Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/122

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


AMONG the distinguished physicists America has produced Prof. Henry Augustus Rowland, of Johns Hopkins University is unanimously accorded a leading place. He was born at Honesdale, Pa., November 27, 1848. His forefathers were among the earliest settlers of Fairfield, Conn. Three generations of clergymen of well-known prominence in the Congregationalist Church of Windsor, Conn., are his immediate paternal ancestors. His father, the Rev. Henry Augustus Rowland, had a great love for all scientific pursuits, and only gave them up for what he considered a higher calling. Prof. Rowland's mother is descended from representatives of several Knickerbocker families of Manhattan Island. She was Harriette Heyer, the daughter of a wealthy merchant of New York. Her mother was Miss Suydam.

In 1855 Prof. Rowland's father removed to Newark, N. J. He died there in 1859. Prior to his death, however, he had discovered the scientific bent of his young son, and heartily sympathized with and encouraged it. During the residence of his family in Newark the boy spent most of his time making chemical experiments. He used a book on chemistry belonging to an older sister, and worked in a crude laboratory he made for himself in the cellar of his father's house. Between the ages of eleven and fifteen he also commenced experiments in electricity and magnetism, making many small electric motors, electric machines, and repeating all the experiments he could find mentioned in the few scientific books to which he had access.

When he was about sixteen years old his mother sent him to Andover, Mass., to prepare for college. While here he was so engrossed in his electrical and magnetic experiments that his Greek and Latin studies were neglected. He was severely reprimanded by Mr. Taylor, the head of the school. This lecture, delivered to him in an arbitrary manner, without any inquiry as to the cause and with no word of kindness or sympathy, made a profound impression on the boy and increased, if possible, his dislike for the stones of the Latin and Greek languages which were forced upon him when he was starving for the bread of scientific knowledge. On returning home from Andover he expressed his dislike for this course of study so strongly to his mother that she determined to send him to the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute at Troy, N. Y., at that time the leading engineering school in the country. Here the young man maintained a good position in his classes, although much of his time was spent in his own experi-