Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Asa Gray and Charles Loring Brace

The relationship between Asa Gray and Charles Loring Brace (1826-1890) deserves additional study. Brace was a first cousin of Gray's wife, Jane. Although most remembered as a philanthropist and social worker to the poor, the orphans and the underprivileged classes of New York City, Brace was also an amateur naturalist who corresponded with, and was even a house guest (on one occasion) of Charles Darwin. He engaged in spirited dialogue with Gray on the subject of evolution and religion. Scribner's Sons published the hagiographic Life of Charles Loring Brace Chiefly Told in His Own Letters (1894) edited by his daughter Emma, which together with Gray's correspondence would be a fruitful starting point for further research. This would be especially interesting for the insights it might provide about Gray as a philosopher of science. It may be argued that Gray's highest intellectual achievement was in transcending systematic botany to struggle with the profound questions opened by Darwin's theory as represented in his two 1879/1880 lectures to the Theological School of Yale College(subsequently published in the 1880 book Natural Science and Religion). I hope, one day, to focus on Gray's correspondence with Brace (and George Frederick Wright).

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