19th-century Naturalist Quotes
Palaeontology is the Aladdin's lamp of the most deserted and lifeless regions of the earth; it touches the rocks and there spring forth in orderly succession the monarchs of the past and the ancient river streams and savannahs wherein they flourished. The rocks usually hide their story in the most difficult and inaccessible places.
Sometime afterward, a terrible misfortune occurred which was in no way calculated to allay the superstitious fears of the ignorant. As some eight or ten citizens were returning with the ferry-boat which had crossed the last Mormons over the Missouri river, into Clay county, the district selected for their new home, the craft filled with water and sunk in the middle of the current; by which accident three or four men were drowned! It was owing perhaps to the craziness of the boat, yet some persons suspected the Mormons of having scuttled it by secretly boring auger-holes in the bottom just before they had left it.
The vast ice-engine that we call a glacier is almost as silent as the slumbering rocks, and, to all but the eye of science, nearly as immobile, save where it discharges into the sea. It is noisy in its dying, but in the height of its power it is as still as the falling snow of which it is made.
An old medical friend gave me some excellent practical advice. He said: "You will have for some time to go much oftener down steps than up steps. Never mind! win the good opinions of washerwomen and such like, and in time you will hear of their recommendations of you to the wealthier families by whom they are employed." I did so, and found it succeed as predicted.
The feel of a canoe gunnel at the thigh, the splash of flying spray in the face, the rhythm of the snowshoe trail, the beckoning of far-off hills and valleys, the majesty of the tempest, the calm and silent presence of the trees that seem to muse and ponder in their silence; the trust and confidence of small living creatures, the company of simple men; these have been my inspiration and my guide. Without them I am nothing.
The habits of insects are very mines of interesting knowledge, and it is impossible carefully to watch the proceedings of any insect, however insignificant, without feeling that no writer of fiction ever invented a drama of such absorbing interest as is acted daily before our eyes, though to indifferent spectators.
For the book of nature has no beginning as it has no end. Open the book where you will at any point of your life, and if you have the desire to acquire knowledge, you will find it of intense interest, and no matter how long or how intently you study the pages, your interest will not flag for in nature there is no finality.
A pompous ornithologist is of all characters one of the most absurd; and the solemnity of scientific pride sits ill upon him who is alternately scaling precipices and wading bogs, chasing the ptarmigan on the weatherbeaten summits of the Highland hills, and pursuing the flights of plovers along the sandy shores of our bays and estuaries.