On this day in 1775, George Tucker was born in Bermuda. A cousin of the more famous jurist St. George Tucker, he served three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives before being invited by Thomas Jefferson to join the faculty of the newly opened University of Virginia in 1825. Tucker was a lawyer, economist, and historian. He also was a “mental philosopher” who wrote papers on the famous conjoined twins Chang and Eng, and a novelist who, while lecturing in Charlottesville, authored one of the earliest science fiction novels, A Voyage to the Moon; with Some Account of the Manners and Customs, Science and Philosophy, of the People of Morosofia, and Other Lunarians. (One of the university’s students at the time, it should be noted, was Edgar Allan Poe.)
Much more could be said about Tucker—that he published one of the first novels of the U.S. South, for instance, or that he authored the first biography of Jefferson. Or that, after boldly predicting that the United States would not experience a civil war, he was mortally injured by a falling cotton bale, dying just two days before Confederates opened fire on Fort Sumter.
Seriously. A falling cotton bale.
This is the sort of ending a novelist like Tucker might have appreciated.
A version of this post was originally published on December 19, 2008.
IN ADDITION: Dear Mr. Cornhill, Regarding the Loo
IMAGE: Cotton bales piled high on the New Orleans waterfront. Tucker was mortally injured by a falling cotton bale on a steamship in Mobile, Alabama.