In 140 years the Museum of Comparative Zoology may be one of the richest departments in the University, James R. Reynolds '23, Assistant to the President, indicated yesterday.
The late George R. Agassiz '84 this year left a trust fund that will probably pyramid $50,000 into over $12 million for research on animals.
The bequest was "to the President and Follows of Harvard College . . . in trust to invest and accumulate the income and add it to the principal for a period of one hundred and forty years from the time when this bequest shall be received . . ." (1952). The income is then to endow the Museum.
Reynolds said that University investment returns would probably continue to average about four per cent compounded semi-annually. At this rate the trust would total $12,795,000 by the due date, 2092.
This return is variable, however, for the 1951 to '52 fiscal year, the distribution of income averaged four and a half percent. If this rate continued for the 140 years, the Museum would receive $39,415,000.00 as a result of the half percent difference. Taking the moderate return anticipated by insurance companies (two and a half percent) the fund would net only $1,425,000.
There is a possibility that Massachusetts will not allow the bequest to snowball the full 140 years, according to Ralph J. Baker, Weid Professor of Law. The Museum is legally a charity, and accumulations for the benefit of charities, but a Connecticut precedent might give the District Attorney a loophole. The state court ruled that the D.A. may not rule a gift invalid, but can stop the snowballing process and direct the amount accumulated be immediately turned over to the designated charity.
Alfred S. Romer, Director of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, said he was unsure how "this very tidy sum" would be used. "I wouldn't even dare to hazard a guess as to what will be the Museum's pressing needs in 140 years . . ." he chuckled.
Romer noted, however, "it would then be about time to build a new museum." (The building, which is on Holyoke St., was started in 1859, although the north wing housing the Peabody Museum was not completed until after the turn of the century.)
Agassiz died on February 5, 1951. He was on the Board of Overseers from 1924 to 1937, and president 1929-37