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The Artist/Scientist Collaboration

A scientific illustration is a species of drawing that combines the accuracy of science with the beauty of art.  Its purpose is to help explain scientific text in publication and it is the product of a close collaboration between a scientist and an artist.  Remington Kellogg and his scientific illustrator, Sydney Prentice, represent one of these collaborations. Prentice (below left) prepared the majority of the illustrations for Remington Kellogg's many publications.

Sydney Prentice Remington Kellogg
Sydney Prentice, left; Remington Kellogg, right.

Remington Kellogg (1892-1969)

Remington Kellogg, was born in Davenport, Iowa, in 1892. He received an undergraduate degree from the University of Kansas, and a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1928 (Stetzer, 1977).  Kellogg began working as an assistant curator at the U.S. National Museum (USNM) in 1928.  He became director of the USNM (1948), was elected to the National Academy of Sciences (1951), and was selected to become assistant secretary of the Smithsonian Institution (1958).  He founded the International Whaling Commission and was its U.S. delegate from 1946-1964. Kellogg retired in 1962, at which time he moved into the newly built Division of Vertebrate Paleontology, National Museum of Natural History, and worked there until his death in 1869. Upon his death, Kellogg left a valuable legacy to the National Museum of Natural History not only in his research, administrative, and whale conservation efforts, but in the form of the Kellogg Library and the Kellogg Fund, both dedicated to supporting marine mammal research. 

For more information about Remington Kellogg see:

Burnett, D. Graham, 2012. The Sounding of the Whale: Science and Cetaceans in the Twentieth Century. The University of Chicago Press. 793 pages.

Sydney* Prentice (1873-1943)

Sydney Prentice, one of eleven children, was born in Washington, 1873 and moved to Lawrence, Kansas, when a young boy. He graduated from the University of Kansas in 1896, and then attended the Art Institute of Chicago. He returned to Kansas where he taught drawing and illustrated a variety of publications. In 1902, he was hired by the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and worked there until his death in 1943.  Prentice was also lend-leased to a number of institutions including Yale University and the Smithsonian Institution. 

Prentice illustrated a variety of scientific works, mostly vertebrate paleontology subjects.  One important job was preparing pen and ink drawings for The Ceratopsia, a book begun by the famous dinosaur collector Othniel Charles Marsh with his illustrator Frederick Berger (who prepared beautiful ink wash illustrations printed with stone lithography). Marsh died before the book was completed. Work on the book continued posthumously by John Bell Hatcher (O.C. Marsh's famous dinosaur collector) - who also died prior to its completion - and was finally published by Richard S. Lull in 1905.   John Bell Hatcher respectfully refers to Sydney Prentice in the book The Ceratopsia stating:

Unfortunately only 19 of the lithographic plates planned by the original author [Marsh] for the present volume were completed prior to his death, and, since the Survey has discontinued lithography for illustrations of this character, that uniformity and artistic effect which is shown in the plates of Professor Marsh's other monographs are wanting in the present volume..........It is believed, however, that this loss has been at least partially offset by the series of text figures, reproduced from pen-and-ink drawings [largely by Sydney Prentice], which illustrate the text and represent many of the more abstruse anatomical details with possibly greater fidelity than would have resulted from the use of lithographs, where, as too often happens, detail of character is sacrificed for artistic effect.

Carneigie Magazine (Vol. 55, No. 9, 1951) remarks:

Sydney Prentice, an acomplished artist, began work in 1902 as an illustrator of fossils. In the field he originated a three-dimensional pantograph with which he became so skillful that he at times lend-leased to the American Museum of Natural History and the U.S. National Museum.

At the time of Prentice’s death in 1943, the Carnegie Museum issued this statement in its 1943 annual report:

The demise of Sydney Prentice on September 15 was a severe blow to this institution and a painful loss for his colleagues. He was respected and admired as an untiring worker in his professional field of scientific illustration, especially in the subjects of paleontology and osteology, in which he had gained a reputation unsurpassed by anyone in this country. He will be greatly missed but affectionately remembered by all his friends who cherish the memory of his geniality, his wide range of cultural interests, and his readiness to be of every assistance.
Prentice novel

Prentice also drew fanciful illustrations and had a vivid imagination.  He wrote and illustrated a novel, Tale of the Turk:  Journey of a Soul, published posthumously by his daughter, Irene Prentice Allemano in 1998.  This delightful novel begins with a dialogue between two friends: one who has decided to follow a traditional mode of life and one who has rejected it. From there it weaves a tale of the allegorical adventures of Ali of Ingdad and his efforts to attain the hand of his love Leonorina. This mission requires him to discover the Perfume of the Celestrial Lily, the Saying that Sings, and the Philosoper’s Stone, the trail of which unexpectedly leads him home again.

Sydney Prentice had many interests outside of scientific illustration. For example, the June 6, 1941 issue of the Lawrence Journal World reports a lecture Prentice gave at Fraser Theater (University of Kansas) about the writings of Edgar Allen Poe. This included Poe's poems, several of which Prentice recited during the lecture, and a discussion about the musical interpretations that had been made of the poems.

The Graduate Magazine of the University of Kansas, Vol. 19 (1921) described Prentice as having a characteristically "easy and humerous manner".

Prentice was clearly a unique individual of great talent and charisma.

*Prentice's first name is sometimes spelled “Sidney” in publication, however, Prentice signed his art and letters “Sydney”.


Many thanks to Martha Rosen, librarian, National Museum of Natural History, for providing information about Sydney Prentice, and to Elizabeth Hill (archivist, The Carneigie Museum of Natural History) for providing information to Martha Rosen.