William T. Hornaday (1854 - 1937) - Author Collection

William T. Hornaday
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William Temple Hornaday, Sc.D. (December 1, 1854 – March 6, 1937) was an American zoologist, realtor, conservationist, author, poet and songwriter. He revolutionized museum exhibits by displaying wildlife in their natural settings, and is credited with discovering the American crocodile, saving the American bison and the Alaskan fur seal from extinction.Hornaday was born in Avon, Indiana, and educated at Oskaloosa College, the Iowa State Agricultural College (now Iowa State University) and in Europe.After serving as a taxidermist at Henry Augustus Ward's Natural Science Establishment in Rochester, New York, he spent 1.5 years, 1877-1878 in India and Ceylon collecting specimens. In May 1878 he reached southeast Asia and traveled in Malaya and Sarawak in Borneo. His travels inspired his first publication, Two Years in the Jungle (1885). In 1882 he was appointed chief taxidermist of the United States National Museum, a post he held until his resignation in 1890.In his position at the museum, Hornaday was tasked with inventorying the museum's specimen collection of American Buffalo, which was meager. He then undertook a census of bison by "writing to ranchers, hunters, army officers, and zookeepers across the American West and in Canada." Based on firsthand accounts, Hornaday estimated that as recently as 1867 there were approximately 15 million wild bison in the American West. Through his census, he ascertained that those numbers had rapidly depleted. In a letter written to his superior at the Smithsonian, George Brown Goode, Hornaday reported that, "in the United States the extermination of all the large herds of buffalo is already an accomplished fact."

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