<< 1790-1799
1810-1819 >>
Date Event Subjects
1800 Benjamin Waterhouse (1754-1846) vaccinated his son for smallpox, the first American physician to use the procedure. [0028] Medicine / Disease
ca.1800 John Griscom (1774-1852) began public subscription lectures in New York on science (especially chemistry). This was the start of Griscom's lecturing that continued for a number of years. [0029] General or Miscellaneous / Chemistry
1801 The first modern suspension bridge was built by Pennsylvanian James Finley. [0030] Engineering and Applied Science
1801 Jared Mansfield (1759-1830) published Essays, Mathematical and Physical (New Haven), which has been referred to as the first work of original research in mathematics by an American. [0031] Mathematics
1801 Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827) and his son Rembrandt Peale (1778-1860) excavated and assembled the almost complete skeletal remains of two mastodons found in Orange County, New York. One was added to the father's Philadelphia natural history museum, while the son took the other on tour in 1802 to New York and to London. In 1814, Rembrandt Peale established a museum in Baltimore and the second mastodon was displayed there. [0032] Paleontology / Zoology
1801 (September 1) David Hosack (1769-1835) purchased twenty acres on Manhattan on which he subsequently developed his Elgin Botanic Garden. From 1809 to 1811, Frederick Pursh (1774-1820) served as gardener. In 1811, the Garden became the property of the Regents of the State of New York; in 1814, it was attached to Columbia University but was not maintained. [0033] Organizations—Botanical Gardens
1801 (December 10) Robert Hare (1781-1858) presented to the Chemical Society of Philadelphia his paper, "Memoir of the Supply and Application of the Blow-Pipe." It presented the twenty-year-old scientist's discovery relating to the intense production of heat with his oxyhydrogen blow-pipe, progenitor of the welding torch. The Society published the paper the following year, and accounts of the invention also appeared in Tilloch's Philosophical Magazine and in the Annales de Chemie. In 1839 the American Academy of Arts and Sciences awarded him the first of its Rumford Medals. [0034] Chemistry
1801-1809 With Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) in office during these years, the country was headed by the president who did most to promote the interests of science. [0035] General or Miscellaneous
1802 The third edition of Nathaniel Bowditch's (1773-1838) New American Practical Navigator (Newburyport, Mass.) was published. Originally a corrected and expanded version of a British work by John Hamilton Moore, from this time until the twentieth century it carried Bowditch's name. It became a standard guide to navigation, the most popular ever done. [0036] General or Miscellaneous / Astronomy
1802 Benjamin Silliman (1779-1864) was given the new chair of chemistry and natural history in Yale College. In preparation for his duties, he went for a time to study in Philadelphia and in 1805 went to Great Britain for further study and purchase of books and apparatus. In the year of Silliman's appointment, there were about 21 academic scientists in the United States, and this group has been said to constitute all of the full-time positions in American science. However, the years thereafter saw a dramatic increase in the number of academic positions. [0037] Organizations—Academic / Chemistry, Natural History
1802 The United States Military Academy (West Point) was established on March 16 by Congress and officially opened on July 4. Its programs emphasized education of officers for engineering and related activities. [0038] Organizations—Academic / Engineering and Applied Science
1802 It was not until this year that Harvard College required knowledge of arithmetic for admission. [0039] Organizations—Academic / Mathematics
1802 DuPont chemical company was founded in Delaware for the manufacture of gunpowder. Until after World War I, 75 percent of the country's explosives were made by this company. [0040] Organizations—Industry / Chemistry
1802 A propeller-driven steamboat was constructed by John Stevens (1749-1838). In 1804, it became operational on the Hudson River. [0041] Technology and Invention
1803 Benjamin Smith Barton (1766-1815) published Elements of Botany: Or Outlines of the Natural History of Vegetables (Philadelphia), the first botanical textbook produced in the United States. The work included illustrations based on drawings by William Bartram (1739-1823). Three editions appeared during Barton's lifetime and a sixth was published in 1836. [0042] Botany
1803 The North American Flora (Flora Boreali-Americana, sisten caracteres plantarum quas in America Septentrionali collegit et detexit, Paris, 2 volumes) of Andre Michaux (1746-1802), the first overall portrayal of American botany, was published through the efforts of his son Francois A. Michaux (1770-1855). [0043] Botany
1803 Samuel Miller's (1769-1850) two-volume A Brief Retrospect of the Eighteenth Century (New York) concluded that contributions to literature and science in America could not be favorably compared to those of Europe. He explained the deficit in terms of lack of the necessary cultural institutions and leisure for learning, historic dependence on Great Britain, and similar factors. [0044] General or Miscellaneous
1803 Constantin-F. Chasseboeuf, Count de Volney (1757-1820) published a work on America in French in this year that was translated by Charles Brockden Brown and published as View of the Soil and Climate of the United States of America (Philadelphia, 1804). Approximately one-third of the work was on geography and geology and made important contributions to knowledge of the region of the Mississippi valley. [0045] General or Miscellaneous / Natural History
1803 John Richardson Young (1782-1804) prepared a medical dissertation, An Experimental Inquiry, Into the Principles of Nutrition, and the Digestive Process (Philadelphia) for his degree at the University of Pennsylvania. There, Young demonstrated that gastric juice is a component of normal gastric secretion, that it is simultaneous with the secretion of saliva, and is acidic. His dissertation was evidence of experimental skill and insight and has been noted as a significant American work in the physiology of digestion, but more recent evaluation comparing it to knowledge of the time finds it less remarkable. Young died in his twenty-second year. [0046] Zoology / Physiology
1804 In a listing of 1,338 titles in The Catalogue of All the Books Printed in the United States, which was issued by booksellers of Boston, no more than 20 could be classified as science (not counting medicine). From this and other contemporary sources, chemistry appeared as the most popular of the sciences. (These assessments are taken from John Greene, American Science in the Age of Jefferson [1984].) [0047] General or Miscellaneous / Periodicals and Publishing
1804 The Mathematical Correspondent, the first such journal in the United States, was begun. It was edited in New York by George Baron and later by Robert Adrain (1775-1843). [0048] Periodicals and Publishing / Mathematics
1804 (February 6) Chemist and theologian Joseph Priestley (b.1733) died at Northumberland, Pennsylvania. [0049] General or Miscellaneous / Chemistry
1804 (October) A scientific expedition to explore the lower Red River and Ouachita River began. The government-sponsored venture was headed by William Dunbar (1749-1810). It returned successfully to Natchez, Mississippi in January 1805, among its accomplishments the first report of the mineral wells at Hot Springs, Arkansas. [0050] Exploration and Surveying / Earth Sciences—General
1804-1806 Consequent to the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, President Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) organized the government-sponsored Lewis and Clark expedition to explore the western country to the northwest Pacific. Meriwether Lewis (1774-1809) and William Clark (1770-1838) departed along the Missouri River on 21 May 1804; by 7 November 1805, they reached the Pacific Ocean near the mouth of the Columbia River in the Oregon area. They collected information on the geography, native Americans, natural history, and specimens of minerals, plants, and animals, and the expedition returned to St. Louis in September 1806. In Washington, the expedition was largely coordinated by Jefferson, who had contributed detailed instructions on the selection and use of scientific equipment. Lewis, who was to prepare the report, died in 1809 and it was finally published in 1814 by Nicholas Biddle and Paul Allen as History of the Expedition under the Command of Captains Lewis and Clark, to the Sources of the Missouri, Thence across the Rocky Mountains and down the River Columbia to the Pacific Ocean, Performed during the Years 1804-5-6 (Philadelphia). The botanical specimens were, for the most part, included in Frederick Pursh's (1774-1820) Flora Americae Septentrionalis (London, 1814). The zoological items were deposited in the museum of Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827) and were published by several naturalists, including Alexander Wilson (1766-1813), George Ord (1781-1866), Constantine S. Rafinesque (1783-1840), and Thomas Say (1787-1834). With Jefferson's urging and intervention, the journals and natural history, ethnographic, and other data were deposited with the American Philosophical Society. [0051] Government—Federal / Exploration and Surveying
1804-1809 The Philadelphia Medical and Physical Journal was published, edited by Benjamin S. Barton (1766-1815). [0052] Periodicals and Publishing
1805 The Charleston Botanic Garden and Society was established in South Carolina as the first botanical society in the country. It had as its primary objective the study of native plants. [0053] Organizations—Societies and Associations / Botany
1806 Bernard M'Mahon [McMahon] (1775-1816) published the first American gardening book, The American Gardener's Calendar: Adapted to the Climate and Seasons of the United States (Philadelphia). The work achieved eleven editions. [0054] Botany / Agriculture
1806 The Linnaean Society of Philadelphia was formed by Benjamin Smith Barton (1766-1815). Initially called the Philadelphia Botanical Society, it took the name Linnaean in 1807. It endured only for a few years. [0055] Organizations—Societies and Associations / Natural History
1806 Frederick V. Melsheimer (1749-1814) published Catalogue of Insects of Pennsylvania (Hanover, Penn.). It was the earliest systematic work on the entomology of a region of the country. [0056] Zoology / Entomology
1807 With the initiative of President Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), Congress authorized funds for a coast survey and the plan of Ferdinand R. Hassler (1770-1843) was chosen. No work took place immediately, but in 1811 Hassler was sent to England to buy instruments; he did not return until 1815. Fieldwork began in 1816 but in 1818 the work was limited to army or naval personnel; Hassler's involvement for the time ended and the work of the Survey essentially ceased until the early 1830s. [0057] Government—Federal / Geophysics and Geodesy
1807 (August 17-21) A steamboat, Robert Fulton's (1765-1815) Clermont, made a roundtrip on the Hudson River, from New York City to Albany, at the rate of about five miles per hour. This successful outing demonstrated the commercial viability of steam navigation. The vessel used a paddlewheel powered by a Watt engine; financial support came from Robert R. Livingston. [0058] Technology and Invention
1807 (December 14) A meteor exploded over Weston, Connecticut. Benjamin Silliman (1779-1864) and James L. Kingsley (1778-1852) gathered fragments, one of which weighed six pounds. Silliman conducted chemical analyses and he and Kingsley published the results of their studies in the Transactions of American Philosophical Society, vol. 6 (1809), which was republished in the Memoirs of Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1810. In 1815, Nathaniel Bowditch (1773-1838) published "An Estimate of the Height, Direction, Velocity and Magnitude of the Meteor, That Exploded over Weston in Connecticut, December 14, 1807 ...," Memoirs of American Academy of Arts and Sciences 3, part 1. Bowditch's studies indicated that the original meteor had weighed some six million tons. [0059] Astronomy / Chemistry
1808 Robert Adrain (1775-1843) published "Research Concerning the Probabilities of the Errors Which Appear in Making Observations," Analyst 1:93-109. This was the earliest exposition of the exponential law of error; Carl F. Gauss produced a similar result the next year and it bears his name. [0060] Mathematics
1808 Robert Adrain (1775-1843) published The Analyst, or Mathematical Companion, a periodical produced in Philadelphia. Adrain was an important contributor; others who published there included Nathaniel Bowditch (1773-1838) and Robert Patterson (1743-1824). The publication did not endure beyond the first volume. [0061] Periodicals and Publishing / Mathematics
1808-1814 Alexander Wilson (1766-1813) published his illustrated American Ornithology; or The Natural History of the Birds of the United States (Philadelphia). Seven volumes appeared before his death; volumes 8 and 9 were completed by his friend George Ord (1781-1866). In the work, Wilson included illustrations and descriptions for 264 species, of which 48 were new to the American scene. Among the resources that he had available, in addition to his own collections, were the specimens gathered by the Lewis and Clark expedition. [0062] Zoology / Ornithology
1809 William Maclure (1763-1840) published "Observations on the Geology of the United States, Explanatory of a Geological Map," Transactions of American Philosophical Society 6:411-428. It included a color map. An expanded version appeared in 1817 as Observations on the Geology of the United States (Philadelphia), to accompany a revised geological map. A summary of the geology of the area east of the Mississippi River, Maclure's endeavor was the first geological survey of the region. [0063] Geology
1809 Ephraim McDowell (1771-1830) carried out the first ovariotomy. The operation was done in Kentucky, although McDowell had had medical training in Edinburgh. [0064] Medicine / Surgery


Created and Maintained by Dr. Clark A. Elliott Waltham, MA
clark_elliott at verizon dot net / Content updated 16 June 2008
Technical presentation by Andrew J. Elliott.