Mary Louisa Duncan Putman
Louisa Duncan Putnam was indeed the guiding spirit behind the
Academy and without her... the Quad Cities region would not know
the benefits of an institution like the Putnam Museum of History
and Natural Science."
Michael J. Smith, 1991
Louisa Duncan Putnam's primary contribution was the work she
did in the development of the Davenport Academy of Sciences.
Born in 1832, she became involved with the Academy in 1868, was
its first woman member, and later became its president. To make
known the findings of the Academy's scientists and its growing
collection of artifacts, she organized the Ladies Centennial
Committee that raised money and published the first Proceedings
of the Academy. These proceedings achieved worldwide circulation,
and the accomplishment was called a "unique enterprise for
men." Through her efforts, the first Academy of Science
building was constructed. She also established natural history
programs for children and adults at the Academy. Having borne
eleven children, eight of whom survived to maturity, Putnam was
highly committed to public education. In 1902, she was made a
fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science,
the highest honor that organization bestowed on anyone at the
time. When she died in 1903, Putnam left a trust for the continued
publication and distribution of the Proceedings. Today, the Davenport
Academy of Sciences serves the Quad-Cities community and the
state of Iowa as the Putnam Museum of History and Natural Science.
She was inducted into the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame in 1991.