<< 1840-1849
1860-1869 >>
Date Event Subjects
1850 William Cranch Bond (1789-1859) and George Phillips Bond (1825-1865) discovered the Crepe (dusky) or C ring of Saturn. [0289] Astronomy
1850 The earliest clear daguerreotype of the moon was produced by William Cranch Bond (1789-1859), ten years after John William Draper (1811-1882) achieved the first but less definitive image. [0290] Astronomy / Photography
1850 John Pitkin Norton (1822-1852) published the textbook, Elements of Scientific Agriculture (Albany, N.Y.). [0291] Chemistry / Agriculture
1850 Harvard University chemistry professor John White Webster (b.1793) was executed for murder. [0292] General or Miscellaneous / Chemistry
1850 and 1854 Daniel Drake (1785-1852) published a two-volume work, A Systematic Treatise, Historical, Etiological and Practical, on the Principal Diseases of the Interior Valley of North America, as They Appear in the Caucasian, African, Indian, and Esquimaux Varieties of Its Population (Cincinnati). [0293] Medicine / Disease
1850 William P. Blake (1825-1910) became what was probably the first full-time American college-educated chemist to work for an industrial concern (a Baltimore chemical manufacturer). [0294] Organizations—Industry / Chemistry
1850 David A. Wells (1828-1898) began publication of the Annual of Scientific Discovery, which served the need for summaries and listing of American and European developments and publications. It continued until 1871. [0295] Periodicals and Publishing
mid-19th century During the middle decades of the nineteenth century, an informal leadership group, known as the Lazzaroni, undertook to direct American science, especially in regard to its organization and standards of work and conduct. The core members of the group were Alexander Dallas Bache (1806-1867), Joseph Henry (1797-1878), Benjamin Peirce (1809-1880), and Louis Agassiz (1807-1873). Benjamin A. Gould (1824-1896) and Oliver Wolcott Gibbs (1822-1908) were less central but also within the circle; others also were in varying ways associated with the group. The name itself was current as of the mid-1850s. By the early 1860s, the group, in any self-conscious sense, was no longer active. [0296] General or Miscellaneous
ca.1850 John Call Dalton (1825-1889), having graduated from Harvard Medical School (1847) and visited Paris (1850) where he attended lectures of Claude Bernard, gave up the practice of medicine and became the first American to devote his career to teaching and research in physiology. [0297] Zoology / Physiology
1850-1856 John William Draper (1811-1882) engaged in what probably was the first microphotographic work, producing photographs of slides through a microscope. These were published in his 1856 work, Human Physiology, Statical and Dynamical; or, The Conditions and Course of the Life of Man (New York). [0298] Microbiology and Microscopy / Instruments and Instrumentation
1851 Frederick Augustus Genth (1820-1893) published an account of the earliest definite knowledge of crystallized salts of the cobalt ammines. This appeared in Keller-Tiedemann's Nordamerikan Monatsbericht 2:8-12. [0299] Chemistry
1851 Lieutenant William Lewis Herndon (1813-1857) undertook an expedition to explore the Amazon River. [0300] Exploration and Surveying
1851 Joseph Saxton (1799-1873) won a gold medal at the Great Exhibition in London for his precision balances. [0301] Instruments and Instrumentation
1851 The Lawrence Scientific School at Harvard University conferred its first degrees. Of the three recipients, one was geologist and naturalist Joseph LeConte (1823-1901), later a professor at the University of California. [0302] Organizations—Academic
1851 The American Geographical and Statistical Society was established in New York. In 1852, the Society began publishing a Bulletin. In 1871, the organization became the American Geographical Society of New York. [0303] Organizations—Societies and Associations / Geography and Cartography
1851 Edward Hitchcock (1793-1864) published Religion of Geology and Its Connected Sciences (Boston). [0304] Religion and Theology / Geology
1851 (January 27) Naturalist and artist John James Audubon (b.1785) died in New York City. [0305] General or Miscellaneous / Natural History
1851-1857 Henry Rowe Schoolcraft (1793-1864) published Historical and Statistical Information Respecting the History, Condition and Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the United States (Philadelphia), in six volumes. [0306] Anthropology and Ethnology
1852 Benjamin Peirce (1809-1880) took charge of longitude observations for the U.S. Coast Survey. He continued that work until he became superintendent of the Survey in 1867. During these connections, he continued to hold his position as professor at Harvard University. [0307] General or Miscellaneous / Geophysics and Geodesy
1852 David Dale Owen (1807-1860) published the results of his geological studies in Minnesota, Iowa, and into the South Dakota Badlands in the country's most lavish geological report up to that time. The report included maps and plates prepared by Owen and his brother Richard Owen (1810-1890). The publication was Report of a Geological Survey of Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota (Philadelphia), prepared for the U.S. Treasury Department. [0308] Geology
1852 The Chandler School of Science and Arts began at Dartmouth College, based on a gift from Abiel Chandler (1777-1851). [0309] Organizations—Academic
1852 The American Society of Engineers and Architects was established as the first organization of engineers on the national level; it later became the American Society of Civil Engineers. Formed by engineers in the vicinity of New York City, the Society went into an extended period of inactivity about 1855. [0310] Organizations—Societies and Associations / Engineering and Applied Science
1852 The American Pharmaceutical Association was established. [0311] Organizations—Societies and Associations / Pharmacology and Pharmacy
1852 The Alvan Clark and Sons company was formed in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and became one of the leading telescope-making firms in the world. Of American observatories constructed during the second half of the century, nearly all had an equatorial refracting telescope and other apparatus made by Clark and Sons. [0312] Astronomy / Instruments and Instrumentation
ca.1852 A steelmaking process was devised by William Kelly (1811-1888) (in Eddyville, Kentucky) that was similar to the Bessemer process developed in England in 1856. [0313] Technology and Invention
1852-1859 During the 1850s, a public controversy revolved around the Dudley Observatory in Albany, New York, which was established in 1852. A complex affair, it involved the emerging professional scientific community in the persons of Benjamin Apthorp Gould (1824-1896), Alexander D. Bache (1806-1867), Benjamin Peirce (1809-1880), and Joseph Henry (1797-1878) (the group also constituting the so-called Lazzaroni), who were made a Scientific Council in 1855, and the Observatory's trustees. Gould served as head of the Observatory and his personality was a major factor in the contentious situation, but the issues also were ones of relative authority between professional and lay persons in the affairs of a scientific institution. On 3 January 1859, Gould was forcibly removed from his home and directorship. [0314] General or Miscellaneous / Astronomy
1853 Jules Marcou (1824-1898) published A Geological Map of the United States and the British Provinces of North America (Boston). Subsequent editions appeared in 1855 and 1858 (published in Europe) and all were controversial with American geologists. [0315] Geology
1853 Matthew Fontaine Maury (1806-1873) organized the first international meteorological meeting, at Brussels. It dealt with meteorology at sea only, in spite of Maury's hopes that it also would involve land weather as well. [0316] Meteorology and Climatology
1853 James H. Coffin (1806-1873) delineated three wind zones in the northern hemisphere. His conclusions were given in his "Winds of the Northern Hemisphere," Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge, 6. [0317] Meteorology and Climatology
1853 The New Orleans Academy of Sciences was established. [0318] Organizations—Societies and Associations
1853 The organization that came to be known in 1868 as the California Academy of Sciences was founded at San Francisco as the California Academy of Natural Sciences. [0319] Organizations—Societies and Associations
1853 The Elliott Society of Natural History was established in Charleston, South Carolina. It was named for Stephen Elliott (1771-1830). [0320] Organizations—Societies and Associations / Natural History
1853 (May) Elisha Kent Kane (1820-1857), with support from New York merchant Henry Grinnell (1799-1874) and the U.S. Navy, undertook an expedition to the Arctic. Before their ship became ice bound and was abandoned in summer 1855, the party reached further north than any previous outing. It was not possible to bring back the natural history materials collected but other scientific data did get into print. (Grinnell, with the Navy, had supported a similar expedition in 1850 but scientific work was not a conspicuous part of it.) [0321] Exploration and Surveying
1853 (Summer)-1855 (October) The U.S. Navy's North Pacific Exploring and Surveying Expedition was carried out under the command first of Cadwalader Ringgold (1802-1867) and later John Rodgers (1812-1882) (the Ringgold-Rodgers expedition). It went to South Africa, Australia, the Coral Sea, Hong Kong, Japan, and the Aleutian Islands. Though economic purposes were primary, scientific study also was a significant part of the intent, including oceanography, astronomy, and natural history. Civilian scientists were part of the corps. [0322] Government—Federal / Exploration and Surveying
1854 Josiah Parsons Cooke, Jr. (1827-1894) published his widely noted first paper, "The Numerical Relation Between the Atomic Weights and Some Thoughts on the Classification of the Chemical Elements," Memoirs of American Academy of Arts and Sciences, new series 5 (1855): 235-257, 412 and American Journal of Science, 2nd series 17 (1854): 387-407. He proposed an arrangement of the elements in six series. [0323] Chemistry
1854 Josiah Dwight Whitney (1819-1896) published The Metallic Wealth of the United States (Philadelphia). [0324] Geology / Mining
1854 Townend Glover (1813-1883) was the first federal entomologist, holding a position in the Bureau of Agriculture from this year until 1878. [0325] Government—Federal / Entomology
1854 Asa Fitch (1809-1879) became the first person to receive appointment as full-time state entomologist, holding that position in New York state until 1870. Thaddeus W. Harris (1795-1856) had been the first to be paid by a state for entomological work when he was compensated at $175 for his 1841 report on the injurious insects of Massachusetts. During the years 1855-1872, Fitch published a series of fourteen "Reports on the Noxious, Beneficial and Other Insects of the State of New York" in Transactions of New York State Agricultural Society. [0326] Government—State / Entomology
1854 David Dale Owen (1807-1860) was appointed Kentucky state geologist. [0327] Government—State / Geology
1854 Leo Lesquereux (1806-1889), who was the earliest student of fossil plants in the United States, published his first work on the subject. It was on Carboniferous fossils of Pennsylvania. [0328] Paleontology / Botany
1854 Based on his experiments, the spectral identification of elements was proposed by David Alter (1807-1881). [0329] Physics
1855 Benjamin Silliman, Jr. (1816-1885) prepared Report on the Rock Oil, or Petroleum, From Venango County, Pennsylvania (New Haven) as a consultant to individuals interested in drilling in that location. In his chemical analysis, Silliman used fractional distillation methods to derive the component parts and made recommendations for their use. The report played an important part in the promotion of the petroleum industry. [0330] Chemistry / Geology
1855 Matthew Fontaine Maury (1806-1873) published Physical Geography of the Sea (New York), the earliest oceanography textbook. Although the work was reprinted repeatedly and translated into several languages, it was widely criticized by the scientific community on account of its lack of organization, errors, and unfounded generalizations. [0331] Oceanography
1855 The first chemist regularly employed by an American tanner began work. [0332] Organizations—Industry / Chemistry
1855 Benjamin Peirce (1809-1880) published A System of Analytic Mechanics (Boston), approaching the subject from the perspective of mathematical theory. [0333] Physics / Mathematics
1856 Frederick Augustus Genth (1820-1893) and Oliver Wolcott Gibbs (1822-1908) published a significant chemical work, "Researches on the Ammonia-Cobalt Bases," American Journal of Science, 2nd series 23:234, 319, and 24:86. [0334] Chemistry
1856 J. Peter Lesley (1819-1903) published A Manual of Coal and Its Topography (Philadelphia), based on his studies of Pennsylvania geology. [0335] Geology
1856 The Academy of Science of St. Louis was established. [0336] Organizations—Societies and Associations
1856 The Chicago Academy of Natural Sciences was established. In 1859, it was incorporated as the Chicago Academy of Sciences. [0337] Organizations—Societies and Associations
1857 Henry Darwin Rogers (1808-1866) became what was probably the first native-born American to assume a professorship in Europe when he was appointed Regius professor of natural history in the University of Glasgow. [0338] General or Miscellaneous / Natural History
1857 Louis Agassiz (1807-1873) published the first volume of his Contributions to the Natural History of the United States (Boston), which included the "Essay on Classification." When plans were announced in 1855, a ten-volume comprehensive work was contemplated, but only four volumes ever appeared. [0339] Natural History / Zoology
1857 The existence of Permian fossils in North America was first noted by Fielding Bradford Meek (1817-1876). [0340] Paleontology
1857 The pioneering work in America on the kidney, by Charles Edward Isaacs (1811-1860), was published in the Transactions of New York Academy of Medicine as "Researches Into the Structure and Physiology of the Kidney," vol. 1:377-435, and "On the Function of the Malpighian Bodies of the Kidney," vol. 1:437-457. [0341] Zoology / Physiology
1857 (September) Charles Darwin wrote a letter to Asa Gray (1810-1888), relating to Darwin's ideas on evolution by natural selection. In 1858, it was presented to the Linnaean Society, along with other documents, in support of Darwin's priority over Alfred Russel Wallace. [0342] General or Miscellaneous / Evolution
1858 Henry Darwin Rogers (1808-1866) published The Geology of Pennsylvania (Edinburgh and Philadelphia), in two volumes. He had served as Pennsylvania state geologist in the 1830s. [0343] Geology
1858 Jules Marcou (1824-1898) published The Geology of North America (Zurich). In the work, he was critical of geologists native to the United States. [0344] Geology
1858 The natural history collections held by the U.S. Patent Office were transferred to the Smithsonian Institution, with the aid of a Congressional appropriation and annual support thereafter. Prior to this, the support of the Institution (including its museum collections accumulated by Spencer Baird [1823-1887]) had come entirely from the Smithsonian bequest but the federal government support signalled the establishment of a National Museum. [0345] Government—Federal / Natural History
1858 John LeConte (1818-1891) published "On the Influence of Musical Sounds on the Flame of a Jet of Coal Gas," American Journal of Science, 2nd series 23 (1858): 62-67. This work helped in the development of means to visualize sound wave effects. [0346] Physics / Acoustics
1858 The first Atlantic telegraph was laid but its functionality did not endure. In 1866, Cyrus W. Field (1819-1892), also involved in the earlier venture, successfully laid a telegraph cable across the Atlantic Ocean. [0347] Technology and Invention / Electricity and Electronics
1858 (May 15) Chemist Robert Hare (b.1781) died in Philadelphia. [0348] General or Miscellaneous / Chemistry
1859 As part of the reports of the U.S. and Mexican Boundary Survey, George Engelmann (1809-1884) published Cactaceae of the Boundary (Washington, D.C.), with illustrations by Paul Roetter. The work was a significant contribution toward the classification of cactus. [0349] Botany
1859 The Missouri Botanical Garden was established in St. Louis by Henry Shaw (1800-1889). George Engelmann (1809-1884) was influential in persuading Shaw to do so. [0350] Organizations—Botanical Gardens
1859 The Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard opened under the direction of its founder, Louis Agassiz (1807-1873). Of the endowment for the project, a bequest of $50,000 for research came from Francis Calley Gray, $100,000 from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and substantial additional funds from private donors. [0351] Organizations—Museums / Zoology
1859 The Entomological Society of Philadelphia was established. In 1867, it was renamed the American Entomological Society, the earliest national organization in the biological sciences. [0352] Organizations—Societies and Associations / Entomology
1859 The American Dental Association was established. [0353] Organizations—Societies and Associations / Medicine
1859 Benjamin Silliman, Jr. (1816-1885) published First Principles of Physics, or Natural Philosophy (Philadelphia). [0354] Physics
1859 The first productive oil well in the world was drilled at Titusville, Pennsylvania by Edwin Drake (1819-1880). [0355] Technology and Invention / Geology
1859 John Call Dalton (1825-1889) published A Treatise on Human Physiology (Philadelphia), a text for students and medical practitioners. It reached a seventh edition in 1882. The work drew upon Dalton's personal experience in repeating many experimental procedures, such as in digestion and nutrition. [0356] Zoology—Human / Physiology
1859 (January 29) Astronomer William Cranch Bond (b.1789) died in Cambridge, Massachusetts. [0357] General or Miscellaneous / Astronomy
1859-1860 William Ferrel (1817-1891) published "The Motions of Fluids and Solids Relative to the Earth's Surface," Mathematical Monthly 1 and 2 (January 1859-August 1860). This work presented his significant quantitative theory of motion relative to the earth's surface and its currents. [0358] Meteorology and Climatology


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.