettably vanished later on (Snelling 1995). If more investigations into the whereabouts of the Buckley types can soundly conclude they do not exist or met a unfortunate end, neotype designation should be considered. As aptly put by Snelling (1995), “The identity of Buckley’s species must, of necessity, rely on speculation”.

PUBLICATIONS

REFERENCE

  • Bradley, J.D. 1959. Transactions of the American Entomological Society 85: 284.
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