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Lapham examining a meteorite which had fallen in Wisconsin in 1868

Increase Allen Lapham (March 7, 1811 – September 14, 1875) was an author, scientist, and naturalist.[1][2]



Born in Palmyra, New York, his family moved to Pennsylvania, back to New York, to Ohio then to Louisville, Kentucky (1827–1830) then back to Ohio while his father, Seneca Lapham, worked on the canals in various locations. Lapham was of entirely English ancestry, all of which had been in what is now the United States since the early 1600s. His ancestors were among the first English colonists to establish Rhode Island.[3] He displayed a talent for scientific observation early on while working on the canals and their locks himself, producing drawings that he could sell at the age of thirteen.

In July 1836, Lapham moved to Kilbourntown (which soon incorporated into the city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin) and worked closely with Byron Kilbourn in his business and development endeavors.[4] The two had worked together previously on the Miami Canal and Lapham considered him a loyal friend and mentor. Before the end of the year, Lapham had published a Catalogue of Plants and Shells, Found in the vicinity of Milwaukee, on the West Side of Lake Michigan, perhaps the first scientific work published west of the Great Lakes.

In 1848,[5] Lapham founded the Wisconsin Natural History Association, a predecessor of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters,[6] of which he also was a charter member.

Many of his works and early maps were used for various civil projects such as canal and railroad development. In 1844 Lapham published the first substantial book on the geography of the Wisconsin Territory. His first map of Wisconsin was made in 1846.[7] He published many more papers and books through his life, particularly on geology, archaeology and history, and flora and fauna of Wisconsin, including publication by the Smithsonian Institution.[8]

In 1850, he discovered the Panther Intaglio Effigy Mound, which is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[9]

Lapham was elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society in 1853.[10]

He was buried at Forest Home Cemetery in Milwaukee.[11]


Lapham is considered "Wisconsin's first great scientist"[12] and the "Father of the U.S Weather Service,"[13][14] based upon his lobbying to Congress and the Smithsonian Institution to create such an agency to forecast storms on the Great Lakes and both coasts.[15] When the agency was created through the U.S. Secretary of War, Lapham made the first such accurate Great Lakes storm warning from Chicago.[16]

Since his death, numerous landmarks throughout the southeastern Wisconsin area have been named after him, including Lapham Peak, the highest point in Waukesha County, Wisconsin,[17] a major University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee building,[18] and streets.[19] In Madison, Wisconsin, he currently has an elementary school named after him.[20][21]

A genus of North American plants, Laphamia,[22] was named for him by Asa Gray.[23] Certain markings found on iron meteors were designated by J. Lawrence Smith[24] as Laphamite markings.[25] A formerly existing glacial lake was provisionally named Lake Lapham.[26] The Wisconsin Archeological Society awards the Lapham Research Medal,[27] first doing so in 1926.[28] The U.S. Navy named a ship SS Increase A. Lapham during World War II.[29] The University of Wisconsin has an Increase A. Lapham Professorship.[30] Lapham was inducted in 1992 into the Wisconsin Conservation Hall of Fame[31] and in 2003 into the Wisconsin Forestry Hall of Fame.[32]

The centennial of Lapham's birth was celebrated in 1911.[33] In 2011, celebration of the bicentennial was planned, including an Increase A. Lapham Day at Aztalan State Park.[34]

Selected worksEdit

Some works of Increase A. Lapham:

Title Date
Notice of the Louisville and Shipping sport Canal and of the Geology of the vicinity 1828 [35]
A Catalogue of Plants & Shells, Found in the Vicinity of Milwaukee, on the West Side of Lake Michigan 1836 [36]
A Geographical and Topographical Description of Wisconsin 1844 [37]
Wisconsin: its geography and topography, history, geology, and mineralogy 1846 [38]
Fauna and Flora of Wisconsin 1852 [39]
The Antiquities of Wisconsin 1855 [40]
On the Man-shaped Mounds of Wisconsin 1859 [41]
Opening an Ancient Mound Near Madison, Wisconsin 1860 [42]
Geological Map of Wisconsin 1855 [43]
Report on the Disastrous Effects of the Destruction of Forest Trees 1867 [44]
New Geological Map of Wisconsin 1869 [45]
Oconomowoc and other Small Lakes of Wisconsin 1876 [46]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Hoy, P. R. Increase A. Lapham, LL. D., Transactions of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters. v. 3, 1876, pp. 264–267. (copy) (copy)
  2. ^ Quaife, Milo M. Increase Allen Lapham, First Scholar of Wisconsin. Wisconsin Magazine of History, v. 1, n. 1, September 1917, pp. 3–15. (copy) (copy) (copy)
  3. ^ Graham Parker Hawks, Increase A. Lapham, Wisconsin's first scientist (University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1960)
  4. ^ Barquist, Barbara; Barquist, David (1987). "The Beginning". In Haley, Leroy (ed.). The Summit of Oconomowoc: 150 Years of Summit Town. Summit History Group. p. 9.
  5. ^ Constitution of the Natural History Association of Wisconsin, 1848. Accessed October 20, 2010.
  6. ^ Shorger, A. W. The Wisconsin Natural History Association. Wisconsin Magazine of History, v. 31, n. 2, December 1947, pp. 168–177.
  7. ^ Smith, Alice E. Two Wisconsin Map Makers. The Wisconsin Magazine of History, v. 29, n. 4, June 1946, pp. 402–406.
  8. ^ Winsor, Justin. Narrative and critical history of America, v. 1, 1889, p. 400. (copy) (copy)
  9. ^ "Panther Intaglio". Landmark Retrieved February 23, 2012.
  10. ^ American Antiquarian Society Members Directory
  11. ^ "Increase A. Lapham born March 7, 1811 died Sept. 14, 1875.", Find A Grave Photo. Accessed October 24, 2010.
  12. ^ Janik, Erika, Citizen Scientist – Wisconsin's First Renaissance Man, Increase A. Lapham Merits Renown... Wisconsin Natural Resources Magazine, February 2007.
  13. ^ Hintz, Martin. Hiking Wisconsin. Human Kinetics, 1997, p. 159. ISBN 0-88011-567-X
  14. ^ Moore, Willis L. Storms and Weather Forecasts. The National Geographic Magazine, v. 8, n. 3, March 1897, p. 67. (copy)
  15. ^ Miller, Eric R. New light on the beginnings of the Weather Bureau from the papers of Increase A. Lapham. Monthly Weather Review, v. 59, iss. 2, February 1931, pp. 65–70.
  16. ^ First Official Weather Warning in the United States, November 8, 1870. Accessed October 10, 2010.
  17. ^ McGrath, Wm. Chad. Great Wisconsin Walks: 45 Strolls, Rambles, Hikes, and Treks. Trail Books, 1997, p. 108.
  18. ^ UWM Campus Maps, Lapham Hall Profile (Virtual Tour) Archived August 5, 2012, at Accessed October 10, 2010.
  19. ^ Baehr, Carl & Baehr, Ellen. Milwaukee Streets: The Stories Behind Their Names. Wisconsin: Cream City Press, 1995, pp. 149–150. ISBN 0-9640204-4-0
  20. ^ Heggland, Timothy F. and Rankin, Katherine H. The Tenney-Lapham Neighborhood: A Walking Tour Archived July 16, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, Madison Landmarks Commission, 1997, p. 35.
  21. ^ Proceedings of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin at its Fifty-Second Annual Meeting, State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1905, p. 35.
  22. ^ Meehan, Thomas, Horticulture at Milwaukee, The Gardener's Monthly, v. 12, n. 2, 1870, p. 52.
  23. ^ "A Cabinet of Natural History": The UW-Madison Herbarium's Sesquicentennial, 1849–1999, Wisconsin Academy Review, v. 45, iss. 2, 1999, p. 31. ISSN 0512-1175
  24. ^ Smith, J. Lawrence A New Meteoric Iron—"The Wisconsin Meteorites"—with some remarks on the Widmannstättan Figures. American Journal of Science and Arts, v. 47 (97), n. 140, March 1869, pp. 271–272. (copy)
  25. ^ Farrington, Oliver C. Handbook and Catalogue of the Meteorite Collection., Chicago: Field Columbian Museum, pub. 3, Geological Series, v. 1, n. 1, August 1895, pl. 2, fig. 1.
  26. ^ Edwards, Ira. Glacial Lake Lapham a Preliminary Announcement, Year Book of the Public Museum of the City of Milwaukee 1921, v. 1, July 1922, pp. 94–99.
  27. ^ Increase A. Lapham Award, Society Awards and Grants Archived April 3, 2010, at the Wayback Machine, Wisconsin Archeological Society. Accessed October 20, 2010.
  28. ^ Barret, S. A. The Lapham Research Medal, American Anthropologist, v. 28, iss. 3, 1926, pp. 576–577. doi:10.1525/aa.1926.28.3.02a00180
  29. ^ Alkes (SS Increase A. Lapham), Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Accessed October 12, 2010.
  30. ^ Memorial Resolution of the Faculty of the University of Wisconsin—Madsion Archived June 14, 2010, at the Wayback Machine, April 7, 2008. Accessed October 30, 2010.
  31. ^ Increase A. Lapham, Wisconsin Conservation Hall of Fame, inducted 1992. Accessed April 19, 2011.
  32. ^ Increase A. Lapham, 2003 Inductee Archived March 14, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, Wisconsin Forestry Hall of Fame. Accessed October 12, 2010.
  33. ^ The Dr. Lapham Centennial, The Milwaukee Sentinel, March 12, 1911, part 3, p. 4.
  34. ^ Nurre, Rob. Increase A. Lapham's Legacy and the Wisconsin Archeological Society[permanent dead link], WisArch News, v. 11 n. 1, Spring 2011, pp. 5–6.
  35. ^ Lapham, Increase A. Notice of the Louisville and Shipping sport Canal and of the Geology of the vicinity, American Journal of Science, v. 14, 1828, pp. 65–69.
  36. ^ Legler, Henry Eduard (1904). "Early Wisconsin Imprints: A Preliminary Essay". Proceedings of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin at its Fifty-first Annual Meeting: 118–138.
  37. ^ Lapham, Increase A. A geographical and topographical description of Wisconsin. Milwaukee: P. C. Hale, 1844.
  38. ^ Lapham, Increase A. Wisconsin: its geography and topography, history, geology, and mineralogy. Milwaukee: I. A. Hopkins, 1846. (copy) (copy) (copy)
  39. ^ Lapham, Increase A. Fauna and flora of Wisconsin, Transactions of the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society, v. 2, 1852, pp. 337–419. (copy) (copy) (copy)
  40. ^ Lapham, I. A. The Antiquities of Wisconsin, as surveyed and described by I. A. Lapham, Civil Engineer, etc, on behalf of the American Antiquarian Society. Washington, D. C.: The Smithsonian Institution, June 1855. (copy) (copy)
  41. ^ Lapham, I. A. On the Man-shaped Mounds of Wisconsin. Report and Collections of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin for the years 1857 and 1858, v. 4, 1859, pp. 365–368. (copy)
  42. ^ Lapham, I. A. Opening an Ancient Mound Near Madison, Wisconsin. Milwaukee Daily Sentinel, January 2, 1860. Reprinted in the Wisconsin Archeologist, v. 14, n. 3, September 1915, pp. 85–87.
  43. ^ Lapham, I. A. A Geological Map of Wisconsin, 1855. Great Lakes Maps exhibit of the Wisconsin's Water Library. Accessed October 26, 2010.
  44. ^ Lapham, I. A., J. G. Knapp, and H. Crocker, Report on the disastrous effects of the destruction of forest trees, now going on so rapidly in the state of Wisconsin, Madison, Wis.: Atwood & Rublee, state printers, 1867. (copy) (copy)
  45. ^ Lapham, I. A. Geologic map of Wisconsin 1869. UWM Libraries Digital Collections, American Geographical Society Library Digital Map Collection. Accessed April 24, 2011.
  46. ^ Lapham, I. A. Oconomowoc Lake, and Other Small Lakes of Wisconsin, Considered with Reference to Their Capacity for Fish-Production, Transactions of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters. v. 3, 1876, pp. 31–36. (copy) (copy)
  47. ^ IPNI.  Lapham.

Further readingEdit

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