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August 09, 2013

Francis Hobart Herrick: Founder of CWRU’s Biology Department

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In 1888, with newly conferred Johns Hopkins University Ph.D. in hand, Francis Hobart Herrick came to Western Reserve University to establish a Biology department. He remained on the faculty for 41 years, retiring in 1929 as Professor Emeritus.

Herrick’s scholarly publishing career spanned over 50 years, 1883-1937. His early research focused on the American lobster in New England. His work revealed that over-harvesting egg-producing adult lobsters was threatening the species and risking destruction of the American lobster industry. During the early 1920s his close observations of the behavior of American eagles made Herrick a world authority on that subject, as well. He also produced the first scholarly biography of naturalist John James Audubon.

Herrick was an innovator in the classroom, introducing laboratory classes, undergraduate field work and lectures illustrated with lantern slides - the early 20th century’s equivalent of PowerPoint. In his field research, Herrick was a pioneer in the use of photography to record bird behavior. The tent blind he developed for his eagle observations allowed close study of behavior and was widely copied. As early as 1890 Herrick advocated for establishment of a local museum of natural history. He was one of the founders of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History in 1920.

The indefatigable Herrick also designed WRU’s Biology Building, now DeGrace Hall, and many of its laboratory furnishings.

Examples of Herrick’s work are included in Observing the Natural World: The Art and Science of Natural History. The exhibit of rare books, artwork, manuscripts, and archives illustrates developments in the field of natural history from the 16th through the 19th centuries. The exhibit explores both local initiatives and broader developments including: increasing specialization and professionalization; innovations in recording field observations; changing patterns of scholarly communication. The exhibit, in Kelvin Smith Library’s Special Collections Hatch Reading Room, is open Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. till 4:30 p.m. through September 27.

Posted by jmt3 at August 9, 2013 12:14 AM

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