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BENJAMIN SILLIMAN (1779-1864)

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Originally appearing in Volume V25, Page 109 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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BENJAMIN SILLIMAN (1779-1864), American chemist and geologist, was born on the 8th of August 1779 at Trumbull (then called North Stratford), Connecticut. Entering Yale College in 1i92, he graduated in 1796, became tutor in 1799, and in 1802 was appointed professor of chemistry and mineralogy, a position which he retained till 1853, when by his own desire he retired as professor emeritus. Not only was he a popular and successful teacher of chemistry, mineralogy and geology in the college for half a century, but he also did much to improve and extend its educational resources, especially in regard to its mineralogical collections, the Trumbull Gallery of Pictures, the Medical Institution and the Sheffield Scientific School. Outside Yale he was well known as one of the few men who could hold the attention of a popular audience with a scientific lecture, and on account of his clear and interesting style, as well as of the unwonted splendour of his illustrative experiments, his services were in great request not only in the northern and eastern states but also in those of the south. His original investigations were neither numerous nor important, and his name is best known to scientific men as the founder, and from 1818 to 1838 the sole editor, of the American Journal of Science and Arts—often called Silliman's Journal,—one of the foremost American scientific serials. In 1810 he published A Journal of Travels in England, Holland and Scotland, in which he described a visit to Europe undertaken in 1805 in preparation for the duties of his chair. He paid a second visit in 1851, of which he also issued an account, and among his other publications were Elements of Chemistry (183,0), and editions of W. Henry's Chemistry with notes (1808), and of R. Bakewell's Geology (1827). He died at New Haven on the 24th of November 1864. His son, BENJAMIN SILLIarAN (1816-1885), chemist and mineralogist, was born at New Haven on the 4th of December 1816. After graduating at Yale in 1837 he became assistant to his father, and in 1847 was appointed professor in the school of applied chemistry, which was largely due to his efforts and formed the nucleus of the subsequent Sheffield Scientific School. In 1849 he was appointed professor of medical chemistry and toxicology in the Medical College at Louisville, Kentucky, but relinquished that office in 1854 to succeed his father in the chair of chemistry at Yale. The duties of this professorship, so far as they related to the Academic College, he gave up in 1870, but he retained his connexion with the Medical College till his death, which happened at New Haven on the 14th of January 1885. Much of his time, especially during the last twenty years of his life, was absorbed in making examinations of mines and preparing expert reports on technical processes of chemical manufacture; but he was also able to do a certain amount of original work, publishing papers on the chemistry of various minerals, on meteorites, on photography with the electric arc, the illuminating powers of gas, &c. A course of lectures given by him on agricultural chemistry in the winter of 1845-1846 at New Orleans is believed to have been the first of its kind in the United States. In 1846 he published First Principles of Chemistry and in 1858 First Principles of Physics or Natural Philosophy, both of which had a large circulation. In 18J3 he edited a large quarto illustrated volume, The World of Science, Art and Industry, which was followed in 1854 by The Progress of Science and Mechanism. In 1874, when the loath anniversary of Priestley's preparation of oxygen was celebrated as the " Centennial of Chemistry" at Northumberland, Pa., where Priestley died, he delivered an historical address on " American Contributions to Chemistry," which contains a full list, with their works, of American chemists up to that date. From 1838 to 1845 he was associated with his father in the editorship of the American Journal of Science, and from 1845 to the end of his life his name appeared on the title page as one of the editors in chief.
End of Article: BENJAMIN SILLIMAN (1779-1864)
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