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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 47.djvu/705

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EDWARD HITCHCOCK.

EDWARD HITCHCOCK.

BORN at Deerfield, Mass., May 23, 1793; died at Amherst, Mass., February 27, 1864. The first of this family emigrated to this country in 1635, coming probably from Warwickshire in England. He was one of the original members of the New Haven, Conn., Colony. Two or three generations of the family resided in New Haven; the fourth in the line emigrated to western Massachusetts, and was an officer in the Revolutionary War. His son, Justin, the father of Edward, was a soldier in the army of General Gates when Burgoyne's army was captured. Justin married one of the Hoyts, who was descended from the sufferers at Deerfield at the French-Indian raid of 1704. He settled at Deerfield, and was a hatter. Becoming embarrassed financially by obligations incurred in the continental currency, he suffered from poverty all his life, and was unable to give his children more education than was afforded by the common school and the local academy. Edward was therefore compelled to educate himself, and that under the drawback of ill health, caused by overwork and carelessness. Six particulars may be mentioned, going to show that by improving his opportunities he was well educated in many respects: 1. For several years he was a leading member of a debating society. This afforded the opportunity to practice extempore speaking, composition, and acquire facility in philosophical reasoning. A few short poems showed that he essayed the higher type of composition. One of these was a tragedy entitled The Downfall of Bonaparte, written at the age of twenty-two, just after the battle of Waterloo, and acted by himself and friends before the people of the village. 2. For four years—from twenty-two to twenty-six—he was the principal of the academy in his native town. As there were always in this school a number who were fitting for college, he found it necessary to review all his classical studies—not once merely, but several times. The same was true of scientific studies also, so that quite a large number of subjects were gone over very thoroughly, and the details were fixed in his memory. It was a better discipline than if he had simply taken these studies as a college student. The academy owned a very good philosophical apparatus, and young Hitchcock prepared a number of lectures on physics, which were delivered with experiments both before his classes and in the evening to people of the village. 3. Perhaps the best mental discipline came from the use of the astronomical instruments belonging to the academy. He observed first the comet of 1811. From September 7th to December 17th, during the presence of the celestial visitor, he noted the distance of the