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Frank Nelson Blanchard
LSA Minutes

The friends and associates of Frank Nelson Blanchard mourn his untimely death, which occurred September 21, 1937 at Ann Arbor. He had been seized with a baffling fever in August while teaching at the Biological Station at Douglas Lake. After a few days in the hospital at Petoskey he seemed better but soon had to be brought to the University Hospital where he succumbed to bacterial endocarditis after a gallant struggle of weeks. He is survived by his wife, Dr. Frieda Cobb Blanchard Assistant Director of the Botanical Gardens of this University, three children. Dorothy, Grace Eleanor, and Frank Nelson, aged 11 10, and 6, and by his brother Raymond of Wilmington, Ohio, to whom this Faculty extend their deepest sympathy.

Frank Nelson Blanchard, the son of Charles Frederick and Florence Amelia (White) Blanchard, was born at Stoneham, Massachusetts, December 19, 1888, but the family moved to nearby Somerville, where he spent his boyhood and youth. He was of New England ancestry on both sides. His great grandfather David Blanchard when less than twenty years old saw active service in the war of 1812 as able seaman on the famous frigate "Constitution." The family in America traces back to Thomas Blanchard of Braintree and Charlestown who came from England in 1639.

His grandfather Isaac Gray Blanchard, printer, publisher and editor, was an early advocate of labor reforms and is remembered for the part he took in bringing about the adoption of the eight-hour day. He wrote prolifically for the newspapers, both prose and verse. Two of his sons, one of them Charles Frederick Blanchard, Frank's father also followed the printer's trade. The latter founded (in 1899) and for many years printed, edited and largely wrote a local newspaper the Somerville Reporter" and inherited his father's facility in versifying, a trait that did not descend to Frank. On his mother's side, the White ancestor, Nicholas, came to Dorchester, Massachusetts, from England, about 1643.

Because of his father's semi-invalidism for several years preceding his death, it early became necessary for Frank to turn his hand to helping maintain the family. He went through the usual boy's experience in selling and delivering newspapers, and then became caretaker at the Unitarian Church in Somerville. By serious and devoted attention to this work and to irregular rush-time employment by the Massachusetts Highway Commission he was able to finance his music lessons and to contribute to his ex¬penses in high school and later in Tufts College, which was located conveniently near his home.

Frank's boyhood was a full and happy one. The family's circumstances demanded frugal living, but in a household whose members were singularly devoted to each other there were many homemade pleasures and recreations. All of the family had a keen common interest in the discussion of public affairs and all enjoyed music. For years Frank was a member of an active little music club that met weekly. He played the piano, and kept up his practice diligently until he left home. In later years music was crowded out of a too busy life.

With no inclination at all for the ancestral trade and vocation, printing and newspaper work, he showed very early a great interest in science. As a grade-school boy he investigated electrical devices and played with batteries. His interest in electricity persisted through his college years. In high school his chief passion was for chemistry. He fitted up his own laboratory in the home cellar and busied himself in it for several years. As he said long afterward, his early enthusiasm was not for natural history because he was "a little city weed." Summer vacations on Vermont and New Hampshire farms while he was a small boy had not awakened a love for natural history as such, although he and his younger brother Raymond became devoted gardeners. Raymond, as a result, went into landscape gardening and graduated in that field at Harvard. In the diary which Frank began in 1905 and kept for thirty-three years, never missing a day, there is invariably a note on the state of the weather and gardening entries on the dates when he planted, cultivated or harvested the plants in his vegetable garden.

It was after he went to Tufts College that Frank turned to natural history. His first idea was to become a forester, and his undergraduate work was planned and carried out with the idea of entering the Graduate School of Applied Science at Harvard. Under the influence of Professor F. D. Lambert he turned to botany and made substantial progress in that direction. In December 1912 he wrote "Botany laboratory takes most of my time nowadays." During Blanchard's last year at Tufts he assisted Professor Lambert in teaching botany.

In 1914, the year following his graduation, he published his first and last botanical paper, entitled "Two new species of Stigonema." This early specialization in Algae reflects, of course, Professor Lambert's preoccupation with Algae during Blanchard's college years, and that in, turn was a natural solve, and was told to rediscover the "lost frog of Tasmania," Crinia tasmaniensis. This frog had been described for fifty years, but was still known only from the type specimen in the British Museum. Blanchard promptly rounded up about a hundred specimens, at several places in Tasmania, enough for all institutions that were interested, and found out much about its life history. Perhaps this exploit may have been responsible for his election as one of the two members at Michigan of the Zoological Society of London, although he collected other rare and new species.

Before 1925 Blanchard had formulated plans for a Manual of the Snakes of the United States, Canada and Lower California to supplement his well-known "Key," which was published in 1927, A later plan (in 1935) was for the Manual to be a more definitive work including the out-of-print "Key," so that the book as a whole might summarize knowledge of the snakes down to the date of publication. A trip to the Southwest for collecting and for the examination of Museum specimens was necessary before great progress could be made. Blanchard chose Dr. Gloyd as joint author in the book, and also as his companion for the trip, which was carried out in 1935. This project it is hoped, will be completed.

Blanchard's extreme industry, together with his shy and unobtrusive disposition, limited the circle of his close friends largely to his students and professional associates. Yet he was widely and highly esteemed for his learning and helpfulness to others. Probably no other zoologist in any field of specialization has taken greater pains to become acquainted with amateur zoologists the country over, has so generously appreciated and recognized their efforts, or has done more to weave their work into fabric of current science.

During his western trip of 1935, and the month spent in Florida and the southeast in 1936, he made efforts to meet as many as possible of his nonprofessional correspondents and to look up others that he heard of locally. He was keenly interested in recording the great variety of major interests represented by this group who took up herpetology as a recreation, and often emphasized the value of their contributions.

As for his students, their devotion may best be indicated by a quotation from one of the letters that came during his illness, for it expresses the feeling of all: "Your knowledge and experience are so far beyond that of your students, yet, somehow, you give us all a feeling of comradeship and of sharing a great privilege. Your honesty of thought and modesty in accomplishment make us all ashamed not to do our best. Put in your best efforts in getting well: We need you." What more could be said by his colleagues? Our sorrow at his passing is only mingled with the happy memory of having had him so long.

A, G. Ruthven
George R. LaRue
H. H. Bartlett (Chairman)