Paper No. 13
Presentation Time: 11:00 AM
JOSEPH LECONTE, PRINCE OF EVOLUTION
Joseph LeConte, born, educated and first taught in Georgia (1823-1856), later a professor at the College of South Carolina (1856-68) and University of California (1868-1901), authored eight books and many papers on all aspects of Natural Sciences and Geology, as well as his autobiography and experiences in the Civil War. His most outstanding books were “Elements of Geology” (1877), a shortened version “Compend of Geology” (1884), and “Evolution and its relation to religious thought” (1888). Although all were generally well received and used, the Evolution book brought him much attention, indeed he was considered the foremost American proponent of evolution in the last part of the 19th century, so much so that the Oakland Tribune called him the “Prince of Evolution”. He summarized is feelings about evolution as “ . . . I was an evolutionist, thorough and enthusiastic. Enthusiastic, not only because it is true, and all truth is the image of God in the human reason, but also because of all the laws of nature it is by far the most religious, that is, the most in accord with religious philosophic thought. It is, indeed, glad tidings of great joy which shall be to all peoples.” As an early member and officer of the Geological Society of America, of the AAAS, and the National Academy of Sciences, as well as helping to found four new churches in Berkeley, he was a theistic evolutionist, one who believes that God and evolution go together, a dominant view of the time. Prince of Evolution he may have been, but he was also a beloved and honored teacher of natural history and geology to many students at the University of California (Berkeley). Indeed he originated the paleontology program there by acquiring collections, influencing students, and promoting his first student, J. C. Merriam, as a faculty member. LeConte died July 6, 1901, in Yosemite Valley, a place he loved. He is buried in Oakland, California, under a slab of Yosemite granite.