Brodie, Laura

July 7, 1908–2004

While Brodie was at Winthrop College during the late 1920s, her biology professor noticed her interest and called her to the attention of Howard K. Gloyd, a well-known herpetologist. Gloyd helped Brodie get a position at the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, where there was an excellent program in herpetology under the direction of Alexander G. Ruthven. During her first year there she stayed with Frank N. Blanchard and his wife, and Blanchard taught her many of the procedures used by professional herpetologists. On trips back to her Leesville home she collected many specimens for the University of Michigan collection.

Herpetologist. Brodie was born in the family home at Rockwood Farm five miles southeast of Leesville on July 7, 1908, the daughter of Furman Edward Brodie and Ida Johnson. At an early age she developed an interest in the living things around the farm, located in the rural western corner of Lexington County. When she was twelve years old, her father scolded her for killing a harmless snake, and the incident awakened her to the fact that all snakes are not venomous. That knowledge sparked an interest in reptiles that led her to roam the woods and fields around the farm in search of the various kinds of snakes and lizards that inhabited the region. Short of stature but full of energy, Brodie had little difficulty in catching the elusive creatures and soon began holding snakes in captivity for observation. In her early teens she set up her “Rockwood Museum” in a small outbuilding near her house. There she kept various natural history items from around the farm and eventually maintained seventeen cages of reptiles and amphibians. Undaunted even by venomous snakes, she collected a deadly eastern coral snake shortly before her fifteenth birthday and added a cottonmouth the following year. But she had few reference books to help her identify all of her specimens, so her mother took Brodie, along with some of her reptiles and amphibians, to Columbia to see Professor Julian D. Corrington, a herpetologist in the biology department at the University of South Carolina. Corrington identified them for her and encouraged the teenager to pursue a career in herpetology (the study of reptiles and amphibians).

While Brodie was at Winthrop College during the late 1920s, her biology professor noticed her interest and called her to the attention of Howard K. Gloyd, a well-known herpetologist. Gloyd helped Brodie get a position at the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, where there was an excellent program in herpetology under the direction of Alexander G. Ruthven. During her first year there she stayed with Frank N. Blanchard and his wife, and Blanchard taught her many of the procedures used by professional herpetologists. On trips back to her Leesville home she collected many specimens for the University of Michigan collection.

In 1946 Brodie joined the staff of the herpetology department at the Chicago Natural History Museum (now the Field Museum of Natural History), where she assisted the noted herpetologist Karl P. Schmidt and collected specimens for the museum. By that time she had also collected many reptiles and amphibians for other museums as well. But in 1956 she was nearly killed in an auto accident in Chicago, and her lengthy recovery period effectively brought an end to her full-time career in herpetology. She returned to her childhood home near Leesville, where she remained a unique individual and an important contributor to the herpetology collections of some of America’s largest museums.

Sanders, Albert E., and William D. Anderson, Jr. Natural History Investigations in South Carolina from Colonial Times to the Present. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1999.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Title Brodie, Laura
  • Coverage July 7, 1908–2004
  • Author
  • Keywords Herpetologist, “Rockwood Museum”, Professor Julian D. Corrington, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, Chicago Natural History Museum (now the Field Museum of Natural History),
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • URL
  • Access Date May 18, 2021
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update July 22, 2016
Go to Top