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UNIVERSITY ARCHIVES




University of California Berkeley




22-3-



NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES

OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA



BIOGRAPHICAL MEMOIRS

PART OF VOLUME IX



BIOGRAPHICAL MEMOIR



OF



EUGENE WOLDEMAR HILGARD



833-1916



BY



FREDERICK



SLATE



PRESENTED TO THE ACADEMY AT THE ANNUAL MEETING, 1918



CITY OF WASHINGTON

PUBLISHED BY THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES

November, 1919



1/te






NATIONAL ACA^_ ,Y OF SCIENCES

OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA



BIOGRAPHICAL MEMOIRS

PART OF VOLUME IX



BIOGRAPHICAL MEMOIR



OF



EUGENE WOLDEMAR HILGARD
1833-1916



BY



FREDERICK SLATE



PRESENTED TO THE ACADEMY AT THE ANNUAL MEETING, 1918



CITY OF WASHINGTON

PUBLISHED BY THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES

November, 1919



EUGENE WOLDEMAR HILGARD

1833-1916

BY FREDERICK SLATE



Eugene Woldemar Hilgard was born at Zweibriicken, in
Rhenish Bavaria, on January 5, 1833. At that date his father,
Theodore Erasmus Hilgard, a noted lawyer, held an important
position as Chief Justice of the Court of Appeals of the
province. His mother, Margaretha Pauli, was a descendant
ot that Pierre Toussaint de Beaumont who was court preacher
to Marguerite, Queen of Navarre, and subsequently canon at
Metz, having fled from France during the persecutions of
the Huguenots. His son Daniel, known in ecclesiastical his-
tory as Tossanus, was court preacher at Heidelberg and after-
wards rector of the university there, in which his grandson,
also Daniel, in due time became Professor of Theology. The
daughter of the latter married Reinhold Pauli, the great-grand-
father of Margaretha, who traced her descent otherwise, too,
from generations of clergy.

Theodore Hilgard, himself descended from a long line of
ministers of the Lutheran Church, and having been born during
the impetus of the French Revolution, was of pronounced
liberal tendencies. He opposed stoutly the proposal to super-
sede the Code Napoleon by the illiberal laws of the ancicn
rcyimc, and determined finally to resign his office, though
standing in the fullness of a successful career. Having re-
jected repeatedly flattering offers from the government at
Mu n irh because the posts tendered would have removed him
from a sphere of liberal activity, he reached at length the
fateful decision to emigrate to America, the land of liberty,
with his family of nine children, among whom Eugene Wolde-
mar was the youngest. In taking this step he followed the
lead of a number of relatives and political sympathizers who
had already migrated toward the "Far West."

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NATIONAL ACADEMY BIOGRAPHICAL MEMOIRS VOL. IX

In the autumn of 1835, then, this Hilgard family entered
upon the long journey, whose first stage in those days was a
drive of fourteen days to Havre, their household goods (in-
cluding a grand piano) accompanying them on freight wagons.
After four weeks' wait at that port, they embarked on the
good ship Marengo bound for New Orleans, and celebrated
Christmas eve by arriving, at the end of sixty-two days. For-
tunately a steamboat was soon to leave for Saint Louis, a
risky voyage of ten more days against heavy drifting ice, dur-
ing which the subject of the present memoir recorded his third
birthday.

A group of cultured German families, largely exiles for po-
litical reasons, were already settled in the neighborhood of
Belleville, Illinois, the county-seat of Saint Clair County; and
that group the Hilgards joined, establishing themselves on a
farm. The colony became known as the "Latin settlement"
and its members as "The Latins," on the popular supposition
that they actually spoke in Latin or were at least competent
to speak it. In truth, however, it was the German language
that remained predominant among these settlers and their
children, because new German immigrants kept swelling their
numbers, and because there were at that time but few educated
American families resident around Belleville.

The former chief justice did not resume any legal activity,
finding the common law and the court practice by precedent
unsuited to his taste; so he returned to literature as an early
love, to which he had once thought of devoting himself ex-
clusively. Recalling his predilection for the classics, he under-
took presently to make metric translations into German of
selected Greek and Latin poets: Ovid's Metamorphoses
(printed at Belleville) were among the first of these; and later
he finished a part of the Odyssey, which had attracted him as
being related in some measure to his own wanderings. He
translated Moore's Lalla Rookh also, and issued a small edi-
tion for private circulation. While engaged in such work it
was natural to share it with the family by reading and dis-
cussing portions of it ; so in this classic-poetic atmosphere, in-
fused with music and other art, and under strong influence
from their father's advanced views about politics and social

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WOLDEMAR HILGARD SLATE

questions, the children's lives must have been shaped in un-
usual ways that were to bear future fruit. As this account
progresses, that exceptional nurture will offer the key to much
that set Eugene apart among his fellows for maturity and for
strength.

The four Hilgard boys found themselves rather isolated,
since no other "Lateiner" lived in the immediate neighborhood.
Their father thought it inadvisable to send them to the local
public school, which was still quite primitive, but instructed
them himself instead in mathematics and the languages, with
aid from the older sisters, especially in the case of Eugene.
Having been educated largely in French institutions, the father
was inclined to insist strenuously that the children should all
learn French while young. After-dinner readings in that
language constituted a regular exercise, and there were two
fixed days a week when all communication was to be in French.
Neither form of this discipline was entirely popular; the re-
luctant boys schemed to evade it, escaping to the woods and
there in reprisal relaxing into the dialect of the Palatinate
which was taboo at home. Apart from some hunting, garden-
ing, and a substratum of farm work such as the conditions
required, the occupations and the games of conventional boy-
hood found only a subordinate place in this mode of living.
The woodlands and prairies of the region balanced fairly their
rival attractions as fields for botanizing and for collecting
insects, and an extensive and varied home library offered
an opportunity for spontaneous reading or consecutive study.
In the pursuit of natural history, Eugene and his brother
Theodore, who was five years older, soon became very assid-
uous, being specially stimulated by a borrowed copy of Oken's
Natural History, and helped, too, particularly in their botany,
by a cousin resident in Saint Louis.

This almost ideal state of things might have continued
for the boys until the time of natural flight from the parental
home but for the intervention of that Nature whom it was then
the day-dream of enthusiasts to approach once more through
return to simple living. That intervention here took the form
of swarms of mosquitoes with consequent fever and ague,
whose close interconnection was, however, at that date scarcely

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NATIONAL ACADEMY BIOGRAPHICAL MEMOIRS VOL. IX

suspected. An epidemic of typhoid fever went progressively
through the family, of which the eldest sister died. The dis
ease attacked Eugene last ; there was a severe relapse and from
this time forward for some years he was to suffer during sev-
eral months of each summer from fevers tertian, quartan, or
quotidian, or from all combined. It was inevitable that habits
of study were much interrupted, especially when the inroads
of ague were found to affect the eyes. Meanwhile mosquitoes
were allowed free access to such patients, fumigations with
pumpkin leaves being the utmost defensive measure employed
against them, unless we may add the daily diet of quinine.

In 1842 fate struck again with the death of the mother after
a lingering illness ; so, naturally, this threw the management
of the household and the care for the younger members of the
family into the hands of the elder sisters.

In 1846 the favorite brother, Theodore, left home to study
medicine in Europe; and this loss. of a sympathetically close
friend conspired with physical depression attendant upon Eu-
gene's illness, inducing a state of mind that was probably
detrimental to his health, already weakened by a persistent
obsession with fever and ague and its concomitant troubles.
The disability of the eyes increased, as did the chafing against
breaking off study. He persevered with work in botany, how-
ever, and gradually acquired a knowledge of physics and chem-
istry from the "Lehrbuch" of Miiller-Pouillet and Gmelin s
"Handbuch," contriving such chemical and physical experi-
ments as his limited resources permitted. The fundamentals
of these two sciences and many of their important details, thus
absorbed without any teaching, proved later to be of material
assistance to Eugene as a student, placing him in advance of
those who were his equals in academic age.

The physicians at last acknowledged the danger of remaining
longer in so malarial a climate, and the father decided that
Eugene should go where he could attend lectures at least, since
he was barred from reading freely. So he left home in the
summer of 1848 with his oldest brother, Julius, then returning
to Washington, where he was assistant in the U. S. Coast
Survey. As a first impression of serious travel, then not so
smoothly easy as now, this journey, of course, left a profound

98



EUGENE WOLDEMAR HILGARD SLATE

impression. It occupied a full week, being made by steam-
boat to Louisville and thence to Wheeling; by stage to Cum-
berland, and by the newly opened railroad to Relay House
and Washington. During a stay of four months in that city
Eugene met some of the men nationally prominent in science,
notably Joseph Henry, the first Secretary of the Smithsonian
Institution, and his assistant, Baird; also A. D. Bache, then
Superintendent of the Coast Survey. The youth thus intro-
duced to them was not yet sixteen ; he felt embarrassed, more-
over, by a consciousness of that foreign tinge in his English
speech which the German of childhood had left and which
he removed fully only by persistent effort. Altogether, he
doubted much whether these older men were at all impressed.
Yet the sequel showed, through the ready furtherance of his
objects at every return to Washington, good proof that at
least some of these leaders recognized in Eugene Hilgard the
quality that placed him among their logical successors when
his ambitions had unfolded into a career.

The time spent in Washington was partly devoted to collec-
tion and study of the local flora ; but a certain lack of oppor-
tunities to attend lectures decided Eugene, in November, to
move on to Philadelphia. There he heard the evening lectures
at the Franklin Institute by Professors Booth and Fraser and
others ; also the winter course in chemistry given by Professor
Semple at the Homeopathic College. The latter soon discov-
ered that the young student was fitted to act as lecture assistant
and engaged him. This duty gave much valuable experience
in manipulation and in the preparation of rarer compounds, as
well as the stimulus due to personal contact with the professor
and sharing his thoughts. Then, besides, since the newer as-
pirations were not finding full outlet in the experimental work
at the college, the younger Hilgard established for himself a
private laboratory in a garret room. Here he practiced
also electrotyping and photography, for which he contrived
his own appliances; and thus the severe winter passed in
busy and profitable occupation.

A visit to Professor Booth's laboratory, at that date the
only one in this country where students were systematically
taught analytical chemistry, brought the suggestion of going

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NATIONAL, ACADEMY BIOGRAPHICAL MEMOIRS VOL. IX

without further delay to Germany, where such studies could
be prosecuted more advantageously. This plan having received
the paternal approval, passage was secured on the steamer
Hermann, to leave New York in March, 1849, for Bremen,
whence the journey would be continued to Heidelberg, where
the brother, Theodore, was then a student. With a self-
reliance incidental to sixteen completed years, the trip to join
the steamer was entered upon alone; but it is recorded how
awed the traveler found himself by the dangers of the big city,
how he sought refuge from them overnight on board the boat,
and was glad to sail and leave them behind the next day.
When nearing Bremen the Hermann was halted by a Danish
cruiser and searched for contraband of war, the Schleswig-
Holstein conflict with Denmark being then in progress; and
this occurrence was held to augur more excitements to come,
for the revolutionary movements of the previous year were
known to be flaming up again for the suppression of "princes,
potentates and powers," and making their call too for recruits.
From Bremen the remaining stage to Heidelberg by way of
Cologne and the Rhine steamers was completed safely, and the
reunited brothers, Eugene and Theodore, were able to cele-
brate their first evening together at a large "Maiwein Kom-
mers." This was for Eugene his first foretaste of German
student life.

At the university work in Professor Gmelin's chemical lab-
oratory was begun at once with zeal, and supplemented by at-
tendance upon BischofFs botanical lectures. But as time went
on the general conditions within the university and outside it
fell short in several respects of making unreserved appeal to
this keen-minded young observer. Some of the lectures heard
proved to be perfunctory and uninspiring, or the lecturers failed
under test to reveal the scientifically open mind. He could
muster but scant sympathy either for the false ideals and the
ritual of the "Korpsstudent ;" nor did he discover political
maturity under the lacks in competent leadership and coherent
purpose betrayed by the forms that democratic strivings took.
Such impressions and experiences, then, disappointed in some
degree the expectations implanted by the early influence of his
father, and they consequently gave a certain tentative character

100



EUGENE; WOLDEMAR HILGARD SLATE;

also to the effort of the next two years. Eugene Hilgard was
later inclined to trace in them a period of orientation; of
search for some combination that would yield a satisfying vo-
cation based upon adequate preparation for it. Such deliber-
ate approach circling round the lifework finally chosen was,
however, not uncommon among those men of an older genera-
tion who arrived at distinction. There was nothing leisurely
or desultory in the process; it was, on the contrary, of neces-
sity aggressive and strenuous, because each man was com-
pelled to break in large measure an individual path. There is
good cause to doubt whether the same toughness of fiber can
be developed so fully on the present highways laid out and
ready to lead into some intensive early specialization.

Eugene and Theodore Hilgard left Heidelberg in the summer
of 1849, with no plan that looked beyond an outing for recre-
ation and a visit to their native Palatinate. But at Karlsruhe
they came among the uprisings that put the Grand Duke of
Baden to flight and led to the establishment of a provisional
government, and on crossing the Rhine they found great
confusion prevailing. Much enthusiastic shouting for equal-
ity and liberty there was, to a loud accompaniment of drums
and fifes; much aimless discussion in meetings as well, but a
noticeable absence of definite action, except that rudely armed
peasants were seen drilling everywhere in squads. With the
support of American passports and their locally influential fam-
ily name, the two travelers opened their way easily past such
sentinels and guards as they encountered and reached Speyer,
where they found their cousin, Fritz Hilgard, in power as
civil commissary, or governor over the eastern Palatinate. His
plain forecast of anarchy in the immediate future confirmed
their own observation and inclined them to adopt his counsel,
according to which they should at once turn back to Heidel-
berg, make their route thence to Switzerland, and abide there
while these troubled times lasted. In fact, they did witness
later at Zurich the disarming of the German revolutionary
army, and they met again their cousin there, now an exile, es-
caping sentence of death. Thus some compulsion arising from
political conditions determined the migration to the University
of Zurich for Eugene and his brother, which was the next
stage in their progress.

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NATIONAL ACADEMY BIOGRAPHICAL MEMOIRS VOL. IX

At Zurich Eugene Hilgard found Professor Oken in person,
the charm of whose Natural History had incited to study in
the far-off American home ; in geology he worked with Escher
von der Linth, in chemistry with Professors Lowig and
Schweitzer, all notable men. Here, not otherwise than in
Philadelphia, he still found himself overtopping his contempo-
raries in the strength given by preparatory study, and he
was soon selected by Lowig to be assistant in the
lecture-room and in laboratory investigations. These and
similar activities rounded out three semesters at Zurich,
which were looked back upon as the most enjoyable of the
growing student's training. The next step carried Eugene, in
1850, via Dresden, where a married sister had meanwhile come
to reside, to the Mining Academy at Freiberg for advanced
study in mining and metallurgy. So he parted company with
Theodore, who was proceeding to the University of Vienna,
whose medical school stood then, as now, in high repute.

In those years the Freiberg Academy was at its best, with
Plattner, Breithaupt, von Cotta, Weisbach, in the chairs of
metallurgy, mineralogy, geology, engineering, as well as prom-
inent men in other departments. While as a student he could
not but prize such opportunities and avail himself of them
industriously, the young man in Eugene Hilgard found the local
life much less attractive than at Heidelberg and Zurich. Not
only did he miss sorely the beauty of landscape in his sur-
roundings Freiberg being no exception to the proverbial rule
that mining regions are bleak but he experienced another,
and for him more serious, defect in the daily living. There
were unsocial conditions prevailing in the community; antag-
onisms between the garrison and the student body, jealousies
of spirit, setting academy against the universities. The effects
of the latter especially galled the student with a record of
four university semesters, who stoutly refused to acquiesce in
the status of "Fuchs" proposed for him among men of little
liberal education and shorter apprenticeship than his. So Hil-
gard was out of tune with the majority of his fellow-students,
had some sharp differences with them, and was thrown for
his closer associations upon the small body of foreigners, among
whom were several Americans.

102



EUGENE WOLDEMAR HILGARD SI^ATE

But he grew into intimacy with Professor Plattner, in whose
blowpipe methods of chemical analysis he became so strongly
interested that he developed them with important expansions
subsequently. In the laboratory of Professor Scherer he car-
ried through an investigation into a new double sulphate of
iron and potassium. In his own quarters, moreover, other
researches were developing; namely with organic compounds,
one of which might have ended life and study together, when
hydrocyanic gas was unexpectedly liberated from oxamid and
inhaled. Fortunately, though, the effect at the time was noth-
ing worse than a few minutes of unconsciousness, and no fur-
ther results of the accident appeared. This period shows other
risks incurred, however, whose consequences were not so tran-
sient, exposure to which was attendant upon a practical course
in the smelting works at Muldnerhiitte undertaken during one
vacation. Here there were fumes of sulphur, arsenic and
lead, from the furnaces that the student was set to feed, caus-
ing a troublesome cough. In addition, the insidious quick-
silver vapor leaking from the condenser in a distillation of
amalgam nearly overcame Hilgard on one occasion. And
needing then to be sent to a doctor for treatment, he received
unawares the shock of being pronounced unfit physically to
become a "Hiittenmann." This verdict was presently corrob-
orated by his brother Theodore, whom he visited at Vienna,
and who on all scores advised him rather to follow the out-of-
door life of a geologist or a botanist.

This crisis, to be sure, was no more than an accentuated re-
currence of previous warnings. The persistent attacks of ma-
laria during the critical years of growth had been tenacious in
their after-effects, bringing on exhaustion under any severe
task ; for instance, in Zurich once, when Theodore was obliged
to prescribe as a tonic a trip through the Bernese Highlands.
Quick improvement in the bracing air had been clearly ap-
parent then ; for just one climb from Lauterbrunnen across
the Tschingel glacier to Kandersteg, though begun with aching
head and eyes and accomplished, forsooth, only under the re-
peated spur of "Kirschwasser" from the guide's flask, had
banished the bad symptoms effectually. Such marked success
had encouraged a continuance of the plan throughout that va-

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NATIONAL ACADEMY BIOGRAPHICAL MEMOIRS VOL. IX

stricted access of air that gives the colors of a mixture of hy-
drogen and carbon monoxide. The blue cone of the blow-
pipe's oxidation flame is then simply a prolongation of such
a "blue cup" at whose tip the highest temperature exists. Bun-
sen gave high praise to the investigation, whose general con-
clusions were fully sustained when Lunge reviewed them,
having simplified the conditions by using illuminating gas
for fuel.

The candidate filled two years busily with preparation, sup-
porting his major line of work with physics and mineralogy,
and the ordeal of the examination at length arrived. We are
assured that the test was endured with unshaken composure in
the stimulating presence of Bunsen ; and without any sense of
difficulty, though von Leonhardt, the mineralogist, was rated
an examiner formidable in his capricious demands. Associated
with Hilgard for the examination was L. Carius, lecture
sistant to Bunsen, and the two candidates arranged for a joint
"Doktorschmaus," the usual celebration of success. But here
Carius had presently to represent both as host, his companion
in honors being once more in weak health from overwork
and obliged to desert the festival early. It would seem, indeed,
that a breakdown might have overtaken Eugene several months
before had not his sister Clara (already widowed) been resi-
dent then in Heidelberg and able to give him affectionate care.

On the day after the examination, the new Doctor deemed
it advisable to consult a physician about his case, who decided
thai, because of a persistent cough and general poor condition.
Hilgard ought to seek a Mediterranean climate promptly,
suggesting the Island of Elba. 'But after conferring with his
brother and sister, a journey to Malaga was substituted, where
there were family friends who could be helpful if need arose.
Some hovering suspicions of consumption made the good-byes
among the Heidelberg acquaintances rather serious, but the
patient himself seems not to have lost confidence. Taking
the manuscript of his thesis with him for a final revision, he
started southward by way of Zurich, and after a few days
spent with friends there he went on through Lausanne, Geneva,
Lyons ; thence by steamer to Avignon and by railroad to Mar-
seilles, making the trip at leisure in order to husband his re-

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WOLDEMAR HILGARD SLATE

serves of strength. Embarking on a Spanish steamer that
made unhurried halts at coast ports, the traveller was given
time to look about him at Barcelona, Valencia, Alicante and
Carthagena, beside like opportunity at Marseilles during an
enforced wait of a week before sailing. After leaving France,
however, an entire ignorance of Spanish limited his spoken
inquiries to a priest on board who could use Latin and to a
German steward, so observing eyes had double duty. That
voyage offered Dr. Hilgard a first experience of arid regions
and of their irrigation systems, whose peculiar conditions were
destined to become so familiar to him subsequently in Califor-


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