Monday, February 23, 2009

What Happened To Them?

Following up on the previous post, I thought you all might be interested in what happened to at least one of Henry Chandler Cowles female students--May Theilgaard Watts (1893-1975). Here are some photos of her--around 1918 when she was his student. The photo above is Watts with Cowles in a marsh at Big Bay, Wisconsin.

She went on to become a naturalist for the Morton Arboretum in Illinois (see Wikipedia article at

She wrote several books, one of which I've read: "Reading the Landscape of America". Her observations of natural areas and their later destruction are quite interesting. She describes various habitats that she visited as a student in the early 1900s and then revisited 20 years later and described the changes that had taken place (e.g., due to human disturbance). Chapter 2 describes in great detail a New England salt marsh--and methods used to destroy marshes.

She also initiated the movement that led to the "Rails to Trails" program.

May Theilgaard Watts (left) with Hazel Brodbeck (right). Brodbeck taught high school biology in Illinois--that's all I could find about her.

Photographs are from the Library of Congress (American Environmental Photographs Collection, [AEP Image Numbers -MIS174,175; -WIS45], Department of Special Collections, University of Chicago Library).


Anonymous said...

Those environmental photographs at the Library of Congress' are an amazing resource. There are not only pictures of people, but of various habitats in the late 1800s to early 1900s.

Anonymous said...

I've read May Theilgaard Watts' book too. It's amazing how observant she was.

Anonymous said...


FYI - It is Morton Arboretum