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  • By John J. McDonald
    Feb 3, 2015
    Roger Rochlen’s book is the first full-length biography of Elias Root Beadle, although in many ways it is less a biography than a chronicle. Neither judgmental nor hagiographic, it sets out multitudinous facts collected by the author. That the book is minutely factual makes it an invaluable source for what has in the last several decades come to be called “People’s History.” This style of history avoids the notion that the public actions of great, villainous, heroic or at least highly visible leaders largely determine the microclimate of social, economic and political conditions in which individual human beings live. The abundant records discovered by Mr. Rochlen show that Elias Root Beadle was not a faceless man lost in “the masses.” His life played out within the middle range of American society. As Mr. Rochlen puts it, “Today, most of Reverend E.R. Beadle’s biological descendants probably do not know who he was. Only a small number of living people would be able to identify him.... More > Certainly, he did not come close to being a major historical figure” (p. 571). Elias’s interests, however, are not all that predictable in the context of our 21st century impulse to specialization. He was a Congregationalist/Presbyterian Minister with minimal formal education but with an admired intellect to go with his universally esteemed oratorical gift. He was born near the then tiny village of Cooperstown in upper New York State but traveled extensively in the North America, the U.K., Europe, the West Indies and the Middle East. He learned German, French and Arabic, as well as at least some Hebrew, Latin and Greek. In his maturity he became an academic “Doctor” by virtue of two honorary degrees, one from Princeton University and the other from Jefferson Medical College (now the Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia). For anyone interested in nineteenth-century Protestant America, science in America or American social organization, “Onward Christian Soldier” provides a sharp, valuable focus on a largely self-educated man who entered both the church and the study of natural history, as well as American society, at their most modest levels and yet ended as the decade-long pastor of a major Philadelphia Presbyterian Congregation, a scientific advisor to the Smithsonian and the donor of significant collections of shells, fossils, minerals and anthropological artifacts to museums at Yale, Brown and the Smithsonian, among many others.< Less
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Product Details

Klamshell Press
January 20, 2015
Hardcover (dust-jacket)
Interior Ink
Black & white
2.52 lbs.
Product ID
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