Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Orton, Azariah Giles

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ORTON, Azariah Giles, theologian, b. in Tyringham, Berkshire co., Mass., 6 Aug., 1789; d. in Lisle, Broome co., N. Y., 28 Dec., 1864. He was graduated at Williams in 1813, and at Princeton theological seminary in 1820. On completing his theological course he was commissioned by the board of missions of the Presbyterian assembly “to preach to destitute places in Georgia.” In 1822 he was ordained pastor of the Presbyterian church at Seneca Falls, N. Y., where he remained until 1835. After preaching three years at Lisle, N. Y., he accepted a call from a Congregational church at Greene, N. Y., which connection he maintained from 1838 till 1852. He then returned to Lisle, and labored there until 1860. He received the degree of D. D. from the University of the city of New York in 1849 and from Union college in 1850. In 1838 he published a reply to Prof. Moses Stuart on the constitution of the United States in its relation to slavery. In 1842 he prepared the memorial of Chenango county, N. Y., to the state senate, praying that the bill for the abolition of capital punishment might not become a law, by the timely reception of which the final passage of the bill was prevented. He was also the author of an article on the Scripture argument for capital punishment, parts of which were printed in the “Genesee Evangelist” of 1849. In 1854 he delivered an address at Miami university on “Nature and Revelation,” which was published. He also was the author of several poems. Dr. Orton was a man of profound scholarship. — His son, James, naturalist, b. in Seneca Falls, N. Y., 21 April, 1830; d. on Lake Titicaca, Peru, 25 Sept., 1877, was graduated at Williams in 1855, and at Andover theological seminary in 1858. After spending some time in travel in Europe and the East, he was ordained pastor of the Congregational church in Greene, N. Y., on 11 July, 1860. In 1861 he accepted a charge in Thomaston, Me., where he remained until 1864, when he became pastor in Brighton, N. Y. He was appointed instructor in natural sciences in the University of Rochester in 1866, and in 1869 was called to the chair of natural history at Vassar college, which he held until his death. In 1867 he visited South America at the head of an expedition of students that were sent out under the auspices of Williams college. On this occasion he crossed the continent by way of Quito, the Nabo, and the Amazon, discovering the first fossils that were found in the valley of the latter river. He made a second journey in 1873, and crossed from Para, by way of the Amazon, to Lima and Lake Titicaca. In 1876 he undertook the exploration of the Great Beni river, which carries the waters of eastern Bolivia to the Amazon by way of the Madeira, and he died on this journey during the passage of Lake Titicaca, on his way to Puno. Prof. Orton was regarded as the best authority on the subject of the geology and physical geography of the west coast of South America and the Amazon valley. No one since the time of Alexander von Humboldt has contributed so much to the exact knowledge of that country. He was a member of scientific societies in the United States and in Europe, whose transactions he enriched with papers on the natural history of South America. His publications include “Miners' Guide and Metallurgists' Directory” (New York, 1849); “The Proverbalist and the Poet” (Philadelphia, 1852); “The Andes and the Amazon” (New York, 1870); “Underground Treasures: How and Where to find Them” (Hartford, 1872); “Liberal Education of Women” (New York, 1873); and “Comparative Zoology” (1875).