The Species Seekers Quiz: Getting Batty
Posted by Richard Conniff on February 20, 2011
1. A student of Linnaeus who became one of his “apostles” in the Far East.
2. Head of the scientific team aboard the British Navy corvette Challenger on the first great round-the-world oceanographic survey.
3. A naturalist who was a comic figure in American fiction.
4. A British ornithologist who was ritually beheaded as a spy.
And the answer is:
In 1825, James Fenimore Cooper was working to complete the third novel in his Leatherstocking series, a sequel to his bestselling The Last of the Mohicans. For The Prairie, Cooper created a new character named Obed Bat, or as he liked to hear himself called, on the Latinate model of Carolus Linnaeus, Dr. Battius. It was a comic caricature of the naturalist “absently endangering himself and others in an addled quest for new species.”
Cooper probably modeled Bat on Constantine Rafinesque, who, according to Rafinesque scholar, Charles Boewe, described nine Kentucky bats, along with many other mammals, including the prairie dog.