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fish drawing
Atlases of illustrations
of "The Fisheries and Fisheries Industries of the United States"
- These wonderful works resulted from a study undertaken in the 1880's by George Brown Goode, Deputy Commissioner of the United States Commission of Fish and Fisheries.
 

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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF
GEORGE BROWN GOODE

BY DAVID STARR JORDAN,

PRESIDENT OF LELAND STANFORD UNIVERSITY

picture of george goodeThe untimely death of George Brown Goode has left a great break in the ranks of the scientific men of America. One of the most accurate and devoted of students, the ablest exponent of museum methods, a man of the most exalted personal character, Doctor Goode occupied a unique position in the development of American science.

George Brown Goode was born in New Albany, Indiana, on February 13, 1851, and died of pneumonia at his home in Lanier Heights in Washington City on September 6, 1896. According to Doctor Marcus Benjamin, to whom I am indebted for many of the details of this sketch:

"Doctor Goode was of Colonial descent. His family lived in Virginia, and he traced with pride his paternal line to John Goode, who came to that colony prior to 1660, and settled four miles from the present site of Richmond, on an estate named `Whitby.' John Goode was one of the advisers of Bacon in 1676, in the first armed uprising of the Americans against the oppression of royal authority. On his mother's side he was descended from Jasper Crane, who came to New England before 1630, and afterwards settled near the present site of Newark, New Jersey. Doctor Goode's father was Francis Collier Goode, who married, in 1850, Sarah Woodruff Crane, and their distinguished son was born at the home of his maternal grandmother."

In 1857 Doctor Goode's parents moved to Amenia, in New York State, where the boy passed his early youth, and where he was prepared for college. In due time young Goode was matriculated in Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, where he graduated in 1870, at the too early age of nineteen.

The fixed curriculum of the college gave him little opportunity for the studies in which he was chiefly interested, and his standing in the conventional branches on which the higher education was then supposed to depend was not unusually high. He was, however, regarded as "a man exceptionally promising for work" in natural history.

Doctor Goode spent part of the year of 1870 in graduate work in Harvard, and there fell under the stimulating influence of the greatest of teachers of science, Louis Agassiz. Before the year was over he was recalled to Middletown to take charge of the Museum of Natural Science then just erected by Orange Judd. His work in Judd Hall was a prelude to his reorganization of the National Museum in Washington, an institution which will always show in its classification and arrangement the traces of his master hand.

In 1872 he first met Professor Baird in Eastport, Maine, and in 1873, while at the meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, in Portland, Maine, he renewed his acquaintance. Professor Baird, with his characteristic insight into the ambitions and possibilities of promising young men, - one of his notable qualities, - invited Doctor Goode to aid in the work of the newly organized Fish Commission. At that time Professor Baird was Assistant Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution in charge of the National Museum, and also United States Fish Commissioner.

The organizations were managed in similar fashion and all their activities directed to the same high ends. Very soon Doctor Goode was brought into the service of them both. In the summer he was employed by the Fish Commission in investigations and explorations along the Atlantic Coast. In the winter he divided his time between Wesleyan University and the National Museum, until the former institution was reluctantly compelled in 1877 to wholly give him up. Till that date his only compensation for work done in Washington was found in duplicate specimens of fishes and other animals, which in turn were presented by him to the museum in Middletown.

In 1887 he became Assistant Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution in charge of the National Museum. On the death of Professor Baird, he became for a time United States Fish Commissioner, holding the office without pay until a change in the law permitted the appointment of a separate salaried head. In his later years Mr. Goode devoted his whole energies to museum administration, a kind of work for which no one in the world has ever shown greater aptitude. Two important publications, 1 "Museums of the Future" and "Principles of Museum Administration," admirably embody his views and experiences in this regard. [1 "The Museums of the Future." Report of the United States National Museum, 1889, page 427. This paper was originally delivered as a lecture before the Brooklyn Institute, on February 28, 1889. "The Principles of Museum Administration." Annual Report of the Museums Association, 1895, reprinted as octavo pamphlet of 73 pages.

In addition to the foregoing, Doctor Goode published the following papers on Museum Administration: "Museum History and Museums of History," "Papers of the American Historical Association," Volume II, 1889, page 251 (495); "Genesis of the National Museum." Report of the United States National Museum, 1891, page 273. In this connection it is also proper to mention his "Annual Reports" as director of the United States National Museum, beginning with the year 1881.] His appreciation of the importance of such work is characteristically shown in his dedication of an interesting genus of deep-sea fishes to "Ulysses Aldrovandi, of Bologna, the founder of the first natural history museum."

His interest in museum administration caused a large amount of "exposition work" to be entrusted to his hands. An exposition is a temporary museum with a distinctly educational purpose. It can be made a mere public fair on a large scale, or it can be made a source of public education. In Doctor Goode's hands an exhibition of material was always made to teach some lesson. He had charge, under Professor Baird, of the Smithsonian exhibits in the Centennial Exhibition of 1876, in Philadelphia. He served as United States Commissioner in the Fisheries Exhibition held in Berlin in 1880, and in London in 1883. He was a member of the Board of Management of the government exhibit in the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893, and also prepared the general plan of classification adopted for the exhibition. 1["First Draft of a System of Classification for the World's Columbian Exposition," submitted to the President of the World's Columbian Commission. Report of the United States National Museum, 1891, page 649.] He was equally active in minor expositions held in New Orleans, Cincinnati, Louisville, Atlanta, and elsewhere. He was also concerned in the Columbian Historical Exposition held in Madrid 1892-'93, and for part of the time acted as Commissioner-General for the United States. 2 ["The Report of the United States Commission to the Columbian Historical Exposition at Madrid, 1892-'93, with Special Papers," Washington, 1895, was prepared under Doctor Goode's direction.] His services in that connection were recognized by the conferment of the order of Isabella th Catholic, with the rank of Commander. From the Fisheries Exposition in London he received a medal in honor of his services to the science of ichthyology.

Doctor Goode was always deeply interested in the historical and biographical side of science, and in the personality, the hopes, and the sorrows of those who had preceded him in the study of fishes and other animals. This showed itself in sympathetic sketches of those who had to do with the beginnings of American science as well as with the dedication of new genera to those who had done honor to themselves by honest work in times when good work was not easy, and was not valued by the world. Among those thus recognized by him was Thomas Harriot, of Roanoke (an associate of Raleigh), who published the first work in English on American natural history.

His interest in the biographical side of science led him to the scientific side of biography. From boyhood he was interested in genealogy. His only family records were published by him under the title of "Virginia Cousins." 1 ["Virginia Cousins. A study of the ancestry and posterity of John Goode, of Whitby, a Virginia colonist of the Seventeenth Century, with notes upon related families. A key to Southern Genealogy, and a history of the English surname Gode, Goud, Goode, or Good, from 1148 to 1887.

By G. Brown Goode, with a preface by R. A. Brock, secretary of the Virginia and Southern Historical Societies." Richmond, Virginia: J. W. Randolph & English, MDCCCLXXXVII. Quarto, XXXVI + 526 pages, 54 plates.] This has been regarded as a model genealogical monograph. Doctor Goode believed that the way to do any piece of work is to do it thoroughly. Nothing crude or incoherent ever left his pen.

Doctor goode was one of the founders of the American Historical Association, and a member of its executive council from 1889 until his death. He contributed to its proceedings in 1889 his valuable paper on the "Origin of the National Scientific and Educational Institutions of the United States." He was also a member of the "Southern Historical Society," organized in 1896. Much of his leisure during his last two summers was given to the preparation of the material that is used in the present volume, which was his project, and which when published will be a monument to his knowledge of science in this country during the first half-century of the existence of the Smithsonian Institution.

Doctor Goode was one of the founders of the Society of the Sons of the American Revolution in the District of Columbia, and after filling various offices was, in 1894, made President. He was also Vice-President of the Society of the Sons of the Revolution, and Lieutenant-Governor of the Society of Colonial Wars in the District of Columbia.

He was very prominent in the organization and conduct of scientific societies, which he regarded as valuable agencies in the spread of scientific knowledge. He had been President both of the Philosophical Society and the Biological Society of Washington. He was elected to the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 873, and to the National Academy of Sciences in 1888. He was also a member of the Zoological Society of London. His work in science was recognized in 1886 by the degree of Ph. D. From the University of Indiana, his native State. It was the fortune of the present writer to accept as a thesis from him the "Catalogue of the Fishes of the Bermudas," and to move the granting of this degree. His relation to general culture and executive work was recognized by the Wesleyan University by the degree of LL.D conferred in 1888.

The writer first met Doctor Goode in 1874, while he was engaged in work for the United States Fish Commission in Noank, Connecticut. He was then a young man of scholarly appearance, winning manners, and a very enthusiastic student of fishes. In body he was of medium height, rather slender, and very active. His countenance was intellectual, and he seemed always to have a very definite idea of what he wished to do.

Our first meeting was in connection with an effort on his part to find the difference between the two genera of fishes called Ceratacanthus and Alutera. At this time I was greatly impressed with the accuracy and neatness of his work, and especially with his love of what may be called the literary side of science, - a side too often neglected by scientific men. He detested an inaccuracy, a misspelled name, or a slovenly record, as he would have despised any other vice. Indeed, in all his work and relations moral purity and scientific accuracy were one and the same thing.

He had inherited or acquired "the Puritan conscience," and applied it not only to lapses of personal integrity, but to weaknesses and slovenliness of all sorts. Hence he became in Washington not only a power in scientific matters, but a source of moral strength to the community. His influence is felt in the Museum not only in the wisdom of its organization, but in the personal character of its body of curators. The irresponsible life of Bohemia is not favorable to good work in science, and the men he chose as associates belong to another order.

As to Doctor Goode's moral influence and youthful characteristics, the following extracts from a private letter of Professor Otis T. Mason, Curator of Ethnology in the United States National Museum, will be found valuable:

"Two characteristics of the man fixed themselves upon my mind indelibly: I found him to be intensely conscientious, and I could see that he was a young man who not only wished to live a correct life himself, but abhorred the association of evil men.

"Another characteristic which forced itself upon me was his devotion to the museum side of scientific investigation. He wrote a beautiful hand, and on one occasion he told me that it was just as much the duty of a scientific investigator to write a good hand and spell his names correctly, so that there would be no mistake in the label, as it was for him to make his investigations accurately. You will find, if you will look over some of the specimens which he marked at that time, beautiful numerals, clear and distinct, so that there is no mistaking one from the other.

"Again, I discovered the pedagogic feeling to be very strong in him, and the interests of the public no less that of the investigator were constantly before his mind. Indeed, there was nothing about Doctor Goode in his admirable management of the Museum in later years that did not make its appearance to some extent when he had the work to do with his own hands. The germ of our present discipline manifested itself in the discipline which he exerted over his own conduct when he was junior assistant instead of director.

"About the time that Doctor Goode came to the Museum, I undertook to arrange the ethnological collections. I can remember the delight which it gave him to consider a classification in which the activities of mankind were divided into genera and species subject to the laws of natural history, of evolution, and geographic surroundings. The development of the Department of Arts and Industries has been the result of these early studies."

Doctor Goode had a wonderful power of analyzing the relations or contents of any group of activities, or of any objects of study. This showed itself notably in his two catalogues 1 [1"Classification of the Collection to Illustrate the Animal Resources of the United States. A list of substances derived from the animal kingdom, with synopsis of the useful and injurious animals and a classification of the methods of capture and utilization." Washington, 1876. "Bulletin Number 6, United States National Museum." "Catalogue of the Collection to Illustrate the Animal Resources and the Fisheries of the United States, exhibited at Philadelphia in 1876 by the Smithsonian Institution and the United States Fish Commission, and forming a part of the United States National Museum." Washington, 1879. "Bulletin No. 14, United States National Museum."] of collections illustrating the animal resources of the United States. These catalogues were written with reference to the arrangement of materials for the exhibits of the Smithsonian Institution and the United States Fish Commission at the Centennial Exhibition at Philadelphia. "It was," says Doctor Gill, in his admirable biographical sketch, 2 [2 Science, New Series, Volume IV, 1896, page 665.] "the ability that was manifested in these catalogues and the work incidental to their preparation that especially arrested the attention of Professor Baird and marked the author as one well adapted for the direction of a great museum. For signal success in such direction special qualifications are requisite. Only some of them are a mind well trained in analytical as well as synthetic methods, an artistic sense, critical ability, and multifarious knowledge, but above all the knowledge of men and how to deal with them. Perhaps no one has ever combined, in more harmonious proportions, such qualifications than G. Brown Goode. In him the National Museum of the United States, and the world at large have lost one of the greatest of museum administrators."

The most striking character of Doctor Goode's scientific papers was perhaps their scholarly accuracy and good taste. He never wrote a paper carelessly. He was never engaged in any controversy, and he rarely made a statement which had later to be withdrawn. Yet no one was more ready to acknowledge an error, if one were made, and none showed greater willingness to recognize the good work of others. The literature even of the most out-of-the-way branch of zoological research had a great fascination for him, and he found in bibliography and in the records of the past workers in science a charm scarcely inferior to that of original observation and research. In his later years administrative duties occupied more and more of his time, restricting the opportunities for his own studies. He seemed, however, to have as great delight in the encouragement he could give to the work of others.

The great work of his life - "Oceanic Ichthyology" - was, however, written during the period of his directorship of the National Museum, and was published but a month before his death. Almost simultaneous with this were other important publications of the National Museum, which were his also in a sense, for they would never have been undertaken except for his urgent wish and encouragement. If a personal word may be pardoned, "The Fishes of North and Middle America," which closely followed "Oceanic Ichthyology," would never have been written except for my friend's repeated insistence and generous help.

In the earlier days of the scientific activities of the Smithsonian Institution, there was scarcely a young naturalist of serious purposes in the land who had not in some way received help and encouragement from Professor Baird. With equally unselfish effectiveness and lack of ostentation, Doctor Goode was also in different ways a source of aid and inspiration to all of his scientific contemporaries. The influence of the National Museum for good in the United States has been great in a degree far out of proportion to the sums of money it has had to expend. It has not been a Washington institution, but its influence has been national.

The first recorded scientific paper of Doctor Goode is a note 1 [1 The American Naturalist, Volume V, page 487.] on the occurrence of the bill-fish in fresh water in the Connecticut River. The next is a critical discussion of the answers to the question "Do snakes swallow their young?" In this paper he shows that there is good reason to believe that in certain viviparous snakes, the young seek refuge in the stomach of the mother when frightened, and that they come out when the reason for their retreat has passed.

The first of many technical and descriptive papers on fishes was the "Catalogue of the Fishes of the Bermudas," 2 [2 Bulletin Number 5, United States National Museum."] published in 1876. This is a model record of field observations and is one of the best of local catalogues. Doctor Goode retained his interest in this outpost of the great West Indian fauna, and from time to time recorded the various additions made to his first Bermudan catalogue.

After this followed a large number of papers on fishes, chiefly descriptions of species or monographs of groups. The descriptive papers were nearly all written in association with his excellent friend, Doctor Tarleton H. Bean, then Curator of Fishes in the National Museum.

In monographic work Doctor Goode took the deepest interest, and he delighted especially in the collection of historic data concerning groups of species. The quaint or poetical features of such work were never overlooked by him. Notable among these monographs are those of the Menhaden, the Trunk-fishes, and the Sword-fishes.

The economic side of science also interested him more and more. That scientific knowledge could add to human wealth or comfort was no reproach in his eyes. In his notable monograph of the Menhaden, 1[1 "The Natural and Economical History of the Menhaden." Contained in Appendix A of Part 5 of "Report of United States Commission of Fish and Fisheries," for 1877, Washington, 1879.] the economic value as food or manure of this plebeian fish received the careful attention which he had given to the problems of pure science.

Doctor Goode's power in organizing and coordinating practical investigations was shown in his monumental work 2 [2 "The Fisheries and Fishery Industry of the United States." Prepared through the cooperation of the Commissioner of Fisheries and the Superintendent of the Tenth Census, Washington, 1884.] on the American fisheries for the tenth Census in 1880. The preparation of the record of the fisheries and associated aquatic industries was placed in his hands by Francis A. Walker, Superintendent of the Census. Under Doctor Goode's direction skilled investigators were sent to every part of the coast and inland waters of the country. A general survey of the aquatic resources, actual and possible, of the United States, was attempted, and statistics of every kind were secured on a grand scale. His directions to field agents, still unpublished, were models in their way, and no possible source of information was neglected by him. The results of all these special reports were received and condensed by Doctor Goode into seven large quarto volumes, with a great number of plates. The first section of the "Natural History of Aquatic Animals" was a contribution of the greatest value. Although the information it gives was obtained from many sources, through various hands, it was so coordinated and unified that it forms a harmonious treatise , while at the same time the individual helpers are fully recognized.

All these works, according to Doctor Goode , belong to Lamb's category of "books which are not books." His expressed ambition to write a book not of this kind, one that people would buy and read, found actuality at last. In 1888 appeared his "American Fishes," a popular treatise on the game and food fishes of North America, 1 [1 "American Fishes." A popular treatise upon the Game and Food Fishes of North America, with especial reference to habits and methods of capture. With numerous illustrations including a colored frontispiece. New York, 1888.] a work without a rival because of its readableness, its scientific accuracy, and the excellence of its text. The work is notable for its quotations, which include almost all the bright things which have been said about fishes by poets and anglers and philosophers from the time of Aristotle to that of Izaak Walton and Thoreau. In this book more than in any other Doctor Goode shows himself a literary artist. The love of fine expression which might have made a poet of him was developed rather in the collection of the bright words and charming verse of others than in the production of poetry of his own. While limiting himself in this volume to fragments of prose and verse in praise of fishes and their haunts, it is evident that these treasures were brought forth from a mind well stored with riches of many fields of literature.

The most important of Doctor Goode's scientific studies have relation to the fishes of the deep sea. In all this work he was associated with Doctor Bean, and the studies of many years were brought together in the splendid summary of all that is known of the fishes of the ocean depths and the open sea. This forms two large quarto volumes, - text and atlas, - published shortly before Doctor Goode's death under the name of "Oceanic Ichthyology." 1 [1 Oceanic Ichthyology. A treatise on Deep-Sea and Pelagic Fishes of the World, based chiefly upon the collections made by the steamers Blake, Albatross, and Fish Hawk in the Northwestern Atlantic, with an Atlas containing 417 figures." 2 volumes, I., 553 pages, II., 123 plates, Washington, 1895.] The exploration of the deep sea has been mostly undertaken within the last twenty years. The monumental work of the Challenger, under the direction of the British government, has laid the foundation of our knowledge of its fauna. The Travailleur and the Talisman, under French auspices, and the Investigator, under direction of the government of India, have added greatly added to our stock of information. The great work of Goode and Bean includes the results of these and various minor expeditions, while through the collections of the Albatross, the Blake, and the Fish Hawk they have made great additions to the knowledge of the subject. Indeed, the work of the Albatross in deep-sea exploration is second in importance only to that of the Challenger. In the work of the exact discrimination of genera and species, this work shows a distinct advance over all other treatises on the abyssal fishes. The fact of the existence of definite though large faunal areas in the deep seas was first recognized by Doctor Goode, and has been carefully worked out in a memoir still unpublished. In "Oceanic Ichthyology" and the minor papers preceding it, Goode and Bean have made known numerous new forms of deep-sea fishes, naming in the last-mentioned work alone one hundred and fifty-six new species and fifty-five new general belonging to the abyssal fauna of the Atlantic.

But Doctor Goode's interest and sympathy were not confined to the branch of science in which he was a master. He had a broad acquantaince with general natural history, with crustaceans, reptiles, birds, and mammals. On all these groups he published occasional notes. Doctor Gill tells us that "the flowering plants also enlisted much of his attention, and his excursions into the fields and woods were enlivened by a knowledge of the objects he met with." "Anthropology," Doctor Gill continues, "naturally secured a due proportion of his regards, and, indeed, his catalogues trulyembraced the outlines of a system of the science."

Doctor Goode was, as already stated, always very greatly interested in bibliography. No work to him was ever tedious, if it were possible to make it accurate. He had well under way the catalogues of the writings of many American naturalists among others those of Doctor Gill and the present writer. Two of these are already published under the Smithsonian Institution as Bulletins of the United States Nationa Museum, being numbers of a series of "Bibliographies of American Naturalists." The first contains the writings of Spencer Fullerton Baird (1883). Another is devoted to Charles Girard (1891), who was an associate of Professor Baird, though for his later years resident in Paris. A bibliography of the English ornithologist, Philip Lutley Sclater (1896), has been issued since Doctor Goode's death.

Doctor Gill tells us that "a gigantic work in the same line had been projected by him and most of the material collected; it was no less than a complete bibliography of Ichthyology, including the name of all genera and species published as new. Whether this can be completed by another hand remains to be seen. While the work is a great desideratum very few would be willing to undertake it or even arrange the matter already collected for publication. In no way may Ichthyology, at least, more feel the loss of Goode than in the loss of the complete bibliography."

Doctor Goode was married on November 27, 1877, to Sarah Lamson Ford Judd, daughter of Orange Judd, the well-known publisher, and the founder of Orange Judd Hall at Wesleyan University in which Doctor Goode's career as a museum administrator began. The married life of Doctor and Mrs. Goode was a very happy one. The wife and four children are still living.

As to the personal qualities of Doctor Goode, I cannot do better than to quote the following words of two of his warmest friends. Doctor S. P. Langley wrote: "I have never known a more perfectly true, sincere, and loyal character than Doctor Goode's; or a man who with a better judgment of other men, or greater ability in moulding their purposes to his own, used these powers to such uniformly disinterested ends, so that he could maintain the discipline of a great establishment like the National Museum, while retaining the personal affection of every subordinate."

"His disposition," says Doctor Theodore Gill, " was a bright and sunny one, and he ingratiated himself in the affections of his friends in a marked degree. He had a hearty way of meeting intimates, and a caressing cast of the arm over the shoulder of such an one often followed sympathetic intercourse. But in spite of his gentleness, firmness and vigor in action became manifest when occasion called for them."

Of all American naturalists Doctor Goode was the most methodical, the most conscientious and the most artistic. And of them all no one was more beloved by his fellows. Neither in his life nor after his death was ever an unkind word said of him.

Goode, George Brown, 1897. "The Smithsonian Institution 1846-1896. The History of Its First Half Century." Pp. 501-515. City of Washington.

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