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| Michael Ghiglieri on: The Loss of Powell's Arm
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Michael Ghiglieri on: The Loss of Powell's Arm
Michael Ghiglieri Q: How do you think that the loss of the arm at Shiloh, affected Powell?

MG: John Wesley Powell lost an arm early in the Civil War and up until that time he had been a rebel on his own, with an interest in science and the only way he could execute science was to row boats down the river and study mollusks and so on. He relied on his body because that's the way he did science. And, losing his arm meant that the previous life he had known with regard to conducting science, was now impossible. So, as far as anyone might guess, my guess is probably not much better than anyone else's. The loss of his arm meant that his whole life would change, and not for the better. So, I'm sure that he was a man wracked by doubts and with ambitions that now seemed impossible to fulfill, and it put him up on a higher plane of, how am I going to do this, what is my life going to be, and how will I ever succeed, in that which I want to do. The loss of an arm and just the pain he suffered -- it was his right arm, the arm he wrote with, the arm he did everything with. He was a changed man and it pushed him to a much higher level of struggle to achieve what his dreams were, at the time. It made everything hard.

Q: Do you think he was more ambitious? What did he start out with and how did that change, as he got older?

MG: I think Powell was motivated and, essentially as a young man, he's motivated by curiosity, by a wonder of nature. He was a renaissance man in the sense that geology interested him, biology interested him, anthropology him -- even the Indians he met when he was a young kid, and the homesteading his father did. Everything interested him. After the Civil War, it was a period of maturation, no longer did everything interest him in the same sort of young way. Suddenly, life became a much more important enterprise. And, I think that he must have gone through a period, during that four years of Civil War strife, saying what am I going to do with my interests. I think he merged from the Civil War with a much higher level of ambition, regarding science than he'd ever had before. But, unfortunately he had much less ability to go ahead and do it. Well, the Civil War really pushed him to the level where he was willing to extend everything to be successful. I think without the war and without the experience from having two arms, he might never have pushed hard enough to become the John Wesley Powell of Grand Canyon. He might not have done it.

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