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JAMES DWIGHT DANA.
JAMES DWIGHT DANA, Professor of Geology and Mineralogy in Yale College and for fifty years one of the editors of this Journal, died suddenly at his residence in New Haven, Connecticut, on the fourteenth of April, 1895, at the age of eighty-two years and two months.
He was born in Utica, New York, on the twelfth of February, 1813. His father, James Dana, was of New England birth, having moved to Utica from his parents' home in Massachusetts. He was a successful business man and died in 1860 at the age of eighty. His mother was Harriet Dwight, daugh. ter of Seth Dwight of Williamsburgh, Massachusetts.
The strong inborn taste for science was shown in early years, and he was fond of relating his pleasant experiences at the Bartlett Academy in Utica, when, as a boy of twelve, he studied chemistry with his associates, sharing with them the responsibility of preparing the experiments and delivering to the others the formal lectures. At the same time, frequent excursions after minerals with his companions served to give a special direction to his scientific interests and thus helped to determine the department in which his first work was to be done when maturity had developed his powers. These excursions were led by Mr. Fay Edgerton, the excellent instructor in Natural Science, and extended to distant parts of the State and also to neighboring States; one excursion into Vermont was remembered with much delight.
To the opportunities afforded by the early training in science, that have been alluded to, and to the interest it excited, Professor Dana ascribed much of the success that he afterwards attained. One of his schoolmates, closely associated with him in the Bartlett Academy, was S. Wells Williams, for many years missionary in China and in his later life again a colleague AM. JOUR. Sci.—THIRD SERIES, VOL. XLIX, NO. 293.-MAY, 1895.
among the corps of instructors at New Haven. A number of others, who subsequently rose to prominence, were among those who shared the inspiration of Mr. Edgerton's instruction. It is also of interest that Dr. Asa Gray, a close friend from early days, took Mr. Edgerton's place in the school in 1831.
In 1830, attracted by the name and reputation of Professor Silliman, he came to New Haven and entered the class of 1833 of Yale College, then in its Sophomore year. He was a faithful student, but those were days of a rigid course of study, chiefly in the classics, affording little to appeal to a mind with a strong bent for the methods and facts of science. It is not surprising, therefore, that though obtaining a good place on the honor list he did not make a brilliant record for general scholarship. He was, moreover, at a disadvantage because of insufficient training in the ancient languages, felt especially by one entering after the close of the first year of the course. It should be stated, however, that during his undergraduate life, he attained distinction in mathematics, a subject for which he always had decided aptitude. During this time he made much progress in science, especially in his favorite study of Mineralogy. In Botany also he took great interest; during his College life he made a large collection of the plants of the New Haven region, and a printed list of the local flora, carefully checked and annotated by him, is still preserved.
For music he had throughout his life a strong love, and when in College he devoted much attention to it, being on one occasion president of the Beethoven singing society, and for a time the leader of the college choir. He also made some attempts at musical composition. One of these was the music for an ode to the Ship “ Peacock” of the Exploring Expedition (see p. 332), written by the Surgeon, Dr. J. C. Palmer; both gentlemen found a source of recreation and pleasure in their joint musical and poetical work during the voyage. It is interesting to note that many years later when upwards of seventy and unable because of ill health to write, he came back to his music and derived much comfort from working at it.
The influence of the elder Silliman, then at the height of his powers and reputation, did much to decide him to devote him
self permanently to science, as will be seen in the events that followed. It is a point of interest also, as proving how deep his natural love of science was, that from home he obtained no encouragement whatever in turning his studies in this direction; indeed, from the time of graduation he assumed the entire burden of his own support. To his father's practical mind scientific pursuits did not commend themselves, but it should be stated that he lived to take a cordial interest and pride in his son's success.
Mr. Dana left New Haven in August, 1833, somewhat in advance of graduation, to avail himself of the opportunity offered of a cruise in the Mediterranean, as instructor in mathematics to the midshipmen of the United States Navy. In this capacity he visited a number of the seaports of France, Italy, Greece and Turkey, while on the “Delaware" and the “United States.” This trip, lasting about fifteen months, brought much pleasure and profit. He was cut off for a time from his favorite minerals, but he occupied his leisure hours on shipboard with working out, by methods of his own, many of the more intricate problems of mathematical crystallography. Some notes of the voyage also mention the fact that he was interested in the study of the geology of the island of Minorca and that he made some collections in Natural History while there. It will be observed that the first paper recorded in the Bibliography, which follows this notice, is an account of the condition of Vesuvius in July, 1834, at the time of his visit; this was published in this Journal in 1835.
In 1836, Mr. Dana returned to New Haven and for two years remained there, occupied for more than a year as assistant in Chemistry to Professor Silliman. It was during this period that he published his first important contribution to Science,—the System of Mineralogy, a volume of 580 pages. This was in May, 1837, hardly four years after his graduation from College and when a young man of twenty-four; notwithstanding his youth, the work is that of a thoroughly mature and well informed scholar. A little earlier (1835) his notes mention the fact that he had constructed a set of crystallographic models in glass, probably the first time this had been attempted.
While at New Haven, another opportunity came to him for travel and observation, this time as Mineralogist and Geologist to the Exploring Expedition then about to be sent by the gov. ernment of the United States to the Southern and Pacific oceans under the command of Commodore Charles Wilkes. The invitation, when first received in 1836, was refused, but on the urgent solicitation of Dr. Asa Gray, then expecting to go as Botanist, the decision was reconsidered and finally the position accepted. He was disappointed in failing to have the companionship promised, but subsequent events brought the two men closely together and Dr. Gray remained an intimate personal friend and highly valued scientific associate until his death in 1888.
The expedition, consisting of five ships, sailed in August, 1838, and Mr. Dana was connected with it until June, 1842. The route was briefly as follows. First to Madeira, then to Rio Janeiro, down the coast and through the Straits of Magellan, after passing which, while on board the “Relief” he nearly suffered shipwreck off Noir island, the ship remaining three days and nights in extreme peril; in the same storm one of the smaller accompanying vessels was lost. Then to Chili, Peru and across to the Paunotus, to Tahiti and the Navigator islands; then to New South Wales, where the naturalists remained while Commodore Wilkes went into the Antarctic; then to New Zealand, the Fiji islands, where two of the officers were murdered by the natives; to the Sandwich islands, the Kingsmill Group, the Caroline islands and thence north to the coast of Oregon. Here, near the mouth of the Columbia river, the “Peacock," the ship to which he had been assigned, was wrecked, entailing the loss of all his personal effects as well as many of his collections. He was, then, one of the party that crossed the mountains near Mt. Sbasta and made their way down the Sacramento river to San Francisco. In his report of the expedition he states that the geological features indicated the probable presence of gold. This was six years before the discovery of gold in California, and rich mines have since been discovered in the region the party went over. At San Francisco the party were taken aboard the “ Vincennes” and the homeward journey was made by way of the Sandwich islands, Singapore, the Cape of Good Hope and St. Helena. The arrival in New York was on June 10, 1842.