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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 46.djvu/415

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SKETCH OF DENISON OLMSTED.

SKETCH OF DENISON OLMSTED.

PROF. OLMSTED, the American Journal of Science said, in its obituary notice of him, "regarded his most appropriate sphere of effort, in the circumstances in which he was placed, not so much to cultivate science as to teach and diffuse it." The circumstances mentioned in this sentence called him to be a teacher, whatever lines of work he may have planned to pursue. Although his mind at different times in his life turned to other occupations and he began to prepare for them, he was as often called back to teaching by agencies outside of himself. He was a successful and superior teacher. But his achievements in independent and original research, for which he seemed to have a natural taste, were not few nor insignificant; and we can not doubt that, if he had been permitted to devote himself to that line, he might have arrived at great distinction in it.

Denison Olmsted was born in East Hartford, Conn., June 18, 1791, and died in New Haven May 13, 1859. His father was descended from James Olmsted, one of the first settlers of the colony of Connecticut, who died about four years after Hartford was founded. His mother was a daughter of Denison Kingsbury, of Andover, Conn., from whom he seems to have received his Christian name. His father was a farmer in moderate circumstances. He died when the son was a year old, and the care of the boy's education devolved upon his mother, who is highly spoken of as having been a lady of native strength of mind, sound judgment, and uncommon piety and benevolence. He was early trained to habits of order, diligence, and perseverance, for which he was distinguished throughout his life.

The neighborhood school was not all that was desired, and Mrs. Olmsted, in order to give her son better facilities for instruction, obtained a place for him, when he was about twelve years old, in the family of Governor Treadwell, as a chore boy, with the understanding that he should attend the district school. He was, according to the Rev. Dr. Porter, of Farmington, Conn., a very lovely, intelligent boy, and soon engaged the affections of the family. Governor Treadwell became interested in him, and took pains to help him along in his studies. Only reading, spelling, and writing were taught in the school. A proposition of Governor Treadwell to teach him arithmetic was readily accepted, and the boy made good progress under this sympathetic attention. Young Olmsted was put into a country store at Farmington, in which Governor Treadwell's son was a partner, and then at Burlington, where he had the same employer. When sixteen years old he became desirous of obtaining a liberal educa-