Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/550

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

but the ship on which, he took passage was captured by a French privateer, and he was made a prisoner. On regaining his liberty he started for the New World, landing in Philadelphia in 1810, and soon engaged in the manufacture of alum. He accompanied Maclure to New Harmony (of which more anon), and, on the failure of the community, became professor in the university at Nashville, and subsequently was appointed State Geologist of Tennessee, a position he held until a year before his death, which occurred in 1850.

William Maclure, the pioneer American geologist, was a Scotchman by birth. He came early in life to Philadelphia, where by a successful mercantile life he acquired an ample fortune. He spent several years in travel, hammer in hand, exploring every State and Territory from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to Florida. The results of these excursions were embodied in the first paper on American geology ever published, which appeared in the "Transactions of the American Philosophical Society" in 1809. At the time of the foundation of the Academy he was on a geological trip, but as soon as he returned he became a member, and from that time until his death retained a lively interest in its welfare and prosperity. He gave largely of books, specimens, and money, his donations of the former amounting to over 5,000 volumes, and of the latter more than $25,000. Mr. Maclure was eminently a philanthropist, but, like many others of similar disposition, was rather visionary. He entertained the idea of educating all mankind, of establishing a university where all human knowledge should be taught, and was also a firm believer in, and strong advocate of, the "community system"; and, with these ideas predominant, he persuaded Troost, Say, and Lesueur to accompany him to New Harmony, Indiana, where his Utopian plans were to be carried into execution. But man is liable to err, and internal dissensions and legal difficulties soon caused the community to break up. Maclure died shortly after in Mexico.

Thomas Say was born in Philadelphia in 1787, and in his early years attended a private school some miles out of the city, where, owing to the inefficiency of his instructors, he acquired but little except a most intense dislike to all polite literature. His father, seeing that his tastes were anything but literary, apprenticed him to an apothecary, and afterward he entered into partnership with John Speakman in the drug-business. This partnership was peculiar in the disinterestedness with which it was conducted. Speakman alone attended to the business, that his partner might devote all his time to the pursuit of science. But the firm of Speakman and Say came to an untimely end by indorsing for unfortunate friends. After the failure, Say took up his quarters in the rooms of the society, making his bed beneath the skeleton of a horse, and living for several years on bread and milk, with an occasional chop or egg, during which time his food did not cost on the average twelve cents a day. Say, as has been stated, accompanied