In Their Own Words:
Scrapbook News

Return to Home Page

YALE SCIENTIFIC SCHOOL

Munificence of Mr. James [sic] E. Sheffield -- Liberal Gift To The Institution

Correspondence of the New York Times:

NEW HAVEN, Tuesday, March 12, 1867.

The faculty of the Sheffield Scientific School of Yale College have just completed their annual report of the progress the institution has made during the last twelve months, and its present condition, giving also many items of interest. Your correspondent has been permitted to examine the combined reports previous to their being placed in the hands of the printer. They give most gratifying evidence of the increased prosperity of this institution, and contain most assured indications that as a school for the diffusion of theoretical and applied science it stands unrivaled in this country.

In the history of the school there have been three marked epochs. First -- Its establishment by Yale College. Second -- Its endowment by Joseph E. Sheffield, Esq., of this city; and third its enlargement through the means of the same beneficent gentleman in order to furnish increased facilities which the moneys derived from the national lands granted by Congress permitted the faculty to offer the public. The school had its origin in small classes organized by the late Prof. Benjamin Sildiman, and afterward continued by his son, of students desiring more complete and thorough instruction in the natural sciences than Yale College afforded. These classes, which were first commenced in 1842, were associated in 1854, and were called the Yale Scientific School. As yet, however, school had been almost entirely without funds. Mr. John S. Norton, of Farmington, had annually given it the sum of $300, and ex-president day had devoted to the school subscription of $1000, and Joseph E. Sheffield had been only made his first contribution of $5000, all of which had been a great help, yet was wholly inadequate to meet the wants of the school. For the purpose of exciting a wider interest in the institution, phamphlets were issued setting forth its needs, and Prof. Dana delivered an address on the subject before the citizens here, and afterward repeated it at commencement before the graduates. The result was auspicious. Mr. Sheffield gave another $5000. Lieut-Gov. O. F. Winchester subscribed a like sum. Eli Whitney, Esq., gave $1000, as did also the late A. R. Street, Esq., who afterward gave to the college its beautiful art building; also the late Peletuah Perit, Esq., and Mr. Joseph Battell, Mr. Dana gave $500, and Mrs. Hillhouse made over to the school an interest which she had in a large landed property South. Other liberal amounts were also given, but nothing was done toward endowing the institution in the liberal manner it was necessary it should be to place it on a firm basis. In this way affairs continued until 1860, when Mr. Sheffield who by his liberal donations and ready counsel, repeatedly given great encouragement to the friends of the school, came forward and offered to provide a building for it and permanently endow it. Mr. Sheffield had a short time previously purchased the old Medical College building in Grove street, in the rear of his beautiful mansion on Hillhouse avenue, and having refitted it throughout added two large wings to it, furnished it with a large amount of school apparatus and gave it to Yale College for the scientific school together with a fund of $50,000 for the maintenance of the Professorship of Engineering, Metallurgy and Chemistry. The entire cost of this gift to Mr. Sheffield was over $100,000. In view of this great benefaction on his part the corporation of Yale College gave to the school the name it now bears, "the Sheffield Scientific School of Yale College." The transfer of the school to this new building was made in the Summer of 1860, when a third course was added, entitled the General Course, extending through three years, designed to give instruction in natural science and modern languages. The corps of instructors was enlarged by appointing Rev. Prof. C. F. Lyman to a Professorship of industrial mechanics and physics, and Prof.W. D. Whitney to give instruction in modern languages. The studies for the school for each year were then determined upon, regular Faculty meetings were held, formal examinations of candidates for admission were instituted and a second-degree of Ph.D. was established.

In 1865 the State Legislature, upon the petition of the college authorities, applied to this school the grant of lands made by Congress in 1863 to colleges to encourage instruction in theoretical and applied science. The grant amounted to 180,000 acres of land, the receipts from which have already been funded for the school. The act specially provided that no part of this fund should be used for the erection of buildings, and as the then Scientific School buildings were not large enough to furnish facilities for instruction such as the fund would permit of, it became necessary that they should be enlarged in order to make these moneys available. In this emergency Mr. Sheffield again came forward and proceeded to make the necessary enlargements, which were commenced in the Summer of 1865 and finished last Fall: A large a three-story building was added, connecting the two wings of the building, by means of which the laboratory was much enlarged and an agricultural lecture-room and fine library room were secured.

Two large towers were erected -- one in front of the building and the other at the northwest corner. In the front tower was placed a clock with four dials, made in Boston. This clock is set anew to zero whenever its error amounts to half a minute.. This has occurred but twice since August last. This tower is ninety high and sixteen feet square. Above the belfry-clock and surrounding the structure is the revolving turret, in which is placed an equatorial telescope. This is one of the finest instruments in the country. Its focal length is ten feet, and the diameter of the object-glass is nine inches. It is possessed of great power and clearness, and is considered better than several in the country of a larger size.

The instrument was made by the celebrated firm of Alvan Clark & Sons, Boston, who have made several the finest telescopes of the country, among which is the one at Chicago. The Northwest tower incloses the circular shaft of solid masonry eight feet in diameter, well grouted, commencing twelve feet below the surface of the Earth, and is built separate from everything to the top of the tower, which is fifty feet high and sixteen feet square. On top of this, which is surmounted by granite pillars, is placed a meridian circle, purchased of the Washington Observatory for $2,500. In this tower is also an astronomical clock, made by Appleton, of London, and presented to the college by William Hillhouse in 1853. These, together with a few other additions, constitute the enlargements and improvements which Mr. Sheffield has made. Their entire cost reached the sum of $60,000, making the total amount of Mr. Sheffield's benefactions to the school the handsome sum of $160,000. The school has now a fund of $12,000 for a library, $2000 of which has been lately subscribed, $520 were given by Mr. Ketchum, of New York, $250 each by Hon. W. W. Boardmand, of the city, and John Wheeler, and $200 by Messrs. Chatfield and Perkins, the builders of the art building. The fund of $150,000 given by Mr. Peabody to found "a museum of natural history, especially of the departments of zoology, geology and mineralogy in Yale College," though designed for the whole college, cannot fail to prove of immense benefit to the scientific school. There are now given every Winter at the school a course of scientific lectures to mechanics which are attended by about three hundred mechanics of the city. A course is now in progress. The school now has 122 students. Its faculty consists of twenty three Professors and there are also six assistants. Its present condition is most gratifying and it has undoubtedly become the most eminent and useful seat of scientific education in the country.

The New York Times, New York, NY, March 15, 1867, page 8

Return to Scrapbook

Questions and comments to Webmouse Cyberspace Publications
Copyright 2011 Ellen Wilds, all rights reserved. Redistribution and/or reuse terms of license.