- Thomas Say
name = Thomas Say
caption = "Portait of Thomas Say" (1818)
Charles Willson Peale
birth_date = birth date|1787|6|27|mf=y
death_date = death date and age|1834|10|10|1787|6|27|mf=y
death_place = New Harmony,
nationality = American
Natural history, Entomology
Academy of Natural Sciences Entomological Society of America
known_for = "father of Entomology"
Thomas Say (
June 27, 1787– October 10, 1834) was an American naturalist, entomologist, malacologistand carcinologist. He was a taxonomistand is often considered to be the father of descriptive entomologyin the United States and one of the founding fathers of the Entomological Society of America(ESA). ESA maintains several series of publications and awards that are named after Say.
Thomas Say was born in
Philadelphiainto a prominent Quaker family. He was the great grandson of John Bartram, and the great-nephew of William Bartram, whom Say frequently visited as a boy with butterfly and beetle specimens.
Say became an apothecary in his native town, but his interests soon turned to nature and he became a self-taught naturalist. In 1812 he became a charter member and founder of the
Academy of Natural Sciencesof Philadelphia (ANSP).
In 1816 he met
Charles Alexandre Lesueur(1778-1846), a French naturalist, malacologist, and ichthyologist who also became a member of the Academy and later its curator, between 1816 and 1824.
Say began his work on American Entomology at the Academy.He began a tradition of expeditions to collect specimens of insects. These expeditions were not without risks: Indian attacks, dangers of the frontier, hazards of traveling in wild countryside.
In 1818 Say accompanied his friend
William Maclure(1763-1840), president of the ANSP (1817-1840) and father of American geology, Gerhard Troost, a geologist, and other members of the Academy on a geological expedition to the off-shore islands of Georgia and Florida, then a Spanish colony.
In 1819-1820, Major
Stephen Harriman Longled an exploration to the Rocky Mountainsand the tributaries of the Missouri Riverwith Thomas Say as zoologist. The official account of this expedition included the first descriptions of the Coyote, Swift Fox, Western Kingbird, Band-tailed Pigeon, Rock Wren, Say's Phoebe, Lesser Goldfinch, Lark Sparrow, Lazuli Buntingand Orange-crowned Warbler.
In 1823, Say served as chief zoologist in Long's expedition to the headwaters of the
Thomas Say travelled on the famous "Boatload of Knowledge" to an
utopian society experiment, the "New Harmony Settlement" in Indiana(1826-1834), a venture of Robert Owen. One of the passengers was Lucy Way Sistare, whom Say married secretly near New Harmony on January 4, 1827. She was an artist and illustrator of specimens (such as in the book 'American Conchology') who later became the first female member of the Academy. He was accompanied by Maclure, Lesueur, Francis Neef, an educator, and Gerhard Troost. There he later met another naturalist, Constantine Samuel Rafinesque-Schmaltz(1783-1840).
In the settlement of New Harmony, Thomas Say carried on his monumental work describing insects and mollusks, leading to two classic works:
* "American Entomology, or Descriptions of the Insects of North America", 3 volumes, Philadelphia, 1824-1828.
Conchology, or Descriptions of the Shells of North America Illustrated From Coloured Figures From Original Drawings Executed from Nature", Parts 1 - 6, New Harmony, 1830-1834; Part 7, Philadelphia, 1836.
During their years in New Harmony both Say and Lesueur experienced considerable difficulties. Say was a modest and unassuming man, living frugally, like a hermit, abandoning commercial activities and devoting himself to his studies.
He died, apparently from
typhoid fever, in New Harmony, Indiana, on 10 October 1834, only 47 years old.
Say described over 1,000 new species of
beetles and over 400 species of insects of other orders. No single individual before had discovered more new species than him.
Other zoologists honored him by naming several species after him, such as
Say's Mud Crab, Caribbean Mud Crab "Dyspanopeus (Neopanope) sayi" (Smith 1869)
Lanceola sayana" ( Bovallius1885), an amphipodfrom the family Lanceolidae
Say's Phoebe, "Sayornis saya" (Bonaparte 1825), a bird in the tyrant flycatcherfamily.
* William Kirby, also considered the "Father of Entomology"
John L. Le Conte, "The Complete Writings of Thomas Say on the Entomology of North America", two volumes, Baillière Brothers, New York, 1859
* [http://faculty.evansville.edu/ck6/bstud/saybirds.html Bird names honoring Thomas Say]
* [http://faculty.evansville.edu/ck6/bstud/saybugs.html Insect names honoring Thomas Say]
* [http://faculty.evansville.edu/ck6/bstud/sayfish.html Fishes named honoring Thomas Say]
* [http://faculty.evansville.edu/ck6/bstud/nh.html New Harmony]
* [http://www.notesfromunderground.org/archive/vol912/features/say.html Thomas Say in New Harmony]
* [http://psyche2.entclub.org/articles/100/100-163.pdf The entomological collection of Thomas Say] pdf
* [http://www.jaxshells.org/hald.htm Pomacea paludosa (Say, 1829)]
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