Natural History Investigations in South Carolina from Colonial Times to the Present

By Charles, Allan D. | South Carolina Historical Magazine, April 2001 | Go to article overview

Natural History Investigations in South Carolina from Colonial Times to the Present


Charles, Allan D., South Carolina Historical Magazine


Natural History Investigations in South Carolina from Colonial Times to the Present. By Albert E. Sanders and William D. Anderson, Jr. (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1999. Pp. xxxix, 333. $45.00, cloth.)

This extraordinary volume is an excellent treatment of some three centuries of natural history investigations that natives and visitors, professionals and devoted amateurs have conducted in the colony and state of South Carolina. The book is both a history and a compendium and should be read by all those interested in South Caroliniana and by those concerned with the natural history of the region.

Sanders and Anderson are well placed and especially qualified to produce this history, the former being a longtime curator of natural sciences at the Charleston Museum and the latter a longtime professor of biology at the College of Charleston. The Charleston Museum is one of the oldest in America, its foundations dating to 1773. Indeed Charleston, until the 20th century the unchallenged metropolis of South Carolina, early possessed the requisite "critical mass" to make it a scientific center in America, and as Sanders and Anderson amply demonstrate, the Holy City ably filled that role. Unfortunately its position of prominence was lost due to the destruction caused by the War Between the States and a lengthy period of economic impoverishment.

Even so, some South Carolinians continued to make scientific investigations, Charlestonians being assisted by newer centers rising in the interior - especially the University of South Carolina, which began recovering from post-Civil War doldrums by the late 19th century, and later Clemson University, which expanded rapidly in the 20th century. All of this and much more is detailed in the book. The authors note the contributions of such widely-known figures as John Bartram and his equally famous son William Bartram, as well as the work of the well-known Andre' Michaux and his son Francois Andre' Michaux. It also details the efforts of Charleston residents such as internationally-known naturalist Alexander Garden, and Revolutionary-War era Renaissance man Henry Laurens and his son John. …

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