The James R. Smail Natural History and Science Gallery was created to commemorate Professor Smail’s contributions to Macalester by displaying the diversity and visual beauty of nature and science, which Dr. Smail loved and shared with his students from 1963 to 1992.
Each year, a department in the science division organizes an exhibit, which is mounted in the gallery for the entire academic year. All exhibits must involve science, natural history or mathematics, have a strong educational component, and be visually striking. In many cases, the artist is invited and participates in the exhibition opening. Generous gifts from alumni, friends, and family make possible a Smail Gallery endowment, which pays the costs associated with the exhibits.
Jim Smail was a Renaissance man who loved both science and the arts. He was an accomplished piano player and photographer and also enjoyed drawing. He was trained as an embryologist, but taught a diverse group of courses, including embryology, comparative vertebrate anatomy, and marine biology. Every January for more than 20 years, Jim took students to Florida or Hawaii to study marine life. Jim used his photography skills on these and other trips to build an impressive slide library, which he utilized in his classes. Besides educating Macalester students, Jim was passionate about communicating biology to the general public, authoring numerous articles, usually enhanced by some of his photographs.