Henry A. Ward: A Pioneer of Object Based Learning in the Natural Sciences

Henry A. Ward: A Pioneer of Object Based Learning in the Natural Sciences

Carlson Library, Floor 1
October 1, 2018 8:00am to May 17, 2019 5:00pm

Henry A. Ward (1834-1906), an early educational “entrepreneur” and University of Rochester professor from 1860-1875, played a key role in the development of the natural sciences in the US. His love for exploration and the acquisition of natural specimens resulted in an extensive personal collection later incorporated into the University of Rochester Museum of Natural History. In 1862, Ward founded “Ward’s Natural Science Establishment,” a company that provided geological and biological specimens, or casts and models of the original material, to museums and educational establishments worldwide. Material was organized into collections referred to sometimes as “Cabinets of Curiousity”.


Ward’s catalogs contained rich specimen descriptions organized by the accepted scientific classification at the time that were occasionally used as textbooks for college classes. Ward’s company also trained naturalists, taxidermists, molders, and modelers, who further promoted the use of specimens and physical models in natural sciences education. Several of the most important natural history museums in the country were initiated almost entirely with materials that Ward collected (or bought), organized and sold through his company. In 1928, the company became part of the University of Rochester, but returned to private ownership in 1940, and continues today as a leading educational supplier under the name of “Ward’s Science.”

Ward strongly influenced a formative period in US history when 1) the public was first able to experience nature from remote corners of the world through local museums, 2) the modern-day conservation movement originated and 3) science education was expanding exponentially and incorporating the insights of Charles Darwin. The Ward Project based at the University of Rochester aims to enable scientists, historians, and archivists to recreate Ward’s inventory by linking 19th century collections at their institutions to the original catalogues, bulletins, and manuscripts housed in Rare Books and Special Collections in Rush Rhees Library. To see more of Ward’s original specimens and learn more about the project, visit the website at https://wardproject.org/. Original specimens, models and casts of biological and geological specimens and more information about Henry A. Ward are also on display in the interior hallways on the second floor of Hutchison Hall.

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