Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/857

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SKETCH OF ALEXANDER WINCHELL.

SKETCH OF ALEXANDER WINCHELL.

WHILE he was industrious and versatile as an original investigator, Prof. Alexander Winchell was best known as a successful, instructive, and entertaining lecturer on subjects of science, especially of geology and evolution, and as the author of numerous books which have found their way into the households of our country, describing in a style interesting and comprehensible to all the latest results of research and of his own labors in those fields.

Alexander Winchell was born in Northeast, Dutchess County, N. Y., December 31, 1824, and died in Ann Arbor, Mich., February 19, 1891. His family were in moderately comfortable circumstances. His father and mother had been teachers in the public schools of the town. He showed a taste for mathematics at an early age, which was illustrated by his having completed the first part of Emerson's arithmetic and his reciting the entire multiplication table without mistake on the day he was seven years old. When a little more than ten years old he had completed Willett's arithmetic, and had transcribed all the definitions, rules, problems, and full solutions in a manuscript book. He attended the Stockbridge Academy and the village school. It had been intended that he should study medicine, but on his expressing, when sixteen years old, a desire to teach, his father engaged a district school in which he taught during the winter of 1840 and 1841. As by-pursuits he collected and solved arithmetical problems, and began the practices, which he never discontinued, of recording the results of his reading and study, and keeping a diary and a strict account of expenditures. He continued his mathematical studies, soon acquired an enlarged idea of the preparation needed to fit him to become a doctor, became more attached to the profession of teacher, and had "his imagination fired" by the study of astronomy. In 1843 he became assistant in Amenia Seminary, where he had attended for a year as a student. Having entered Wesleyan University in 1844 as a sophomore, "he encountered with indignation," says his editorial biographer in the American Geologist, "the first check in his educational ardor and success in a rigorous 'marking system,' which at that time laid special stress on the literal reproduction of the words of the text-books. Though ambitious for honors, he refused to compete for them under those conditions. Having been graduated in 1847, he was appointed teacher of natural science in Pennington Male Seminary, New Jersey, "when he entered with irrepressible zeal and delight upon the study of the flora of the vicinity. The Morse telegraph having just come into operation, he attempted with suc-