Studying Wisconsin: The Life of Increase Lapham...

By Martha Bergland and Paul G. Hayes

Hardcover: $26.95

ISBN: 978-0-87020-648-1

424 pages, 75 b&w photos and illus., 4 maps, 6 x 9 E-book Edition Available


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The Life of Increase Lapham, early chronicler of plants, rocks, rivers, mounds and all things Wisconsin

In this long overdue tribute to Wisconsin's first scientist, authors Martha Bergland and Paul G. Hayes explore the remarkable life and achievements of Increase Lapham (1811-1875). Lapham's ability to observe, understand, and meticulously catalog the natural world marked all of his work, from his days as a teenage surveyor on the Erie Canal to his last great contribution as state geologist. Self-taught, Lapham mastered botany, geology, archaeology, limnology, mineralogy, engineering, meteorology, and cartography. A prolific writer, his 1844 guide to the territory was the first book published in Wisconsin. Asked late in life which field of science was his specialty, he replied simply, "I am studying Wisconsin."

Lapham identified and preserved thousands of botanical specimens. He surveyed and mapped Wisconsin's effigy mounds. He was a force behind the creation of the National Weather Service, lobbying for a storm warning system to protect Great Lakes sailors. Told in compelling detail through Lapham's letters, journals, books, and articles, Studying Wisconsin chronicles the life and times of Wisconsin's pioneer citizen-scientist.

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After her retirement from teaching English at Milwaukee Area Technical College, Martha Bergland wrote an article on Lapham for Milwaukee Magazine, and continued to study Increase Lapham for the next five years. She has written two novels, "A Farm Under a Lake" and "Idle Curiosity," both published by Graywolf, and is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize. She lives in Glendale, Wisconsin.

During 33 years at The Milwaukee Journal, science reporter Paul G. Hayes often relied on the work of Increase Lapham, whose home had been three blocks north of the newspaper office. After retiring in 1995, Hayes continued to write, often referring to Lapham and his contributions. This biography is a fitting finale to a fifty-year acquaintance. Paul and his wife live in Cedarburg, Wisconsin, where they raised two sons.

"With masterful storytelling, Bergland and Hayes demonstrate how Lapham blended his ravenous curiosity with an equable temperment and a passion for detail to create a legacy that is still relevant today." -John Gurda, Historian

"His name says it all: Increase Lapham was determined to increase human knowledge and understanding and devoted his life to those tasks." -David Luhrssen,

"Studying Wisconsin is an exceptionally written and fascinating read from beginning to end and a very highly recommended addition to every Wisconsin community and academic library biography collection." -Michael Dunford, Midwest Book Review

2015 Midwest Independent Publishing Association Awards

Winner in the Biography Category