Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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John William Draper
DRAPER, John William, scientist, born in St. Helen's, near Liverpool, England, 5 May 1811; died in Hastingson, Hudson, 4 January 1882. He was the son of John C. Draper, a Wesleyan clergyman, who was interested in scientific subjects. Young Draper was educated at home under private tutors and at Woodhouse grove, a public school of the Wesleyans, where he developed a fondness for science. In 1829 the University of London was opened, and he was sent there to receive a course of instruction in chemistry under Dr. Edward Turner, but the death of his father prevented his taking a degree, and in 1832 he came to the United States with his mother and his sister Catherine, settling in the Wesleyan colony in Christiansville, Virginia, where for a time he devoted himself entirely to scientific pursuits. He was graduated at the medical department of the University of Pennsylvania in 1836. The results of several investigations published in the "Journal of the Franklin Institute" and in Silliman's "American Journal of Science" gave him reputation, and he was called to the chair of chemistry and natural philosophy in Hampden Sidney College, Virginia, where he began his official duties in the autumn of1836, meanwhile prosecuting his researches in various directions.
In 1837 he was elected professor of the proposed medical department in the University of New York, but the financial difficulties of that year caused the abandonment of the project. Two years later, however, he was appointed professor in the University itself, and in 1840 was very active in the organization of the medical department, becoming its professor of chemistry. In 1850 he succeeded Dr. Valentine Mott in the presidency of the medical College, and maintained his relations with that institution until 1873. His lectures at the University itself were continued until 1881. During the civil war he was appointed one of the commissioners to inspect hospitals after the battles of Antietam and Gettysburg. Of his many investigations, one of the earliest was in relation to capillary attraction, and in 1834 he published a memoir on that subject. His study of osmose, especially in reference to its physiological relations, dates from 1836. The application of the principles investigated to the explanation of sap in plants and of blood in animals is admirable. His researches on the chemical phenomena of light in both the organic and inorganic world include the most valuable work done by him.
Daguerre's announcement of his discovery of the action of sunlight on silver, and its application to the permanent preservation of views, in 1839, was at once taken up by Draper. He made it the subject of special study, and was the first person in the world to apply it to individuals. "The first photographic portrait from life was made by me," he says, and "the face of the sitter," his sister Catherine, "was dusted with a white powder"; but a few trials showed that this was unnecessary.
In March 1840, he presented the Lyceum of natural history in New York with the first representation of the moon's surface ever taken by photography. In the investigation presented to the British association in 1843, on the action of light on chlorine gas, he showed that this gas underwent a decided modification, in consequence of its absorption of the chemical rays from sunlight. He also investigated light from the standpoint of its action on the growth of plants, and his results were presented in a memoir read before the American philosophical society on the occasion of its centennial anniversary in 1834. Besides his connection with the development of photography, he was actively engaged with Samuel F. B. Morse in his production of the electromagnetic telegraph. The series of experiments made by Professor Draper in the laboratory of the University was the first to establish with certainty the practicability of utilizing electricity for sending messages over long distances. In 1847 he published his " Production of Light by Heat," an important and early contribution to spectrum analysis, and one that is worthy of special recognition, for it clearly outlines the principles that subsequently were recognized and form part of the brilliant researches of Kirchhoff, who has since specialized the department of prismatic analysis. In this connection he also deserves mention as the first to photograph the diffraction spectrum. His " Production of Light by Chemical Action" (1848) and his "Researches in Actino-Chemistry" (1872) were most important contributions to science. He received in 1875 the Rumford medals from the American academy of science and arts for his researches in "Radiant Energy."
In 1860 Princeton conferred on him the degree of LL. D. He was a member of many of the learned societies of Europe, including the Accademia dei Lineei of Rome and the Physical society in London. In the United States he was elected to the American philosophical society in 1843 and to the National academy of sciences in 1877. He was the first president of the American chemical society, and his inaugural address, delivered in November 1876, was on "Science in America." The titles of his papers exceed 100, and extend from 1832 till 1880. His lectures and addresses, principally delivered at the beginning of the medical course in the University, also include "Thoughts on the Future Civil Policy of America," before the Historical society of New York in 1864, and before the Unitarian institute in Springfield, Massachusetts, in October 1877, on "Evolutionits Origin, Progress, and Consequences."
The most celebrated of his larger works is "History of the Conflict between Religion and Science" (New York, 1874), which has passed through twenty editions in the English language, and has been translated into the French, Spanish, German, Dutch, Russian, Italian, Portuguese, Polish, and Servian languages. Rome placed it on her "Index Expurgatorius," and Draper joined Galileo, Copernicus, Kepler, Locke, and Mill on the list of those under the ban of the Church. His other works are " Elements of Chemistry," by Robert Kane, American edition, edited (New York, 1842); "A Treatise on the Forces which produce the Organization of Plants" (1844); "Textbook on Chemistry" (1846); "Textbook on Natural Philosophy" (1847); "Human Physiology, Statical and Dynamical" (1856); "History of the Intellectual Development of Europe" (1862); "Thoughts on the Future Civil Policy of America" (1865); "A Textbook on Physiology" (1866); " History of the American Civil War" (3 vols., 1867'70); and "Scientific Memoirs ; being Experimental Contributions to a Knowledge of Radiant Energy" (1878). See Memoir by Professor George F. Barker, contributed to the "Biographical Memoirs of the National Academy of Sciences "(vol. ii.).
His son, John Christopher Draper, physician, born in Mecklenburg County, Virginia, 31 March 1835; died in New York City, 20 December 1885, entered the University of New York in 1852, but, leaving the classical department, was graduated at the medical school in 1857. From March 1856, till July 1857, he held the office of house physician and surgeon to Bellevue hospital, and published at that time papers on "The Production of Urea" (February 1856) and "Experiments on Respiration " (July 1856). The year subsequent to his graduation was spent in Europe in travel and study.
In December 1858, he became professor of analytical chemistry in the University of New York, holding that chair until 1871. From 1860 till 1863 he was professor of chemistry in Cooper Union, and in 1862 accompanied the 12th New York regiment to the front as assistant surgeon, serving for three months. In 1863 he was elected professor of natural sciences in the College of the City of New York, and in 1866 professor of chemistry in the medical department of the University of New York, which chairs he held until his death. Dr. Draper was a member of the New York academy of medicine, and in 1873 received the degree of LL. D. from Trinity College. He was an occasional contributor to medical and scientific journals, and, besides twenty-four original papers, published numerous articles on diet, dress, and ventilation, in the" Galaxy "(1868'71). In 1872'3 he edited the "Year Book of Nature and Science," and also the department of "Natural Science" in "Scribner's Monthly" from 1872 till 1875. He published "Textbook on Anatomy, Physiology, and Hygiene" (New York, 1866); "A Practical Laboratory Course in Medical Chemistry" (1882); and a "Textbook of Medical Physics" (1885).
Another son, Henry Textbook, physicist, born in Prince Edward County, Virginia, 7 March 1837; died in New York City, 20 November 1882, studied at the University of New York, but on the completion of his sophomore year abandoned the classical course to study medicine, and was graduated in 1858, publishing a thesis on "The Changes of Blood Cells in the Spleen." Subsequently he traveled in Europe, and visited the great telescope of Lord Rosse in Ireland, the sight of which impressed him with a desire to construct a similar but smaller instrument, and attracted his attention toward astronomy and astronomical photography. On his return to the United States he applied himself to accomplish this purpose, and built the observatory at Hastingson, Hudson. A description of the details of grinding, polishing, silvering, testing, and mounting the reflector, all of which he did himself, was published by the Smithsonian institution in 1865, and became the standard authority on the subject. Meanwhile he had been appointed on the medical staff in Bellevue hospital, and served for eighteen months. In 1860 he was elected professor of physiology in the University, and in 1866 to the similar chair in the medical department, becoming soon afterward its dean. His specialty of celestial photography was not neglected, and a photograph of the fixed lines in the spectra of the stars is of this period. His most celebrated photograph is that of the moon, and it probably gives the best representation of its surface thus far made. Upward of 1,500 negatives were made by Dr. Draper with this instrument.
In 1867 he married Mary Anna, the daughter of Courtland Palmer, who became his assistant in scientific work. In 1872 he photographed the spectrum of a Lyrae (Vega), showing dark lines, a result then unique in science, and in 1873 the finest photograph of the diffraction spectrum ever made. He resigned his chair in the medical department in 1873, in order to devote more time to original research, but the death of Mr. Palmer in 1874 made it necessary for him to take charge of a large estate. In 1874 he was chosen by congress to superintend the photographic department of the commission appointed to observe the transit of Venus. For three months he was busily occupied in Washington, organizing, experimenting, and instructing. Home duties prevented him from joining the expedition, but he received from congress a gold medal in recognition of his services.
In 1876 he made a negative of the solar spectrum, and one of the spectrum of an incandescent gas upon the same plate, with their edges in contact. These results and corroborative experiments led hint to assume the presence of oxygen in the sun, and in July 1877 he announced "The Discovery of Oxygen in the Sun by Photography, and a New Theory of the Solar Spectrum." This brilliant investigation, culminating in perhaps the most original discovery ever made in physical science by an American, could not pass unchallenged. English astronomers were slow to accept the results, and in 1879 Dr. Draper submitted his research to the Royal astronomical society in London. The sun told its own story, and its light, acting on the delicate metallic film on the glass negative, was evidence that could not be disputed.
In 1878 he observed the solar eclipse of 29 July in Rawlings, W. T., and obtained excellent photographs of the corona. Later he photographed the great nebula of Orion, and in 1880 photographed the spectrum of Jupiter. In 1882 he received the degree of LL.D. from the University of New York and also from the University of Wisconsin during the same year. Dr. Draper was a member of scientific societies in the United States and in Europe, and in 1877 was elected to the National academy of sciences. His original papers number but a score, and are principally devoted to researches on the chemistry of heavenly bodies. They appeared chiefly in the "American Journal of Science." Dr. Draper also published "A Textbook on Chemistry" (New York, 1866).
Biographical sketches of Henry Draper were contributed by Professor George F. Barker to the "American Journal of Science" (February 1883), the "Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society" (December 1882), and to the "Biographical Memoirs of the National Academy of Sciences" (vol. iii.).Another son, Daniel, meteorologist, born in New York City, 2 April 1841, was educated at the University grammar school, and subsequently followed scientific studies under his father, whom he assisted in his lectures, also becoming his amanuensis in the preparation of the "History of the Intellectual Development of Europe" and in the "History of the American Civil War." In the designing and construction of the observatory in Hastingson, Hudson, Daniel was associated with his brother Henry.
For five years he served an apprenticeship in the Novelty ironworks, New York, where he was employed during the building of the "Roanoke" and other ironclads for the U. S. government in the early years of the civil war. In 1869 he was appointed director of the New York meteorological observatory established at that time in Central park. For the work under his control he designed and manufactured the self recording instruments, including the photographic barograph and thermographs (dry and wet), pencil gauges for rain and snow, for direction of the wind, and for the velocity and force of the wind. In 1871 he began a series of meteorological investigations in connection with the observatory. Of these, his consideration of the question "Does the clearing of land increase or diminish the fall of rain .?" showed that the prevalent impression of its diminishing was not founded on fact. Besides several researches concerning the variations in temperature, he took up the question "Do American storms cross the Atlantic?" It was found that from 1869 till 1873 eighty-six out of eighty-nine disturbances were felt on the European coast. This led to telegraphic announcement of storms from the United States to Great Britain. A more recent investigation has shown the increased prevalence of pneumonia at times when the atmosphere is richest in ozone. His researches have earned for him the degree of Ph. D. from the University of New York, and they have been fully described in scientific journals both in the United States and Europe. He is a member of scientific societies and has published annual reports of the observatory since his appointment.Edited Appletons Encyclopedia, Copyright © 2001 VirtualologyTM