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2002-2003 Visiting Fellows

Ryan Cameron MacPherson
Ph.D. Candidate
History and Philosophy of Science
University of Notre Dame

I would like to thank the Friends of the Princeton University Library and your staff for the month that I spent at the Princeton University Library while funded by a visiting fellowship this past summer. The following will give you a sense of what I was able to accomplish during that time.

My research concerned responses by faculty, students, and ministers associated with the College of New Jersey and Princeton Theological Seminary to evolutionary theories prior to the publication of Charles Darwin's Origin of Species in 1859. Specifically, I was hoping to find references to Robert Chambers's anonymously published Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation (1844) and to interpret Princetonians' reactions to this work in terms of their understanding of theology and natural science. This fits the larger goal of my dissertation, which is to understand American reactions to Vestiges by focusing on three academic communities as case studies: Princeton, Harvard, and Yale.

At the Firestone Library, I consulted manuscript collections of the Cameron Family Papers (in which I found seminary student notebooks that referenced Vestiges); the Theodore W. Tallmadge Papers (in which I found much useful information on college student life during the 1840s); the John R. Buhler diary (which mentions a discussion concerning Vestiges); the Ashbel Green Collection (which provides some theological context for the seminary and college); and the John T. Duffield Family Papers, Eli Field Cooley Papers, and William Henry Green Papers (which contain sermons helpful for understanding Princeton theology as applied in the pulpit at the college and beyond). The Charles Hodge Papers included correspondence pertaining to a published review of Vestiges that appeared in the Princeton Review. I also browsed the General Manuscripts Collections.

The Mudd Library's collections pertaining to student life proved especially helpful. I also should note that nowhere else in my research travels have I found a library better organized or a staff more efficient than at the Mudd Library. There I consulted numerous items in the Lecture Notes Collection, tracking down several references to Vestiges in natural philosophy, intellectual philosophy and rhetoric courses. The Undergraduate Alumni Collection provided substantial biographical information for several of the students whose lecture notebooks I was reading. The Faculty File, Offprint Collection, Office of the President Records, and Trustees Minutes helped to round out the context of Princeton education in terms of how theology and natural science fit together in the curriculum.

I also spent several days in the Luce Library's manuscript room at Princeton Theological Seminary. There I read the lecture notes in the Archibald Alexander, Charles Hodge, and Archibald Alexander Hodge collections. I learned that these seminary professor, like their counterparts at the college, also addressed the Vestiges debates in class, even to the extent of teaching their students how to preach against the book's evolutionary naturalism.

On November 8, I presented a portion of my findings to the Annual Meeting of the History of Science Society, held in Milwaukee this year. I also have drafted a dissertation chapter concerning Princetonians' reactions to Vestiges and submitted it in article form to Gretchen Oberfranc for publication in the Princeton University Library Chronicle.

In short, my research residency at Princeton was very beneficial to my dissertation progress. I am grateful both for the funding and for the helpful assistance of your staff.

Finally, I would like to recommend Extended Stay America to future Princeton Library Fellows. Two locations are within a close driving distance from campus, each offering weekly rates. The rooms have refrigerators and stoves, which makes it possible to prepare simple meals, thus stretching the research stipend further than would be possible if one always ate at restaurants.


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