Anna Botsford Comstock

Anna Botsford Comstock

(1954-1930)
Inducted 1988

Named one of America's 12 greatest living women in a 1923 survey by the League of Women Voters, Anna Botsford Comstock was a conservationist before most people knew what the word meant.

Comstock is widely recognized as the mother of nature education. Along with her husband, John, whom she met while she was a student at Cornell University, she formed the Comstock Publishing Company. Its motto: "Nature through Books." In 1911 the company published Anna's 900-page Handbook of Nature Study. The now-famous sourcebook for teachers went through 24 editions and was translated into eight languages.

In her book, Comstock emphasized the rewards of direct observation. She was ahead of her time in stressing the importance of natural relationships that work to form what we now call an ecosystem. The point of her approach to nature study, she said, was to "cultivate the child's imagination, love of the beautiful, and sense of companionship with life out-of-doors."

Comstock was instrumental in launching a pilot nature study program - the first of its kind in the country - in the schools of Westchester County, New York. In time, the program grew into a nationwide teacher-education program administered by Cornell University and other colleges.

By encouraging instructors to take their students outside to learn, and then helping them see the relationship between people and the natural world, Anna Botsford Comstock left her mark on countless generations.

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