Marsh, George Perkins

Marsh, George Perkins, 1801–82, American diplomat and scholar, b. Woodstock, Vt., grad. Dartmouth (1820). He was admitted to the bar in 1825 and began practicing law in Burlington, Vt. A member of the governor's council (1835), he was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives as a Whig in 1843. Resigning in 1849, he became minister to Turkey (1849–53) President Lincoln named the first American minister to Italy in 1861, a post he held until his death. Marsh, who helped found the Smithsonian Institution, was an erudite scholar, a remarkable linguist, and an authority on philology and etymology, and is regarded by many as America's first environmentalist. His published work includes A Compendious Grammar of the Old-Northern or Icelandic Language (1838), The Goths in New England (1843), The Camel … Considered with Reference to His Introduction into the United States (1856), Lectures on the English Language (1860), The Origin and History of the English Language (1862), Man and Nature (1865, rev. 1874 as The Earth as Modified by Human Action), and Mediaeval and Modern Saints and Miracles (1876).

See C. Marsh, his second wife, Life and Letters of George Perkins Marsh (1888); biography by D. Lowenthal (2000).

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