Formative Years

Albert E. Moyer

in A Scientist's Voice in American Culture

Published by University of California Press

Published in print September 1992 | ISBN: 9780520076891
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520912137 | DOI:
Formative Years

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This chapter discusses Newcomb's intellectual meanderings in his younger years, and his first encounters with Joseph Henry and other practicing scientists. Newcomb was born in Wallace, Nova Scotia, in 1835. He tried his hand at mathematical and scientific writing by producing a paper titled “A New Demonstration of the Binomial Theorem.” Having visited Washington, D.C., and learned of the Smithsonian Institution, he sent his mathematical demonstration to no less a figure than Joseph Henry (1797–1878), Smithsonian secretary and laureate of American physical science. Newcomb sought Henry's advice on the merits of the paper and its suitability for publication. Henry, after asking the opinion of a colleague in mathematics, responded with both reserve and encouragement, and also advised young Newcomb to contact the U.S. Coast Survey about the possibility of obtaining a suitable technical job. Geophysicist Julius E. Hilgard helped Newcomb obtain the position of “computer” under the direction of astronomer Joseph Winlock at the Nautical Almanac Office in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Keywords: Simon Newcomb; Joseph Henry; Julius E. Hilgard; Nautical Almanac Office

Chapter.  6803 words. 

Subjects: Anthropology

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