Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 50.djvu/126

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THE life of William C. Redfield, said Prof. Denison Olmsted, in a memorial address delivered at the time of his death, "affords an interesting and instructive theme for contemplation in a threefold point of view—as affording a marked example of the successful pursuit of knowledge under difficulties, as happily illustrating the union in the same individual of the man of science with the man of business, and as exhibiting a philosopher whose researches have extended the boundaries of knowledge and greatly augmented the sum of human happiness."

Mr. Redfield was born near Middletown, Conn., March 26, 1789, and died in New York city, February 13, 1857. His father followed the seas as a profession from early youth to the time of his death. His early training was therefore derived from his mother. He was given such instruction as the common schools afforded. Having removed to Upper Middletown, now Cromwell, he was apprenticed to a saddler. He gave all the time he could afford, which was only a part of his evenings, to study, preferably of science, having most of the time only the light of the wood fire to read by. But before he was twenty-one years old "he had acquired no ordinary amount and variety of useful knowledge." With other young men of the village he formed a debating society, which was called the "Friendly Association," and which collected a library. Dr. William Tully having settled in the village, young Redfield applied to him for the loan of some books, and engaged his interest. No particular book was asked for, and the cases were opened for him to choose. He selected Sir Humphry Davy's Elements of Chemistry.

His mother removed to Ohio during his apprenticeship, and in 1810 he set out to visit her, going, with two companions, on foot. He regularly took notes of what he observed and experienced in a tramp through the country of western New York and northern Ohio, which was then very primitive; returning in the spring, again on foot, he took a more southerly route. His notes were afterward turned to good account in making the sketches of the railroads he projected. After this journey he engaged in business in Middletown, following his trade and keeping a small country store. He assumed the initial C. when he had come of age. In 1827 he removed to New York city.

A violent storm had swept the Eastern States, September 3, 1821, which became memorable as the "Great September Gale." Shortly after it occurred Mr. Redfield traveled through a part of the region over which it had passed, and was surprised to observe that in one part of his route the trees lay with their heads point-