John Bachman
Symposium
20-23 April 2006
"Nature, God & Social Reform in the Old South"
The Life & Work of the
Rev. John Bachman
An International Symposium
in Honor of the

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DR. LESTER D. STEPHENS

Emeritus Professor of History
University of Georgia
Athens GA


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH
for Lester D. Stephens

LESTER D. STEPHENS received his Ph.D. degree from the University of Miami in 1963, and then joined the faculty of the University of Georgia. He served as chairman of the Department of History for ten years, and retired as Emeritus Professor of History in 1998. Also an Associate of the Georgia Museum of Natural History, he is especially interested in the history of natural history, and is the author of many publications on naturalists, natural history societies, and responses to the theory of evolution. His books include Joseph LeConte: Gentle Prophet of Evolution and Science, Race, and Religion in the American South: John Bachman and the Charleston Circle of Naturalists, 1815-1895. Dr. Stephens is coauthor of a forthcoming book titled Seafaring Scientist: Alfred Goldsborough Mayor, American Marine Biologist and Founding Director of the Tortugas Laboratory.

Recipient of nine awards for excellence in the teaching of history, Professor Stephens held a University of Georgia Fellowship for Study in a Second Discipline in 1994-1995. Under that fellowship, he worked with specialists on marine invertebrates and also studied with a mammalogist. His awards for scholarly publications include the South Carolina Science Council’s LeConte Medallion, the University of Georgia Creative Research Medal, and the South Carolina Historical Society’s Malcolm C. Clark Award for the Best Article in the South Carolina Historical Magazine in 2003. He has presented numerous papers at historical conferences and scientific meetings.


ABSTRACT OF KEYNOTE ADDRESS
by Lester D. Stephens

TO “STAY THE TORRENT OF IGNORANCE”:
JOHN BACHMAN'S SCIENTIFIC VIEWS ON THE HUMAN RACES

The notion that each human race constituted a species peaked during the mid-nineteenth century, finding favor not only in the American South but also in other areas of the nation. Supported by noted naturalists, the idea, called pluralism or polygenism, was cloaked in scientific guise. Champions of the polygenist view erroneously believed they were using sound scientific methods to characterize human races as species. Standing almost alone against scientists and other intellectuals openly supporting the polygenist argument was the Lutheran clergyman and naturalist John Bachman. An accomplished ornithologist, botanist, and entomologist, Bachman was an especially keen student of mammalogy. Thus, despite his sanction of slavery, he spoke with authority on the nature of the human species. Seeking to “stay the torrent of ignorance” of proper scientific inquiry, he applied rigorous taxonomic principles to the study of the races, and completely countered the arguments of the polygenists. Although his valid use of scientific method was overshadowed by prevailing racial sentiments during his era, John Bachman had pioneered in setting the stage for its eventual success in refuting the concept of separate human species.

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