John Lloyd Stephens

Birth: 1805


John Lloyd Stephens (1805-1852) was an American archaeologist and traveler, was born on the 28th of November 1805, at Shrewsbury, New Jersey. Having been admitted to the bar, he practiced for about eight years in New York City. In 1834, the state of his health rendering it advisable that he should travel, he visited Europe, and for two years made a tour through many countries of that Continent, extending his travels to Egypt and Syria.

On his return to New York he published in 1837 (under the name of "George" Stephens) Incidents of Travel in Greece, Turkey, Russia and Poland. In 1839 Stephens arranged with Frederick Catherwood of London, who had accompanied him on some of his travels, and illustrated the above-mentioned publications, to make an exploration in Central America, with a view to discovering and examining the antiquities said to exist there. Stephens, meantime, was appointed to a mission to Central America. The joint travels of Stephens and Catherwood occupied some eight months in 1839 and 1840.

As the result of these researches Stephens published in 1841 Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan. In the autumn of 1841 the two travellers made a second exploration of Yucatan, and a work followed in 1843—Incidents of Travel in Yucatan. This work describes the most extensive travels executed till that date by a stranger in the peninsula, and, as the author claims, "contains account of visits to forty-four ruined cities or places in which remains or vestiges of ancient populations were found."

It enjoyed a wide popularity, and Stephens was urged to prosecute his researches of American researches in Peru, but was disinclined to so distant an expedition. He became a director of the newly-formed American Ocean Steam Navigation Company, which established the first American line of transatlantic steamships. He visited Panama to reconnoitre the ground with a view to the construction of a railway across the isthmus, and, first as vice-president and then as president of the Panama Railway Company, spent the greater part of two years in superintending the project. His health was, however, undermined by exposure to the climate of Central America, and he died at New York on the 10th of October 1852.


1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 25. pg 888

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