Why does George Post Matter?
As a student of the Middle Eastern flora, I had long been aware of Post's contribution to the botany and ecology of the region. But it was only after spending a semester working in the Post Herbarium while a visiting professor at the American University of Beirut (AUB) that I began to gain an understanding of this remarkable man. As a result of this interest, I am gathering data on his education and personal life. Because Post was accountable to a mission board, documentation of his activity as a missionary and as a faculty member at a mission college, The Syrian Protestant College (modern day American University of Beirut), is available through the archives of AUB. Other data has been more difficult to obtain.
Here is a brief biography, dealing mainly with his plant science. Musselman, L. J. 2006. The botanical activities of George Edward Post (1838-1909). Archives of Natural History 33(2): 282-301. (Note: the password for accessing this file is: anh332282). Reproduced by permission.
So What is Significant About Post?
From the standpoint of Christianity, Post is an important figure as he came of age during the Second Great Awakening that had a profound influence in his home city of New York. This may have been the impetus of his life long desire to be a missionary.
He took this calling in the sense of service, not just in conversion. This is consonant with the teachings of the Old School Presbyterians of his day and obviously had a great influence on the way he viewed his work. Theology of this sort teaches that all the activities of the person contribute to the furthering of the Kingdom of God, not just those which may outwardly appear Christian. For example, as a steward of the earth it is important to understand the living things that God has placed on His earth.
Botanically, Post bridges the period from Flora Orientalis to the present. Modern day botanists would look askance at his typological philosophy based, like Boissier, on rejecting the Darwinian hypothesis. Perhaps for this reason Post thought many taxa were new to science because they presented morphological discontinuity from other taxa. Many of his specimens are marked as Sp. novum but when these were examined in Geneva many were culled and never described as unique because the Genevese botanists had access to a large herbarium with specimens exhibiting variation.
15 January 2007