Cornelia Maria Clapp 1871

[Yearbook Photo]
Image courtesy of
Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections

Cornelia Maria Clapp was born March 17, 1849, in the town of Montague, Franklin County, Massachusetts, where her ancestors settled early in the last century. After leaving the district school in her native town at the age of fifteen, she studied in a private school until 1868, when she entered Mount Holyoke, from which she was graduated in 1871. She gained her first experience as a teacher the following year at a boarding-school for boys in Andalusia, Pennsylvania.

In 1872 Miss Clapp became a member of the faculty at Mount Holyoke, teaching algebra and history the greater part of the first year. The next spring she began to give instruction in natural history. She was especially qualified to undertake this work and at once proved herself a teacher of rare judgment and power.

Miss Clapp considers that the greatest event of her life as a teacher occurred in 1874, when she spent a summer in special study at Agassiz's famous laboratory on the island of Penikese. The following year, in addition to class duties, Miss Clapp devoted considerable time to the study of insects, of which she made valuable collections.

In 1874 Miss Clapp assumed the charge of gymnastics at Mount Holyoke, at the same time carrying on her regular work in zoology. She held this position for fifteen years, conducting her classes in gymnastics with enthusiasm and success. The result of this experience was the publication in 1882 of a Manual of Gymnastics.

Williston Hall was erected in 1876, and a large part of this year was devoted to the arrangement of the museum. At the same time Miss Clapp was making a special study of mollusks.

She was always in indefatigable student, even when class-room duties were heaviest. In 1879 came another opportunity for study away from Mount Holyoke. This time Miss Clapp entered the woman's laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She did graduate work here also in 1883, and again, three years later, under Prof. Wm. T. Sedgwick. In connection with this work Miss Clapp took another special course at Williams College, under Dr. E. B. Wilson, now of Columbia College, New York city.

In 1888 the department of biology had reached such proportions that it became necessary to make an addition to Williston Hall. Thus sufficient equipments were secured for conducting the work of zoology. At this time the first assistant was employed to aid students in the laboratory.

The opening of the Marine Biological Laboratory at Wood's Holl in 1888 marks an epoch in the history of science at Mount Holyoke. Our college was represented on this occasion by Miss Clapp. More enthusiastic as a student than ever, she began at this time a course of special investigation of the toadfish. For seven successive summers Miss Clapp has pursued the study of the same subject at Wood's Holl. In 1891 she published an article in the Journal of Morphology entitled "Some Points in the Development of the Toadfish."

Several of Miss Clapp's delightful summer vacations have brought valuable results to her work. In 1878 she accompanied a party of scientists to the mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina, where she walked four hundred miles. During this absence she made collections of marine animals at Beaufort, North Carolina, and also studied fishes at the National Museum in Washington. In 1884 Miss Clapp made a pedestrian tour through the Adirondacks, and the next year enjoyed a tramp over the Berkshire hills. The summer of '79 was spent in visiting England, France, Northern Italy, and Switzerland, where she walked more than three hundred miles. In '86 Miss Clapp again went to Europe for a tramp. This time her itinerary included Norway, Holland, France, Germany, England, and Scotland.

Miss Clapp received the degree of Bachelor of Philosophy in 1888 from the Syracuse University. The following year the degree of Doctor of Philosophy was conferred upon her by the same institution.

Professor Clapp is a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science; of the Morphological Society of American Naturalists; and of the Collegiate Alumnae Association.

In 1893 Professor Clapp was granted leave of absence to take a fellowship in zoology, under Professor Whitman at the University of Chicago. This opportunity has been continued through 1895-6.

Professor Clapp is a woman of strong Christian character. Her independent thought, her reverent spirit, her perfect sincerity, make her influence felt by every student who enters her classes. She is intensely practical, full of life, and has a keen sense of the ludicrous. Her conversational power and her great interest in everything and everybody make her a general favorite among faculty and students. The college is justly proud of Professor Clapp, and all who have ever been connected with the institution acknowledge their "debt immense of endless gratitude" for her noble efforts in making the department of zoology what it is to-day.

Mary A. Stevens '96.

This essay appeared in the 1897 Llamarada (the class yearbook) exactly as above.