Records pertaining to the Apparatus of the Rumford Professorship and Lectureship on the Application of Science to the Useful Arts
The records document the use of the Rumford apparatus, a collection of scientific instruments and working models used for the promotion of the practical sciences by Daniel Treadwell, Joseph Lovering, and Eben Norton Horsford at Harvard in the 1830s and 1850s. The financial ledger, catalogue, and lists of articles in this collection illustrate the wide range of instruments comprising the apparatus, provide a glimpse into the scientific instruction and knowledge given to students at Harvard, demonstrate the use of the apparatus by the Mathematics department, and note the acquisition of instruments and models from England in the early nineteenth century.
- 1835-1836, 1851.
- Harvard University (Organization)
Records pertaining to the Apparatus of the Rumford Professorship and Lectureship on the Application of Science to the Useful Arts, are open for research. Access to fragile original documents may be restricted. Please consult the Public Services staff for further details.
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Extent.22 cubic feet (1 legal half-document box)
The records document the use of the Rumford apparatus, a collection of scientific instruments and working models used for the promotion of the practical sciences, by Daniel Treadwell, Joseph Lovering, and Eben Norton Horsford at Harvard in the 1830s and 1850s. The records also illustrate the use of the Rumford apparatus by the Mathematics department, provide a glimpse into the scientific instruction and knowledge given to students at Harvard, and note the acquisition of instruments and models from England in the early nineteenth century. The financial account ledger by Daniel Treadwell records the equipment he purchased during a trip to England to observe scientific processes and gather equipment for his lectures from May 16, 1835 to October 15, 1835. This ledger also includes purchases Treadwell made in Boston from September 21, 1835 to July 2, 1836. The catalogue lists 226 items that were included as part of the Rumford Apparatus in the 1850s. These items include working models of a church, domes, building facades, ventilators, a steam engine, spinning wheels, balls, weights, a railroad track and locomotive. Several pieces of glazed and unglazed porcelain such as pitchers, sauces, bowls, and porcelain pieces in various states of manufacture are also described in the catalogue. Pasted and folded into this catalogue is a letter from Joseph Lovering to Harvard President Jared Sparks dated July 14, 1851 in which Lovering refers to a list of instruments belonging to the Rumford Apparatus under his care. Lovering explains that the working models of levers, screws, balance wheels, railroad tracks, pulleys, a steam engine and air pump, in his possession are of considerable use to him in his lectures and that he wished to retain them if Sparks and the Corporation agree. The lists of articles document some of the scientific instruments and items included in the Rumford apparatus administered by Joseph Lovering and Eben Norton Horsfield.
The records were assembled as an archival collection by the archivist at an unknown date from various sources without regard to original provenance in order to document University professorships.
Historical Note on the Rumford Apparatus
The Rumford apparatus was comprised of a collection of scientific instruments and working models used for the promotion of the practical sciences and the demonstration of the usefulness of science to daily life. The apparatus was established in 1816 by Jacob Bigelow, the first Rumford Professor and Lecturer on the Application of Science to the Useful Arts, and in subsequent years grew to include many items including a high pressure steam engine, a working model of a condensing engine, several model water wheels, a complete operating model of a cotton spinning machine and power loom, a slide rest lathe, a model of a last and block machine, a model of a railway, locomotive engine, and railroad car, an air pump, a model of a chronometer, common watch, and clock escapements, and a large number of plaster models of buildings and architectural structures.
Demonstration experiments were designed to apply scientific principles in the classroom and lead to a discussion of larger questions concerning the ultimate nature of things and their primary causes. As the collection of apparatus and models increased, the accompanying demonstrations improved in quality and quantity. Instruments for the early apparatuses at Harvard were almost exclusively obtained in England in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. In some cases, the instruments were returned to England for repair.
During the nineteenth century, the apparatus connected with the Rumford professorship was used in the Lawrence Scientific School and was exchanged or used by related departments such as chemistry, physics, mathematics, and mineralogy.
Historical Note on the Rumford Professorship and Lectureship on the Application of Science to the Useful Arts
In 1816, Benjamin Thompson (1753-1814), also known as Count Rumford, a British physicist, inventor, and social reformer, bequeathed an annuity of $1000, a reversion of a $400 annuity he bequeathed his daughter, and his residuary estate, to Harvard College for the establishment of a professorship to "teach regular courses of academical and public lectures" in the field of the practical sciences. The establishment of the Rumford Professorship illustrated the new emphasis on the application of science at Harvard and in many other colleges in America at the beginning of the nineteenth century. The first five incumbents of the new chair were subsequently known as the "Rumford Professor and Lecturer on the Application of the Sciences to the Useful Arts." After 1910, "Lectureship" was removed from the title and the holders of the chair were known as the "Rumford Professor of Physics."
The records are arranged chronologically by date.
The materials in this collection are University records and were acquired in the course of University business.
One item was received as a gift in 1959:
- Account of purchases and money expended for the Apparatus in the Rumford Professorship in Harvard University, Gift of Judge Elijah Adlow, 1959 October 5.
- Bentinck-Smith, William and Elizabeth Stouffer. "Rumford Professorship, 1816." In Harvard University, History of Named Chairs: Sketches of Donors and Donations. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Secretary to the University, 1991.
- Cohen, I. Bernard. Some Early Tools of American Science: An Account of the Early Scientific Instruments and Mineralogical and Biological Collections in Harvard University. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1950.
- James, Mary Ann. "Engineering and Environment for Change: Bigelow, Peirce, and Early Nineteenth-Century Practical Education at Harvard." In Science at Harvard University: Historical Perspectives. London: Associated University Presses, 1992.
- Quincy, Josiah. The History of Harvard University. Vol. II. Cambridge, Massachusetts: John Owen, 1840.
- Shapiro, Richard Alan. "The Rumford Professorship: An Analysis of the Development of Practical Science in Nineteenth-Century America." Bachelor's thesis, Harvard University, 1985.
This document last updated 2018 December 6.
This material was first classified and described in a Harvard University Archives shelflist prior to 1980. The material was re-processed in 2011. Re-processing involved a collection survey, enhanced description of items from the nineteenth century, and the creation of this finding aid.
This finding aid was created by Dominic P. Grandinetti in July 2011.
- Harvard University. Records pertaining to the Apparatus of the Rumford Professorship and Lectureship on the Application of Science to the Useful Arts, 1835-1836, 1851: an inventory
- Language of description
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Part of the Harvard University Archives Repository
Holding nearly four centuries of materials, the Harvard University Archives is the principal repository for the institutional records of Harvard University and the personal archives of Harvard faculty, as well as collections related to students, alumni, Harvard-affiliates and other associated topics. The collections document the intellectual, cultural, administrative and social life of Harvard and the influence of the University as it emerged across the globe.
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