Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Morton, Henry Jackson

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MORTON, Henry Jackson, clergyman, b. in New York city, 25 Sept., 1807; d. in Philadelphia, Pa., 1 Nov., 1890. He was graduated at Columbia and at the General theological seminary, New York, and became assistant in charge of St. James's church, under Bishop White, in Philadelphia. In 1837 he was made rector of this church and continued so until 1887, when, after a service of fifty-six years, he resigned and continued as emeritus rector. For many years he was president of the standing committee of the diocese of Pennsylvania, and he was a trustee of the University of Pennsylvania, from which he received the degree of D. D. — His son, Henry, physicist, b. in New York city, 11 Dec., 1836, was graduated at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1863 he delivered a course of lectures on chemistry at the Franklin institute. A year later he was made resident secretary of the Franklin institute, and in connection with this office delivered a series of lectures on light, which, owing to their being brilliantly illustrated by unique experiments, attracted notice in Europe as well as in the United States. He was invited to fill the chair of physics and chemistry in the University of Pennsylvania during the absence of Prof. John F. Frazer in 1867-'8, and in 1869 the professorship was divided and the chair of chemistry assigned to him. In 1870 he was called to the presidency of Stevens institute of technology, then about to be organized in Hoboken, N. J., under the will of Edwin A. Stevens. The building of this institution was then in course of erection, and President Morton was intrusted with the selection of a faculty, with whom he arranged the course of instruction. He has since continued to hold this office, and in 1880 he presented to the trustees a workshop that he had caused to be built and equipped with steam-engines and tools at a cost of $10,000. Again, in 1883, he gave $2,500 for the purchase of electrical apparatus. In 1869 he organized and conducted the photographic division of the eclipse expedition that was sent to Iowa under the auspices of the “U. S. Nautical Almanac” office. He secured numerous successful exposures, among which were several partial phase photographs that showed a bright line in the sun's disk, adjacent to the edge of the moon. This had been previously noticed in photographs of other eclipses, and had been explained by Sir George B. Airy, astronomer royal of England, as a result of diffraction. President Morton showed by a simple experiment that it was due to chemical action during the operation of developing the plate. He was a member of the private expedition that was organized by Henry Draper to observe the total solar eclipse of 29 July. 1878, at Rawlins, Wyoming. In 1873 he conducted a series of researches on the “Fluorescent and Absorption Spectra of the Uranium Salts,” and also on the like spectra of pyrene, and of a new material found by him in some petroleum residues to which he gave the name of thallene, from its brilliant green fluorescence. He succeeded in 1878 to the vacancy on the light-house board that was caused by the death of Joseph Henry, which appointment he held until 1885, conducting meanwhile investigations on fog-signals, electric lighting, fire-extinguishers, illuminating buoys, and like subjects, which appear in the annual reports of the board. President Morton has been frequently called into court since 1870 as an expert in questions relating to chemistry and physics in connection with patent and other suits. In this capacity he has acquired an extended reputation. The degree of Ph. D. was conferred on him by Dickinson college in 1869, and by Princeton in 1871. He is a member of scientific societies, and in 1874 was elected to membership in the National academy of sciences, on whose commissions he has occasionally served. During 1867-'70 he was editor of the “Journal of the Franklin Institute,” and, besides several important cyclopaedia articles on his specialties, he has published the results of his researches in scientific journals in the United States and Europe. He was associated in the preparation of “The Student's Practical Chemistry” (Philadelphia, 1868), and also during his college course in 1859 in the publication of a translation of the trilingual hieroglyphic inscription of the Rosetta stone, for which he made the lithographic drawings.