The Megatherium Club

Learn about the Megatherium Club, named after a giant extinct sloth that once roamed South America, which consisted of an eccentric group of young naturalists aiming to understand the natural world, and build the Smithsonian’s collection in the mid to late 1800s. 

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Henry Bryant

Smithsonian Explorers, The Megatherium Club
Henry Bryant was a member of the Megatherium Club and one of the naturalists who helped build the Smithsonian’s collection during the 1850s and 1860s. Born on May 12, 1820 in Boston, Massachusetts, Bryant gained an early education at Mr. Thayer’s school before proceeding to college at Mr. Welles’ school in Cambridge. His education was mainly dedicated to medicine, gaining a degree from Harvard University after his studies in 1836-1840. Bryant traveled to Paris after his education was complete, and in time joined the French army as a volunteer surgeon in Africa. A year after his arrival back home in 1847, he married Elizabeth B. Sohier. Like fellow Megatherium Club member Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden, Bryant used his medical degree to serve in the 1861 Civil War. However, due to preconditioned ill-health, he was subject to resign his position in 1863.

Returning from war, Bryant furthered his studies in ornithology by purchasing and gifting La Fresnaye collection to the Boston Society of Natural History. On December 1, 1866, Bryant began his travels Puerto Rico and would spend his last days there conducting research until his death on February 2, 1867.

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