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REMINISCENCES OF ALEXANDER METCALF FISHER,
LATE PROFESSOR OF MATHEMATICS AND NATURAL PHILOSOPHY IN YALE COLLEGE.
The exalted reputation for talents ulars respecting him, gleaned from which the late Professor Fisher left the excellent " Eulogy” of Profesbehind him, has conspired with the sor Kingsley pronounced on the ocaffecting circumstances of his death, casion of his death, and from seve. to throw a romantic but melancholy ral obituary notices published at the interest around his memory. More same period. This we do by way than twenty years have now passed, of introduction to the “ Reminiscen. since Yale College and the surround-ces,”—the title of an unpublished ing community, were suddenly in- manuscript now before us, written volved in the deepest gloom at the by an intimate friend and classmate, tidings, that one respected and be- of Professor Fisher, soon after his loved in no ordinary degree, who decease. had just exchanged with them the ALEXANDER METCALF Fisher was parting salutation, and embarked for born at Franklin, Massachusetts, in the Old World under the most flat- the year 1794. His parents were tering auspices, had suffered a ter- much respected members of the rible shipwreck and was buried be- pastoral charge of the late celebraneath the waves! A new genera- ted Dr. Emmons. He early exhi. tion has sprung up, who have lis. bited tokens of a superior mind and tened with interest to the tale of an aptitude for learning, which desorrow, that has mingled with en- termined his parents to give him a thusiastic expressions of admira- liberal education; and, accordingly, tion for his talents and virtues from he entered Yale College, in the auhis former associates and pupils; tumn of 1809. Though but fifteen and the wish has often been re- years
and diminutive in perpeated, that a full biography of him son, yet the superiority of his mind, might be given to the public. Not and his love of study, were soon being in possession of his writings, apparent, and he speedily acquired we have not the means of making and easily retained throughout his out a complete analysis of his sci- academic course, the first place in entific labors, or a full history of his his class. He took his baccalaureate brief but remarkable life ; but we degree in 1813, and returned to his propose only to recite a few partic. father's house. Vol. I.
Without any definite plan of life ican Journal of Science,* brought before him, but desirous of examin- him rapidly into notice among sci. ing for himself the grounds of the entific men; and, in the year 1817, Christian faith, in which he had when on the decease of the lamentbeen educated, he placed himself, ed President Dwight, Professor Day the following year, under the in- then filling the chair of mathematstruction of his profound and vene- ics and natural philosophy, was rable pastor. He wrote a series of elevated to the presidency, Mr. dissertations on points of theology Fisher was elected adjunct profesproposed to him by the Doctor ; of sor in that department. ten, with his usual independence, From this period, his plans of controverting some of the peculiar study were laid out on the broadest and favorite opinions of that distin- scale; his health improved; he asguished divine, who expressed, at cended the heights of science with times, as we were informed by Pro- almost unexampled rapidity; and fessor Fisher himself, much uneasi. he fulfilled all the duties of an inness, not to say displeasure, at have structor and officer of the college ing his peculiar doctrines canvassed with the greatest ability and faithwith so much freedom by a youthfulness. “In the time which elapof nineteen. It is not unlikely that sed,” says Prof. Kingsley, “from this was the reason for breaking off his election to his new office to his their connexion ; for the next year departure for Europe, he had examMr. Fisher repaired to Andover, and ined and digested the writings of entered the Theological Seminary. the principal philosophers of Britain, Here he devoted himself to the reg. tracing every discovery, theory, and ular studies of the Institution with illustration to its source; and had his accustomed diligence, until im- read, with the same attention, many paired health compelled him to re- of the most valuable publications of turn home. His constitution had the mathematicians and philosophers received a severe shock, from which of France. He had, in the same it did not recover for several years time, prepared a full course of lecafterwards.
tures in natural philosophy, both In 1815 he was appointed tutor theoretical and experimental, which in Yale College, and entered upon for copiousness, clearness, and exact the duties of the office at the opens adaptation to the purposes of ining of the fall term. At this time, struction, equaled the highest ex. his health was very poor, his per. pectations of his friends. son much emaciated, and his spir- “Having thus far accomplished its deeply depressed. Regular em- his original design, he resolved on an ployment so congenial to his taste, excursion to Europe, not so much gradually repaired his strength and for the sake of making new acqui. revived his spirits ; and he selected sitions in science,-for the knowlthe most difficult studies, for, as edge of European philosophers is Delambre observes, difficulties con- found in their books, -as to visit the stitute the natural aliment of ge. places of public instruction, and nius. The solution of various math. examine by actual inspection the ematical problems proposed by Dr. modes of communicating knowledge Adrain in a magazine published in foreign universities; to form an in the city of New York, an able acquaintance with men who were review of Day's Algebra in a public journal, and a profound Essay # This constitutes the first article in on Musical Temperament, written
that Journal, which has now reached during his tutorship, and publish. greatly to the advancement of American
nearly fifty volumes and contributed ed in the first volume of the Amer science.