History Bytes: Newport Natural History Society
In 1883 a gathering of physicians, scientists, inventors and writers from Boston, New York and Philadelphia established the Newport Natural History Society to study and collect specimens relating to botany, geology and zoology of Aquidneck Island. Led by Professor Raphael Pumpelly (geologist/ explorer), Alexander Agassiz (oceanography), Dr. Samuel Francis (physician/ Health Department founder), Col. George Waring (Sanitary Commission). They established their first headquarters in an addition tacked on to the back of the Newport Historical Society’s museum, in the Seventh Day Baptist Meeting House on Touro Street in 1889. The Natural History and Historical Society conveniently shared many founding board members.
In 1915 the Natural History addition was removed to make way for the Historical Society’s expansion into its new brick building. They eventually relocated to the Great Friends Meeting House, then operating as the Newport Community and Recreation Center. By then, the founders were in their twilight years and their collections were eventually merged with the Historical Society. Their dream of building a state of the art aquarium was never realized.