Biographies: John Ripley Forbes (United States, 1913-2006)

Figure 1.--The photo was taken during 1945 at a rural school in Alabama. The naturalist and conservationist John Ripley Forbes (1913–2006), on a furlough from the Army, is telling a school group about wild birds. It is not clear why there does not seem to be any girls in the group because American schools were coeducational. We think that the girls may have been on the far side of the room, but it is difficult to tell. I began elementry school a few years after this photiograph was taken and don't recall such a struct separation of the boys and girls. Overalls as you can see were still common at rural schools.

John Ripley Forbes was a noted American naturalist, conservationist and educator who helped establish hundreds of small natural-science centers/nature museums for children throughout the country in over 30 different states. He established the Natural Science for Youth Foundation to support the centers. He had a way of convincing often total strangers to give him items for the museums or money to support them. He began his work during the late-1930s and except for a brief break for World War II military service, continued his work with children throughout his life. He sought out local community groups to establish natural-science centers. He worked for small fees or sometimes no pay at all. He helped find financial backers. He managed to find uses for old mansions. And he stoped development of some land so they could be used as nature preserves. He was particularly adroit at convincing widows tob give up their husbands’ trophy fish and hunting trophies for science. Many needed little encouragement. Forbes was not interested in large natural-history museums in big cities and their ubiquitous glass cases, stiff taxidermy , library-like hush. He wanted smaller centrs in local communities that could delight and educate children. He wanted to hear their shouts and giggles and envourage them to climb over and handle the exhibits.


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Created: 10:41 PM 1/26/2012
Last updated: 5:07 PM 1/27/2012