Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 45.djvu/855

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SKETCH OF ASAPH HALL.

SKETCH OF ASAPH HALL.

IN spite of the few wonderful accidents that have led to great changes and advance in modern ideas, most of the real advances of the world have been the results of simple hard work and hard thinking by men of ability. As an example of the type of scientist who does not make astounding discoveries of doubtful value, but who surely and steadily advances the cause of science by faithful work, stands the astronomer Asaph Hall.

He was born on October 15, 1829, in the little town of Goshen, in the northwestern part of Connecticut, where the Berkshire Hills come rolling over from Massachusetts. His grandfather, a Revolutionary officer, was one of the first settlers of the place, and was a wealthy man. But his father, through business failures, lost nearly all his property. In 1842 he died, leaving a wife and six children, of whom Asaph, then thirteen, was the oldest. Up to the time of his father's death Asaph's life was that of a well-to-do country boy. He had worked on the farm and he had gone to the village school. His father was far better educated than most of the men of the place, so that many good books fell into the boy's hands. Often his rainy days were spent in the garret, fighting the battles on the plains of Troy, or following Ulysses in his wanderings.

When his father died everything was changed. Almost all the property was mortgaged. In a family council it was decided to remain on one of the farms and try to pay off the mortgage. So Asaph and his mother set to work, and for three years toiled with might and main, carrying on the work of a large farm almost entirely by themselves. Asaph's mother was a tireless worker, and he helped her as best he could; but when the three years were past they found they had been able to pay the interest on the mortgage and nothing more. Sticking to the farm did not seem to pay, so Asaph decided to leave and go and learn the carpenter's trade. He persuaded his mother to move to a little place she owned free from debt, and he apprenticed himself to a local carpenter. He worked for three years for sixty dollars a year. At the end of that time he became a journeyman and worked for himself. He stayed in Litchfield County, helping to build houses and barns that are standing on the old farms to-day.

For six years he stuck to carpenter work, but all that time he was full of ambition. He saw that the men he worked with were a poorly educated set. They knew how to make a right angle by the three, four, five rule, but they had no idea at all of the reason for it. He was not satisfied to work in this blind rule-of-thumb