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 Florissant
           Scientific
                     Society

 

M E E T I N G   N O T E S
Florissant Scientific Society notes—26 October, 2003

Attendees:

  • Guest speaker: William (Bill) Weber, Professor and Curator Emeritus, University of Colorado
  • David Atkins, Tim Brown, John Ghist, Mary Miller, Katya Petrovsky (?), Rob Jolly, Trevor Polly, Beth Simmons, Sheila Steele, Dan Shawe, Tom Steven, Andy Weinzapfel
  •  

Location: The Nature Place

Program Details:

The meeting started about 12:30PM.  The topic was Theodore Dru Alison (T.D.A.) Cockerell and his letters, described in the book The American Cockerell: A naturalist’s Life, edited by Bill Weber, published by University Press, 2000.

Cockerell (1866-1948) was born to a prominent family in England, but developed tuberculosis at a young age and was told to go to America by an uncle to find good health.  He took a train to Westcliffe, CO., in the Wet Mountain Valley, and lived/ worked on the Cusack ranch for three years, where he found Mrs. Cusack an intellectual equal, “spiritual companion”,  and confidant.  His prolific writings—1250 pages of letters and pictures—reveal his scientific observations, developing philosophy, and deep love for the natural world in great detail.  They document his first-hand observations of the Wet Mountain landscape, the natural history of the area, and how life was lived at that time in this rural setting.   He never used a period or comma in his writings, only dashes.  Together, his writings offer a unique portrait of a developing naturalist who ultimately became famous.  As he was forbidden to write to Anne, his sweetheart, his letters were sent to his brother, Frederick, who passed them on to his flame.  He later married Anne in 1890, but she tragically died in childbirth a few years later.

Although he never went to college, he set up a literary and debate group, and founded the first natural history society of Colorado.  For his time, he was a champion of women’s rights.  He became the State Entomologist of New Mexico and Arizona, and briefly was director of a museum in Jamaica.   He moved to Colorado College, then on to the University of Colorado.  There, he taught a number of graduate students who later became recognized accomplished experts.  By 1938, Cockerell published on 5,480 new species and sub-species.   He categorized over 900 species in Colorado alone.

Afterward the main presentation, there was discussion on western issues such as the Preble’s jumping mouse, water rights, etc.

Bill Weber has just completed a new book The Valley of the Second Sons, which is print-on-demand, published by Barnes and Noble.  It will be shipped in January, 2004.  The meeting was adjourned around 3:30 PM.