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Subjects: Faculty, Civil War
Description: George Thurber
Drilled the Plow-Boy Guards
Professor George Thurber was born September 2, 1821, at Providence, Rhode Island. After leaving school and making preparation, he engaged in the pharmaceutical business, during which time he devoted much time to chemistry and botany. He became close with Dr. John Torrey, Asa Gray, and Louis Agassiz, and through their influence he was appointed a member of the United States and Mexican Boundary Survey in 1850 for the purpose of studying the flora of that little known region. From 1853-1856, he was employed in the United States Assay Office. The following three years, he spent chiefly in the study of his botanical collections. He became the editor of the "American Agriculturist". By competent judges he was considered the most accomplished horticultural writer of his time. Besides contributing large numbers of editorials and notes concerning scientific topics in great variety, his "Notes from the Pines" and his "Doctor's Talks" attracted much favorable comment.
Professor Thurber was never married. He died on April 2, 1890, at his home near Passaic, New Jersey. A service in memory of Dr. Thurber was held in the College chapel on Sunday April 20 at which President Clute, Dr. Beal, Dr. Miles, and Professor Cook participated.
Professor A.J. Cook writes:
"Dr. Thurber was a great favorite among all the students. The exceeding pleasure that came to me in the multitudinous walks with Dr. Thurber and the love of natural science that came as he opened the great book of Nature in his marvelous fashion, awakened in me a loving appreciation that has deepened with the years. Dr. Thurber's government work had given him rich opportunity to solve Nature's problems, and he improved them to the utmost. His telling service in the horticultural department, and his exceptional ability to make science clear and fascinating, constituted seed of the right kind, when agricultural education was first taking root. Except for his own lamentable failing for drink what a power for good he might have become in this first Agricultural College."
S.M. Millard '84 said of him:
"From 1860-1863 Dr. George Thurber was a professor of botany and horticulture. He was a genius, original, a great botanist, an old bachelor, and eccentric; to the student who showed any signs of talent for botany he was interested and devoted, but Dr. Thurber had no use for a stupid student. He was a scientist, but not a teacher in a college of miscellaneous students. His peculiar disposition caused him to have favorites among the students, which resulted in jealously and indifference among those not favorites."
Original Format: Black and white photograph
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Contributing Institution: University Archives & Historical Collections
Relation: MSU Photograph Collection
Contributor: MSU Archives and Historical Collections
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