Zoology Jottings: George Finlayson (1790-1823) on journey, curiosity and science

In a latest article I wrote on George Finlayson’s eponymous squirrel. Finlayson had written notes earlier than his dying on board the ship carrying him from Calcutta to London. Sir Stamford Raffles, who edited Finlayson’s account of his travels in south-east Asia as a part of the East India Firm’s diplomatic/commerce mission in 1821-22, thought the notes had been supposed for inclusion in a ebook to be written by Finlayson after his return to Britain. In an introduction Raffles included the next, which, other than the supervention of Charles Darwin, is an apt a press release at the moment because it was over 200 years in the past:

In a larger or much less diploma, there’s, maybe, inherent within the minds of most males, a need to go to international nations,—need which neither storms nor tempests, deserts, wilds, nor precipices, with all their appalling fears, have been in a position to counteract or to examine. Forged bare and helpless on this earth, man has aspired to scan its limits, to establish its bounds, and even to scrutinize its nature: he has risen superior to the contending components, which could appear to have opposed an insuperable barrier to his stressed ambition, to his ever-active, never-satisfied curiosity; and even the good globe itself now not appears to supply a theatre too nice or too in depth for the exertion of his exercise. 

Insatiable ambition, boundless curiosity, are to be reckoned among the many extra outstanding of the attributes with which man is endowed. To what mighty ends have they not led? If they’ve introduced upon him, and upon the race, unnumbered evils, they’ve additionally had their attendant good. His share of peace, maybe of happiness, had been larger had he indulged these propensities much less; however it isn’t in his energy to withstand the unalterable impulse, conferred upon him, likely, for one of the best of functions. The curiosity that’s gratified with inquiring into the legal guidelines implanted in organized beings, or into the overall phenomena which characterize the fabric world at giant, admits of, and is normally attended by gratification as everlasting as it’s unmixed; each step is attended with unalloyed pleasure, each new acquisition leads and stimulates to additional discovery. 

This disposition of the thoughts is especially observable in those that have made nature and pure objects their examine. Therefore the eagerness with which males interact in them: nobody able to reflection however has at one time or different skilled this laudable curiosity, and wished for the ability to gratify it. To this supply we should refer the encouragement held forth within the current day to voyagers and travellers, and normally to each one engaged in issues of discovery. It isn’t extraordinary, subsequently, that individuals ought to readily be discovered wanting to enter upon the investigation of latest and distant nations, and of the assorted objects of information which they include. It’s the lot of few to indulge their inclinations this fashion; and of those few, how scanty is the proportion of people certified for the essential job, both by authentic endowment, by earlier pursuits and habits, or by the required training, or by a correct prepare and mood of thoughts! Luckily, nonetheless, the objects of pursuit are as quite a few because the style of man is numerous, and one thing is left even to essentially the most humble intentions. A correct consideration of this matter would result in an important acquirements each on the a part of essentially the most humbly endowed, and for the advantage of science and information normally. The precept needn’t be enforced by argument: allow us to observe it, if attainable, with alacrity, and benefit from the alternatives which fall in our manner. Allow us to commit to the duty these skills, nonetheless average, with which the Almighty has endowed us, and we will hardly ever fail altogether of deriving profit from our exertions. We might relaxation safe that the labours so bestowed will seldom fail to be duly appreciated; that our observations might be obtained with candour, and our alignments, if urged with modesty, will hardly ever fail to be listened to by the circle of our mates and acquaintances, to the approbation of whom nobody could be altogether detached. It’s on this mood of thoughts that we might hope to keep away from a two-fold evil; that of exaggerating the significance of the feeble exertions of a person on the one hand, and of pondering too meanly of his capability on the opposite,—since each are alike hurtful, and alike oppose the acquisition of helpful information. 

Since I can discover no portrait of Finlayson I embody {a photograph} of his eponymous hen, Pycnonotus finlaysoni, the Stripe-throated Bulbul. He collected it on the mission. Thomas Horsfield, curator of the East India Firm’s museum in London and who described Finlayson’s Squirrel, despatched the specimen to Excessive Edwin Strickland (1811-1853) who obtained spherical to describing it in 1844, over 20 years after Finlayson’s dying.

Streak-throated Bulbul in Thailand
{Photograph} by JJ Harrison*

Finlayson G. 1826. The Mission to Siam, and Hué the Capital of Cochin China within the Years 1821-2. London: John Murray.

Strickland HE. 1844 Descriptions of a number of new or imperfectly-defined genera and species of Birds. Annals and Journal of Pure Historical past 13, 409-415.

*JJ Harrison https://www.jjharrison.com.au/ Inventive Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

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