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About Google Book Search Google's mission is to organize the world's information and to make it universally accessible and useful. Google Book Search helps readers discover the world's books while helping authors and publishers reach new audiences. You can search through the full text of this book on the web at |http: //books .google .com/I * i * '0i i tm * • •• • • • • • •• •• • • • • • • • • •• • • • • •••• •• ••• IN MEMORIAM J. LAWRENCE SMITH, M.D. The biography of a great scientist, whose years have been wedded to certain departments in the commonwealth of kno\¥ledge, is but the record of empirical researches, dis- coveries and inventions realized in the quiet retirement of the laboratory, divorced from the exciting events of the his- toric period by which he may have been surrounded. This was particularly the case with Professor J. Lawrence Smith, whose devotion to his profession of chemistry, geolo- gy and mineralogy excluded active participancy in the mem- orable incidents through which he passed. In the peaceful paths of science, he continued to prosecute his favorite studies with the earnest and sublime devotion that have earned for him the highest honors his own and European countries could bestow, and have constituted him one of America's most distinguished savants. Dr. J. Lawrence Smith was born December 17th, 1818. He pursued his initiatory studies under the best instructors, and we learn that such was his predilection for, and profi- ciency in mathematics that before he could read, and indeed when only four years old, he added and multiplied figures with singular rapidity, was in algebra at eight, and at the age of thirteen was already engaged in the study of calculus. This asserted familiarity with the highest branches of math- ematics inducted him into the study of natural philosophy, chemistry and allied branches, in all of which he soon be- ^f/n came conspicuous at the Charleston College, and subse- quently at the University of Virginia. Civil engineering was at first the profession of his choice, in which Ke was actively engaged as assistant engineer dur- ing the contemplated project of the railroad between Cin- cinnati and Charleston ; but abandoning this pursuit for the study of medicine, he soon entered the office of Drs. Hoi brook and Ogier in this city. It was during this period that a singular interposition of Providence rescued a life which would have been otherwise too soon lost to science. While on his way to a suburban farm near this city in a vehicle with Dr. Ogier and Mr. Grayson, the horses took fright, the vehicle was dashed to pieces, Dr. Ogier was thrown and had his leg broken, and Smith was dragged a considerable dis- tance with onie leg engaged within the fifth wheel, until the shock of a collision of the carriage against a tree disentang- led his limb, thus saving miraculously both limb and life. Mercifully preserved for a life of usefulness and laborious original research, Smith became unremittingly engaged in his medical studies. He followed three courses of lectures at the Medical College of the State of South Carolina, from which institution he was graduated in March, 1839; after which he visited Paris in the early part of 1840. Here he devoted himself more particularly to his favorite studies of chemistry arid physics, and subsequently went to Giessen, where for more than a year he remained as the favorite pupil of Liebig, in whose laboratory he worked as assidu- ously as he had done previously with Pelouz in Paris. It was in Paris, in the year 1842, that I became acquainted with Dr. Smith, and enjoyed the advantages of daily and hourly association with one whose friendship and affection have ever since served to endear him to me. It was here I learned to appreciate the admirable traits of character he exhibited, harmoniously blended with exceptional devotion to scientific pursuits, and would bear attestation to the purity of his character and generosity of his nature. Con- secrated from boyhood apparently to scientific thought, his only obvious aim was an earnest and determined search after truth, under the impulses of a genius that knew no rest, and that would not, if it could, evade its destiny. Who would suppose a young man, scarce emancipated from the hoiden- ish period of youth, could be so engrossed in the fascinations of his daily studies and pursuits, that he should walk for hours of an evening the thoroughfares and byways, boule- vards and gardens, of a metropolis like Paris — that centre of fashion and vortex of dissipation — in such oblivious for- getfulness of all his surroundings as was expressed in dis- cussions, how to expound some intricate point of science, or which was the better way perhaps of demonstrating a certain problem in Euclid ; yet, the frequent recurrence of such profitable, though obstruse debates, plainly declared that his mental affluence was ever deeply plunged within the mazes of science, and that his was an intelligence so conse- crated by nature to the absolute realization of a plan and purpose that ultimate fame seemed already as insured as his knowledge was fixed and profound. It was this early and almost sacred devotion to a mission which won the ad- miration of an Orfila, and the commendation of a Liebig! I can here recall my first visit to him on reaching Paris, April, 1842, when I found him immerse in toxicological ex- periments on animals which he had poisoned with arsenic and had disintered at various periods after death, with the view of searching for evidences of the drug within the tis- sues, which researches led to the publication of his papers on arsenic in Silliman's Journal, at the time that Orfila's experiments on the same subject were exciting such atten- tion in the Parisian minds in the memorable case of Madam Lafarge*s trial for the poisoning of her husband. It was also at this period, 1842, that he undertook, at the suggestion of Professor Liebig, to examine the products afforded by the distillation of spermaceti, dissatisfied as he was by the undetermined nature of this part of Chevreurs researches upon the fats. His publication on this subject added greatly to his reputation as an experimental inquirer. With a reputation already established in both continents, he returned to his native home in 1844, and was invited to the memory of Professor Smith presented to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences of Boston, remarked : J* His *' discovery of emery in Asia Minor destroyed the rapacious ** monopoly of this article at Naxos, in the Grecian Archi- ** pelago, extended its use and greatly reduced its price. ** His studies on emery and its associate minerals led direct- ** ly to its discovery in America. In Massachusetts and ** North Carolina a large industrial product of emery is now ** carried on. To Dr. Smith belongs the credit of having *• done almost every thing for these commercial enterprises ** by his successful researches on emery and corundum." We must record the discovery of two new minerals which he found associated with a specimen of pitchblende in the neighborhood of Adrianople, Turkey, which he respectively called mcdjiditc and liebigiti\ in honor of the then reigning Sultan, Abdul-Medjid, and of his distinguished friend Liebig, of Giessen. I also remember his telling me of the astound- ing and amusing effect he produced upon the Turks when he struck the oxycalcium light in the dome of the Mosque of Constantinople, as it spread the bright effulgence of day over the Capital, when they imagined it must be some ex- traordinary luminary of the nocturnal skies ! In his travels in Western Asia Minor he provided himself with proper appliances for safely transporting to his laboratory, from twenty distinct localities, specimens of those Thermal Waters which were held in such high estimation by the ancient Romans and Greeks for supplying their baths, but which never had been examined. The result of these re- searches which he made have greatly enhanced their value from a scientific standpoint. Such was the impression of these labors upon the Turkish government, and the large revenues it received from his discoveries, that he was decor- ated by the Sultan and loaded with valuable presents. He returned to Charleston in 1850. We had shared but a few months the pleasure which his return to his own peo- ple had inspired, when again in November, 1850, he went to New Orleans as nominal professor of chemistry in the Univemity of Louisiana ; engaged in lectures and researches deliver a course of lectures on toxicology at the Medical College of this city, and shortly after he accepted the office tendered him of Assayer of the State of South Carolina, in the discharge of which office he soon discovered the com- me^rcial value of the extensive marl beds of Carolina, con- cerning which he published an important report. Though he never actively engaged in the practice of medicine, such was his interest in the progress of his profes- sion that he established a Charleston Medical and Surgical Journal, conjointly with Dr. Seaman Sinclair, in 1846. With the exception of a similar effort made as early as 1820, when Dr. Thomas Y. Simons and Dr. William Michel edited the first medical journal ever published in the South, the ful- fillment again of such an enterprise in the hands of Dr. Smith successfully developed the literary resources of this section, in centralizing in his journal for many years the authorial ability of the South, at a time when, it must be conceded, we were fairly and impressively convinced of de- ficiency in this department, in which we were not simply be- hind our Northern brethren, but, what was yet more regretta- ble, were literally considered as hors de combat ! His work in the direction of agricultural chemistry, particularly so far as the growth of cotton was concerned, attracted the attention of the Turkish government, who solicited the aid of America in this connection. Mr. Buchanan approached Professor Smith upon the subject through Mr. Elmore, and he finally accepted the appointment tendered him by the President of the United States. In 1847 ^^ ^^ft his home once more to counsel, advise, and direct in the cultivation of cotton in Asia Minor. He no sooner became fully engaged in the important official work of mining engineering, an office which the Sul- tan created for him, as an inducement for him to remain in Turkey, that he made the discovery of certain coal mines, chrome ores, and more especially those of emery which in the interest of that country, secured his operations for a series of four years. The publication of an elaborate mono- graph on emery excited great attention everywhere when it appeared. Dr. J. B. Marvin, in his eloquent tribute to the memory of Professor Smith presented to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences of Boston, remarked : J* His ••discovery of emery in Asia Minor destroyed the rapacious •* monopoly of this article at Naxos, in the Grecian Archi- "pelago, extended its use and greatly reduced its price. ** His studies on emery and its associate minerals led direct- **ly to its discovery in America. In Massachusetts and "North Carolina a large industrial product of emery is now "carried on. To Dr. Smith belongs the credit of having "done almost every thing for these commercial enterprises "by his successful researches on emery and corundum.*' We must record the discovery of two new minerals which he found associated with a specimen of pitchblende in the neighborhood of Adrianople, Turkey, which he respectively called medjidite and liebigitc, in honor of the then reigning Sultan, Abdul-Medjid, and of his distinguished friend Liebig, of Giessen. I also remember his telling me of the astound- ing and amusing effect he produced upon the Turks when he struck the oxycalcium light in the dome of the Mosque of Constantinople, as it spread the bright effulgence of day over the Capital, when they imagined it must be some ex- traordinary luminary of the nocturnal skies ! In his travels in Western Asia Minor he provided himself with proper appliances for safely transporting to his laboratory, from twenty distinct localities, specimens of those Thermal Waters which were held in such high estimation by the ancient Romans and Greeks for supplying their baths, but which never had been examined. The result of these re- searches which he made have greatly enhanced their value from a scientific standpoint. Such was the impression of these labors upon the Turkish government, and the large revenues it received from his discoveries, that he was decor- ated by the Sultan and loaded with valuable presents. He returned to Charleston in 1850. We had shared but a few months the pleasure which his return to his own peo- ple had inspired, when again in November, 1850, he went to New Orleans as nominal professor of chemistry in the University of Louisiana ; engaged in lectures and researches 8 in that city until May, 1852; when there occurred a vacan- cy in the chair of chemistry in the University of Virginia, occasioned by the death of Professor Rodgers, which trans- ferred him to that position, by invitation, in his Alma Ma- ter. In 1854 the resignation of Professof B. Silliman from the Medical Department of the University of Louisville, induced those who had the interest of this institution at heart to tender him the professorship of chemistry, which he promptly accepted. Circumstances influenced him in resigning after many years from these public duties, devo- ting himself to private laboratory work in an establishment of his own, in which much of his most important and heaviest work was accomplished. An exhaustive memoir. on Meteorites frgm his pen at this period, calls to mind one of his most important publications, inasmuch as his large collection of these extraordinary bodies from all parts of the world, gave great weight to his opinion and made him a high authority on this debatable subject. The special attraction of this study to the general reader invests with intense interest the author*s speculative inquir- ies into the origin and history of Meteorites ; and one pe- ruses with fascinated abstraction the comprehensive analyses by which he rejects the cosmical and interplanetary theories on the one hand, while enforcing chemical, mathematical, and astronomical arguments for the adoption of his more eligible view of the selenic origin of these aerolites with masterly authority. Another paper on Artesian Wells, their nature and origin, chemical and medicinal properties of their waters, was also suggested and published, at this time, in connection with an instructive account of the Du- pont's Artesian Well in Louisville, Ky. This was again issued in pamphlet form in 1859. Had Professor Smith's researches been confined solely to the department of mineralogy, his reputation would never- theless have been equally great. Besides his individual contributions to this branch of science, he was also engaged while in Virginia in a re-examination of American minerals, and in preparing an elaborate analytic report on the sub- 9 ject. It has been conjectured that his discovery of a new element, which he named Mosandrum, contributed with his previous and subsequent labors in securing that remarkable vote which placed him among the Members of the Institute of France. His creative genius was signally exemplified in numerous inventions, of which we must mention his inverted micro- scope, with which reagents may be safely used upon the stage without danger to the objectives, since by the use of a prism in the cylinder of the instrument the image of the object is obtained from beneath the slide. Queckett acknowledges the worth of this instrument to the chemist particularly. His calcarimetcr is especially valuable from simplicity of construction and easy application ; since in the hands of the uninitiated, without even a knowledge of the principle of the instrument, very accurate results arc easily obtained in first experiments upon calcareous manures. His eye-piece, micrometer and goniometer arc also other inven- tions well known to all microHcopistH. It must devolve, however, upon chcfnistHto speak author!- tatively concerning his many contributions to their Mcicnce ; many, though by no means half of which wcMe in 1873 col- lected from different periodicals and piihlishrd in a volume of great interest. His labors in the laboratory and with his pen secured the attention of the sijentifif world M an r^U'ly period of his life, as we hav<; seem ; and thr^e, the hUlU of his life-work, have .served not alone to place him in the foremost rank among scic;ntists, but have illf»tin^jiii«»hf?»l him as the recipient of the very highest reward allainablr rtmony his contemporaries, for at the death of Sir C'httrlr»« LytJil, the vacancy left in the: Institute of I^Vance watt iinaniintuiHly filled by the election of Professor Smith as member of that illustrious body of the world's scientists. This n)em«Hable event occurred, as evcrry South Carolinian shall ever remem- ber, in 1879, an honor which identifies him with Franklin of our own country. In his own country he was also Presi- dent of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. 2 10 It has not always been given to the learned to communi- cate extemporaneously to others what they themselves so well understand ; we should not, therefore, disingenuously disguise the fact that in his academic teachings he did not probably realize in the estimation of some that success which so extended a reputation would seem to have implied. If, as Collier declares, **a graceful presence bespeaks accept- ance,*' his surely was so attractive as at once to rivet atten- tion and prejudice an audience in his favor. His preposses- sing appearance, his chiseled features of almost effeminate beauty, his light blue eyes an/d flaxen hair, and the fore- head — that showboard of one's intellectual ware — stood revealed as the pediment of a temple dedicated to science; but the accuracy of his knowledge which with him con- sisted only in what was demonstrable made his teachings apodeictic and his style laconic. His intellectual processes seemed never deflected for an instant from their rectilinear course, and his utterances interpreted them without oratorial embellishment. Borrowing neither the aid of imagery, nor observant even of chastening the language of familiar dis- course, it must be confessed that when he became enthusi- astic in his subject, in the infelicity of extemporaneous delivery he failed perhaps as a lecturer in fixing the atten- tion of any but of those of a select few who were competent to penetrate his meaning, and fathom the extent of his inferences. His cheerful nature must have been connate with the se- ductive attractions of his daily occupations. Dr. Marvin, his family physician, informed me that though he had been declining in health from a chronic affection of the liver for two or three years, yet he continued his indefatigable labors uncomplainingly. Indeed, we may assume that there never was time for despondency so long as he could wander through Nature's store-house in wonderment and in love. He could at all times have exclaimed with the laureat poet : " And forth into the fields I went. And Nature's living motion lent The pulse of hope to discontent." 11 It is but a few moivths since, on the I2th October, 1883, at 3 P. M., silently, painlessly, happily, because hopefully, in the distant State of his adoption, the friend of my youthful days passed away ; without eulogistic discourse, at his own request, in modest self-forgetfulness of his fame, but after the simple reading of the service of the dead, when his re- mains were taken to their appointed resting place in Cave Hill Cemetery, Louisville, Kentucky, leaving us all to mourn the death of a renowned scientist. Professor Smith married the daughter of the Hon. James Guthrie of Louisville, Kentucky; this accomplished lady survives him. He was a member of the following socie- ties: Corresponding Member of the Academy of Scien- ces of the Institute of France; The Anierican National Academy of Sciences; The Chemical Society of Berlin; The Chemical Society of Paris; Chemical Society of Lon- don ; Society d* Encouragement pour I'lndustrie Nation- ale ; Imperial Mineralc^ical Society of St. Petersburg; American Association for the Advancement of Science; British Association for the Advancement of Science ; Polytechnic Society of Kentucky ; Corresponding Member of the Boston Society of Natural History ; American Acad- emy of Arts and Sciences; American Philosophical Society; American Bureau of Mines; Society des Sciences et des Arts de Hainaut ; Royal Society of Gottingen ; Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur; Member of the Order of Nichan Iftahar of Turkey; Member of the Order of Medjidiah of Turkey; Chevalier of the Imperial Order of St. Stanilas of Russia.