David Tappan Stoddard -- By: John P. Gulliver
BSac 16:61 (Jan 1859) p. 168
David Tappan Stoddard1
Those who were connected with Yale College during the period included in the academic years 1837–38, will retain a vivid remembrance of the scientific furor which then pervaded that institution. It was the time when an honored Professor was specially engaged in verifying his theory of meteoric showers and of their periodical recurrence. The phenomena of the aurora and of the zodiacal light, called forth a vast amount of enthusiastic attention in the same connection. Not only the matured and well-wrought theories of Olmsted, but the tireless activity and most wondrous zeal of Herrick, afterward the well-known college librarian, and still more the genius of Mason, among the under-graduates, whose ardor in the pursuits of the observatory afterward brought him to an untimely grave, together with a notable development of scientific talent in other students, contributed to this result. That this scientific excitement always exhibited itself in severely scientific modes, could not be claimed. There was not a little of boyish sport mingled with the star-gazing of the devotees, who nightly lay upon their backs in the college yard to count the meteors which might cross their assigned sections of the heavens. And when the resounding cry of “aurora,” from some midnight observer brought every sleeper to his window, and in case of the finer exhibitions called the whole body of students out upon the Green, we doubt not that the eyes of anxious college officers were occupied with other irregularities than those of the starry sphere. Still it cannot be doubted that much of
BSac 16:61 (Jan 1859) p. 169
this interest was genuine and profitable, though in most cases it was of course transient. Many minds then received an impulse in scientific studies which affected their whole subsequent career as scholars.
David T. Stoddard will always be associated, by those who knew him in his college days, with these scenes. How far he should be considered as having been inspired by the prevailing enthusiasm, or how far he was the inspirer of it, cannot well be determined. Certain it is that he was one of the most prominent and zealous actors in those transactions, and that he soon rose to distinction in scientific pursuits. He was invited to make a free use of the college laboratory, and was appointed assistant in the observatory, a position which gave him access to the philosophical and astronomical instruments. A machinist in town granted him the privilege of using all his tools, “comprising those in almost every department of the arts.” During his junior year he received the offer, from the U. S. government, of a post in the South-sea Exploring Expedition. Dur...
Click here to subscribe