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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/416

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

unexpected discoveries among the laws and the phenomena which he had been studying for years as they appeared. While others were busy in prophesying revolutions in social or political economy, he was quietly awaiting the decisions of experience. He constantly taught his pupils that there were things wherein they must turn from the voice of the charmer, charm he ever so sweetly. His influence on the developments of science was eminently conservative, for he loved the old landmarks."

Prof. Mitchell's general fame rests chiefly on his work in the exploration of the Black Mountain of North Carolina, a spur which, standing between the main mountain ridges, had been regarded by persons best acquainted with the region, without knowing its exact height, as the culminating point of the Appalachian system. The two Michauxes had remarked, about the beginning of the century—the elder in 1799, and the younger in 1802—the presence of Alpine plants there that were not found again south of Canada, and inferred that the peak must therefore surpass all its fellows in height. John C. Calhoun had come to a similar conclusion, from the observation of the streams that had their source on the mountain. Meeting the Hon. David L. Swain, who was afterward President of the university, in 1825, Mr. Calhoun congratulated him on being of the same height with Washington and himself, and on their both residing in the neighborhood of the highest mountain on the continent east of the Rocky Mountains. When asked the meaning of his remark, Mr. Calhoun referred to the map as showing that in this group were to be found the highest sources of one of the great tributaries of the Mississippi, the Tennessee; of the Kanawha, flowing northward into the Ohio; and of the Santee and Pedee, which run directly to the Atlantic—all considerable rivers finding their way to the sea in opposite directions. The story was told by Governor Swain to Prof. Mitchell in 1830, during an excursion on the Cape Fear River. Although Mr. Calhoun's reasoning was defective, his observation, coupled with the opinion expressed on other grounds by the Michauxes, impressed Prof. Mitchell, and aroused a desire in him to know more of the Black Mountain, and to determine its height. The opportunity came in 1835. The memorandum-book in which the notes of his visit in that year are recorded contains such entries as "Objects of Attention—Geology; Botany; Height of the Mountains; Positions by Trigonometry; Woods, as the Fir, Spruce, Magnolia, Birch; Fish, especially Trout; Springs; Biography"; etc. He was accompanied by his daughter, and carried "two barometers, a quadrant, a vasculum for plants, and a hammer for rocks" The incidents of this expedition, the details of which became important in the case of a controversy that afterward arose, have been summarized and confirmed by the testi-