Chautauqua: The Nature Study Movement in Pacific Grove, California
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The following account of the Pacific Coast Assembly of the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle (CLSC) introduces the reader to California's first summer school of science. Positioned along the shoreline of southern Monterey Bay, the Chautauqua Assembly program placed a particular emphasis on the study of natural history; offering courses in terrestrial and marine botany, marine zoology and conchology, for more than twenty five years. In addition to the teaching of natural history, the Pacific Coast Assembly offered daily lectures and courses of instruction in normal school training, the humanities and the arts. Weaved within the history of the Pacific Coast Assembly of the CLSC, are new details related to the life of John Muir. Within this account one learns of Muir's participation in a Yosemite Sunday School Assembly in 1879, led by Reverend John Heyl Vincent, a founder of the Chautauqua program. In addition to Muir’s participation one also learns this Yosemite Sunday School Assembly served as the impetus for the construction of the Yosemite chapel. Beyond his participation in the Yosemite Assembly, there is the telling of Muir's close friendship with Charles Herman Allen, Principal and Professor of California State Normal School in San Jose. In addition to CH Allen, the chapter recognizes the numerous friends of John Muir who contributed to the Pacific Coast Assembly of the CLSC, including California botanists Volney Rattan, Charles Christopher Parry, John and Sarah Lemmon; Stanford University’s President David Starr Jordan; University of California's Professors Joseph LeConte and Cornelius B. Bradley, and many others. Accompanying this recognition of John Muir’s many friends, and their involvement with Pacific Grove’s Chautauqua Assembly, one is presented with a chronological summary of the few occasions Muir actually spoke in public. This outline of Muir’s lectures, intertwined with letters of correspondence, provide an appreciation for the eminent naturalists immense fear of speaking to large public audiences. The above elements are just a few illuminating bits of history presented in the book, while the overall context of the monograph presents a possible explanation for a nations’ extreme reverence for nature.
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