STATE OF SCIENCE SCIENTIFIC EDUCATION INTEREST OF DR. RUSH VIEWS OF DR. NISBET PROFESSOR JOHNSTON APPARATUS PFOFESSOR DAVIDSON PROFESSOR McCORMICK PURCHASE OF APPARATUS THROUGH DR. RUSH CHEMISTRY RECOGNIZED ELECTION OF THOMAS COOPER, LL. D. HIS CHARACTER PROTEST INTRODUCTORY LECTURE SCIENTIFIC WORK PRIESTLEY'S APPARATUS EDITOR OF THE EMPORIUM OTHER PUBLICATIONS RESIGNATION REASONS FOR IT PROFESSOR VETHAKE PROFESSOR ROGERS MESSENGER OF USEFUL KNOWLEDGE.
THE foundation of the College occurred at a time of intense activity in the scientific as well as in the political world, and the revolutions in the former were no less radical than in the latter. A new era was approaching, to be characterized largely by its remarkable scientific discoveries, and the speculations and applications flowing from them. Rapidly accumulating facts were demanding new adjustment of the old theories for their accommodation or some entirely new generalization to include them, whilst practical applications were working their way at times against popular prejudices or fancied antagonism to public interests. The discovery of Oxygen by Priestley, in 1774, especially was beginning to make itself felt, and the chaos of chemical facts, was fast assuming the character of a chemical philosophy. The wider generalizations of Lavoisier, destined to become the foundations of Modern Chemistry, were disputing the ground with the phlogiston hypothesis, and whilst receiving the cordial
assent of many of the younger chemists, many of the older ones, including Priestley, were disputing the new facts, or ingeniously attempting to reconcile the old theory with them, whilst the train of practical consequences was rapidly increasing. Other branches of science felt a similar impulse. Electricity, apparently exhausted under the lead of Franklin, was soon to manifest itself in a less ostentatious but more practical form, and surprise the world with undreamed of contributions. The applications of steam as a motor were being wrought out so perfectly, in principal at least, that all that was left was mainly matter of details in construction. America had been honorably connected with this scientific awakening. She had an interest in three of the most prominent names. The fame of Franklin was all her own, and his reception abroad as the agent of the Colonies was none the less cordial or respectful because of his eminence as a scientific in vestigator. His portrait, in Paris, made the fortune of the engraver who published it. The teacher, Benjamin Thompson, of Rumford, N. H., second to no philosopher of his age, although expatriated for his loyalty to the Crown, had received his early education and his impulse to scientific studies at Harvard, and remained at least so far American, that when honors thickened on him he chose to be known as Count Rumford, in remembrance of his early American home. As the founder of the Royal Institution of London, a share can also be claimed for him in the fame of Davy, Faraday, and Tyndall. Although Priestley had made most of his important investigations before he came as an exile to America, his later years at Northumberland, Pa., where he had collected about him a library and laboratory, were by no means spent in inactivity, and his contributions to science form part of the scientific literature of America.
But two societies devoted to the promotion of science have survived from that period to the present the American Phil-
osophical Society in Philadelphia, the oldest of all, founded by Franklin, in 1743, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences of Boston, founded in 1780.
Scientific instruction in the colleges was provided for by lectures. The chairs of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy were generally combined, as at Yale, Dartmouth, Princeton, &c., but Chemistry was pushing its claims to a more distinct recognition. The labors of Black, Cavendish, Scheele, Lavoisier, and others, were fast preparing the way for the separation of this branch from the parent stem of physical science, and as early as 1774, William and Mary College, Virginia, had a Professor of Chemistry and Natural Philosophy, a chemistry necessarily widely different from that of to-day. The University of Pennsylvania also had a chair of Natural Philosophy and Chemistry as early as 1779. The advance of science is well indicated by the tendency to differentiation of these chairs, and the establishment of a separate chair for the growing science of Chemistry, though in many cases, the separation was not permanent. The medical colleges, of which there were but two, one in New York and the other in Philadelphia, generally combined Materia Medica and Chemistry, and the first chair of Chemistry in America, was that filled by Dr. Benjamin Rush in the medical department of the University of Pennsylvania in 1769. He had enjoyed the instruction of Black at Edinburg, and was doubtless thoroughly master of what there was of a science of Chemistry at that time, though holding it subordinate to his medical studies, he has left no special record in it.
The young College was fortunate in having the interest and counsel of one so liberally cultured in science, and with all so enthusiastic and public spirited. In his ideal of a college, the experimental sciences formed a prominent feature as a factor in a liberal education. In the plans for soliciting funds, which were very frequently of his devising, philosophical apparatus
was prominently mentioned as one of the needs of the college. In the letter to Honorable Mr. Bingham, requesting him to secure aid abroad, it was included. In urging the acceptance of the principalship upon Dr. Nisbet, he took pains to explain the absence of philosophical apparatus.
From his personal acquaintance with Dr. Nisbet, he had, doubtless, reason to know his appreciation of, and acquaintance with the Physical Sciences. It would have been singular if a man of his intense intellectual activity and decided passion for all kinds of learning, should not have been fully acquainted with the range of scientific thought of that day, especially educated, as he was, under the influences of the Universityof Edinburgh, where science always had met with more decided recognition than in the universities of England. An account of a conversation, during one of his visits to Governor Dickinson, at Wilmington, upon the probable effect of a zealous and ardent prosecution of the study of the physical sciences on the religious character, indicates to some degree his familiarity with this subject. The conversation occupied the entire evening, Dr. Nisbet taking the lead, by common consent, and maintaining the position that " unless the grace of God produced a different effect, the more intimately men became acquainted with the works of nature, the less mindful were they of their great author." A gentleman present represented it ''as one of the most rich, instructive, and interesting intellectual feasts that he ever enjoyed," and at the close, Governor Dickinson remarked, "Doctor, what you have said, would form an invaluable octavo volume. I would give a large sum to have it in that form." It is permitted, therefore, to infer, that a President of the College, he was fully capable of appreciating the earnest efforts of Dr. Rush to increase the efficiency of instruction in these sciences.
As early as 1784, a committee was appointed, including Dr.
Rush, to engage some one to teach Mathematics and Natural Philosophy, and in 1786, Robert Johnston, who had previously acted as tutor in Mathematics, was elected Professor, and at the same time temporarily appointed tutor in Natural Philosophy, with an addition to his salary for services as the latter. In the same year, the purchase of suitable philosophical apparatus was urged by Doctor Rush, and purchase was made, through him, of the nucleus of the collection, and for "his attention to the interests of the institution," in this matter, the thanks of the Board were voted him. Among the pieces were an electrical-machine, barometer, thermometer, and others not enumerated in detail, but more valuable in the aggregate. Not long after his appointment, in 1787, the trustees, by resolution, attended one of the lectures by Professor Johnston, and upon re-assembling, they resolved that his temporary appointment as tutor of Natural Philosophy should cease, "as it had not answered their wishes or expectations;" and, at the same time, they requested the principal and Professor Davidson, especially the latter, to "give as much attention as possible in instructing and qualifying the class in Natural Philosophy, with a view to graduation at their next meeting." On conference with the principal and Doctor Davidson, it was found that the class could not be prepared by the date fixed, and the examination was accordingly postponed to a more convenient season for the students, according to the system of that day, of graduating students as they became ready, which might not be altogether objectionable, in all cases. Owing to the reduction of salary, occasioned by the loss of the tutorship, Professor Johnston resigned his professorship of Mathematics. Instruction in Natural Philosophy continued to be given by Doctor Davidson, until 1792. He was a man of elegant tastes and accomplishments, with decided acquirements in the direction of physical sciences, and great aptitude in imparting instruc-
tion. He published some papers on astronomy, which was his favorite study, and constructed a very ingenious piece of apparatus, called a cosmosphere, by means of which many celestial problems could be solved. It was in existence a few years ago, and was left by will to his son, Reverend Robert Davidson, D. D., who failed to get it, however, through some mistake of the executors of the will, who sent him an old microscope instead, whilst the cosmosphere was sold with the miscellaneous effects. Apparatus of this character had much more prominence in a collection then than at present, and some of the most eminent men, among them Rittenhouse, devoted considerable time to their production. Instruction was also given by Doctor Davidson, by special direction of the Board, in geography ,and in the use of globes, upon which great stress was laid at that time, and one of the curiosities left by him, and quite popular at the time, was an epitome of geography in verse, published during in his connection with the Univerity of Pennsylvania. As a re-creation from severer studies, he composed sacred.music as well as verses, and employed his pen so skillfully, that some of his pen-sketches could scarcely be distinguished from engravings by experts. Among his papers, left by him, were many carefully prepared lectures on scientific subjects. Instruction in Mathematics and Natural Philosophy seems to have been combined under the Professor McCormick, after 1792, and the efforts of the instructor, seem to have been supplemented by as generous an outlay for appliances as the College could command. At one of the periods of deepest financial embarrassment, in 1797 , the Board resolved that, notwithstanding the insufficiency of the funds, it conceived it highly expedient to make provision for the improvement of the Philosophical Apparatus, by an annual appropriation for the purpose. In September, 1805, the committee charged with superintending the removal of the library and apparatus to the new building, were
authorized to appropriate $200 for maps and additions to the apparatus, as soon as the funds would admit. This was rescinded, after the grant by the State, in 1806, and the first sum of $500, out of that grant, was appropriated for the purpose, and subsequently the amount was increased by $1,000, for apparatus and books, and Doctor Rush was placed upon the committee, by reason of his scientific character and his residence in Philadelphia, the scientific center of the country, as well as on account of his willingness, on all occasions, to give his time to furthering the interests of the College. The selection and purchase of the apparatus were mainly made by him. As apparatus of the kind was generally imported at that time, considerable time was expended in correspondence, and other inevitable delays were encountered. From the reports made of his success and prospects, from time to time, to Carlisle, the principal purchases can be ascertained, and also something of the enthusiasm with which he entered into the matter, as well as the difficulties encountered. Thus, in 1808, he writes: "I have purchased an Electrical and Galvanic Apparatus for $250. The former is the most complete and splendid thing of the kind ever imported into our country. It will add much to the reputation of our College. It will be sent with the Galvanic Apparatus and a small Chemical Apparatus, for showing the composition of air and water, which I have since purchased, by the first wagon, with a careful driver, that offers for Carlisle." After negotiating for an air-pump, first in Boston, afterward in Salem, Massachusetts, and assuring that they would be more complete than those made in Great Britain, he announced that he had "happily succeeded in purchasing a complete and elegant air-pump, from a private gentleman," and expressed himself as obliged for the hint "to offer more to a wagoner to take it, and the other boxes," than was commonly given, the rate finally agreed upon being about ten dollars per hundred.
The gentleman alluded to, from whom the air-pump, a double-barreled one, of excellent construction, was purchased, was John Redman Coxe, of Philadelphia. Among the other purchases were a Hydro-pneumatic Blowpipe, and a Condensing Apparatus, and among the books Chaptal's, Henry's, and Accum's Chemistries, the Chemical Catechism, and Conversations on Chemistry.
With the election of a permanent Principal in 1809, measures were inaugurated for more thorough instruction in the physical sciences. In 1810, it was resolved to establish a chair of Natural Philosophy and Chemistry---the first recognition of the science of Chemistry and Dr. Frederick Aigster was elected tutor in those branches. At the same time, it was directed that $250, out of an appropriation of $1,250 recently made for the purchase of apparatus, should he expended for chemical apparatus under the direction of Dr. Aigster and Dr. Davidson, with a request to Dr. Rush that he would attend to the importation of it. Whatever expectations may have been formed from this appointment, which was made very deliberately, and after considerable negotiation, during which Dr. Aigster visited the College at the expense of the corporation, they do not seem to have been realized, as before the close of the year the position became vacant.
The resignation of Dr. Aigster just at this juncture, brought to the College the services of Dr. Thomas Cooper, one of the most remarkable products of the complexity of moral and intellectual forces of the closing quarter of the last century. Generally recognized as a man of the most varied learning and ability, a voluminous and forcible writer upon a great variety of subjects, an able presiding judge for eight years, until impeached and removed in times of high political excitement, he had also proved himself a skillful scientific investigator. But whilst his election undoubtedly imparted unusual interest and
vigor to this department of the College, it also thrust it into a kind of prominence that many of its friends regarded as injurious to its best interests. A native of England, educated Oxford, on terms of intimacy with Pitt, Burke and other leading English statesmen, a resident of Paris during four months of the Reign of Terror, and enjoying the excitement to the full, he was a radical in politics and a materialist in creed. The friend of Priestley, he shared with the latter his exile from his country, and enjoyed the use of his library and laboratory at Northumberland. In America he met with ready and full appreciation by the radical school of politicians, and had their sympathy under what were regarded by them as religious persecutions. For many years he enjoyed the friendship of Jefferson and Madison. As a judge, his ability was of a high order. His opinion on the effect of a sentence of a foreign admiralty court was widely circulated, and was regarded by Madison as irrefragible disproof of the British doctrine. Among his other legal works, was a revised translation of the Institutes of J ustinian, with references to parallel passages in the Civil Law, the Law of England, and American Reporters.
The vacant professorship had been referred to the Committee of Visitors of the Board of Trustees, with authority to employ some suitable person to fill it for one year. At a meeting of the board a month later, this Committee submitted a correspondence had with Thomas Cooper, Esq.. A motion to enter into an election of a Professor of Chemistry and Mineralogy was only carried after decided opposition, and at a subsequent meeting, a written protest was entered upon the minutes on the part of the absent members, alleging that the previous meeting was irregular, and expressing a belief that the "election of Mr. Cooper would prove highly injurious to the interest and reputation of the College, in consequence of the prejudices entertained by the public against him." At the urgent solicitation
of the board, at considerable inconvenience, he entered upon the position a few months earlier than he had intended, and two days after taking the oath of office, August 7, 1811, his Introductory 1.ecture on Chemistry was delivered in the "public hall" of the College, attended by the Board of Trustees as a body, as well as by the students. It was published by order of the Board, and is remarkable for its exhaustiveness and as being one of the very earliest scientific lectures published in the country. The lecture itself filled one hundred pages octavo, and the accompanying notes added one hundred and thirty-six more pages, displaying a wonderful range of information. After general observations on man's relations to his environment, and a general classification of scientific knowledge, reasons were assigned for anticipating a course of Lectures on Chemistry by a history of that science, contrary to the general opinion that it would more profitably follow such a course, accompanied by the statement that he knew of no tolerable history of Chemistry in the English language. The Scriptures were first searched for chemical facts, because they carry "marks of internal evidence that entitle them to great consideration." Then passing in review the Chemistry of the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Hindoos, Chinese, and that of the dark ages, he considered the more scientific phase of the phlogiston period enriched by the labors and ingenuity of Boyle, Stahl, Black, Cavendish, and the discovery of Oxygen by Priestley. Unqualified assent was given to the new theory, and an extravagant opinion of Lavoiser as a scientific man was expressed. The "Doctrine of Heat" and "Galvanic Chemistry" were then discussed as well as Mineralogyand Geology, followed bya closing statement of the uses of chemistry. T he notes were particularly full on mineralogical nomenclature and classification, with a list of of minerals according to Werner's and Hauy's, accompanied by suggestions of his own as to modifications of the nomenclature.
The notes are still more remarkable from the statement that his library was still under the same roof with Dr. Priestley, at Northumberland, and he had been obliged to trust to his memory, but that he had verified every statement that the college library had enabled him to consult.
He seems to have devoted considerable attention to practical chemistry before his arrival in America. Having learned in France the secret of making chlorine from common salt, he made an unsuccessful attempt to apply it, at Manchester, in bleaching and printing calico. In 1811 he published an account, accompanied by a plate of the. apparatus employed, of "The decomposition of potash and the production of potassium by heat," which had been accomplished at Priestley's laboratory, at Northumberland, and constitutes the first record of the production of potassium in this country by the furnace process. His repution as a practical chemist attracted students to the College for the study of technical chemistry. The Duponts, of Delaware, were among his pupils. Although Professor of Chemistry and Mineralogy, he also gave instruction in Natural Philosophy, in connection with Professor M'Cormick. The Seniors and Juniors were required to attend his lectures, and irregular students and others were permitted to attend upon payment of a fee of $10. He was also authorized to employ an assistant in his work, and purchase such "mixtures, drugs, &c.," as he might need. By special authorization of the Board, he purchased the burning-lens, telescope, and air-gun, at present in the college collection, which had been the property of Priestley, the discoverer of oxygen. In literary labors he was abundant. He revived the Emporium of Arts and Sciences, one of the very earliest journals of a general scientific character published in America, and previously edited by Dr. J. Redman Coxe, of Philadelphia. It appeared bi-monthly, in numbers of one hundred and fifty
pages each, at the price of $7 per year. It was continued by Dr. Cooper, on the same plan of "judicious selections of practical papers on the manufactures and the arts from foreign publications, and a repository for original papers of the same description, furnished by men of research in our own country," and assumed in his hands a high scientific character, and was filled with original researches and vigorous criticisms, being profusely illustrated with excellent engravings. Among his minor editorial notices he called attention to the conversion of starch into sugar, just discovered, and describes the molasses produced as "sufficiently similar to the common article, and sweet enough to be used with coffee," and advised the substitution of "evaporated decoction of malt" for the starch, by which the expense of the oil of vitriol, which prevented its use, could be so far reduced as to justify the experiment in every family. The sugar manufacturers seem to have waited nearly three quarters of a century to take the hint. A student in his laboratory contributed a table of colors imparted to "burning cotton dipped in some of the neutral salts in spirit of wine," not only interesting as including the germ of spectroscopic chemistry, but from the manner in which the inevitable sodium continually contributes a trace of yellow to colors otherwise accurately described. The journal ceased in 1814, the long delay of the final volume being explained by "the printers serving their country as volunteers." He also prepared an American edition of Accum's Chemistry, in two volumes, enriched by a copious appendix by himself, in which he manifests a disposition, even at that late date, to champion, to some extent, the phlogiston theory. He remarks: "Facts seem to indicate that there is such a substance as phlogiston, that there is but one body capable of being burned, hydrogen." A peculiar feature of the book is the theories of geology, in separate chapters, of Burnet, Woodward, Whiston, Hutchinson, Moray Le Cot,
Maillet, Buffon, Raspe, Worthington, Whitehurst, De Luc, Milne, Hutton, Williams, Delanatherie, Howard, Bertrand, and Kirwan. In 1818 he also edited an American edition of Thomson's System of Chemistry, in four volumes, and in the same year published a treatise on Medical Jurisprudence. As his election had taken place under protest, and his religious views were wholly out of accord with those of the majority of the intelligent people from whom patronage was to be expected, there were constant sources of irritation, although in his opening lecture he was more respectful toward prevalent religious opinions than might have been expected. Owing mainly to these causes, his connection with the College terminated, by resignation, September 28, 1815. He considered himself persecuted for opinion's sake, and had the sympathy of Jefferson and Madison in his misfortunes. He subsequently became President of South Carolina College, where he remained until 1834. He died May 1, 1840, at the advanced age of eighty-one years.
The department had been liberally supplied with all necessary appliances during the administration of Professor Cooper, and had a high reputation, but it began to share in the general depression experienced by the College at this time, and no particular provision seems to have been made for it until the re-organization of the College, in 1821, when Henry Vethake, LL. D., was elected Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy, with the duties of the Chair of Chemistry in addition, until suitable provision could be made for it. His services were secured by remarkably liberal remuneration for that time, and large expenditures were made for apparatus and minerals, and for fitting up a laboratory. In 1826 John Vethake, M. D., was appointed Lecturer on Chemistry for a year. In 1827 John K. Finley, M. D., was engaged to deliver a winter course of lectures on chemistry, and the Senior class in the German Re-
formed Theological Seminary was allowed to attend the lectures. In the following year he was elected Professor of Chemistry and Natural Philosophy, and in 1830 was succeeded by Henry D. Rogers, A. M. , who afterward became the eminent geologist of Pennsylvania, whose history, with that of his brother, Professor William B. Rogers, forms so large and creditable a part of the scientific history of the country. Whilst connected with the College he edited "The Messenger of Useful Knowledge," a monthly magazine of scientific character, and also containing essays on educational, literary, agricultural, and political subjects, and valuable information from foreign journals. Upon the latter feature was based one expectation of patronage. One number contained an article on Dew, by Professor William B. Rogers, then Professor in William and Mary College. In a review of the state of the scientific world, the nature of light and heat is spoken of as "the key to physical science yet to be discovered, when the door will be thrown open, and a new and attractive field presented to view, in which simplicity, hannony, and beauty, will be found to pervade the material universe." With his resignation, in 1830, the magazine also ceased. The radical defects in the organic law of the College rendered positions in it very unattractive.