Scientist of the Day - Herbert Hoover
Herbert Clark Hoover was born Aug. 10, 1874. It you are wondering why a U.S. president is being feted here, it is because Hoover was a mining engineer before he had aspirations for the presidency, and in 1912, he and his classicist wife, Lou Henry Hoover, published the first English translation of a classic in geology, Georg Agricola's De re metallica (On metallic things, 1556; see first image above). We have the original work by Agricola and several copies of the Hoover translation in the History of Science collection (second image). Some critical historians maintain that Hoover undertook the translation project only because he needed some scholarly credentials to pursue his goal of becoming President of Stanford. But Hoover did seem to have a genuine interest in the history of geology, and he put together a wonderful collection of rare books in the field, including many of the early editions of Agricola's De re metallica. Most of his collection ended up at the Claremont Colleges in California, but not all--we have seventeen books from the Hoover collection in the Linda Hall Library. We even have a copy of his want list, which he printed up and distributed to rare book dealers in order to build up his collection as quickly as possible.
One of our copies of the 1912 translation is signed by Hoover--twice. He signed it first with the book upside down, so his signature is on the inside back flyleaf (fifth image). Then he recognized his mistake, turned the book over, and signed it correctly, on the front flyleaf. Lou Henry, poor suffering soul, then signed below, the right way, the first time (sixth image).
The third and fourth images above are plates from the 1912 translation, and they are nearly as handsome as the large woodcuts in the original 1556 edition.
Dr. William B. Ashworth, Jr., Consultant for the History of Science, Linda Hall Library and Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Missouri-Kansas City. Comments or corrections are welcome; please direct to firstname.lastname@example.org.