Esteemed thinker: John James Abert

enchanted island

We get used to things the way they are and when our usual gets shifted or changed our whole world seems to get out of sequence. Take for example driving; we are accustomed to the same route and without having to make a conscious effort we are able to get home without the aid of a map. However, if a tree on the very street you always travel was to suddenly be cut down, you would find that this once so familiar journey has been altered and might just question if indeed you are going the correct way.

Call it what you will: habit, comfort zone, routine… the same thing can happen if your desktop icons are suddenly misaligned. Like the road well-traveled, we are accustomed to finding specifics without much effort. But let the familiar computer screen suddenly go into its own snit…rearranging what we have taken the time to set up, like the driver whose road has lost its favorite landmark, we too are lost. John James Abert

Today’s blog brings you a more obscure but none-the-less esteemed thinker: John James Abert (b. 1788-1863) Abert was born in Shepherdstown, Virginia (now West Virginia). He graduated from West Point in 1811, but declined a commission. He enlisted in the D.C. Militia during the War of 1812, and rejoined the army as a topographical engineer with the rank of Major in October 1814.

In 1813, The Topographical Bureau was created as a branch of the U.S. Army Corps of and remained only a small, elite corps until John James Abert, a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, became its head in 1829. The major mission of the Corps was to map out the West, an unexplored undocumented region and unlock its secrets. For 32 years under Abert’s leadership, the Corps of Topographical Engineers, which recruited the best soldier-scientists, or “Topogs,” Abert could find, made explorations that resulted in the comprehensive mapping of the American West.

James, who became a Colonel in command of the US topographical engineers in 1838, and one of the organizers of the National Institute of Science, which subsequently merged in the Smithsonian Institution.

I now bring to you a most fascinating letter written by Abert to the prominent naturalist James Audubon in 1847.  Take time to relish in the discovery of what today is indeed a rarity.

Dear Sir.

 I have sent you a copy of my son’s first expedition to the Rocky Mountains. The report of his second, from which he has just returned is, of course, not yet made out. I shall talk to him about the subjects of your letter. It was after an examination of your small edition of the birds of America that I considered the Quail a new one. There is certainly nothing like it in that work, unless it be out of place in the book and in that way has escaped my examination. A person of some knowledge in these matters, who has seen the skins, calls it a new bird, but there is no one of sufficient authority to depend upon.

 Yours truly,

J.J. Abert