Popular Science Monthly/Volume 15/August 1879/Sketch of Professor Daniel Vaughan

PSM V15 D448 Daniel Vaughn.jpg



WE have already printed in our May number a brief sketch of the life of Professor Vaughan, with the particulars of the painful circumstances attending his death, and a list of his more important scientific papers. That sketch comprises the history of Vaughan's life, so far as it is known, and there remains nothing more to add to it.

It is not a little singular that among the property which he left only one piece of unpublished MS. was found. Remarking on this fact, Mr. Richard Nelson writes in the "Cincinnati Commercial": "As early as 1857 he had occasion to complain that one of his discoveries had been claimed by a prominent scientist. That made him suspicious, and, as a result of his solitary life, suspicion, like a disease, grew upon him to that extent that at one time his intimate friends feared it would overpower his giant intellect. To prevent the recurrence of the annoyance he afterward chose to store away in his wonderfully capacious and retentive memory facts, principles, and figures, till the opportune moment of publication arrived, and then, instead of sending his manuscript to the publishers, he had his articles printed and simultaneously mailed to the publishers and distinguished scientists in various parts of the world. These are the printed articles found among his effects."

The unpublished MS. mentioned above was on "The Origin of the Asteroids," and is marked by all the best characteristics of the author's style. While extremely brief, it treats the subject thoroughly. This paper is printed in our August Miscellany.

We have been called upon to qualify somewhat the statements made in the "Monthly" reflecting upon the citizens of Cincinnati for neglecting this man in his poverty, and leaving him to die in want. It turns out that Vaughan was a man destitute of common sense in the matter of taking care of himself, and that he was perverse in not allowing others to assist him. With his penury he was eccentric, and carefully secluded himself from attention, so that it was difficult to find him. It is said there were many who would gladly have assisted him, and that, too, in a way not to wound his feelings, if he had given them the opportunity, but that he obstinately refused to receive assistance. He was probably intractable in this respect, for which there may have been much excuse, for he may have felt that he was entitled to something better than charity, and, if he could not get what was his due, he would not take pittances. Perhaps, if there had been more solicitude about him, more might have been done for him; but it is quite probable that Cincinnati is not worse than other cities in its want of active sympathy for the suffering.