Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/414

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

of them all. During his occupation of the chair of Mathematics, the doctrine of fluxions, or the calculus, was introduced into the course, and the standard of attainment was raised in other branches of the department. His transfer to the chair of Natural Science was welcome to him. Even while a Professor of Mathematics, according to Prof. Charles Phillips, he had made frequent botanical excursions in the country round Chapel Hill; and after settling himself in his new chair he extended and multiplied these excursions; "so that when he died he was known in almost every part of North Carolina, and he left no one behind him better acquainted with its mountains, valleys, and plains; its birds, beasts, bugs, fishes, and shells; its trees, flowers, vines, and mosses; its rocks, stones, sands, clays, and marls. Although in Silliman's Journal, and in other periodicals less prominent, but circulating more widely nearer home, he published many of his discoveries concerning North Carolina, yet it is to be regretted that he did not print more and in a more permanent form. It would doubtless have thus appeared that he knew, and perhaps justly estimated the worth of, many facts which much later investigators have proclaimed as their own remarkable discoveries. But the information that he gathered was for his own enjoyment and for the instruction of his pupils. On these he lavished, to their utmost capacity for reception, the knowledge that he had gathered by his widely extended observations, and had stored up mainly in the recesses of his own singularly retentive memory." The notes of his excursions, which are recorded in a series of blank books kept for the purpose, give revelations of the habits of the author's mind; they chronicle his walks over farms which he names, and observations of individual plants and other objects in specified localities. "By such a rock," writes Mrs. C. P. Spencer, in an article of reminiscences, "in such a field, is a plant that he must identify. By Scott's Hole, near the willow is a Carex that he must watch. March 29, 182], he finds yellow jessamine in bloom in Mrs. Hooper's garden, and 'in great abundance on the creek below Merritt's mill.'... May 30, 1821, occurs this note, that he had that day found the last of the twelve varieties of oak that are within two miles of the university; then follows a list of the oaks and notes of their situation. . . . In the third week of April, 1824, he begins a new Diary of Mosses, and hunts the Liskea hypnum through a dozen authorities, to be sure of it. He had the true scholar's disdain of taking anything at second hand. Such pages are diversified with 'Hints for the good instruction of the class'; or, 'Points to be meditated respecting the nature of light.'" In the preface to one of these note-books—written in French—a plan of study was laid down for each week. So many hours were to be given to mathematics, so many to Latin