Popular Science Monthly/Volume 9/August 1876/Sketch of Prof. J. S. Newberry, M.D., LL.D.

PSM V09 D408 John Strong Newberry.jpg

JOHN STRONG NEWBERRY

SKETCH OF PROF. J. S. NEWBERRY, M. D., LL. D.

JOHN STRONG NEWBERRY, whose portrait we give in the present number of the Monthly, was born December 22, 1822, at Windsor, Connecticut. He is sprung from old Puritan stock, his ancestors having formed part of a colony which, in 1635, emigrated from Dorchester in the colony of Massachusetts Bay, and made the first settlement in Connecticut, at Windsor. Many members of the Newberry family earned high distinction by their services in the field and in the council during the colonial period, in the War of Independence, and in the later history of Connecticut.

The grandfather of J. S. Newberry, General Roger Newberry, an officer in the army during the Revolutionary War, was for many years a member of the Governor's Council; he was also one of the directors of the Connecticut Land Company, proprietors of a great part of the "Western Reserve," in Northern Ohio. His son Henry, father of the subject of this notice, in 1824, with his family, emigrated from Windsor to the Western Reserve, and founded the town of Cuyahoga Falls, in Summit County.

Young Newberry received his academic education at the Western Reserve College, from which institution he graduated in 1846. Two years later he received the degree of Doctor of Medicine from the Cleveland Medical College. The years 1849-'50 he spent in study and in foreign travel, and in 1851 he began the practice of medicine at Cleveland. But the life of a practising physician was distasteful to Dr. Newberry, as affording but little opportunity for scientific study, for which he had from boyhood evinced great aptitude. Hence, in May, 1855, he accepted an appointment as assistant surgeon and geologist to Lieutenant Williamson's expedition for the exploration of the country lying between San Francisco and the Columbia River. The results of this expedition are published in the Pacific Railroad "Reports;" but Dr. Newberry's report on "The Geology, Botany, and Zoölogy of Northern California and Oregon" also appears in a separate quarto volume of 300 pages, with 48 plates.

He next, in 1857−'58, was attached to an expedition under the command of Lieutenant J. C. Ives, commissioned to explore and navigate the Colorado River, so as to open a route of communication with the army in Utah. An iron steamer, constructed in Philadelphia, was taken in sections to the Gulf of California, where it was put together and launched. The expedition navigated the river for the distance of 500 miles. Above the point reached by the steamer the course of the river, for hundreds of miles, is through deep canons with vertical walls, in some places over a mile in height. The report on the Colorado region, drawn up conjointly by Lieutenant Ives and Dr. Newberry, gives a graphic description of perhaps the most remarkable portion of the earth's surface. In the preface to the report, Lieutenant Ives speaks of Newberry's observations as constituting "the most interesting material gathered by the expedition."

The following year (1859) Dr. Newberry was ordered to join a party sent out by the War Department, to report to Captain Macomb, for the exploration of the San Juan and Upper Colorado Rivers. The party traversed a large part of Southern Colorado, Utah, Northern Arizona, and New Mexico, adding greatly to the sum of geographical knowledge, and opening a region of singular interest and of enormous mineral wealth. This expedition determined the point of junction of the Grand and Green Rivers, forming the Colorado; further, it explored the valley of the San Juan, a river whose banks for hundreds of miles are lined with the ruined stone houses and towns of an extinct race. Dr. Newberry's report of this expedition was published recently.

Upon the outbreak of the war, Dr. Newberry was elected a member of the Sanitary Commission, and in September, 1861, he was chosen secretary of its Western department. He had supervision of the affairs of the Commission in the Mississippi Valley, with headquarters at first in Cleveland, then in Louisville. In this position he displayed executive abilities of a high order. Branches of the Commission were, through his efforts, established in the chief cities of the West, and measures taken for the permanent and effective care of the sick and wounded.

In 1866 he was appointed Professor of Geology in the School of Mines of Columbia College, New York, which position he still holds. In 1869 he received from Governor Hayes the appointment as State Geologist of Ohio, and was commissioned to make a geological survey of that State. The work was carried on by Dr. Newberry and his assistants with extraordinary vigor, and was completed at the close of the year 1874.

The report of this survey is now in process of publication. Two "Reports of Progress," and four volumes of the "Final Report," illustrated with a large number of finely-executed maps and plates, have already appeared. Four volumes more, and a geological map of the State, still remain to be published. This work, though executed with unexampled rapidity, has not been carelessly done. The record already made is proof of its thoroughness, and shows that it will compare favorably with any similar survey made in this country or elsewhere; indeed, it is in the highest degree creditable to the State of Ohio, and to the geologist in charge.

Prof. Newberry's eminence as a scientific man is unquestioned. As a geologist and paleontologist he ranks among the foremost of the time. His contributions to the literature of these branches of science have been numerous and valuable, being chiefly in the departments of general geology, fossil plants, and fossil fishes. He is a member of most of our American scientific associations, and of many similar European bodies; he was one of the original corporators of the National Academy of Sciences, has been President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and is at the present time President of the New York Academy of Sciences (formerly Lyceum of Natural History).