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John Bachman

John Bachman
Born February 4, 1790
New York
Died February 24, 1874 (aged 84)
Church Pennsylvania Ministerium
Lutheran Synod of South Carolina
Congregations served
St. John's Lutheran church in Charleston, South Carolina
Title Ordained pastor

The Rev. John Bachman (February 4, 1790 – February 24, 1874) was an American Lutheran minister, social activist and naturalist who collaborated with J.J. Audubon to produce Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America and whose writings, particularly Unity of the Human Race, were influential in the development of the theory of evolution. He helped to found Newberry College. Several species of animals are named in his honor.


  • Life 1
  • Legacy 2
  • Commentary on Bachman 3
  • Bibliography 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


Bachman served the same Charleston, South Carolina church as pastor for 56 years but still found time to conduct natural history studies that caught the attention of noted bird artist John James Audubon and eminent scientists in England, Europe, and beyond. He was a proponent of secular and religious education and helped found Newberry College and the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, as well as the South Carolina Lutheran Synod.

He was elected an Associate Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1845.[1]

Bachman was a social reformer who ministered to African-American slaves as well as white Southerners, and who used his knowledge of natural history to become one of the first writers to argue scientifically that blacks and whites are the same species. His accomplishments span a lifetime punctuated by the unrest of the American Civil War—a conflict that caused him great consternation and may have brought about his premature death due to injuries suffered at the hands of Union soldiers.


Bachman's Hare, Bachman's Sparrow, and Bachman's Warbler are named in his honor. The latter, now almost certainly extinct, was discovered in 1832 by Bachman, who presented study skins and descriptions to his friend and collaborator, John James Audubon. Audubon never saw the bird alive but named it in honor of Bachman. In 1816, Bachman discovered the marsh rice rat.[2]

Despite his achievements, Bachman is usually overlooked in accounts of important figures from the 19th century, and he is seldom mentioned in history courses, even in South Carolina schools. To improve public understanding of John Bachman's accomplishments, the Newberry College Alumni Association held a major international John Bachman Symposium in April 2006, the beginning of the College's 150th anniversary celebration. "Nature, God, and Social Reform in the Old South: The Life and Work of the Rev. John Bachman" was attended by academics, students, and the general public.

Commentary on Bachman

An 1854 article "The Southern Apostasy", in The New Englander, declares the following: "The Rev. Dr. Bachman, Pastor of a Lutheran Congregation in Charleston, is a man of eminent attainments in science, and particularly in the department of Natural History. ...Observe then how he exhibits the bearing of his subject on the "peculiar institutions" of the Southern States:"

...That the negro will remain as he is, unless his form is changed by an amalgamation, which latter is revolting to us. That his intellect, although underrated, is greatly inferior to that of the Caucasian, and that he is, therefore, as far as our experience goes, incapable of self-government. That he is thrown on our protection. That our defense of slavery is contained in the Holy Scriptures. That the Scriptures teach the rights and duties of masters to rule their servants with justice and kindness, and enjoin the obedience of servants."[3]

Leonard Woolsey Bacon writes in A History of American Christianity:

The eminnent leader among the Lutheran clergy, the Rev. Dr. Bachman, of Charleston, referred "that unexampled unanimity of sentiment that now exists in the whole South on the subject of slavery" to the confidence felt by the religious public in the Bible defense of slavery as set forth by clergymen and laymen in sermons and pamphlets and speeches in Congress.[4]


  • Bachman, John (1850), The doctrine of the unity of the human race examined on the principles of science, Charleston, S.C.: C. Canning. LC control no. 05029882.
  • Desmond, Adrian; Moore, James (2009), Darwin's Sacred Cause: how a hatred of slavery shaped Darwin's views on human evolution, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 978-0-547-05526-8


  1. ^ "Book of Members, 1780-2010: Chapter B" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 28 April 2011. 
  2. ^ Chapman, F.M. 1893. from the Gulf StatesOryzomysDescription of a new subspecies of . Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 5:43–46.
  3. ^ The New Englander, Vol.12 A.H. Maltby (1854) pp.642-643
  4. ^ Leonard Woolsey Bacon, A History of American Christianity, The Christian Literature Co. (1897) p.278
  • John Bachman Website
  • John Bachman: A Life of Service, a short biographical sketch written in the late 1970s by Mary Bachman Hoover, Bachman's granddaughter
  • Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary
  • St. John's Lutheran Church
  • South Carolina Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

External links

  • Newberry College website. This school was founded by John Bachman.
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