Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/272

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in astronomy; physics was less cared for, and chemistry had been "scarcely mentioned." Mr. Silliman was considering a proposition to settle down at the practice of the law in Georgia, when in July, 1801, President Dwight informed him that the corporation of the college had several years before resolved to establish a professorship of chemistry and natural history as soon as the funds would admit of it. The time had come when the resolution could be carried into effect, but it was impossible to find in this country a man properly qualified to discharge the duties of the office, while there were reasons that made the appointment of a foreigner inexpedient. The president saw no way but to select a suitable young man at home, and give him time to qualify himself for the professorship; and he had fixed upon Mr. Silliman as the person whom he would propose to the corporation. Mr. Silliman was inclined from the first to consider the offer favorably, because, as he has recorded in his "Reminiscences," "the study of Nature appeared very attractive. In her works there is no falsehood, although there are mysteries to unveil, which is a very interesting achievement. Everything in Nature is straightforward and consistent. There are no polluting influences; all the associations with these pursuits are elevated and virtuous, and point toward the infinite Creator." The professorship was instituted in 1802, with a provision that such time as might be agreed upon should be given the professor-elect to decide whether he would accept the appointment, and Mr. Silliman was chosen professor. Philadelphia then "presented more advantages in science than any other place in the country," and he went there first. Here he enjoyed the instruction, with experiments, of Dr. James Woodhouse, of the Medical College, and had as a fellow-boarder Robert Hare, who had just perfected his oxyhydrogen blow-pipe, and was much occupied with the subject, and enlisted his new friend in his service. He also attended the lectures of Dr. Barton on botany and of Dr. Caspar Wistar on anatomy and surgery, and met Dr. Priestley at the house of the latter. He received valuable suggestions from Dr. Maclean, of Princeton, whom he visited in his transits to and from Philadelphia; and thus he learned to regard the eminent professor as his earliest master in chemistry, and Princeton as his first starting-point in that pursuit, although he had not an opportunity to attend any lectures there. Having attended two winters in Philadelphia, he returned to New Haven and began to write his lectures. His first lecture was delivered April 4, 1804, when he was twenty-four and a half years old, to a class which included, among other men who afterward became distinguished, John C. Calhoun, Bishop Gadsden, and John Pierpont; the subject was the history and progress, nature and objects, of chemistry. Four lectures were given in a week—sixty in the course—and some notices of mineralogy were included.

In the mean time, the corporation of the college had voted to spend ten thousand dollars in Europe during the ensuing year, in the purchase