The Younger Wistar
Today is the birthday of Caspar Wistar, the Younger who was born on this day in 1761.
His grandfather was also Caspar Wistar, so the Younger distinction helps people tell them apart. Wistar was a Professor of Anatomy at the University of Pennsylvania.
The botanist Thomas Nuttall named the genus Wisteria in his honor (some people say Wistaria to reflect the proper spelling of Wistar's last name. Either is fine because guess what - the misspelling is preserved for all time under the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature). It's like one of my kid's birth certificates - it can be amended, but the original is wrong and will be until the end of time.
Wistar had some pretty impressive friends: his best friend was probably Thomas Jefferson, and his most famous botany friend was probably Alexander von Humboldt.
Wistar died of a heart ailment unexpectedly on January 18, 1818. His final utterance was: "I wish well to all mankind."
During his life, every Sunday Night, Wistar would hold a salon - an open house - at his home on the corner of Fourth and Locust Street. His friends would stop by - along with any members of academia, or the elite or high society, along with other accomplished people who happened to be in Philadelphia that evening. They all knew that Wistar's house was the place to go to meet up with the best minds of the day.
When Wistar died, his friends continued holding Wistar parties for a core group of 50 members. They would each take turns hosting, and they kept the tradition going for another forty years.
Leave a Comment