Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/127

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

gable author was without a guide in exploring the older formations, and that he described rocks which no geologist had at that time attempted to classify. Rocks were then classified chiefly by their mineralogical characters, and the aid which the science has since learned to derive from fossils in determining the chronology and classification of rocks was scarcely known here, and had only just begun to be appreciated in Europe. We are indebted, nevertheless, to Prof. Eaton for the commencement of that independence of European classification which has been found indispensable in describing the New York system. . . . Prof. Eaton enumerated nearly all the rocks in western New York, in their order of succession, and his enumeration has, with one or two exceptions, proved correct. It is a matter of surprise that he recognized, at so early a period, the old red sandstone on the Catskill Mountains, a discovery the reality of which has since been proved by fossil tests."

In 1824 Prof. Eaton was placed at the head, as "Senior Professor," of the School of Science founded by the Hon. Stephen Van Rensselaer at Troy, N. Y., then called the Rensselaer School, now the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He spent the remainder of his life in this position. He introduced and developed here a system of instruction in which the students were made experimenters and workers, and, in place of recitations, delivered lectures to one another. The success of this method was such that some one or other of its features were introduced into other schools.

Summarizing his career in brief, Prof. Nason says, in his biography in the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Record: "In developing the botany and geology of the Northern States, Prof. Eaton rightfully ranks among the pioneers of the new era of the natural sciences in this country. His efforts in various departments of natural history were a rich gift to New England, New York, and even to the whole country, for which the country owes him a debt of gratitude. Many of his pupils have been for years among the most justly distinguished scientific men of the country. As an educator and an active laborer in the general cause of natural history in America, his memory will long be cherished. The history of natural science on this continent can never be faithfully written without giving the name of Amos Eaton an honorable place. It was he, more than any other individual in the United States, who, finding the natural sciences in the hands of the learned few, by means of popular lectures, simplified textbooks, and practical instruction, threw them broadcast to the many. He aimed at a general diffusion of the natural sciences, and nobly and successfully did he accomplish his mission."

Prof. Eaton is described as having been a kind and courteous