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SIR HENRY COLE (1808–1882)

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Originally appearing in Volume V06, Page 664 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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SIR HENRY COLE (1808–1882), English civil servant, was born at Bath on the 15th of July 18o8, and was the son of an officer in the army. At the age of fifteen he became clerk to Sir Francis Palgrave, then a subordinate officer in the record office, and, helped by Charles Buller, to whom he had been introduced by Thomas Love Peacock, and who became chairman of a royal commission for inquiry into the condition of the public records, worked his way up until he became an assistant keeper. He largely assisted in influencing public opinion in support of Sir Rowland Hill's reforms at the post office. A connexion with the Society of Arts caused him to drift gradually out of the record office: he was a leading member of the commission that organized the Great Exhibition of 1851, and upon the conclusion of its labours was made secretary to the School of Design, which by a series of transformations became in 1853 the Department of Science and Art. Under its auspices the South Kensington (now Victoria and Albert) Museum was founded in 1855 upon land purchased out of the surplus of the exhibition, and Cole practically became its director, retiring in 1873. His proceedings were frequently criticized, but the museum owes much to his energy. Indefatigable, genial and masterful, he drove everything before him, and by all sorts of schemes and devices built up a great institution, whose variety and inequality of composition seemed imaged in the anomalous structure in which it was temporarily housed. He also, though 664. COLD HARBOR- locked up in the city hall until all attempts to enforce the new law were abandoned. Subsequently Colden secured the sus-pension of the provincial assembly by an act of parliament. He understood, however, the real temper of the patriot party, and in 1775, when the outbreak of hostilities seemed inevitable, he strongly advised the ministry to act with caution and to concede some of the colonists' demands. When the war began, he retired to his Long Island country seat, where he died on the 28th of September 1776. Colden was widely known among scientists and men of letters in England and America. He was a life-long student of botany, and was the first to introduce in America the classification system of Linnaeus, who gave the name " Coldenia " to a newly recognized genus. He was an intimate friend of Benjamin Franklin. He wrote several medical works of importance in their day, the most noteworthy being A Treatise on Wounds and Fevers (1765); he also wrote The History of the Five Indian Nations depending on the Province of New York (1727, reprinted 1866 and 1905), and an elaborate work on The Principles of Action in Matter (1751), which, with his Introduction to the Study of Physics (c. 1756), his Enquiry into the Principles of Vital Motion (1766), and his Reflections (c. 1770), mark him as the first of American materialists and one of the ablest material philosophers of his day. I. Woodbridge Riley, in American Philosophy (New York, 1907), made the first critical study of Colden's philosophy, and said of it that it combined " Newtonian mechanics with the ancient hylozoistic doctrine . . . " and " ultimately reached a kind of dynamic panpsychism, substance being conceived as a self-acting and universally diffused principle, whose essence is power and force." See Alice M. Keys, Cadwallader Golden, A Representative 28th Century Official (New York, 1906), a Columbia University doctoral dissertation; J. G. Mumford, Narrative of Medicine in America (New York, 1903) ; and Asa Gray, "Selections from the Scientific Correspondence of Cadwallader Colden " in American Journal of Science, vol. 44, 1843. His grandson, CADWALLADER DAVID COLDEN (1769–1834), lawyer and politician, was educated in London, but returned in 1785 to New York, where he attained great distinction at the bar. He was a colonel of volunteers during the war of 1812, and from 1818 to 1821 was the successor of Jacob Radcliff as mayor of New York City. He was a member of the state assembly (1818) and the state senate (1825–1827), and did much to secure the construction of the Erie Canal and the organization of the state public school system; and in 1821–1823 he was a representative in Congress. He wrote a Life of Robert Fulton (1817) and a Memoir of the Celebration of the Completion of the New York Canals (1825).
End of Article: SIR HENRY COLE (1808–1882)
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