work provided a basis for our knowledge of bottom invertebrates
in the immediate vicinity of Woods Hole and the adjacent areas
extending to the 100-fathom line or farther offshore to some
extent. His report upon the invertebrate animals of Vineyard
Sound and the adjacent waters with an account of the physical
characters of the region, published in 1871, has not lost its
scientific value to the present day, and remains a major source
of information about bottom communities of this area. Likewise,
are his "Report on the Cephalopoda of the Northeastern Coast
of America" (Verrill, 1882), "Results of the Explorations made
by the Steamer 'Albatross' off the Northern Coast of
the United States" (Verrill, 1885), and "Notice of a Remarkable
Marine Fauna Occupying the Outer Banks off the Southern Coast
of New England, and of some Additions to the fauna of Vineyard
Sound" (Verrill, 1884). In the latter paper he describes the
rich fauna in the region about 105 miles along the 100 fathom
line between latitudes 35°40' and 40°22' N. and longitudes 69°15'
and 71°32' W. according to his conclusion, the number of species
and the abundance of individuals in this area "is due very largely
to the annual uniformity of the temperature enjoyed at all seasons
of the year, at all those depths that are below the immediate
effects of the atmospheric changes. The region. . . . . is subject
to the combined effects of the Gulf Stream on one side and the
cold northern current of the other, together with the gradual
decrease in temperature in proportion to the depth."
He describes also the effects of the Gulf Stream in bringing
"Vast quantities of free-swimming animals which furnish an inexhaustible
supply of food for many bottom animals". After Verrill's time,
the study of bottom invertebrate communities on the offshore
areas along the New England Coast was discontinued and was resumed
only in 1954, in connection with recent investigations of groundfishes
of Georges Bank. Verrill's conclusion about the condition responsible
for the abundance of life along the 100-fathom line in an area
south of Woods Hole shows a highly developed power of observation
and the ability of the author to visualize a general ecological
picture from the multitude of detached observations. Verrill
never lost sight of the forest because of the trees.
His work on cephalopods contains the descriptions of gigantic
squids, Architeuthis and their allies. Their existence in the
waters not far from Woods Hole is rarely suspected by summer
tourists and boatmen. The efficiency of Verrill's field explorations
was facilitated by his skill in devising or modifying collecting
instruments and perfecting methods of dredging and trawling.
He remarks (Verrill, 1883, p. 65) that the adoption of steel-wire
rope for dredging from the Fish Hawk greatly expedited
the work. He was fully acquainted with the latest improvements,
in sounding, dredging, and trawling techniques made in Europe.
He immediately adopted the new methods for the operations of
the Fish Hawk. He must be credited for designing new
forms of traps for capturing bottom animals, the "trawl wings"
for catching free-swimming forms close to the bottom, and many
other devices. The mop-tangles that Verrill devised for catching
spiny animals were later adopted by the oyster growers in Long
Island Sound for removing starfish; this device is still used
at the present time.
Other important contributions of the Woods Hole Laboratory made
during the firest years of its existence are the three papers
by Edwin Linton (1889, 1891, 1892) on entozoa of marine fishes.
These publications were the first in a long series of papers
on parasitic worms which Linton produced during more than 50
years as a voluntary collaborator at the laboratory.
The works of Harger (1880) on marine Isopoda and of Farlow (1873,
1882 ) on marine algae were the result of careful taxonomic
studies of the material collected by the station's vessels.
The work on fishes dealt primarily with the occurrence, distribution,
and development of the more important species. Among the valuable
contributions originated at the Woods Hole Laboratory between
the years 1871-87 were: "List of Fishes Collected at Woods Hole"
(Baird, 1873), "The Scup, The Bluefish" (Baird, 1873), "The
Sea Fisheries of Eastern North Coast of North America" (Baird
1889); "Catalogue of the Fishes of the East Coast of North America"
(Gill, 1873); "The Natural and Economical History of the American
Menhaden" (Goode, 1879), "Materials for a History of the Sword-Fish"
(Goode, 1883); "Materials for a History of the Mackerel Fishery"
(Goode, Collins, Earll, and Clark, 1884); "Embryography of Osseous
Fisheries, with Special Reference to the Development of the
Cod" (Ryder, 1884). The principal question regarding the causes
of the decline in commercial fish catches and fluctuations in
their abundance, could not be answered by these investigations
and with the methods available at Baird's time. Even at the
present time, in spite of the outstanding progress made in fishery
biology and the development of statistical methods of studying
fish populations, the causes responsible for the wide fluctuations
in the abundance of fish remain undiscovered.
The experience of many European biologists in artificial propagation
of fresh-water fish showed that the populations of fish in streams
and ponds could be maintained by restocking with artificially
raised young fish. Various organizations in the United States
and state officials urged the U.S. Commissioner of Fisheries
to initiate artificial cultivation of marine species and to
introduce foreign species of fish into American waters. The
construction of a marine hatchery at Woods Hole was made in
response to these requests. The problem of maintaining a fish
population at a desired level of abundance appeared to be a
simple one. In general, the fecundity of oceanic food fishes
is very high, the adult female (depending on species) producing
every year from several hundred thousand to several million
eggs. Inference was made that by means of artificial propagation
it would be possible to increase the supply of such fish as
cod, flounder, shad, mackerel, halibut, and other species, and
also to transport them to other localities where they were not
present. Baird, in accord with the opinion of other biologists
of his time, believed that artificial propagation might be effective,
and put his full energy in establishing new hatcheries along
the coast and over the mainland of the United States. Technical
progress in the design of various hatching jars, boxes, and
other equipment made in the United States was so rapid that
as early as 1881 the U.S. Fish Commission participated with
great success in the Berlin Fishery Exhibition, showing the
progress of fish culture in the United States. A considerable
part of this exhibit was prepared at Woods Hole.
D. Haack (1882, p. 57) summarizes a German appraisal of the
American section in the Exhibition in the following words: "Everything
which America had sent was on a magnificent scale. The American
exhibit was distinguished by the neat workmanship of all the
objects. But best in astonishment we stand before the large
model of the Fish Hawk, a large steamship especially
constructed by the American Government for the purpose of pisciculture.
The steamship contains, both in its interior and its sides,
hundreds of large pieces of apparatus for hatching fish eggs.
The steam engine partly serves for pumping of water and partly
for moving to and fro in the water the apparatus attached to
the sides of the vessel, thus vivifying the germs of the eggs.
. . . With all our piscicultural efforts we must confess that
we felt very small when viewing this grand American exhibit;
and the magnificent results obtained in America are sufficient
guarantee that this is no American humbug. For the present we
can certainly do no better than to strain every nerve and imitate
the example set us by the Americans." In recognition of his
achievements at the Berlin Exhibition, Baird received from the
Emperor of Germany the "Erster Ehrenpreiz" of the International
Fisherei-Ausstellung at Berlin. Previously he had received the
silver medal of the Acclimatization Society of Melbourne in
1878, and the gold medal of the Society of Acclimatization in
France in 1879. The honors bestowed by these European organizations
clearly show that artificial propagation of fish, including
oceanic fishes, was considered to be practical and should be
encouraged. These ideas greatly influenced the work of the Woods
Hole station and its laboratory.
Numerous papers in the annual reports of the Commissioner of
Fisheries describe many technical improvements in the method
of hatching eggs. One of the earlier papers on oyster culture
by Ryder (1887) summarizes the results of practical experiments,
made at Woods Hole and in other parts of the Eastern Coast,
in obtaining oyster spat.
Since 1873, Baird had suffered from irregular heart action.
This did not prevent him from leading an extraordinarily active
life and personally conducting many sea explorations around
Woods Hole. The increased burden of work overtaxed his strength
during the period of the station construction. His periods of
sickness became more frequent, and in the summer of 1886 his
doctors recommended that he reduce his work as much as possible.
In July 1886, the Bairds, as usual, went to Woods Hole and here
held the lsat four informal receptions in the Residence for
the members of his staff. During the following winter his condition
became worse and he was advised to take a complete rest for
at least a year. Retirement to the Adirondack region in the
State of New York somewhat improved his health, and in July
1887, he returned to the Woods Hole Laboratory.
The last days of Baird are described by Mayor J.W. Powell in
his address at the memorial meeting of Scientific Societies
of Washington in January 1888 (Dall, 1915). Three days before
his death, Baird asked to be placed in a wheelchair and moved
around the pier past the vessels and through the laboratory.
For everyone he had a word of good cheer, though he knew it
was the last. He died on August 19, 1887, and was buried at
Oak Jill Cemetery in honor of the first United States Commissioner
of Fisheries and founder of the Woods Hole Station, was placed
at the station in 1902 by the American Fisheries Society; it
remains in its original location.
At the time of Baird's death the scientific work of the Woods
Hole Laboratory was already on a sound foundation. Research
was conducted along several principal lines which can be grouped
under the following general headings: taxonomy and distribution
of fishes; composition of communities of bottom organisms; reproduction,
embryology, and movements of principal food animals of the sea;
fish culture as a means of maintaining the abundance of fish
populations; parasites and diseases of fishes. The work was
balanced as far as possible with the available funds and personnel.
The major part of the general program was carried out by independent
investigators. Many distinguished scholars were attracted by
the facilities of the laboratory, but even more by the scientific
standing and dynamic personality of its director.
Baird's guiding spirit in the study of fisheries problems was
not lost with his death. With modifications and changes his
spirit has continued to the present time. He undoubtedly was
the first fishery biologist in this country. His understanding
of fishery problems is clearly expressed in the following excerpts
from his paper read at the International Commission held at
Halifax in 1877 (Baird, 1889).
it is probable that the supply of fish on the outer banks
and in the deep sea, away from the immediate coast, is as
great as that of former years, a lamentable falling off is
to be appreciated in the capture of anadromous fish, such
as the shad, salmon, and the alewife, as well as of many species
belonging immediately to the coast, such as the striped bass,
the scup, and other fish.
it is believed they are capable of remedy by proper legislation
and protection, artificial propagation, etc., and that we
may look forward in the distant future to a very considerable
return to the former very desirable state and condition of
the fisheries. . . . . . The status of fish in the sea is
very largely determined by the question of temperature.
human race is more concerned in the movements and migrations
of fish than in the question of their permanent abode. It
is when they are aggregated in large bodies, and moving from
place to place, either under the stimulus of search for food
or other causes, that they furnish the best opportunity to
man for their capture and utilization.
fish of many varieties have decreased greatly in abundance
within the historic period in all parts of the world is well
established, the reduction in some cases being truly enormous.
This, however, applied only to certain varieties, especially
of the anadromous fish, or those running up the rivers from
the sea to spawn, and to the more inshore forms. The most
indubitable cases of diminution are those of the shad, fresh-water
herring, salmon, and striped bass. On the other hand, there
is no reason to suppose that the cod, mackerel, bluefish,
and the sea herring have been reduced essentially, if at all,
in numbers, the stock of these fishes being from year to year
about the same, and an apparent diminution in one region being
balanced by a greater supply in another.
causes of this variation in abundance, so far as they can
be detected, may be considered under two heads: first, the
natural, or uncontrollable; and, second, the artificial, or
those connected with the interference of man. Where the former
alone are responsible there may be a hope of a return to original
abundance; man's influence acts persistently and with increasing
effect throughout long continued years."
In March 1888 a new institution was incorporated in Woods Hole
under the name of the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL). On
July 17 of that same year, a modest shingled building was erected
on a piece of land in close proximity to the U.S. Fisheries
grounds. The new institution was established at Woods Hole by
a group of university professors with very meagre financial
assets. They met with cordial support from the Fisheries Laboratory.
For many years the sea water for the new laboratory was supplied
from the Fisheries pumping house and practical assistance was
given in the use of wharves, floating equipment, and interchange
of other services. Many of the MBL scientists who became leaders
of American biology spent several summers working at the Fisheries
Laboratory. The MBL rapidly outgrew the Fisheries Laboratory
and became the leading marine research institute of the country,
but the spirit of cooperation which prevailed throughout the
history of Woods Hole has persisted and greatly contributed
to its growth as the scientific center of marine research.
Shortly after the death of its first Commissioner, the U.S.
Fish commission was reorganized. As stated in the enabling act
of Congress, passed and approved in 1871, "the Commissioner
should be a civil officer of the Government, of proved scientific
and practical acquaintance with the fishes of the coast, who
should serve without additional compensation." the text was
drawn jointly by Senator G.F. Edmunds and Baird, who insisted
on the inclusion of the noncompensation clause with the idea
that the phraseology of the bill would preclude the appointment
of a mere political candidate and eliminate any suggestion that
recommending the passage of the resolution was not voted by
selfish consideration of the first Commissioner (Dall, 1915).
The responsibilities of the Commissioner and the increased duties
of organizing the laboratory and research program imposed a
heavy financial burden on Baird. His request for an appropriation
for furnishing adequate office space and living quarters for
his personnel at Woods Hole was denied, and before the Government
quarters were built he had to pay, out of his own money, the
rentals for an office building and for housing facilities for
his assistants. Shortly after his death, Congress corrected
the oversight by an appropriation of $25,000 for the support
of Baird's invalid widow and his daughter.
Baird was succeeded as Commissioner of Fisheries by George Brown
Goode, his most competent assistant, an outstanding ichthyologist
and Direction of the National Museum. The appointment was a
temporary one. In six months Goode (fig. 3) voluntarily resigned
his Commissionership in order to devote all his time to the
duties in the museum. In January 1888, an act of Congress established
the U.S. Fish Commission as a separate bureau of the government
and terminated its formal relationship with the Smithsonian
Institution. The bill also authorized the President to appoint
the Commissioner of Fish and Fisheries and also established
the salary at $5,000 per year. The bill was approved on January
20, 1880, and Marshall McDonald was appointed Commissioner.
He was a practical fish-culturist and inventor of important
mechanical appliances for hatching fish eggs which were widely
used in this country and in Europe. McDonald served as Commissioner
until his death on September 1, 1895. The Fish Commission continued
as an independent, government institution that was responsible
directly to Congress until 1903, when it was included in the
new Department of Commerce and Labor.
Baird's administration of the Fish Commission and of the Woods
Hole station was essentially paternal. With the increased activity
and greater complexity of administrative responsibility more
formal organization became imperative. The duties were divided
among several divisions each headed by an "assistant in charge
of the division." During the first year of McDonald's administration,
Hugh M. Smith was appointed an Assistant in charge of the Division
of Fisheries. The scope of work of this division covered "all
matters specially pertaining to commercial fishing, including
statistics". Smith also directed the work of the Washington
office and supervised correspondence and preparation of special
records. In 1885, R. Edward Earll directed the preparation of
statistics. The fish culture activities remained under the direct
supervision of McDonald until 1895. After his death, the Division
of Propagation and Distribution of Food Fishes was established,
with W. deRavenal as Assistant in charge.