William Jacob Holland – Wikipedia

American scientist (1848–1932)

Rev William Jacob Holland FRSE LLD (August 16, 1848 – December 13, 1932) was the eighth Chancellor of the University of Pittsburgh (1891–1901) and Director of the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh. He was an accomplished lepidopterist, zoologist, and paleontologist, as well as an ordained Presbyterian minister.[1]

Holland was born August 16, 1848 in Jamaica, West Indies, the son of Rev Francis R Holland and his wife, Eliza Augusta Wolle.[2]

He spent his early years in Salem, North Carolina, later attending Nazareth Hall, a Moravian boys’ school in Pennsylvania, followed by Amherst College, (A.B., 1869), and Princeton Theological Seminary (1874). At Amherst Holland’s roommate was a student from Japan, causing Holland to become interested in Japanese and to learn that language well before it was a common pursuit in the United States.

In 1874 he moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to become pastor of the Bellefield Presbyterian Church in the city’s Oakland neighborhood. At this time Holland was also a trustee of the Pennsylvania College for Women (now Chatham University), where he taught ancient languages. He also was active in the sciences, serving as naturalist for the United States Eclipse Expedition, which in 1887, at the bequest of the National Academy of Sciences and the U.S. Navy, explored Japan. In 1879 Holland married Carrie T. Moorhead, a daughter of a wealthy Pittsburgh family. They had three children.

In 1891 he became chancellor of Pitt, where he taught anatomy and zoology. His 1890s administration is best known for dramatically increasing the size and scope of the university (then called the Western University of Pennsylvania). In 1901 his friend Andrew Carnegie hired him as director of the Carnegie Museum, where he remained until retirement in 1922.

He died on December 13, 1932 and was buried at Allegheny Cemetery, Pittsburgh.[3]

Holland’s main interest was in lepidopterology, but he trained himself as a paleontologist when he assumed the directorship of the Carnegie Museum. As director of the Carnegie Museums, Holland achieved international renown for supervising the mounting of several casts of the sauropod dinosaur Diplodocus, a donation by Carnegie to natural history museums throughout Europe. His trip to Argentina in 1912 to install a replica of a Diplodocus, at the behest of Carnegie, is told by Holland in his 1913 travel book To the River Plate and Back.[4] The Diplodocus campaign earned him his share of international recognition as well, in the form of a French legion d’honneur and a German knight’s cross, among others.[5]

Holland was America’s great popularizer of butterflies and moths in the first half of the twentieth century. Holland’s The Butterfly Book (1898) and The Moth Book (1903) are both still widely used. Holland donated his private collection exceeding 250,000 specimens to the Carnegie Museum . He supported active collectors worldwide, obtaining major collections from previously uncollected regions between 1890 and 1930 through the efforts of William Doherty, Herbert Huntingdon Smith, H. L. Weber[6] (1873-1962), J. Steinbach[7] (1876-1930), S. M. Klages[8] (1875-1957), and many others.

The University of Pittsburgh’s Holland Hall at 3990 Fifth Avenue is named in his honor. It is a student residence for 600 first-year women students and is part of the Schenley Quadrangle complex. The University Book Center is on the ground floor of Holland Hall.

Holland was also interested in the history of his forebears, particularly that of his Moravian and Huguenot ancestors in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, England, and France. He amassed a considerable amount of material, comprising letters, diaries, portraits, and other artifacts, and donated it to the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania in Pittsburgh, now known as the Senator John Heinz History Center. The collection includes 17 linear feet of materials and is known as the Holland Collection.

Taxon named in his honor[edit]

The fish Spinibarbus hollandi Ōshima 1919 was named to honor Holland, who was Director of the Carnegie Museum, in whose journal Ōshima’s paper appeared.[9]


  1. ^ “HOLLAND, William Jacob”. The International Who’s Who in the World. 1912. p. 608.
  2. ^ Biographical Index of Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. ISBN 0-902-198-84-X.
  3. ^ “Dr. Holland Laid to Rest”. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 15 December 1932. p. 2.
  4. ^ Holland, W. J. (1913). To the River Plate and Back. The narrative of a scientific mission to South America, with observations on things seen and suggested. New York & London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons.
  5. ^ Nieuwland, Ilja (2010). The colossal stranger. Andrew Carnegie and Diplodocus intrude European Culture, 1904–1912. Endeavour 34(26).
  6. ^ Hymen Lawrence Weber (February 28, 1873 – February 10, 1962) (aka Hyman Lawrence Weber)
  7. ^ José Steinbach (June 1, 1876 – July 22, 1930). He was born in Lindlar, Oberbergischer Kreis (District), in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. Although his original full name at birth was Hermann Josef Steinbach Kemmerich, he was often referred to as Joseph Steinbach Kemmerich. After he moved to Bolivia in 1904 he began referring to himself as José Steinbach. In 1906 he married Doña Juana Moreno Jiménez (died 1923) of Bolivia, and they had 7 children. José’s son Francisco B. Steinbach (April 25, 1908 – January 1, 1999) (aka Franz Steinbach) and grandson Roy Frank Steinbach (1938 – June 3, 2021) (aka Roy Frank Steinbach Quiroga) were also notable collectors.
  8. ^ Samuel Milton Klages (September 22, 1875 – October 10, 1957)
  9. ^ Christopher Scharpf & Kenneth J. Lazara (22 September 2018). “Order CYPRINIFORMES: Family CYPRINIDAE: Subfamilies ACROSSOCHEILINAE, BARBINAE, SPINIBARBINAE, SCHIZOTHORACINAE, SCHIZOPYGOPSINAE and Incertae sedis”. The ETYFish Project Fish Name Etymology Database. Christopher Scharpf and Kenneth J. Lazara. Retrieved 8 March 2021.


External links[edit]