Southern Nature: Scientific Views of the Colonial American South

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The fascination with natural knowledge in 18th-century America was fueled by factors as diverse as colonial and economic expansion, the increased availability of outlets for publication, and an "enlightened" desire to systematize all forms of knowledge. As the collections of the American Philosophical Society attest, APS Members contributed prominently to the scientific exploration of the continent. Among the authors represented in this exhibit, Thomas Jefferson, both Bartrams, Marshall, Bernard Romans, and Thomas Hutchins were all APS Members, and many other travelers and explorers lodged reports of their work in Philadelphia for APS Members to examine and distribute or for publication in the Transactions. One correspondent, George Gauld, left an interesting geographical account of West Florida with an apology. "This long uninteresting Paper," he wrote, "can hardly obtain a Place in the Transactions of a Philosophical Society. It should however be preserved in the Files for the Use of Historians or mapmakers."

Southern Nature takes a "long uninteresting" look at the southeastern reaches of the European colonies in North America during the 18th century as a means of exploring the development of American natural historical practice.