Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Cooper, Thomas

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COOPER, Thomas, scientist, b. in London, England, 22 Oct., 1759; d. in Columbia, S. C., 11 May, 1840. He was educated at Oxford, and then studied law, devoting at the same time considerable attention to medicine and the natural sciences. After being admitted to the bar he travelled a circuit for a few years, but took an active part in the politics of the time, and was sent with James Watt, the inventor, by the democratic clubs of England to those of France, where his sympathies were with the Girondists. This course called out severe censure from Edmund Burke in the house of commons, to which Cooper replied with a violent pamphlet. Its circulation was prohibited among the lower classes by the attorney-general, although no exception was made to its appearance in expensive form. While in France he studied chemistry and learned the process of obtaining chlorine from sea-salt, and this knowledge he tried to apply on his return to England by becoming a bleacher and a calico-printer, but was unsuccessful. In 1795 he followed his friend, Dr. Joseph Priestley, to the United States, and settled in Northumberland, Pa., where he practised law. He became a strong democrat, and violently attacked the administration of John Adams in the Reading “Advertiser” of 26 Oct., 1799. This led to his being tried for libel under the sedition act, and he was sentenced to six months' imprisonment, with a fine of $400. In 1806 he was appointed a land commissioner and succeeded in overcoming the difficulties with the Connecticut claimants in Luzerne county. Later he was made judge, but, becoming obnoxious to the members of his own party, he was removed in 1811 on a charge of arbitrary conduct. From 1811 till 1814 he held the chair of chemistry in Dickinson college, Carlisle, and from 1816 till 1821 filled a similar place in the University of Pennsylvania. In 1819 he was called to the College of South Carolina in Columbia, of which, from 1820 till 1834, he was president, and at the same time professor of chemistry and political economy. On his retirement in 1840 the revision of the statutes of the state was confided to him. President Cooper was eminent for his versatility and the extent of his knowledge. In philosophy he was a materialist, in religion a free-thinker, and in the nullification contest an ultra state-rights man. He was a vigorous pamphleteer in various political contests, and a frequent contributor to newspapers and magazines. From 1812 till 1814 he edited two of the five volumes of “The Emporium of Arts and Sciences” in Philadelphia, and also Thomas Thomson's “System of Chemistry” (4 vols., Philadelphia, 1818). He published “Letters on the Slave-Trade” (London, 1787); “Tracts, Ethical, Theological, and Political” (1790); “Information concerning America” (1790); “Account of the Trial of Thomas Cooper, of Northumberland” (Philadelphia, 1800); “The Bankrupt Law of America Compared with that of England” (1801); “Introductory Lecture at Carlisle College” (1812); “An English Version of the Institutes of Justinian” (1812); “Tracts on Medical Jurisprudence” (1819); and “Elements of Political Economy” (Charleston, 1826).