JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post
[My thanks to Eric Renner and Nancy Spencer for sending this photo my way!]
The idea of Dr. Charles A.R. Campbell (1865-1931) was that malaria was transmitted person to person by mosquito so a good way of combating the disease was to get rid of mosquitoes--perhaps the most dangerous animal in the world to humans--and a superior way of doing that was by introducing mosquito-ravenous bats. And that is what he did as San Antonio's health officer--through some amount of trial and error he introduced these "hygiestatic bat roosts" in Hill County, including this enormous 1916 structure. There were difficulties at the outset in attracting bats to the roost, so one of the ways of getting around this problem was to design the structure to look like the evidently all-time premium bat-attractor, the church steeple--I doubt that this had anything to do with the ultimate success of attracting bats, but the resulting profile surely was a winner.
I believe that that is Dr. Campbell leaning against one of the massive (20x20"?) legs of the roost. Bats don't weight that much, but that lumber-rich roost did, and so did the guano they produced. Evidently the guano was harvested as high end fertilizer, with more than two tons removed from this roost alone.
There's much more to this story, of course--I really just liked the photograph: see http://www.reformation.org/campbell.html and http://www.batcon.org/resources/media-education/bats-magazine/bat_article/386
I can't mention bat guano without a brief sidetrack to Col. "Bat" Guano, from Dr. Strangelove, just because: