Sunday, 17 July 2016

Earmarks of Genius

Earmarks of Genius
From the column JOURNAL WAYFARER
BY ALICE FROST LORD

Earmarks of genius are the early enthusiasms of youth who later fill many niches in sta­tistical data of “Who’s Who.” Such was the case with a Nor­way family, the Verrills.
The contemporary author, who is famed as a naturalist, explorer and illustrator, is Prof. Alpheus Hyatt Verrill. He happened to be born in New Haven. Conn., but he took spe­cial courses in zoology with his father; and the latter was Addi­son Emery Verrill who be­longed in Maine.
In an old History of Norway (Lapham’s) considerable space is given to this earlier profes­sor at Yale. For he was born in 1839 in Greenwood, in this State, later moving with his fa­ther to Norway. The young­ster’s aptitudes did not require any modern academic tests. His traits were marked. It is recorded:
“When he wore pinafores he would frequently stray away into the fields and pastures, fill his lap with curious stones—and Oxford county is full of precious ones—and refuse to return to the house unless his treasures could be taken along with him.
“Birds and reptiles attracted his childish attention, and his mother found it no small task to remove, after he had retired for the night, the hoards of natural objects he had gathered and brought into the house during the day.”
Of course, many a small boy has exasperated his mother doing like things. But these had a continuing meaning in the life of this older Verrill who was to become distinguished in this field. The historian continues.
“He mastered the branches taught in the public schools with remarkable facility, especially mathematics, and was well up in all branches of English before he entered the academy.
“He nearly began to make a collection of objects in natural history, and his collection of stuffed birds was, a marvel, considering his years and oppor­tunities.
“When 19 years of age he wrote to Prof. Agassiz and made his own arrangements with that distinguished savant to become his pupil. * * * He also became an adept in fine drawing so es­sential to the accurate study of conchology.”
Well, the older Verrill became a professor at Harvard and cura­tor of Peabody museum on the Cambridge campus; and later was professor of zoology at Yale. At one lime he was in charge of dredging for deep sea fauna in connection with the United States Fisheries.
Prof. Addison Emery Verrill also married a Maine girl, Flora L. Smith of Norway.
Such is the background for Prof. Alpheus Hyatt Verrill, whose biography in “Who’s Who” has measured exactly six inches of the finest print.
Probably many Maine people are not aware that it was this man who invented photography in natural colors; or that he has been an explored in Bermuda, the West Indies, Guiana, Central America, Panama, and is credited with rediscovering the (supposedly) extinct solenodon paradoxus in Santa Domingo—which is a peculiar insectivorous mammal, furry, long snouted and long tailed.
Another unusual achievement was a series of oil paintings of South and Central American Indians, done from life.
Spectacular also was his supervision of recovering a Spanish galleon that had been sunk in the 17th century off the West Indies. It is interesting, also, that his home has been in the historic Do Soto area In Florida.

Two generations of Verrills in the professorial field! What will later ones supply? Are they, too, stone and bug-minded!

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As an armed forces brat, we lived in Rockcliff (Ottawa), Namao (Edmonton), Southport (Portage La Prairie), Manitoba, and Dad retired to St. Margaret's Bay, NS.
Working with the Federal Govenment for 25 years, Canadian Hydrographic Service, mostly. Now married to Gail Kelly, with two grown children, Luke and Denyse. Retired to my woodlot at Stillwater Lake, NS, on the rainy days I study the life and work of A. Hyatt Verrill 1871-1954.