BOWLING GREEN STATE UNIVERSITY


A portrait of Edwin Lincoln Moseley, BGSU’s first science faculty member, is in the Life Sciences Building.

A portrait of Edwin Lincoln Moseley, BGSU's first science faculty member, is in the Life Sciences Building.

Happy birthday, Dr. Moseley

BGSU will mark the March 29 birthday of one of its most prominent early faculty members, Edwin Lincoln Moseley, after whom Moseley Hall is named.

Dr. Helen Michaels, biology, has located a portrait of Moseley and is spearheading an effort to raise the funds to have it restored and returned to Moseley Hall. She has compiled information on him from the biography Edwin Lincoln Moseley (1865-1948): Naturalist, Scientist, Educator, by Ronald L. Stuckey and Relda E. Niederhofer, for a placard under the painting, which is now on the third floor of the Life Sciences Building.

Michaels pointed out that the bird specimens behind Moseley in the picture are still in the display cases across from his portrait, and the plants he is examining are in the herbarium, which she refers to as the “Edwin Moseley Herbarium.”

According to his biographers, Moseley, a distinguished naturalist and educator, was the first professor of science at Bowling Green State Normal College, now BGSU, from 1914-36. As a professor emeritus (1936-48), he became nationally known for his accurate long-range weather forecasts. Moseley is also recognized for his discovery of the cause of milk sickness, his thorough studies of the flora of the Sandusky area and the Oak Openings west of Toledo (published in 1928 in The Flora of the Oak Openings), his mapping of the pre-glacial river channels in Sandusky Bay and Erie County and his innovative teaching methods.

Moseley was born March 29, 1865, and died June 6, 1948. He taught science at Sandusky High School from 1889 to 1914 before coming to Bowling Green.

He was a member of the University’s original faculty and a one-man science department, being the only science professor hired at the college when it first opened. In his courses he taught all of the sciences and some related subjects, including astronomy, biology, chemistry, geography, geology, hygiene, physics and philosophy. Interestingly, he was even qualified to teach courses in English, Latin and geometry.

Moseley’s theory of long-range climate patterns began in 1928 when he started examining tree stumps and their rings. Using the more than 300 tree stumps he had studied by 1937, he measured the width of growth rings and associated those years with wide rings representing wet years and those with narrow rings representing dry years. He then studied the recorded water levels of the Great Lakes and accounts of floods along the Ohio River. By correlating the data from these four basic sources, he developed the theory that the amount of rainfall in most areas of the interior of the North American continent repeats itself in cycles of 90.4 years, or four times the period of the magnetic sunspot cycle.

He associated milk sickness with the white snakeroot, a plant on which cattle grazed.

He started a Museum of Natural History when he was at Sandusky High School, bringing it along when he joined the faculty at BGSU. Some of his original bird and plant specimens are among those displayed in the Life Sciences Building and in the herbarium.

Moseley was considered an eccentric due to his frugal habits and moral beliefs—rumor had it that if he saw one of his students smoking or drinking, that student would have to outrun him to the registrar’s office to prevent his or her grade from being changed to a “C.”

He was showcased on “Ripley’s Believe It or Not!” as a man who taught school for 48 years without missing a class—surely a terrifying notion to BGSU’s current student body!

March 24, 2008