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Schoenfeld, Clay (ed.) / Wisconsin alumnus
Volume 49, Number 9 (June 1948)

On the death of Aldo Leopold,   pp. 12-13


Page 12


* On August 7, 1935, a young
University of Wisconsin graduate
student in game management,
Franklin I. W. Schmidt, died at
Stanley, Wis., in a midnight fire
which also destroyed his accumu-
lated notes, photographs, and
manuscripts on five years' work in
charge of the Wisconsin Prairie
Chicken Investigation.
  His major professor wrote at the
time:
  I'It is by now a truism that the Ameri-
can frontier did not cease to exist when
the covered wagons halted on the shores
of the Pacific. In its wake followed a sci-
entific frontier, which opened up the re-
sources of the new-found lands to human
understanding in quite the same sense,
and in no less degree, than the geo-
graphic frontier opened them to human
occupancy.
  "It was quite a surprise to the gold-
seeking Spaniards when James Ohio
Pattie arrived in their midst, seeking not
gold, but beavers. Just so is it now a
surprise to biological scientists to dis-
cover as a fellow-explorer the conserva-
tion ecologist, seeking not new ways to
squeeze wealth out of the soil, but ways
to prevent the extraction of its wealth
from destroying its wild life.
  "Society has not withheld its gratitude
from the geographical adventurer who
failed to come back, nor from the scien-
tific explorer who dies in the course of
an unfinished quest. It should, I think,
at least know about important fatalities
in that new argosy of the intellect which
seeks not the conquest, but the preser-
vation, of nature."
  The professor was Aldo Leopold,
who, by a strange quirk of the
nature which he loved, was himself
to perish in a Wisconsin fire 13
years later.
  Just as Professor Leopold was
concerned with recording the tragid
passing of Mr. Schmidt, so are we
concerned that the death of Aldo
Leopold be properly memorialized.
Hence this obituary on the man
who, in our personal opinion, ad-
mittedly biased by the pain of a
lost friendship, was one of Wiscon-
sin's all-time-great faculty mem-
bers. He knew more than most of
his fellows because he saw more
keenly and thought more deeply.
He set for the campus a high stand-
ard of devotion, modesty, skill, and
thoroughness. It will be no small
task for those who survive him to
live even partially up to his mark.
Ihe becd 4 $lc&  erpl
   WEDNESDAY, A P R I L 21,
was one of the first real Spring
days in the valley of the Wiscon-
sin. The sun glinted brightly on
the swollen river. The f. r o g s
croaked- incessantly in the
sloughs. And in the air was the
piquant smell of grass-smoke as
the farmers along the Baraboo
h i 11 s went about their annual
Spring burning.
   Down by Plummer's Marsh, in
Sauk County, Jim Regan's grass
fire began to get out of hand. A
neighbor, planting young Norway pines
on a nearby hillside, saw the danger,
ran over to help. He filled a bucket of
water at the farm well and disappeared
in the billowing smoke. He never came
back.
   An hour later, after the fire had
 been put out, a search party found the
 body. The man had died of heart at-
 tack while battling the flames, the
 coroner said.
   For Aldo Leopold, 62, professor of
 wildlife management at the University
 of Wisconsin, the end was as fitting
 as it was sudden and tragic. He had
 been fighting fires, real and substan-
 tive, all his life, first as a young forest
 ranger in the West, later as the coun-
 try's foremost land ecologist. His pass-
 ing left a great void in the American
 conservation movement.
   As Pres. E. B. Fred of the Univer-
 sity put it:
   "Wherever and whenever men seek
 to restore America's great natural heri-
 tage, Aldo Leopold will be sorely
 missed."
   Leopold, was born at Burlington,
 Iowa, on Jan. 11, 1886. As a high
 school pupil he became interested in
 ornithology and botany. In 1909 he was
 graduated from Yale University with
 a Master of Forestry degree. His first
 job was as a forestry assistant with the
 U. S. Forest Service in Arizona. By
 12
1917 he was a district forester in New
Mexico. In the meantime he helped
reorganize and develop the New Mexi-
can Fish and Game Department to the
point where it b e c a m e recognized
throughout the country as a model of
conservation administration.
  In 1925 Leopold became associate
director of the U. S. Forest Products
Laboratory at Madison, Wis. He
brought his hobby of game manage-
ment along with him. Gradually he
turned his hobby into a vocation and
his profession into a hobby. He helped
reorganize the Wisconsin Conservation
Department.
    ALL OF THE Leopold children are
  Wisconsin alunmi:
    Starker, '36, game manager on the
  staff of the University of California
  at Berkeley; Luna, '36, meteorologist
  in Hawaii; Nino Elder, '41, Columbia,
  Mo.: Carl, '41, graduate student at
  Harvard; Stella, '48, Madison.
    A son-in-law, Prof. William Elder
  of Missouri University, is UW '36.
    A daughter-in-law, Cornelia Rogers,
  is UW '43.
  The Sporting Arms and Ammunition
Manufacturers Institute h i r e d him
from  1928 to 1931 to conduct the
monumental Game Survey of the North
Central States. By 1933 he was ready
to set down his principles and policies
of sound wildlife conservation into
Game Management, the first treatise
in history on the subject.
  That same year he was called to the
newly created chair of game manage-
ment at the University of Wisconsin,
a post he never left. The next year,
President Roosevelt drafted him as a
member of the Special Committee on
Wildlife Restoration. In 1935 he trav-
elled through  Germany   on  a  Carl
Schurz Fellowship. In 1943 he became
a Wisconsin Conservation C o m m i s -
sioner.
  Leopold was active in the Wildlife
Institute, the Society of American For-
esters, the American   Ornithologists
Union, the Society of American Mam-
malogists, the Cooper Ornithology Club,
the Wilson Ornithology Club, the Isaac
Walton League, the Boone and Crock-
ett Club, and the Ecological Society
of America. He served as an officer of
the American   Wildlife Society, the
Audubon Society, the American For-
estry Assn., Friends of the Land, and
the Wilderness Society. He was award-
ed medals for distinguished service by
the Permanent W i 1 d 1 i f e Protection
Fund and Outdoor Life. With a facile
pen he contributed frequently to for-
estry, biology, and outdoor magazines.
  At the time of his death he was
working on a collection of essays. They
will be edited and published by his son,
Luna.
  What would these essays reveal?
They will show a breadth of accom-
plishment and a scope of understand-
ing which no mere recital of jobs and
titles can possibly indicate.
  Leopold, by his own assignment, was
a game manager, concerned with "the
art of making land produce sustained
animal crops of wild game for recrea-
tional use." But he was more than that.
He was a land ecologist, concerned with
man-to-land conduct and "putting the
sciences and arts together for the pur-
pose of understanding our environ-
ment."
  Here was a man who was that rare
combination of teacher, scholar, and
public servant. He brought to the field
of conservation the zeal of the sports-
man-evangelist, the techniques of the
scientist, and the understanding of the
philosopher.
  He was warm and friendly. He
loved pipes, dogs, children. He com-
bined rest with research at the farm
cabin where he died.
  His pungent lectures and his keen
supervision attracted to his Wisconsin
department a large number of out-


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