By John Ostapkovich
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University is world-renowned and, marking its 200th anniversary, there’s now a book explaining all the hoopla.
The title is a mouthful: A Glorious Enterprise: The Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia and the Making of American Science, but when you’re talking about an institution that dates from 1812, there’s a lot to tell.
Co-author Robert Peck (along with Patricia Tyson Stroud) went through a treasure trove of records.
“It was a thrill to read the letters, the diaries, the correspondence of the early scientists, as they traveled the world collecting and exploring nature.”
Not to be a name-dropper, but some of the people associated with the Academy have been Thomas Jefferson, John James Audubon, Ernest Hemingway and Bond, James Bond.
That’ll take some explaining. Robert Peck, co-author of A Glorious Enterprise, says decades ago the Academy had an expert on birds by that name.
“Ian Fleming, the spy-thriller series, was an avid bird-watcher who had property in Jamaica. Apparently, one evening he was trying to figure out the name for his spy character and looked over at his bedside table to see James Bond written on the spine of the Birds of the West Indies.”
Peck says this real James Bond was slightly embarrassed by all the notoriety that name — his name — had acquired.
But the book, and the Academy itself, are about more than the past.
“We have a very active research program going on all over the world, with scientists working in the Philippines, in Viet Nam, Brazil, Venezuela, up in Nunavut in the far north, Mongolia, China and elsewhere.”
There’s a free discussion session with the authors Wednesday evening.
Click here for more information on the event.