Norris Galpin Osborn.

Men of mark in Connecticut; ideals of American life told in biographies and autobiographies of eminent living Americans (Volume 1) online

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sundry vicissitudes, was to be his profession. His first pupils were
the children in the district schools of Oakham. With a college edu-
cation in view he persevered with his work as a teacher and kept on
with his studies until he was able to go to Phillips Academy at
Andover, Massachusetts, to round out his preparatory course. The
influence of his own teachers in those country schools, and of the
teachers at Phillips, Andover, was next to that of his home in shaping
the course of his life.

Then came the call to enlist in the service of his country, and he
forsook everything else and responded to it. He had just finished
his middle year in the academy, and the first goal of his ambition
seemed near of attainment. It may be readily understood, there-
fore, that nothing but the nation's service could have induced him to
give up his cherished hopes, for it is one of his fixed principles that
a course once decided on after due deliberation ought not to be
abandoned. Many times since then has he told other young men
when tempted to give up their studies for something easier or more
lucrative, "Don't give up. Finish what you have once begun, and
you will be stronger men for it all your lives." But the sacrifice,
though great, was no doubt a cheerful one, and when he was once


enlisted he could apply to his own case the maxim which students
who have sought him in his office have many times heard from his
lips, "When once you have deliberately chosen a course, don't waste
time and nerves in imagining what might have been if you had chosen

His service in the Civil War was with the Fifty-first Massachu-
setts Volunteers, in which he was a sergeant in Company F. He had
been offered a commission, but, being without military training, he
preferred to enlist in the ranks. His trustworthy character and
good judgment gained the confidence of both officers and men. He
was especially helpful in the discipline of the Company and was often
detailed for special service.

On his return from the front, in August, 1863, after the expira-
tion of his term of service, he resumed his studies at home, under the
instruction of the Eev. Dr. F. N. Peloubet, who was then settled in
Oakham, and entered Yale College in the fall of 1864. His faculties
being trained in the school of hard experience and now matured, he
accomplished his tasks with a degree of thoroughness which eventually
gave him prominence among his classmates. Though having to
devote much time to earning money in order that he might pay his
own way, he won eminence in scholarship, particularly in the classics,
took many honors, was elected to the senior society of Skull and
Bones, and became valedictorian of the class of 1868. His was the
highest stand ever attained up to that date, and it was a record that
stood unequalled for a quarter of a century.

The following September he was appointed instructor in Latin at
Chickering Institute, Cincinnati, Ohio, where he continued for a
year and a half. In January, 1870, he returned to Yale to accept the
position of instructor in Greek and Latin, becoming assistant pro-
fessor of Latin in July, 1871, for five years. In July, 1876, he was
appointed Dunham Professor of Latin. He had taken a graduate
course in Latin and Sanskrit under Professor Thacher and Pro-
fessor Whitney, and in 1876 received the degree of Ph.D. from Yale.
Union College gave him the degree of LL.D. in 1895. From April,
1877, to August, 1878, he was studying in Germany and Italy,
chiefly at the universities of Gottingen and Berlin. Since 1884, when
the office was created, he has been dean of the Yale College Faculty
and the greater part of his time since then has been devoted to the


exacting duties of that position. In 1886 he was chosen a member of
the Board of Trustees of the Hopkins Grammar School.

Office and man were well met when Professor Wright was made
dean. His recitations in Latin, from the earliest days, partook in no
degree of the nature of hetcheling. Before Yale was a university, he
was imbued with university ideas. He assumed that his pupils were
not there for reformatory or disciplinary purposes; he loved the
old classics, he gave freely of the fruits of his wide reading, he
brought out the beauty of prose and verse when studied for a higher
purpose than to illustrate the rules of syntax, and, while seldom rising
to the point of enthusiasm in manner, he instilled into many young
men the spirit of genuine scholarship. Indeed, when in later years
the value of the Greek and Latin as required studies began to be
questioned, and protests against their removal from the curriculum
went up from hundreds of graduates, it may be that many of those
protests sprang from recollection of old days in Professor Wright's
recitation room — from men who, under his teaching, had learned
their value for discipline and culture.

But it was more than the art of teaching which fitted him for the
deanship. To the stranger he may appear to be a man of great
reserve, absorbed in deep thought, almost ascetic and, were it not for
his kindly eye, austere. Professor Wright is so unassuming that
he sometimes appears to be a sphinx, but he is a keen observer and
a shrewd student of human nature. Many a college youth has been
astonished to find how much the professor knew about his life.

Now there are few college men to whom the time does not come
when they need a bit of homely advice. These men will seldom
voluntarily seek the help of which they only too clearly stand in
need. Yet unless the word of counsel comes their lives may be
embittered with the spirit of grouch. They would resent being
directed by instructors of the private detective type, but sympathetic
advice of the right kind, given in the right manner by one standing,
in some respects, in loco parentis might change the whole tenor of
their lives, and imbue them with the "Yale spirit" or the spirit of
'TTale Democracy" — or rather inspire them to imbue themselves
with it, for Yale is a college of personal choice and direction. When
the word comes from the Dean, it always is the right word, coming
in the right way, and it bears fruit.


■ Others there are who, in a strange community, sometimes per-
plexed, sometimes discouraged, long for an expression of sympathy
or helpfulness, or it may be, that this is what they are needing above
all things without their being conscious of the fact. To be specific — a
boy may find the expense of college too great for his resources, or,
in the varied experiences of college life, a dilemma may arise which
calls for a riper judgment and a richer experience than his own. Yale
is indeed a college where before the end of the course is reached dis-
tinctions as to worldly goods are forgotten and where every man
has his chance, but the freshman or sophomore, struggling against
an adverse fate, may for the moment lose sight of that fact for himself,
reiterated though it is. Are there not hundreds of men to-day,
occupying high positions of responsibility and usefulness, who can
recall some slough of despond or doubt, which they passed through
after entering college, and who were helped out of it by a few plain
and simple words from the dean, perhaps unasked and unexpected?

To the boy who was sacrificing his natural bent — toward litera-
ture, for example — or who was losing the comradeship of college life
that he might attain high stand, he whose record as a scholar is like
a college tradition has said to him: "Your stand will take care
of itself; no one will care in later years whether you were among
the first five or the first fifty of your class. Put health first,
indulge your fondness for literature, and above all get the best that
Yale can give in the way of college friendships." To still another
who sees no way opening before him of meeting his college expenses
and who is getting anxious about the future, he suggests ways of getting
on and says: "No man is so poor that he need leave Yale for lack
of means. If he has good ability and the right spirit, he will find
the means. A student who is supporting himself must have faith
and should not be discouraged if he cannot see exactly how he is to
get through another term."

More than professor, more than dean, he is literally "guide,
counsellor, and friend." No one knows the depth of feeling beneath
that seemingly impassive surface.

Professor Wright has been an efficient class secretary, and has
published four editions of the history of his class, the last of which
(1894) ranks among the best of the Yale Class Records. His
annual reports of the Academical Department have in recent years


become especially valuable, and are read by the graduates of the
college with interest. He has published several articles in books
and magazines, and has edited the Satires of Juvenal (Ginn & Co.,
1901), including text, introduction, and commentary, which is quite
extensively used as a text-book. He is a member of the College Church
and his religion is his daily life. By walking and light gymnastics he
gets the exercise to keep his well-proportioned body in good con-
dition and does not age rapidly.

He has lived since 1879 in a modest home at ITo. 128 York Street.
His wife is Martha Elizabeth (Burt) Wright of Oakham, whom he
married July 7th, 1874. They have had four children, of whom
all but one are living: Alice Lincoln, born at Oakham, July 13th,
1875; Henry Burt, bom at New Haven, January 29th, 1877; Alfred
Parks, born at New Haven, January 5th, 1880, and Ellsworth, bom at
Oakham, August 22nd, 1884. Alice is a graduate of Wellesley Col-
lege (1897), and received the degree of Ph.D. from Yale in 1901,
after a course of graduate study in English. Henry graduated from
Yale in the class of 1898. He was president of the Yale Young
Men's Christian Association in his senior year, and general secretary
of the same for the three years following. He took his doctor's
degree at Yale in 1903, and is now instructor in Greek and Latin
at Yale. He was joint editor with J. B. Eeynolds and S. H. Fisher
of "Two Centuries of Christian Activity at Yale" (G. P. Putnam's
Sons, 1901), and has published "The American College Course," an
article in The Educational Review, and "The Campaign of Plateea,"
his doctor's thesis (Tuttle, Morehouse & Taylor, 1904). Alfred was
a member of the class of 1901 at Yale, but died in his senior year, on
May 20th, about a month before commencement. He was the first
scholar in a class of two hundred and fifty members, and like his
brother was prominent in the religious work of the college.


physiological chemistry in Yale University and director of the
Sheffield Scientific School, is well known to medical scientists
throughout the world and comes of old English stock. The first
of his name in this country was Major William Chittenden, an
officer in the English army, who, having resigned, came to America
from Cranbrook, Kent, with his wife, Joanna Sheafie, in 1639, and
settled in Guilford, Connecticut. Ancestors of the professor, on both
his father's and his mother's side, fought in the Revolutionary War,
and Thomas Chittenden was governor of Vermont from 1778 to 1797.

The professor is the son of Horace H. Chittenden, a business
man in New Haven, and of Emily E. (Doane) Chittenden. He was
born February 18th, 1856, in the University city. In earliest youth
he manifested a special fondness for books and reading and when he
entered the public schools was advanced rapidly. With the ambition
to become a Yale man, he desired to have a thorough prepara-
tion, and consequently finished his preliminary studies in
Mr. French's private school, earning a large part of his tuition by
giving instruction to pupils in the lower classes in Greek, Latin,
and mathematics. At this early age, it is said, he displayed a
remarkable aptitude for imparting knowledge and for inspiring others
to work. His preference at that time was for the classics, but
natural sciences came to have a fascination for him with the result
that he concluded to take a course which should fit him to be a
physician. The course he mapped out for himself, with such object
in view, was comparatively novel in those days, in Europe as well as
in America. To-day it is the only approved course — at Johns Hop-
kins the only allowed course. It was to devolve upon him, as a life
duty, to develop it for Yale and to be of greatest assistance in
developing it on both sides of the Atlantic.

Chemistry as applied to physiology was his particular study. It
was about this time that what is known as the "biological course"


was planned at Sheffield Scientific School, but, while other branches
had been encouraged, facilities were yet to be obtained for the more
thorough study of physiology and physiological chemistry. In his
senior year, an independent physiological chemistry laboratory
was established. While, of course, it was under the charge
of the professor, the care of it was intrusted to the hands
of the young student who so keenly appreciated what was
needed. The formal appointment of laboratory assistant was
given him a year before his graduation. That might be
called the inception of a course to which many eminent physicians
and scientists to-day owe their development.

When Professor Chittenden was graduated from Sheffield
Scientific School, in 1875, with the degree of Ph.B., his thesis
was accorded the honor of publication in the American Journal of
Science and the further honor of being translated into German for
publication in Liebig's Annalen der Chemie, at Leipsic. After
graduation he was assistant and instructor in physiological chemistry
in the school till 1882, when he was appointed full professor. The
year 1878-79, he spent in Europe, chiefly at Heidelberg University,
where he pursued his studies with Professor Kiihne. His writings
by this time were attracting wide attention, a series in the American
Chemical Journal over a period of several years winning particular

In the summer of 1882, Professor Chittenden accepted an in-
vitation from Professor Kiihne to return to Heidelberg, where the
long summer vacation was devoted to a joint investigation into the
physiology of digestion. Though the professor was constrained
to return to his duties at Yale in the fall, this was but the beginning
of a considerable term of labor in conjunction with the Heidelbero-
authority, one early result of which was a series of invaluable con-
tributions to the Zeitschrift fUr Biologic, published in Munich. All
this information was welcomed earnestly by chemistry and medical
students as throwing light upon subjects in digestion and nutrition
hitherto lamentably obscure.

The Professor's ambition to build up the course he practically
had created was being realized. Its importance, not only to the
university but to the whole world of scientific learning, had been
made manifest by his earliest work; recognition brought enthusiasm


and he was incited to still further exertion. Students from other
departments of the university, especially those who had the medical
profession for a preference, were quick to appreciate the value of the
instruction under Professor Chittenden and under his assistants whom
the increasing work had made necessary. A member of the govern-
ing board, he was appointed director and treasurer of Sheffield
Scientific School in 1898 and treasurer of the board of trustees
six years later. His services were much in demand. In addition
to his duties at Yale, he was called upon to lecture on physiological
chemistry at Columbia University, New York, from 1898 to 1903.

Another capacity in which he rendered service of great importance
was as a member of the National Committee of Fifty for the investiga-
tion of the drink problem. The volumes compiled by this body of
deep thinkers cover the subject in all its details. Professor Chitten-
den took up particularly the influence of alcoholic drink upon the
chemical process of digestion and the effect upon secretion, absorp-
tion, etc.

It is indeed fortunate for the field of science that Professor
Chittenden has had a ready pen. Indefatigable in his laboratory
researches, he has been no less ready and prompt to put the results
of his labors into clear language in books and magazines, to be read
of all men. His achievements in this latter direction alone are
wonderful. In addition to what has been mentioned already, he
became an associate editor of the English Journal of Physiology in
1890, and in 1896, associate editor of the Journal of Experimental
Medicine. Then he was active in establishing the American Journal
of Physiology, of which also he is one of the associate editors.
In all he has contributed over two hundred scientific papers on
physiology and physiological chemistry to American and foreign

Then there are his books, a mine of precious information. The
first of special note is entitled "Studies in Physiological Chemistry^'
(three volumes, 1885-1889), a compilation of the investigations of
himself and his pupils, furnishing material which has been
utilized in all standard text-books since then. "Digestive Proteoly-
sis" was published in 1894 and "Studies in Physiological
Chemistry," Yale series, appeared in 1901, to be followed by "Physio-
logical Economy in Nutrition," in 1904.


He has been in constant association with leaders in thought and
research. He was made a member of the National Academy of
Sciences in 1890. He is also a member of the American Philosophical
Society, of the American Physiological Society (in the council since
1887 and president 1895-1904), of the American Society of Natu-
ralists (president in 1903), of the Connecticut Academy of Arts and
Sciences, and of other kindred organizations.

Particular recognition of his eminent service to science was
attested by Yale in 1880 when she gave him the degree of Ph.D.
The University of Toronto honored him with the degree of LL.D. in
1903, and the University of Pennsylvania with that of Sc.D. in 1904.

In politics, Professor Chittenden is a Eepublican. His religious
affiliations are with the Protestant Episcopal Church, A lover, as a
student, of nature, he delights in outdoor recreation and he counts
as chief among his pastimes that which was raised to a high art
by Izaak Walton. His home, at No. 83 Trumbull Street, is presided
over by his wife, who was Gertrude L. Baldwin. They were married
June 20th, 1877, and have had three children: Edith Russell, B.A.,
Smith College, 1899 ; Alfred Knight, Ph.B., Yale, 1900, M.F., Yale,
1902, and Lilla Millard.

As an appreciation of what Professor Chittenden has achieved at
Yale, a single sentence may be quoted from the address of President
Daniel C. Oilman of Johns Hopkins University at the semi-centennial
of Sheffield Scientific School. It was this : "Nowhere else in this coun-
try, not in many European laboratories, has such work been attempted
and accomplished as is now in progress on Hillhouse Avenue, un-
observed, no doubt, by those who daily pass the laboratory door, but
watched with welcoming anticipation wherever physiology and
medicine are prosecuted in the modern spirit of research."


BEEES, PEOF. HENEY AUGUSTIN, of Yale University,
was born in Buffalo, New York, on July 2nd, 1847. The
name was formerly spelled Bere, and the subject of this biogra-
phy is descended from James Bere, who came to this country in April,
1634, in the "Elizabeth," from Ipswich, England, with his brother,
Anthony, and his uncle, Eichard. After some years in Massachusetts,
seemingly in Watertown and Eoxbury, James removed to Fairfield,
Connecticut, in 1659. Like so many others of the early Fairfield
families, his descendants followed the line of the Housatonic Eiver
northward, to make their home in Litchfield County, in Woodbury,
and later in Litchfield. For the most part they were farmers or
country merchants.

So nearly as can be learned, Seth Preston Beers, grandfather of
the professor, was the first of the family to chose a professional life.
He may have been aided in his choice by the influence of the famous
Litchfield Law School, where so many distinguished lawyers were
graduated. After his course of study in that institution, he rose
to prominence in the Bar of the State, particularly in western Con-
necticut, and the strength of his name — the esteem in which he was
held — must have done much toward securing for Litchfield County
the title of "Democratic stronghold." Sent to the capitol as repre-
sentative from Litchfield, he was chosen Speaker of the House of
Representatives several times and later was the choice of the Demo-
cratic party for the governorship. One position of high responsibility
which he held for a quarter of a century was that of Commissioner
of the Connecticut School Fund.

The mother of Professor Beers was Elizabeth Victoria Clerc, and
his father was graduated at Trinity College, Hartford, of which his
father was at one time a trustee. He was admitted to the Bar, but
turned his attention to commerce, engaging in the wholesale grocery
business on "the dock" at Buffalo, New York. Later he was called
to Washington, where he was head clerk of a bureau in the Depart-
ment of the Interior, in Franklin Pierce's administration. He after-


wards returned to Litchfield and devoted the rest of his life to
assisting his father and especially to the management of the farm
and gardens. Like his father he was a strong Democrat. Both, also,
were earnest Episcopalians, and the elder, at his death, left the
chief part of his estate to St. Michael's Church, Litchfield, of which
for many years he had been senior warden.

Mr. Beers's grandfather on his mother's side was Laurent Clerc,
born in La Balme, France, of which city his forefathers had been
notaries and mayors for many generations. Clerc was a deaf mute.
Educated at the Royal Institution in Paris and a favorite pupil of the
famous Abbe Sicard, he came to America with Thomas Gallaudet and
taught all his life at the first school of its kind in this country which
is known to-day as the American Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb of

The Professor in his youth divided his time between Hartford and
Litchfield. In Hartford he had the advantages of the Hartford
Public High School, from which he was graduated at the age of
seventeen. Not only his father but several cousins and uncles on
both sides of the family had been graduated from Trinity College,
but he followed the tradition of the high school and decided to go
to Yale. Before entering upon the collegiate course he took a year
off, spending the winter in Buffalo and the summer in Litchfield.

At Yale, where he took honors and was graduated with the class
of 1869, Greek, Latin, the modern languages, history, and political
science were his favorite studies; and he took a post-graduate course
in Anglo-Saxon and old French. While in college he was a member
of the Alpha Delta Phi and Skull and Bones societies.

Following the steps of his father and grandfather, he studied
law in the office of Pierrepont, Stanley, Langdell & Brown, No.
16 Wall Street, New York, and after six months, in May, 1870, was
admitted to the Bar of New York State. For a year thereafter he was
managing clerk in the law office of Merchant & Elliott on Warren
Street, New York.

In 1871, he accepted an appointment as instructor in English at
Yale University, and there he has remained, being promoted to an
assistant professorship in 1875 and to a full professorship in 1880.
Yale conferred upon him the degree of M.A.

He married Mary Heaton of Covington, Kentucky, on July 7th,
1873, and they have had eight children; Thomas Heaton, born June
23rd, 1875; Elizabeth Clerc, born October 21st, 1877; Katherine,


born September 9th, 1879; Frederic, born December 18th, 1880;
Dorothy, born January 31st, 1883; Mary Heaton, born August 6th,
1885; Henry Augustin, born August 28th, 1887, and Donald, bom
January 19th, 1889, all of whom are living. His residence is at No.
25 Vernon Street, 'New Haven.

Among his publications may be mentioned: '^'A Century of
American Literature," 1878; "Odds and Ends," 1878; "Nathaniel
Parker Willis," 1885; "Prose Writings of N. P. Willis,''
1885; "The Thankless Muse" (verse), 1885; "From Chaucer

Online LibraryNorris Galpin OsbornMen of mark in Connecticut; ideals of American life told in biographies and autobiographies of eminent living Americans (Volume 1) → online text (page 6 of 30)