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COLLECTION Identifier: UAI 15.1031

Records of Jacob Bigelow, Rumford Professor and Lecturer on the Application of Science to the Useful Arts

The records in this collection document the activities of Jacob Bigelow as Rumford Professor and Lecturer on the Application of Science to the Useful Arts at Harvard from 1816 to 1827. The correspondence, reports, and plan of lectures in this collection provide an overview of Bigelow's establishment and administration of the Rumford Apparatus, a collection of scientific instruments and working models designed to promote the practical sciences and demonstrate the usefulness of science to daily life; refer to the rules and regulations of the Rumford professorship; contain various statistics about Bigelow's classes; and mention routine administrative matters. A manuscript draft written by Bigelow on the stem climbing plant Corydalis Fungosa is also included in the collection.

Dates

  • 1816-1827

Researcher Access

Records pertaining to the Records of Jacob Bigelow, Rumford Professor and Lecturer 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.

Copying Restriction

Copying of fragile materials may be limited.

Extent

.22 cubic feet (1 legal half-document box)

This collection documents the activities of Jacob Bigelow as Rumford Professor and Lecturer on the Application of Science to the Useful Arts at Harvard from 1816 to 1827. The correspondence, reports, and plan of lectures in this collection provide an overview of Bigelow's establishment and administration of the Rumford Apparatus, a collection of scientific instruments and working models designed to promote the practical sciences and demonstrate the usefulness of science to daily life; refer to the rules and regulations of the Rumford professorship; contain various statistics about Bigelow's classes; and mention routine administrative matters. The records also include a manuscript draft written by Bigelow on the stem climbing plant Corydalis Fungosa, which was published in his book Florula Bostoniensis: a Collection of Plants of Boston and Its Vicinity, with their Generic and Specific Characters, Principal Synonyms, Descriptions, Places of Growth, and Time of Flowering, and Occasional Remarks.

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 Jacob Bigelow

Jacob Bigelow (1787-1879), a botanist and physician in Boston, Massachusetts, served as lecturer at the Harvard Medical School from 1815 to 1818; Rumford Professor and Lecturer on the Application of Science to the Useful Arts from 1816 to 1827; Professor of Materia Medica from 1815 to 1855; and as a member of Harvard's Board of Overseers from 1846 to 1854. After graduating from Harvard College in 1806, Bigelow received his Doctor of Medicine from the University of Pennsylvania in 1810. In 1811, Bigelow established a medical practice in Boston and began a series of botanical lectures at Harvard College with William Dandridge Peck (1763-1822), Massachusetts Professor of Natural History.

As the Rumford Professor at Harvard, Bigelow's objective was to apply scientific principles to improve daily life and the human condition. Although Bigelow only served as Rumford professor for eleven years, he helped solidify the teaching of the applied sciences at Harvard. As a classroom instructor, Bigelow taught his students using scientific demonstrations and experiments. Bigelow created a large collection of working models to demonstrate scientific principles in his lectures. He built architectural working models of domes, roofs, arches, walls, and columns; models of chimney stoves and fireplaces; various steam engines, windmills, and watermills; and three working models of the Waltham, Massachusetts cotton factory. Subjects discussed in his classroom involved the strength of various materials, the methods of illumination, heating, ventilation, metallurgy, writing and printing, engraving and lithography, locomotion, machinery, horology, and the preservation of organic substances. Bigelow's lectures were delivered to large audiences each semester. Seeking a more accurate word to describe the application of practical knowledge and instruction, Bigelow coined the term "technology" to describe the use of scientific ideas in the useful arts, and in 1829, Bigelow published his lectures under the title Elements of Technology, taken chiefly from a Course of Lectures delivered at Cambridge, on the Application of the Sciences to the Useful Arts.
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."

Arrangement

The records are arranged in four series:
  1. Correspondence, 1816-1823
  2. Reports, 1826-1827
  3. Plan of lectures, [ca. 1816]
  4. Description of Corydalis Fungosa, a stem climbing plant, [ca. 1824]

Acquisition information

The materials in this collection are University records and were acquired in the course of University business.

Related Materials

In the Harvard University Archives
  1. Rules and statutes of the Rumford Professorship and Lectureship on the Application of Science to the Useful Arts (UAI 15.1029).
  2. Records pertaining to the Apparatus of the Rumford Professorship and Lectureship on the Application of Science to the Useful Arts, 1835-1836, 1851 (UAI 15.1037).
  3. Notes from lectures delivered at Harvard University to the senior class of 1824 and 1825 on the application of philosophy to the arts by Jacob Bigelow (HUC 8824.379).
  4. Inaugural address, delivered in the Chapel of the University at Cambridge, December 11, 1816 by Jacob Bigelow, M.D., Rumford Professor in Harvard University (HUC 4758.17).
Related Materials In the Harvard University Countway Library
Related Materials
  1. Papers of Jacob Bigelow, 1795-1879 (B MS c25).
  2. Rumford Lecture Notes, 1815-1819: notes of lectures given by Jacob Bigelow (B MS b9.11).

References

  • 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.
  • Peattie, Donald Culross and John F. Fulton. "Bigelow, Jacob." Dictionary of American Biography. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1943. 257-258.
  • 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.

Inventory update

This document last updated 2018 December 10.

Processing Information

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.
Link to catalog
Title
Bigelow, Jacob, 1786-1879. Records of Jacob Bigelow, Rumford Professor and Lecturer on the Application of Science to the Useful Arts, 1816-1827: an inventory
EAD ID
hua41011

Repository Details

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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