Natural History and the History of Science

Although Amherst was founded to prepare young men to serve in the ministry, science was a significant feature of the undergraduate curriculum, particularly under the guideance of Professor Edward Hitchcock. Hitchcock taught chemistry and natural history at Amherst College beginning in 1826. When he became President of the college in 1845, the construction of the Octagon -- a combined natural history cabinet and astronomical observatory -- was one of his top priorities.

We hold the personal papers of Edward Hitchcock, Edward Tuckerman, Frederic Brewster Loomis, and other science faculty. We also hold archival materials from the various museums and "cabinets" that have housed the specimens now held by the Beneski Museum of Natual History at Amherst. Information about these early displays can be found in the Buildings and Grounds Collection and the separate Pratt Museum of Natural History Records.

Our holdings of books in the sciences are outstanding, particularly in the fields of geology, ornithology, lepidoptery, and astronomy.