Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Troost's Unpublished Manuscript and the Actinocrinus Crinoid

Recently, I purchased a book containing the Smithsonian Institution United States National Museum Bulletin 64 A Critical Summary of Troost's Unpublished Manuscript on the Crinoids of Tennessee by Elvira Wood, a graduate student at Columbia University, New York City 1909. Even though PDF scan copies can be found on the Internet, I wanted the original printed plates to make images from. Also, the book has given me an opportunity to learn more about the characters from America's invertebrate paleontology "golden age". I hope to document more on this blog about the paleontologist Dr. Elvira Wood and material from Bulletin 64.

The above image is a drawing of a reconstructed fossil of an Actinocrinus magnificus Wachsmuth and Springer 1897. It is specimen PAL 39900 and still shows up in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History database. Elvira Wood notes "The calyx plates are sufficiently preserved to show their number and arrangement as represented, but the arms are not preserved." The image was a reconstructed from Troost's fossil by Adolphus Heiman (1809-1862), his architect friend in Nashville. Colonel Heiman later died in the American Civil War soon after being released as a Confederate prisoner at Fort Henry. Troost named the fossil Actinocrinites Humbolti after Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) whose The Aspects of Nature he translated into Dutch in 1807 while in school in Paris, France. In Troost's own words from page 80 of Bulletin 64, "From the moment I became acquainted with it, I dedicated this splendid species to Baron von Humboldt in whose company I had often the honor to spend some of my time when in Paris." The fossil was discovered near White's Creek Springs, Davidson County, Tennessee, USA.

My interest in Gerard Troost (1776-1850) began when I was a volunteer at the Louisville Science Center around 2008-2012 (now known as Kentucky Science Center). I spent a considerable amount of volunteer time working in the collections department that housed the Troost mineral collection. The collection was acquired by the Louisville Library in 1882 for $20,500. It was raised through a series of lotteries. The public library moved the collection from their basement to Louisville Museum of Natural History & Science building in 1977. I believe the Troost mineral collection was moved to the Indiana State Museum in 2019. 

Time has not been kind to Gerard Troost's legacy. His natural history collection was broken up after his death in 1850 and a lot of his papers lost. It took decades for his mineral collection to finally find a home in Louisville but by that time a number of the valuable specimens were missing. The meteorite portion of the collection was later transferred John Lawrence Smith (1818-1883) whose estate sold it to Harvard Museum. In 1937, the Ohio River flooded downtown Louisville and submerged most if not all of the mineral collection. A lot of the labels were lost and a number of specimens destroyed. Once the Louisville museum converted to a science center the collection was put in storage and not really utilized. Hopefully, the Indiana State Museum will be able to put more of it on exhibit. Dr. Troost briefly lived in New Harmony Indiana during 1826 and the museum created a New Harmony exhibit in 2012. Troost finally settled down in Nashville Tennessee. In 1849, he completed a manuscript describing 84 species of crinoids plus some blastoids/cystoids and a starfish. He could not raise the money in Tennessee to publish this work so he sent it to the Smithsonian for publication. Dr. Troost died a few weeks later. Authorities there pass it to Dr. Louis Agassiz (1807-1873) who gave it to Dr. James Hall (1811-1898) for review. He did not finish his review and it was returned to the Smithsonian after his death in 1898. The manuscript was given to Elvira Wood (1865-1928) who published it in 1909.

Due to being published 60 years after it was written a lot of the new fossils that had not been published thus named by Troost could not as later researchers published them. In Ohio State University's Dr. Bill Ausich's 2009 paper A Critical Evaluation of the Status of Crinoids Studied by Dr. Gerard Troost (1776-1850) analysis of  Elvira Wood's 1909 work, he found Troost was the valid author of 27 species and genus (Zeacrinites) of the 84 he listed in his manuscript.