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James Deane (1801-1858)



From: Ben Creisler bh480@scn.org

James Deane (1801-1858) 

About the only biographical info on James Deane (1801-
1858) I could find was the following, taken from a 
presentation before the Boston Society of Natural History 
after his death. I've deleted some non-paleo-related 
comments (if someone wants the full text, contact me). The 
recent loss of Betty Cunningham adds a certain poignancy 
to a commemoration of a devoted nonprofessional 
paleontologist.


Bouve, Thomas T. 1859. [sketch of the life and labors of 
James Deane] Proceedings of the Boston Society of Natural 
History 6 (1856-1859): 391-394.
[Note: Bouve has a French accent acute e at the end]

July 7, 1858. The President of the Chair.
Mr. Bouve read a sketch of the life and labors of the late 
Dr. James Deane, of Greenfield, a Corresponding Member, 
and presented a series of resolutions, which were 
unanimousely adopted, as follows:--

Mr. President, and Fellow Members of the Society;--
It is my painful duty to lead your minds for a few brief 
moments, in our contemplation together of the character 
and services of our deceased friend and brother, Dr. James 
Deane....[comments deleted]

Dr. Deane, as I have been informed by a friend of his in 
Greenfield, to whom I am likewise indebted for other facts 
of his life, was born in Coleraine, Franklin County, in 
this State [Massachusetts], in 1801. It does not appear 
that he received in youth other than a common-school 
eduation, and it is known that until 21 years of age he 
labored upon his father's farm. At this period of this 
life, moved undoubtedly by a desire to advance himself in 
knowledge and usefulness, he went to Greenfield, and there 
engaged himself in copying law papers and other documents, 
that he might raise means to enable him to study the 
science of medicine, to which his tastes inclined him. 
Subsequently, he entered the University of the State of 
New York, where he graduated as a Doctore of Medicine in 
1831, being then about thirty years of age. He 
subsequently commenced the practices of his profession in 
Greenfield, and in this chosen sphere of his labors, he 
diligently and with great success served the sick and 
suffering of his fellow-citizens, until he himself was 
prostrated by the disease which, unfortunately for science 
and humanity, proved fatal.

[paragraph describing his medical career, here deleted]

But it is in his character as a Naturalist that we members 
of the Society feel the most interest. None of us, I am 
sure, can be unmindful of his labors in working out and 
faithfully portraying the remarkable impressions of  the 
rocks of the Connecticut valley, or of his yet more 
valuable and instructive observations upon these 
interesting mementos of past life. Whatever may be said of 
others who have honorably worked in the same field, this, 
I think, may be truly stated of Dr. Deane, that the first 
scientific[italicized] observations upon the footprints 
were made by him.

Years have since passed, --yes, nearly a quarter of a 
century has gone by, since he first called attention to 
these impressions; but yet, though absorbed much in the 
duties of his profession, he never lost his interest in 
them. To his mind, nutured as it had become by their 
study, questions of important moment depended upon their 
full elucidation, and certainly he exhibited an untiring 
devotion in his labors towards the accomplishment of this 
end.

We all know that has for some time been engaged in the 
preparation of a work on the footprints of the Connecticut 
valley, now under publication by the Smithsonian 
Institution; and all are undoubtedly aware, that by a 
process of his own invention, he was able to lithograph 
and photograph them, so as to produce illustrations of a 
singular fidelity, --the color, even, of the stone in 
which they occur being exactly represented. How far he had 
progressed towards the completion of the text for this 
work is not yet known to us. The plates, I have the 
satisfaction of announcing, are all finished.

[paragraph describing his interest in the Society, here 
deleted]

Dr. Deane was quiet and unobtrusive in his manners, and 
always presented his observations with singular modesty. 
It is indeed painful to reflect, that his manly form will 
never more come into our presence, or his instructive 
speech greet our hearing. He died on the night of the 8th 
of June, from typhoid fever, being about 57 years of age.

[paragraphs praising his character, here deleted]

In conclusion, I offer the following resolutions:--

Resolved, That the Boston Society of Natural History, 
highly appreciating that value and importance of the 
labors of the late Dr. James Deane, of Greenfield, in the 
investigation and elucidation of the fossil footprints of 
the Connecticut valley, recognize in his death a great 
loss, not only to themselves, with whom he was associated, 
but to all who feel interested in the progress of science.

Resolved, That this action of the Society be communicated 
to the family of the deceased, with the expression of our 
sympathy in their bereavement.