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Springfield Republican
Springfield Republican
Contributed by Susan

Description: Local Naturalist was Dubbed "The Monkey Man" Tragedy of Dr. Oswald

Date: July 25 1925

Newspaper published in: Springfield, MA

Page/Column: 11

Local Naturalist was Dubbed "The Monkey Man" Tragedy of Dr. Oswald

Scopes is not the first student of science to invite the invective and ridicule of ignoramuses for his biological beliefs. Here in Springfield, some 23 years ago, lived obscurely a naturalist of note and author of many scientific works who became a butt for the jibes of his unthinking neighbors because of his pursuit of the study of simians. He was Felix Leopold Oswald, a native of Belgium who graduated in medicine from the University of Brussels in 1865 and studied also at Gottingen and Heidelberg, Germany.

In 1866, when 32 years of age, he went to Mexico with the corps of Belgian volunteers who undertook to bolster up the throne of Emperor Maximilian. After that fiasco had ended in the death of the emperor, Oswald turned his attention to natural history. In the pursuit of his favorite studies, he traveled extensively over the earth. From 1878 to 1897 he acted as correspondent of various French and English periodicals. Besides large contributions to scientific and popular magazines, he published a number of works. "Summerland Sketches, or Rambles in Backwoods of Mexico and Central America," appeared in 1880; "Physical Education" in 1883; "The Bible of Nature" and "Body and Mind" in 1901.

Dr. Oswald came to this city some 30 years ago, making his bachelor home in a small cottage on the Dwight road, before the development of the Forest Park district had begun. Here he did a great deal of writing. Here also he began the study of the habits of simians at close range. Always there were two and sometimes three monkeys at his home, not confined to cages, but treated as pets with freedom to roam through the house. The results of his studies of these simians, so far as known, have never been published. During his occasional absences from this city, to arrange for the sale of essays or the publication of his books, Dr. Oswald intrusted the care of the monkeys and the safeguarding of his home to boys of the neighborhood, whom he paid liberally for all chores performed. To them and to their elders he was known not as the noted naturalist and author, but as "the monkey man."

During one of his absences from this city, in 1912 (1905?), Dr. Oswald's home and its contents, including two monkey pets, were destroyed by fire, the act of an unknown incendiary, it is supposed. Dr. Oswald left this city and a few week later committed suicide by throwing himself in front of an engine in the railroad station at Buffalo, N.Y.

[Transcriber's Note: Dr. Felix Leopold Oswald actually died September 29, 1906, in New York. At the time of death, he was living in Clinton Heights, East Greenbush, NY. Remains buried in Myrtle Hill Cemetery, Syracuse, NY.]


Submitted: 11/19/13

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