Popular Science Monthly/Volume 43/July 1893/Sketch of Charles A. Joy
|SKETCH OF CHARLES A. JOY|
By MARCUS BENJAMIN, Ph. D.
IN tracing the growth of science in this country it is interesting to observe how its development may be followed in the biographies of its leaders; thus, many of our scientists received their first inspiration from the elder Silliman, while those of a later date acquired their great fondness for the life-work to which they devoted themselves from Louis Agassiz. From the leaders the growth of science passed to the institutions with which originally they were connected; then broadening, it located itself permanently with those having the best instruction. In a less degree, but equally true, is such the case in our cities. The story of the development of science in New York city can be acquired almost entirely by reading the lives of such men as Samuel Latham, Mitchell, James Renwick, John Torrey, John William Draper, and John Strong Newberry. From these men its growth passed in time to such institutions as Columbia College, the New York Academy of Science, the University of the City of New York, and the Columbia College School of Mines.
In the development of chemistry in this city Charles Arad Joy took a prominent part; and if, perhaps, his name is not as well known as some others, it must be attributed to the long years of retirement—many of which were years of suffering—that he passed in Europe and in his country home prior to his recent death.
Prof. Joy was born in Ludlowville, Tompkins County, New York, on October 8, 1823. His father was a well-known merchant, but a fondness for literary pursuits seems to have been the habit of the family. An elder brother became distinguished as an able physician, and a sister married an eminent clergyman. With his brother he studied at excellent preparatory schools in Ovid, N. Y., and in Lenox, Mass., and then was sent to Union College, where he was graduated in 1844. Choosing law as his profession, he entered Harvard, where he graduated in course at its law department in 1847, receiving the degree of LL. B. Meanwhile he had acquired a fondness for science. The beginnings of the application of electricity to every-day life were manifesting themselves in the development of telegraphy under the direction of Samuel Finley Breese Morse. The wonderful richness of the Lake Superior region in mineral wealth had just been made known and the first copper mines opened, revealing almost pure metallic copper to the astounded world. It was also while Joy was a student at Harvard that Louis Agassiz gave his first course of lectures before the Lowell Institute in Boston, and it may have been, indeed perhaps was, these lectures that led him to abandon the following of a legal career in order to become a scientist. Moreover, he was happy at this time in meeting Charles T. Jackson, one of the most interesting characters in the history of American chemistry, in whose laboratory, which was early opened to private students, the original researches on the anæsthetic properties of ether are said to have been made.
In 1847 Dr. Jackson was commissioned by Congress to survey the mineral lands of Michigan, and promptly on finishing his course at the law school Joy was invited to become a member of the party, and continued with this expedition until the completion of its work. He then studied for a time in Dr. Jackson's laboratory; but realizing the impossibility of acquiring a thorough training in chemistry in this country, he turned his steps toward the Mecca of that science, and for two years studied in Germany, first under Heinrich Rose in Berlin and then under Friedrich Wöhler in Göttingen, where in 1853 he took the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. For an inaugural thesis the difficult subject of the combination of alcohol radicals with selenium was assigned to him, while at an adjoining desk a similar research pertaining to the tellurium compounds was being carried on by Prof. John W. Mallett, now of the University of Virginia. In after years Prof. Joy frequently related to his classes how that, owing to the offensive odors generated in the preparation of the selenium and tellurium compounds, he and his fellow-student, Mallett, were often the only two who remained at work. These researches were among the earliest contributions to a class of alcohol radicals combined with a metallic base that appeared in chemical literature. After receiving his degree at Göttingen he spent some time at the Sorbonne in Paris, where the brilliant Dumas, then in his prime, lectured on chemistry.
With a scientific training seldom equaled by any young man he returned to America, and was promptly called to the chair of Chemistry in Union College. This place he then held for four years, during part of which time he was assisted by Charles F. Chandler, who later became Professor of Analytical and Applied Chemistry in the School of Mines of Columbia College, and, subsequent to the resignation of Prof. Joy, his successor in the chair of Chemistry in Union.
In 1857 Columbia College moved to its present site in Madison Avenue, between Forty-ninth and Fiftieth Streets, and the chair of Natural and Experimental Philosophy and Chemistry, then held by Prof. Richard McCulloh, was divided so as to form the chair of Mechanics and Physics, which was retained by Prof. McCulloh, while a call to that of Chemistry was given to Prof. Joy. It is perhaps worth recording that the only other candidate suggested for the new chair was Dr. Wolcott Gibbs, an alumnus of Columbia, in the class of 1841, then Professor of Physics and Chemistry at the College of the City of New York, whence, in 1863, he was called to the Rumford chair in the Lawrence Scientific School of Harvard.
With the prestige of a splendid education, a successful career at Union, and with fine social qualities. Prof. Joy was indeed well fitted to advance the course of chemistry in Columbia. Almost at once he founded in connection with his department a School of Chemistry, designed to give a complete professional education in chemistry to such as desired it. In the prospectus he wrote, “The laboratory is furnished with the best modern appliances for acquiring a thorough knowledge of chemistry and the applications of the science to agriculture and the arts.” Among those who availed themselves of this instruction were Major Clarence S. Brown, Captain William Jay, and other officers of the United States army; also such mining engineers as George William Maynard, Edward M. Pell, and others; while classed as chemists were Julius H. Tieman, Peter C. Tieman, and William J. Youmans. The success of this experiment made it easily possible, in 1863, to interest the trustees of Columbia College in accepting the plan proposed by Thomas Egleston, Jr., for the establishment of a School of Mines. Prof. Joy was a pronounced advocate of this undertaking from the outset. He was urged to assume charge of the department of chemistry in the new school, but this he declined, and recommended that his assistant at Union, Prof. Charles F. Chandler, be called to organize the department. This advice was at once favorably acted on by the trustees of Columbia College, and Prof. Chandler was given the chair of Analytical and Applied Chemistry, with charge of the laboratories. Although his duties in the academic department were already quite onerous. Prof. Joy promptly volunteered his services as lecturer, and in the first catalogue of the School of Mines his name appears as in charge of organic chemistry. Later, when the regular faculty was organized, he was made Professor of General Chemistry, and so continued until his retirement in 1877; also in the meanwhile he remained at the head of the chemical department of the college proper.
The atmosphere of a large city is not conducive to much original work in science, and especially is this the case in New York city. Things of a more practical nature force themselves upon the attention of a scientist, and his opinion is in constant demand. In consequence, we find in the American Contributions to Chemistry but two papers devoted to original research contributed by Prof. Joy during the time of his connection with Columbia College. They are On Glucinum and its Compounds (1863), and Analysis of a Meteorite from Chili (1864), both of which were published in the American Journal of Science. Several of the analyses of minerals that appeared in Dana's System of Mineralogy by him were also made at this time. This meager record is readily explained by the fact that Prof. Joy's literary inclination was promptly taken advantage of by the editors of prominent periodicals, and articles from his skillful pen were constantly in demand. He was a frequent contributor to the Scientific American, and every week prepared columns of notes for Frank Leslie's periodicals, reviewing all of their foreign scientific exchanges for them. For many years he edited the Journal of Applied Chemistry, published in New York, and also wrote most of the articles on chemistry in Appletons' American Cyclopædia.
Prof. Joy was naturally prominent in numerous organizations, chiefly, however, in those of a scientific character. He held the chairmanship of the Polytechnic Association of the American Institute; he was also President of the American Photographic Society. During 1866-'67 he was President of the Lyceum of Natural History, now the Academy of Science, from which place he gracefully and generously retired after a brief service in order to afford an opportunity to Dr. John S. Newberry to be introduced to the scientific circles of the metropolis. In 1874, when the American chemists gathered at the grave of Priestley, in Northumberland, Pa., and an organization was effected to celebrate the Centennial of Chemistry, Prof. Joy was chosen one of the vice-presidents. He was a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and for a time was Foreign Secretary of the American Geographical Society; he was likewise an enthusiastic member of the Century Association. It is but fair also to record his active interest in various charitable societies, and he was a member of the Protestant Episcopal Church.
Among the many interesting experiences of his life none perhaps gave him more delight than his connections with the various World's Fairs. He served on juries of those held in London, Paris, Vienna, and Philadelphia. During the terrible heat in 1870, while actively engaged in his duties at the Centennial Fair in Philadelphia, he was prostrated by sunstroke. He was promptly brought to his city home, but a cruel illness of many months followed, and at last, when he was able to again consider the resumption of his work, strength was lacking. In consideration of his years of faithful service, the college trustees retired him with a pension, and he returned to the scenes of his student days. For a time he was in Hanover, then in Switzerland, also in France, and in Munich. The World's Fair in Paris during 1889 attracted him there; but finally, after an absence of nearly ten years, he turned his steps homeward, and spent the winter of 1890-'91 at his own country home in Stockbridge, Mass. When the spring came he was already making plans to visit the great World's Fair, to be held in Chicago, but suddenly and with scarcely any warning a trifling indisposition seized him, and he died on May 29, 1891.
As has been shown. Prof. Joy filled many places of high honor with distinction. His associates and pupils held him in worthy esteem, and from the scientific world at large he deserves a more than passing notice, for it may be said it was his efforts that indirectly brought about that recognition of science in this city that culminated in the organization of the greatest School of Mines in the United States.