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Henry Parker
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Henry Parker
This is Henry W. Parker.  The description of the Poweshiek skipper, then called Hesperia powesheik, was by Henry W. Parker.  I will present some evidence that the force behind the discovery of this butterfly was Henry's wife, Helen.  I am not suggesting academic fraud, though.  I am suggesting collaboration, with the major contributor to that collaboration, Helen, choosing to remain anonymous.

When Henry and Helen came to Iowa, both were published authors.  Henry had been pastor of three different churches--the First Presbyterian church in Dansville, New York, the Central Congregational Church in Brooklyn, New York, and the North Congregational Church in New Bedford, Massachusetts.  Henry had published his books of poetry, Poems, which was published in 1849, and Verse, which was published in 1862.  Helen had published Sunrise and Sunset in 1854, Morning Stars of the New World, also in 1854, Rambles after Land Shells, in 1863, and Discoverers and Pioneers of America in 1860.

Henry left his career as a minister and became a college professor.  He was by all accounts a popular and respected professor. He taught at Iowa College from 1865 to 1870.  He was professor of Chemistry and Natural Science.  While there, he built a natural history museum, and Helen assisted him.  One of her notable contributions was a large collection of shells, although I suspect that she she helped in all phases of the project.

In 1870 (the same year as the publication of the description of the butterfly) he accepted a position as professor of "Mental, Moral, and Social Science" at Massachusetts Agricultural College.  He moved back east with Helen--she may have been ill at the time, because she died in 1874.  In 1876 Henry remarried, and went back and taught at Iowa College from 1879-1889.  He retired from teaching, and moved back east, working as an editor for a number of projects until his death in 1904.  He continued to write and published a number of books and some scientific articles throughout his life.

Henry's writings were highly entertaining, and I have included a small selection here.  They included poetry, a famous sermon, essays regarding religion and science, children's books, and even some bizzare science fiction.

Henry and Helen may have moved to Iowa to escape some darkness in their lives.  They had a son who died sometime before they went to Iowa.  Josiah B. Grinnell mentions the couple in his autobiography:  "Prof. Parker wedded Miss Helen Fitch, a gifted authoress and the belle of Auburn, tenderly remembered as long a sufferer from a frightful casualty".  And Henry was the pastor of a Northern church during the Civil War.  He probably saw many young men in his congregation go off to war.  Was it a coincidence that he chose to move on and change careers at the end of that war, in 1865?  Perhaps not.  How would you deal with the parents of sons who did not return?  How would you deal with those who returned, but were missing limbs?  Maybe by a change of scenery.

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