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1795-1799: Business and industry; science; education; philosophy and religion.

Both in the U.S. and abroad, the day of the general scientists, who took many fields of inquiry as their province, was coming to an end. Professional, or at least more specialized, scientists were taking over. An outstanding example of the generalists who had contributed so much to eighteenth-century progress was Samuel Latham Mitchill. His accomplishments and interests revealed the scope of his life's work. Mitchill established the first medical journal, Medical Repository, in 1797; was professor of natural history at Columbia College from 1798 to 1801; published the first good description of the geology of eastern New York State in 1798; was professor of the College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City from 1807 to 1826; and served in the New York State Assembly and the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. In addition, he introduced into American science the chemical nomenclature of Antoine Lavoisier, founder of modern chemistry, and by 1814 was the foremost zoologist as a result of his work on the fish of New York.


The first Kentucky library was founded at Lexington. It reflected the city's cultural ascendancy in the early frontier region.


An early influence in the development of American Utopianism was Constantin Francois de Chasseboeuf, Comte de Volney. He visited the U.S., where his work The Ruins; or, A Survey of the Revolution of Empires (1791) had been favorably received and translated by Thomas Jefferson and Joel Barlow. The Ruins was a study of the philosophy of history, and the cultivated deism of the author greatly appealed to American intellectuals. Unfortunately, Volney's arrival was followed closely by the crisis with France. He was charged with spying and forced to leave for home the next year.

1795 Feb. 25

Union College was chartered at Schenectady, N.Y., under Presbyterian auspices. Its first degrees were awarded in 1800.


The first experiments with gas illumination were conducted in Philadelphia, Pa.


The first important suspension bridge in the U.S. was built between Uniontown and Greensborough, Pa., over Jacob's Creek. The bridge, no longer standing, was based on a principle of suspension developed mainly by James Finley of Fayette County, Pa.


John Fitch made a final effort to raise financial backing for his steamboat experiments. In New York City, on Collect Pond, where the Tombs stood on Centre Street, he sailed a steamboat driven by a screw propeller. No one was interested. Fitch committed suicide in Bardstown, Ky., on July 2, 1798.


The first instruction booklet in experimental chemistry in America was published by Dr. James Woodhouse in Philadelphia, Pa.


The first glassworks in what was then the American midwest was established in Pittsburgh, Pa., by the firm of O'Hara and Craig.


The first U.S. clock patent was awarded to Eli Terry for his newly devised method of employing wooden works in his clocks. Terry's clocks were sold rather cheaply--$18 to $70--and sales were brisk. Terry became the first manufacturer to use water power to cut parts.

1797 June 26

The first U.S. plow patent was issued to Charles Newbold of New Jersey. After expending his entire fortune in developing a practical plow of cast iron, Newbold was unable to sell it to farmers because of their fear of harmful effects of iron on soil. Thomas Jefferson had made the first studies of plows in America and designed a moldboard plow according to the distinctive requirements of American soil, but he never applied for a patent.


The first professional nursing instruction in the U.S. was given by Dr. Valentine Seaman, who lectured on anatomy, physiology, obstetrics, and pediatrics. Seaman later published an outline of these lectures, probably the first attempt in the U.S. at publishing a nursing text.


The revolutionary concept of manufacturing interchangeable parts was incorporated by Eli Whitney in production of firearms for the U.S. government.


The first American ship built on Lake Ontario, the 30-ton vessel Jemima, was constructed just outside of Rochester, N.Y.

1798 June

An example of active religious pacifism was seen in the expedition of George Logan. Worried about the imminence of war with France, Logan sailed on a peace ship to do what he could as a private citizen to prevent the outbreak of hostilities. Logan, an erstwhile doctor, was an active Pennsylvania politician, friend of Thomas Jefferson, and a lifelong Quaker. His mission to France was an expression of his religious pacifism. He was further influenced by the sympathy of the Democratic-Republican Party, of which he had become a member, for France. Despite personal threats from Federalists, he equipped himself for the mission and set sail. With assistance from the Marquis de Lafayette, himself in exile in Germany, he got into France and presented his pleas to the French minister after U.S. relations with France had been severed and the last representative had left. Logan was credited with having influenced the course of peace, but he was strongly censured at home for his action, which brought about passage of the so-called Logan Act (1798). The legislation prohibited private citizens from engaging in diplomatic exchanges unless expressly authorized to do so.

1798 Dec. 14

A patent for a screw threading machine was awarded to David Wilkinson of Rhode Island. In Aug. 1848, Congress awarded Wilkinson $10,000 for his invention.
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Author:Carruth, Gorton
Publication:Encyclopedia of American Facts & Dates, 9th ed.
Article Type:Reference Source
Date:Jan 1, 1993
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