Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Whitney, Josiah Dwight

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search

WHITNEY, Josiah Dwight, geologist, b. in Northampton, Mass., 23 Nov., 1819. He was graduated at Yale in 1839, and then spent six months in the chemical laboratory of Dr. Robert Hare in Philadelphia. In 1840 he joined the survey of New Hampshire as assistant geologist under Charles T. Jackson, and remained connected with that work until May, 1842, when he went abroad. For five years he travelled on the continent of Europe, and pursued chemical, geological, and mineralogical studies. On his return to this country in 1847 he engaged in the geological exploration of the Lake Superior region, and with John W. Foster was in the same year appointed by the U. S. government to assist Charles T. Jackson in making a geological survey of that district. Two years later the completion of the survey was intrusted to Foster and Whitney, who published “Synopsis of the Explorations of the Geological Corps in the Lake Superior Land District in the Northern Peninsula” (Washington, 1849), and “Report on the Geology and Topography of a Portion of the Lake Superior Land District in the State of Michigan” (part i., Copper Lands, 1850; part ii., The Iron Region, 1851). On the completion of this work he travelled for two years through the states east of the Mississippi for the purpose of collecting information with regard to the mining and mineral interests in this country. His results were issued as “The Metallic Wealth of the United States described and compared with that of other Countries” (Philadelphia, 1854). In 1855 he was appointed state chemist and professor in the Iowa state university, and was associated with James Hall in the geological survey of that state, issuing “Reports on the Geological Survey of Iowa” (2 vols., Albany, 1858-'9). During 1858-'60 Prof. Whitney was engaged on a geological survey of the lead region of the upper Missouri in connection with the official surveys of Wisconsin and Illinois, publishing, with James Hall, a “Report on the Geological Survey of the State of Wisconsin” (Albany, 1862). He was appointed state geologist of California in 1860, and engaged in conducting a topographical, geological, and natural history survey of that state until 1874, when the work was discontinued by act of legislature. Besides various pamphlets and annual reports on the subject, he issued six volumes under the title of “Geological Survey of California” (Cambridge, 1864-'70). In 1865 he was appointed professor of geology in Harvard, which chair he still retains, with charge of its school of mining and practical geology. The degree of LL. D. was conferred on him by Yale in 1870. Prof. Whitney was one of the original members of the National academy of sciences named by act of congress in 1863, but he has since withdrawn from that body. He is also a member of other scientific bodies, both at home and abroad. In addition to contributing to the “American Journal of Science,” the “North American Review,” and similar periodicals, he has translated Berzelius's “Use of the Blowpipe” (Boston, 1845), and is the author of “The Yosemite Guide-Book” (San Francisco, 1869). Prof. Whitney has made a specialty of collecting a library of geological and geographical books. Mount Whitney, the highest mountain in the United States, was named in his honor. — His wife, Louisa Goddard, b. in Manchester, England, 17 Dec., 1819; d. in Cambridge, 13 May, 1882, is the author of “The Burning of the Convent: a Narrative of the Destruction of the Ursuline School on Mount Benedict, Charlestown, by One of the Pupils” (Cambridge, Mass., 1877), and “Peasy's Childhood: an Autobiography” (1878). — His brother, William Dwight, philologist, b. in Northampton, Mass., 9 Feb., 1827, was graduated at Williams in 1845, and obtained a clerkship in a banking-house in Northampton. This occupation he followed for three years, and devoted his leisure to the study of languages, particularly Sanskrit. In 1849-'50 he studied under Prof. Edward E. Salisbury at Yale, and in 1850 he went to Germany and studied at the University of Berlin under Franz Bopp and Albrecht Weber, and at the University of Tübingen under Rudolf Roth. With the latter he prepared an edition of the “Atharva Veda Sanhita” (Berlin, 1856), for which he copied the text from the manuscripts in the Royal library in Berlin, and collated it with other copies in the libraries of Paris, London, and Oxford. In 1854 he was appointed professor of Sanskrit at Yale, and in 1870 of comparative philology also at that university, and he still retains the combined chair. Prof. Whitney delivered a series of lectures before the Smithsonian institution in 1864, which he repeated in extended form before the Lowell institute in Boston, and then published as “Language and the Study of Language” (New York, 1867). He was elected a member of the American oriental society in 1849, was its librarian in 1855-'73, its corresponding secretary in 1857-'84, and since then its president. His contributions to its “Journal” have been very large, and of its volumes vi.-xii., half the contents were written by him, including a translation of the “Sûrya Siddhânta,” with notes and appendix, being a Hindoo treatise on astronomy (1860); text, with notes, of the “Atharva Veda Prâtiçâkhya” (1862); the text, with English versions, notes, and native commentary, of the “Taittirîya Prâtiçâkhya” (1871), which gained for him the Bopp prize from the Berlin academy as the most important Sanskrit publication of the preceding three years; the “Index Verborum to the Atharva-Veda” (1881); and reviews of Karl R. Lepsius's phonetic alphabet and of the opinions of Jean B. Biot, Albrecht Weber, and Max Müller on Hindoo astronomy. He was also a contributor to the great Sanskrit dictionary of Böhtlingk and Roth (7 vols., St. Petersburg, 1853-'67). Prof. Whitney ranks as one of the foremost Sanskrit scholars of his time, and his text-books have been awarded high praise for their exact statements of general grammatical doctrine. In the science of language, of which his expositions and classifications are accepted as authoritative, he claims that the development of speech is by the acceptance of conventional signs, and that its beginnings were imitative, in lieu of the view advanced by others who contend that language was spontaneously generated in the mind and coexistent with thought. The degree of Ph. D. was conferred on him by the University of Breslau in 1861, and that of LL. D. by Williams in 1868, William and Mary in 1869, and Harvard in 1876, while that of J. U. D. was given him by St. Andrews, Scotland, in 1874, and Litt. D. by Columbia in 1886. He was the first president of the American philological association in 1869, and in 1865 was elected to the National academy of sciences. Besides his membership in many other scientific bodies, both at home and abroad, he is a correspondent of the Berlin, Turin, Rome, and St. Petersburg academies, the Institut of France, and is a foreign knight of the Prussian order “Pour le mérite.” Prof. Whitney has written for the “North American Review,” the “New Englander,” and similar periodicals, and various articles in cyclopædias, and has contributed to the transactions of societies of which he is a member many papers, of which may be mentioned (besides those included in his Oriental and linguistic studies) “Contributions from the Atharva Veda to the Theory of Sanskrit Verbal Accent” (1856); “On the Jyotisha Observation of the Place of the Colures and the Date derivable from It” (1864); “On Material and Form in Language” (1872); “Darwinism and Language” (1874); “Logical Consistency in Views of Language” (1880); “Mixture in Language” (1881); “The Study of Hindoo Grammar and the Study of Sanskrit” (1884); “The Upanishads and their Latest Translation” (1886). His other works, several of which have been translated into one or more languages, include “Compendious German Grammar” (New York, 1869); “German Reader in Prose and Verse” (1870); “Oriental and Linguistic Studies” (1st series, 1873; 3d series, 1875); “Life and Growth of Language” in the “International Scientific Series” (1876); “Essentials of English Grammar” (Boston, 1877); “Sanskrit Grammar, including both the Classical Language and the Older Dialects of Veda and Brahmana” (Leipsic, 1879); and “Practical French Grammar” (1886). At present he is superintending editor of the “Dictionary of the English Language” in course of preparation by the Century company in New York.