<< 1850-1859
1870-1879 >>
Date Event Subjects
1860 Elias Loomis (1811-1889) originated the first map of the frequency distribution of auroras. This was published in the American Journal of Science. [0359] Astronomy
1860 Alvan Wentworth Chapman (1809-1899) published Flora of the Southern United States (New York). The volume complemented the work of John Torrey (1796-1873) and Asa Gray (1810-1888) to give a more general geographical coverage for American botany. A third and more complete edition of the Flora appeared in 1897. [0360] Botany
1860 As of this time, 29 of 33 states had at one time conducted a state geological survey. [0361] Government—State / Geology
1860 (February-April) A debate over Charles Darwin's Origin of Species took place at four meetings of the Boston Society of Natural History. The principal participants were Louis Agassiz (1807-1873), who argued against Darwin's propositions, and William Barton Rogers (1804-1882). The event was one of the primary early debates on the topic anywhere, and it was generally conceded that Rogers had the upper hand. During the same year, the American Association for the Advancement of Science was criticized in the press for not officially addressing Darwin's ideas at its annual meeting. [0362] Evolution
1860 (March) Asa Gray (1810-1888) published a review of Darwin's Origin of Species in the American Journal of Science. Darwin thought it was the best commentary to appear up to that time. Later in the year, Gray published a three-part review of the work in the Atlantic Monthly which was reprinted by Darwin and circulated in his country. [0363] Evolution
1861 Andrew A. Humphreys (1810-1883), assisted by Henry L. Abbot (1831-1927), both of the U.S. Army Corps of Topographical Engineers, published Report upon the Physics and Hydraulics of the Mississippi River. It required innovative ideas to deal with the data and helped to promote subsequent studies in hydraulics. [0364] Engineering and Applied Science / Hydrology
1861 John Strong Newberry (1822-1892) described the Grand Canyon as the result of erosion in his geological report, in Joseph C. Ives (1828-1868), Report Upon the Colorado River of the West, Explored in 1857 and 1858 (U.S. Congress, Senate, Executive Document), pp.25, 32, 41-48, 103. [0365] Geology
1861 The Massachusetts Institute of Technology was chartered by the state; instruction began in 1865. In 1862, William Barton Rogers (1804-1882) became the first president and served until 1870 and again from 1878 to 1881. [0366] Organizations—Academic
1861 The scientific school at Yale University was named the Sheffield Scientific School following a $100,000 gift from Joseph Sheffield. [0367] Organizations—Academic
1861-1875 Arnold Henri Guyot (1807-1884) prepared a series of textbooks and wall maps that helped to develop geographic education. [0368] Geography and Cartography
1862 George Phillips Bond (1825-1865) published his work on Donati's Comet of 1858 in Annals of Harvard College Observatory. In 1865, he became the first American recipient of the gold medal from the Royal Astronomical Society for this work. [0369] Astronomy
1862 Benjamin Apthorp Gould (1824-1896) published the earliest effort to collect in one catalog star positions from different observatories, as Standard Mean Right Ascensions of Circumpolar and Time Stars Prepared for the Use of U.S. Coast Survey (Washington, D.C.). [0370] Astronomy
1862 James Dwight Dana (1813-1895) published his Manual of Geology (Philadelphia and London). Through this and subsequent editions, it became for some years the standard work on American geology and a milestone in the maturation of that science in the United States. [0371] Geology
1862 An independent department of agriculture was established in the federal government, with a noncabinet commissioner at its head. It was an outgrowth of the old agricultural section of the U.S. Patent Office. The new department had among its charges to procure and dispense information of a scientific character and to hire scientists and conduct research. The first commissioner was Isaac Newton (1800-1867) and the first chemist was Charles M. Wetherill (1825-1871) (who stayed only a short time). The Department achieved cabinet status in 1889 along with an expansion of its responsibilities. [0372] Government—Federal / Agriculture
1862 The Smithsonian Institution began publication of its Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections series. It came to include pieces such as bibliographies, natural history descriptions, and physical tables. [0373] Periodicals and Publishing
1862 (July 2) The Morrill Act (i.e., the federal land-grant college bill), for support of education in agriculture and mechanic arts, was signed by President Abraham Lincoln. Funding was based on the granting of 30,000 acres to each state for each of its senators and representatives. Similar legislation had been passed by Congress in 1859, but Southern influence resulted in its veto by the President. [0374] Government—Federal / Education in science
1863 Astrophysicist Lewis Morris Rutherfurd (1816-1892) began his work on diffraction gratings. In 1867, he constructed a ruling engine that was operated by a screw in place of levers and was powered by a turbine. The resulting gratings were better than any others then available, and by 1877 he could produce more than 17,296 lines per inch. His product was widely used and was the best available until the time of Henry A. Rowland (1848-1901). [0375] Astronomy / Instruments and Instrumentation
1863 The Army's Topographical Engineers was terminated. [0376] Government—Federal / Exploration and Surveying
1863 Josiah Willard Gibbs (1839-1903) received a doctorate in engineering from Yale University, one of the earliest Ph.D. degrees in the country. His thesis was titled "On the Form of the Teeth of Wheels in Spur Gearing." [0377] Organizations—Academic
1863 The Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard began publication. This was the first serial devoted wholly to zoology in the country. [0378] Periodicals and Publishing / Zoology
1863 (February 11) The Secretary of the Navy established a Permanent Commission to which questions relating to science were referred. The Commission members were Charles Henry Davis (1807-1877), Joseph Henry (1797-1878), and Alexander Dallas Bache (1806-1867). During the War, the Commission's chief function was to review inventions and other ideas submitted to the Navy. It terminated at the end of the War and nothing of importance emerged from its work. [0379] Government—Federal / Military and War
1863 (March 3) The bill establishing the National Academy of Sciences was enacted. The details had been worked out at a dinner meeting by Alexander D. Bache (1806-1867), Charles H. Davis (1807-1877), Louis Agassiz (1807-1873), Benjamin Peirce (1809-1880), Benjamin A. Gould (1824-1896), and Massachusetts Senator Henry Wilson on 19 February. Joseph Henry (1797-1878) was not a part of this planning group. The fifty-member Academy had all the original and life members named in the bill of enactment. The first meeting of the Academy took place in New York on April 22, 1863 and a structure of two classes, (1) mathematics and physics, and (2) natural history, was agreed upon. The Academy made Bache the first president. [0380] Organizations—Societies and Associations
1863-1864 James Dwight Dana (1813-1895) published a series of articles in the American Journal of Science presenting his ideas on "cephalization," which related to his theory of the progress of species through the increasing importance of the brain, a manifestation of Dana's interest in finding design in nature. His views also appeared in "On Cephalization," New Englander 22 (1863): 495-506. His ideas on the importance of the head region as a gauge of an animal's relative development grew out of work for his 1852 volume on Crustacea, one of the Wilkes Expedition reports. [0381] Zoology
1864 Hubert Anson Newton (1830-1896) published his result of an examination of all records of the meteor shower of November 1861 and concluded that the periodic event had occurred thirteen times since 932 in a 33.25-year cycle. His results were in the American Journal of Science 37:377-389 and 38:53-61. [0382] Astronomy
1864 Henry Draper (1837-1882) published "On the Construction of a Silvered Glass Telescope 15-1/2 Inches in Aperture, and Its Use in Celestial Photography," Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge, 14, part 2. It became a standard work on telescope construction. [0383] Astronomy / Instruments and Instrumentation
1864 George Perkins Marsh (1801-1882) published Man and Nature; or, Physical Geography as Modified by Human Action (New York and London), perhaps the earliest such work on the threat of humans to the natural world. In 1874, he issued a revised edition as Earth as Modified by Human Action. [0384] Environment and Conservation
1864 A falling-out occurred between Louis Agassiz (1807-1873) and his students at Harvard University. Alpheus Hyatt (1838-1902), Edward S. Morse (1838-1925), Alpheus Spring Packard, Jr. (1839-1905), Frederic W. Putnam (1839-1915), Samuel H. Scudder (1837-1911), and Addison E. Verrill (1839-1926) departed from Cambridge. [0385] General or Miscellaneous
1864 Cleveland Abbe (1838-1916) was accepted for study at the Pulkovo Observatory, the only American for whom there is evidence of study of science in Russia during the nineteenth century. [0386] General or Miscellaneous / Astronomy
1864 Bessemer steel was manufactured in the United States for the first time, in Michigan. [0387] General or Miscellaneous / Organizations—Industry
1864 Josiah Parsons Cooke, Jr.'s (1827-1894) 1860 lectures at the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences were published as Religion and Chemistry or Proof of God's Plan in the Atmosphere and Its Elements (New York), with a second edition in 1880. [0388] Religion and Theology / Chemistry
1864 (November 15) The Columbia University School of Mines began operations. The first Engineer of Mines degree was awarded in 1867 and for several decades the School graduated nearly half of the Mining engineers in the country. In the 1890s, the School became a more general engineering institution. [0389] Organizations—Academic / Mining
1864 (November 24) Chemist and geologist Benjamin Silliman (b.1779) died at New Haven, Connecticut. [0390] General or Miscellaneous / Chemistry, Geology
1865 Geologist and zoologist Louis Agassiz (1807-1873) made an expedition to Brazil. [0391] Exploration and Surveying / Geology, Zoology
1865 The American Social Science Association was founded in Boston with the purpose of societal improvement (e.g., civil service, prisons, public health, education). It terminated in 1912, replaced by other, more specialized and professionalized societies. [0392] Organizations—Societies and Associations / Social Sciences—General
1866 Daniel Kirkwood (1814-1895) published on his discovery of gaps in the distribution of mean distances of asteroids from the sun; the disturbances in the distribution of the orbits were attributed to Jupiter's gravity. The work appeared as "On the Theory of Meteors," Proceedings of American Association for the Advancement of Science for 1866 (1867): 8-14. Kirkwood had made the initial discovery as early as 1857, and the phenomenon came to be known as Kirkwood gaps. [0393] Astronomy
1866 Chester Smith Lyman (1814-1890), in this year and again in 1874, made studies of Venus that resulted in the earliest reliable evidence of an atmosphere on that planet. The report of this work appeared in the American Journal of Science, 2nd series 43 (1867): 129-130 and 3rd series 9 (1875): 47-48. [0394] Astronomy
1866 Edward D. Cope (1840-1897) and Alpheus Hyatt (1838-1902) each, and independently of Ernst Haeckel, conceptualized the process of biological recapitulation in relation to evolutionary progress. [0395] Biology—General / Evolution
1866 The Hydrographic Office was separated from the U.S. Naval Observatory. This allowed the Observatory to direct its efforts more to pure research in astronomy. [0396] Government—Federal / Astronomy
1866 Othniel Charles Marsh (1831-1899) was appointed professor of vertebrate Paleontology at Yale University, the first such appointment in the United States. [0397] Organizations—Academic / Paleontology
1866 Mahlon Loomis (1826-1886) telegraphed messages between two mountains in West Virginia by way of radio waves. Kites were used to hold the aerials in the air. [0398] Technology and Invention / Electricity and Electronics
1866 Joseph Leidy (1823-1891) identified parasitic hookworm in cats. [0399] Zoology / Microbiology and Microscopy
ca.1866 Benjamin Smith Lyman (1835-1920) developed a means of using structural contour lines to show subsurface geological structure. [0400] Geology
1867 James Orton (1830-1877) went on the first of three expeditions to the Andes. This initial excursion was sponsored by Williams College with the support of the Smithsonian Institution, which lent instruments. A second expedition took place in 1873 and a third in 1876. On the latter outing, Orton died while crossing Lake Titicaca in Bolivia. He published an account of his first expedition in Andes and the Amazon; or, Across the Continent of South America (New York, 1870); a new edition in 1876 included an account of his 1873 expedition. [0401] Exploration and Surveying
1867 Ferdinand V. Hayden (1829-1887) began his Geological and Geographical Survey of the Territories, under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Interior. The survey took the name given above in 1873 and was active until 1879 especially in Nebraska and also in Wyoming, Idaho, and Colorado. [0402] Government—Federal / Geology
1867 The U.S. Army's Geological Exploration of the Fortieth Parallel began. The territory to be studied was a swath of about 100 miles in width running from California to Colorado and following what amounted to the route of the Central Pacific railroad, with special attention to Mining interests. Clarence R. King (1842-1901), a civilian who had promoted the idea of the Survey, was put in charge. The Survey's field work continued until 1872 and publication of its reports in seven volumes was completed in 1880. [0403] Government—Federal / Geology
1867 Benjamin Peirce (1809-1880) became superintendent of the U.S. Coast Survey. Among his new directions for the agency was to begin a transcontinental triangulation along the 39th parallel to connect the surveys on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. [0404] Government—Federal / Geophysics and Geodesy
1867 The Peabody Academy of Science was founded at Salem, Massachusetts. It later became the Peabody Museum. [0405] Organizations—Societies and Associations
1867 A group of New York botanists, who had met informally for some years, began a more formal organization. In 1870, it took the name of the Torrey Botanical Club and began publication of the Bulletin of Torrey Botanical Club; the Bulletin achieved a reputation as the leading botanical taxonomic journal in the country. [0406] Organizations—Societies and Associations / Botany
1867 The American Society of Civil Engineers, inactive since 1855, was revived. The Society began publication of its Transactions in 1872 and was formally chartered in 1877. [0407] Organizations—Societies and Associations / Engineering and Applied Science
1867 The American Naturalist was founded by Alpheus Hyatt (1838-1902), Edward Sylvester Morse (1838-1925), Alpheus Spring Packard, Jr. (1839-1905), and Frederic Ward Putnam (1839-1915), former students of Louis Agassiz (1807-1873). It began as a popular journal but became increasingly technical in content. [0408] Periodicals and Publishing / Biology–General
1867-1872 New York University granted five Ph.D.s to students in chemistry. This early attempt to establish the doctor of Philosophy degree in the United States was influenced by John William Draper (1811-1882). [0409] Organizations—Academic / Chemistry
1868 Josiah Parsons Cooke, Jr. (1827-1894) published Principles of Chemical Philosophy (Cambridge, Mass.). A second revised and enlarged edition appeared in 1887 (Boston). It was an influential textbook. [0410] Chemistry
1868 Hubert Anson Newton (1830-1896) published The Metric System of Weights and Measures (Washington, D.C.). [0411] Mathematics / Instruments and Instrumentation
1868 Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduated its first students. [0412] Organizations—Academic
1868 and 1871 Edward Drinker Cope (1840-1897), a leading figure in the neo-Lamarckian branch of evolutionary studies, published his most significant contributions: "On the Origins of Genera," Proceedings of Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia 20 (1868); 242-300; and "The Method of Creation of Organic Forms," Proceedings of American Philosophical Society 12 (1871): 229-263. [0413] Evolution
1869 Jonathan Homer Lane (1819-1880) presented a paper, "On the Theoretical Temperature of the Sun," to the National Academy of Sciences. It was subsequently published in the American Journal of Science, 2nd series 50 (1870): 57-74. It was notable for its calculations of the relations of heat and mass in the sun. [0414] Astronomy
1869 Celluloid, the first artificial plastic, was developed by John Wesley Hyatt (1837-1920). The discovery was independent of Englishman Alexander Parkes, who demonstrated celluloid as early as 1862. Hyatt patented the process in 1870, which involved combining camphor and collodion with heat and pressure. [0415] Chemistry / Technology and Invention
1869 John Wesley Powell (1834-1902) carried out an exploration of the canyons of the Green and the Colorado rivers by boat, covering some nine hundred miles and including the Grand Canyon. This was the last such exploration of unknown territory in continental United States. [0416] Exploration and Surveying / Geology
1869 Lieutenant George M. Wheeler (1842-1905) began a U.S. Army survey in the West that came to be devoted to the region west of the one hundredth meridian. Originally a topographical survey, in 1871 geological concerns were incorporated. [0417] Government—Federal / Exploration and Surveying, Geology
1869 The first state board of health was established by Massachusetts. [0418] Government—State / Public Health
1869 Iowa State University at Ames opened as the first land-grant college in the country. [0419] Organizations—Academic
1869 The American Museum of Natural History (New York) was founded. [0420] Organizations—Museums / Natural History
1869 The American Union Academy of Literature, Science and Art was established. The organization was a response to creation of the National Academy of Sciences and the omission of John William Draper (1811-1882) from its membership. Draper was first president of the American Union Academy. [0421] Organizations—Societies and Associations
1869 Joseph Leidy (1823-1891) published "The Extinct Mammalian Fauna of Dakota and Nebraska...," Journal of Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, 2nd series, vol. 7. [0422] Paleontology
1869 George Westinghouse (1846-1914) patented the railway air brake. [0423] Technology and Invention
1869 (May 10) Completion of the first transcontinental railroad was signified by the meeting of two trains of the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific railways in Utah. Construction of the project was authorized by Congress by the Pacific Railway Act of July 1, 1862. [0424] General or Miscellaneous
1869 (September 1) Cleveland Abbe (1838-1916) at the Cincinnati Observatory commenced the issuance of weather forecasting bulletins. [0425] 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.