Henry A. Ward
When Rochester's colorful natural scientist, Henry Ward, headed home from his first European jaunt, he missed a boat to Havana but soon had deck passage on one skirting the coast of West Africa, where he contracted a serious fever. Fearing contagion the captain marooned him on the beach. According to his grandson Roswell Ward, his biographer in a publication of the Rochester Historical Society, "In later years he remembered little of what happened except that his trunk was set down on the sand beside him, some water placed near by, and a bower of palm leaves arranged to protect him from the sun… Ward lay, half delirious…too weak to move."
A native woman who had learned French at a mission school rescued him from villagers who anticipated booty from his trunk, once he had expired. She nursed him back to health, then developed her own life-long plans for him. Circumventing that redesign of his destiny, he caught a ship back up to Madeira and finally to Havana. Arriving in Rochester after an absence of five years, he dispatched a packing case filled with gifts to that remote beach. It included a big French Bible with an inscription…"
He now plunged into building his own natural history collection with the help of a substantial loan from his grandfather. In Europe once more he reaped the value of his contacts. In 1860, at 26 years of age, he was appointed Professor of Natural Sciences at the University of Rochester, married his high school sweetheart, and began unpacking his collections. "He had sent 120 large boxes of specimens from Europe, which were added to about 50 [earlier] boxes…There were 40,000 specimens, ranging from tiny semi-precious stones to great blocks of basalt; from a series of glass models of the Kohinoor and other famous diamonds to a large selection of plaster casts of extinct mollusc[s], reptil[es] and mammal[s]."
"Ward's first classes at the university quickly excited the attention of the junior class, and…the envy of the entire college. Ward began a series of field trips…all over the gorge of the Genesee, and finally…an overnight trip to the High Banks near Portage…'There, most of the class went in for a swim. [One of them] was taken with cramps and was drowned.'" While his students returned to Rochester, "'…Ward remained there for several days until the body was found.'"
Dr. Chester Dewey, the senior professor and Henry's childhood scientific mentor, occasionally sat in on Ward's lectures, sometimes interrupting to elaborate on some point, at least until Ward returned the favor in one of Dewey's classes.
Teaching Natural Sciences meant preparation in geology, zoology and botany. Ward soon saw the need for adding a zoological "cabinet" to his geology collection. By this time the Civil War had begun and funding was more difficult than ever but he soon had arranged 20,000 specimens to tell the story of creation itself: plaster casts of fossils, "floral fragments…enormous jaws bristling with teeth…; beautiful stone flowers blossom[ing] on the bottom of the ocean;…[ancient reptiles and] Monster birds…" He built Cosmos Hall for the collection at the edge of the campus; then, added Chronos Hall for the zoological collection. The stuffed male Gorilla attracted much interest and suspicion of Darwinian "heresy."
The local paper ran a poem, which in part, went:
Are you the key, O Monkey, to unlock