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The following quiz is tied to Ricard Conniff’s feature “Scientists at Arms,” from the January 2011 issue of Military History. See answer key at bottom of post. For more information pick up a copy of Conniff’s book Species Seekers: Heroes, Fools and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth.

By Karen Conniff


Question 1

Napolean’s first aide-de-camp, Col. Pierre François Marie Auguste Dejean, was also a coleopterist. What was his specialty?

1. He made precision rifle sights.
2. He collected beetles.
3. He was a battlefield engineer, adept at reading the land by looking at foliage.
4. He designed new kinds of artillery.

Question 2

In 1782, General George Washington sent a dozen men with wagons and tools north from West Point. What was their mission?

1. Collect dinosaur fossils.
2. Build a bridge over the Fish Kill River.
3. Dig up mastodon bones.
4. Capture, hang, and bury the traitor Benedict Arnold.

Question 3

In Britain, naturalists typically hitchhiked on military expeditions of discovery and conquest (like Charles Darwin aboard HMS Beagle), and often also served their country in what role?

1. Cook.
2. Interpreter.
3. Spy.
4. Guide.

Question 4

In 1773 Captain Constantine John Phipps, 2nd Baron Mulgrave, took two ships on a voyage towards the North Pole. What was the mission’s outcome?

1. He found the Northwest Passage.
2. He saw a polar bear.
3. He was a spy and brought back early evidence of revolutionary sentiments in the American colonies.
4. He had to be rescued from the ice.

Question 5

General George B. McClellan, Admiral David Farragut, and Commodore Matthew C. Perry were instrumental in establishing what American institution?

1. The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History
2. The Virginia War Museum
3. The National Civil War Museum
4. The American Museum of Natural History

Answer Key: Q1: 2, Q2: 3, Q3: 3, Q4: 2, Q5: 1