Daniel Cady Eaton
America's First Pteridologist
Today is the birthday of America's first pteridologist, Daniel Cady Eaton, who was born on this day in 1834.
A pteridologist is a person who studies ferns.
The botanist Charles Frost told a charming story about how Eaton had fallen in love with ferns after going on a walk with his fiancé. At some point on their walk, she had apparently called Eaton's attention to a beautiful fern, and Eaton's desire to please her was the origin of his hyper-focus on ferns.
Eaton was born into a botanical family. His grandfather, Amos, was an American pioneer in the field of botany. Amos was a teacher to John Torrey. His father was also interested in collecting.
For his undergraduate work, Eaton went to Yale and then received another degree at Harvard. While he was in college, he excelled in Latin, and he loved and used the language for the rest of his life. Eaton studied under Asa Gray. Asa Gray would have learned about botany as a student by reading Amos Eaton's textbooks. In any case, Daniel and Asa were kindred spirits; so much so, that Eaton dedicated his work on "The Ferns of the United States of America and British North American Possessions" to his beloved instructor.
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