Kennerly, Caleb Burwell Rowan, d. 1861

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Biographical History

Dr. Kennerly's work as surgeon and naturalist on several government-sponsored expeditions was very significant. He participated in the Pacific Railroad Survey along the 35th parallel (1853-1854), the United States Mexican Boundary Survey (1854-1855), and the Northwest Boundary Survey (1857-1861). All these surveys produced rich natural history specimens that were deposited at the Smithsonian. Kennerly was born at the family estate in White Post, Virginia. He attended Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, where Spencer F. Baird was Professor of Natural History and Curator of the Museum. After graduating from Dickinson in 1849, he studied medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, receiving his M.D. degree in 1852. Because of his early association with Baird and his involvement in government expeditions, he contributed greatly to collection building at the Smithsonian. Unfortunately, his productive life was cut short at the age of 32. He died at sea on his way back from the Northwestern Boundary Survey in February 1861, when his ship was sailing off the coast of Cape San Lucas, Baja California. Spencer Baird eulogized him in the Smithsonian Annual Report (1861): No one of the gentlemen who have labored so zealously to extend a knowledge of the natural history of the west within the last ten or twelve years has been more successful than Dr. Kennerly. Many new species have been first described by himself or from his collections, while his contributions to the biography of American animals have been of the highest interest.


National Museum of Natural History, Department of Invertebrate Zoology. (2011). Spencer Baird and Ichthyology at the Smithsonian, 1850-1900. Retrieved July 11, 2011, from

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  • Surgeons
  • Naturalists


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  • Naturalists
  • Surgeons