About Milestones Of Science

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The Milestones of Science Collection is one of the relatively unknown treasures held by the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library as part of its Rare Books & Special Collections. Acquired in the late 1930s by Buffalo’s Museum of Science, the Milestones of Science encompasses 197 first and rare editions by world famous early scientists.  This veritable history of science includes many of the most important books ever published, conveying revolutionary ideas and innovations that are foundational to today’s world.

In addition to the importance of the books themselves, the Milestones of Science collection has a story unique to Buffalo. Assembled in an incredibly short span of time, the collection was brought together by Chauncey Hamlin, President (1920-1948) of Buffalo’s Museum of Science. His concept was to create a legacy collection, to be displayed at the Museum, of the greatest scientific volumes ever written. Remarkably, Hamlin was assisted with the financial and moral support of several ethnic groups in Buffalo who paid for the acquisition of many of the items written by their fellow countrymen. This investment by the public proved a source of community pride for many years. A comparable collection would be nearly impossible to assemble today without vast financial resources and a great deal of time. The books were acquired quite cheaply, as the rare book market had suffered severely during the era of the Depression when the collection was assembled.

Two documents, both addressed to the members of the Buffalo Museum of Science’s Thursday Club, are wonderfully descriptive accounts of how the Milestones came to be. Chauncey Hamlin's speech (see link below) is a lyrical account of how the collection was conceived and its volumes collected during those troubled times in the 1930's. Almost forty-six years later, Albert R. Mugel, another member of the club and expert on the collection, recounts Hamlin's address. Mugel’s paper highlights the collection's early history, but then adds to it the more contemporary drama of how its proprietorship changed hands in the mid-1990s from the Museum of Science to its current home, the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library.

Ruth A. Sparrow, librarian of Buffalo's Museum of Science during the early years of the collection, wrote a series of articles for Hobbies, a museum publication, giving insight into various groupings of the collection's volumes. Those articles can be accessed from the links below.

For more information about the Buffalo Museum of Science, please visit their website at www.sciencebuff.org