George Perkins Marsh: Versatile Vermonter

George Perkins Marsh: Versatile Vermonter

George Perkins Marsh: Versatile Vermonter

George Perkins Marsh: Versatile Vermonter

Excerpt

"In reviewing the life of this eminent man, who studied languages while he practiced law, who divided his time between business and politics, who wrote books and delivered lectures on literary subjects, and who investigated geographical problems while he elevated diplomacy, one cannot fail to be impressed with the breadth of his interests and the variety of his activities and duties on the one hand, and on the other hand the high degree of specialization and the necessary narrowing of interests and activities which has characterized [modern scientists]." So spoke William Morris Davis in praise of George Perkins Marsh, half a century ago at the National Academy of Sciences. "One can hardly fail to question," Davis went on, "whether advice on the treatment of national scientific problems can be as well given by intensive specialists of the modern school as by men of a wider experience, of whom Marsh was so admirable an example." To survey Marsh's life and achievements in the light of his "wider experience" is the aim of this book.

The career of George Perkins Marsh spanned most of the nineteenth century, and there were few aspects of his era on which he did not leave a mark. Lawyer, editor, farmer, manufacturer, congressman, diplomat par excellence, Marsh was the broadest American scholar of his day. He was at home in twenty languages, became the country's foremost authority on both Scandinavian and English linguistics, made important contributions to comparative . . .

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