1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Percival, James Gates

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PERCIVAL, JAMES GATES (1795–1856), American poet, philologist and geologist, was born in Kensington parish, Berlin, Connecticut, on the 15th of September 1795. He graduated at Yale in 1815, and in 1820 took the degree of M.D., and started practice in Berlin. He contributed verse to the Microscope, a semi-weekly paper, founded at New Haven in 1820. In this first appeared his best-known poem, “The Suicide,” which reflects his chronic melancholy, due doubtless to ill-health; it was begun in 1816 and finished in 1820, after he had actually made two attempts on his own life. In 1823 Percival became an editor of the Connecticut Herald at New Haven, and in 1824 he was in turn an assistant-surgeon and lecturer on chemistry at West Point, and an inspector of recruits at the Charlestown (Mass.) Navy Yard. He prepared (1826–1831) an English edition of Malte-Brun's Geography (published 1834); and in 1827–1829 read the manuscripts and proof-sheets of Webster's Dictionary, giving special attention to scientific words. In 1835–1840, with Professor Charles U. Shepard (1804–1886), he made a geological survey of Connecticut; his Report (1842) showed great learning and much patient research. In 1854 he became state geologist of Wisconsin, and in 1855 published one volume of his Report; the second he had nearly completed at the time of his death, on the 22nd of May 1856, at Hazel Green, Wisconsin.

See his Poetical Works (2 vols., Boston, 1859), with a biographical sketch by L. W. Fitch; and Julius H. Ward, Life and Letters of James Gates Percival (Boston, 1866).