History of Tufts College, 1854-1896Start, Alaric Bertrand
AMOS E. DOLBEAR, M. E., PH. D.
AMOS EMERSON DOLBEAR was born November 10, 1837, at Norwich, Connecticut, in the house noted for having been the birthplace of Benedict Arnold. When he was only two years old his father died, and soon afterwards he was taken by his mother to Newport, Rhode Island, where he made the most of his opportunities in the public schools until his mother's death, which occurred when he was ten years old.
Soon afterward a friend of his mother, acting as his guardian, sent him to live on a farm in New Hampshire. The monotony of his hard and cheerless life here was varied by employment in a ship-yard and in a printing-office. During this time he managed to eke out a meagre education in the district school, where at this early age he evinced the rare intellectual endowments which have since rendered him famous. He took a keen interest in free-hand drawing, geology, and mineralogy. He also began the study of astronomy at this time, but without the aid of teacher or text-book. He had heard that there were constellations in the skies, and several of these he managed to make out by tracing the positions of prominent stars.
His early training, therefore, was admirably calculated to develop those observant faculties which are so essential in the study of the natural sciences.
When he became old enough his guardian desired that Amos should learn a trade, and he was sent to Worcester, Massachusetts, where he entered the employ of Allen & Thurber, makers of pistols, where he remained until he became a journeyman.
When he was about eighteen years of age he began to be inflamed by the glowing accounts of the West; and, led on by his desire to see the new country, he joined the stream of emigrants which was constantly pouring towards the setting sun.
Failing to get employment among his friends in Wisconsin he resolved to go to Missouri, where he had other acquaintances. Here he found employment on a farm, and finally secured the position of school-teacher in the town of Hartwell, Missouri. He began his first term with every promise of success, but unfortunately he incurred the ill-will of some of the rough characters in the neighborhood by punishing two of his pupils for misdemeanors. He was mobbed on two different occasions, being set upon by men with pistols and bowie-knives. He met them with the same weapons, and, by a remarkable exhibition of bravery, succeeded in cowing the ringleaders and driving the mob away.
After this he decided to leave Missouri, and started for the East with his pack upon his back, and but a few dollars in his pocket.
He walked over four hundred miles, supporting himself on the way by his skill with the violin and flute. When he reached Egypt, Illinois, he stopped awhile to earn money by painting houses. From there he took the steamboat up the Ohio, and on landing, came by rail to Newport, Rhode Island.
He at once began to look around for work, and soon got employment at Taunton, Massachusetts. He desired to learn the machinist's trade, and made rapid advances, but had to give up work on account of ill-health. After becoming stronger he again sought employment, and found it in the Springfield armory, but soon broke down again. He finally made up his mind that his life-work must be of a different character, and determined to acquire a better education, and become a teacher.
His schooling up to this time had been very limited. He had attended the public school at Newport, and later a New Hampshire district school. He had picked up a fair knowledge of mathematics, astronomy, and physical science, by working on his books after shop hours. With this meagre preparation, and no friend or relative upon whom he could rely for aid, he went to Delaware, Ohio, to attend the Ohio Wesleyan University. By intense application, he made rapid progress in his studies, showing such aptitude in Physics and Chemistry that he was made an Assistant in those departments.
He graduated in 1866, having actually spent less than two years upon his course, and having supported himself entirely by his own exertions during this time.
After graduation he went to Michigan University to study Chemistry, and in six weeks he was appointed Assistant Instructor in that department. At the end of the year he was placed at the head of a geological exploring expedition destined for the district around Lake Superior, and upon his return the University conferred on him the degrees of A. M. and M.E.
He at once entered upon the duties of his profession, and became Assistant Professor of Natural History in Kentucky University. The chair of Natural History was offered him at the end of a year, but he decided to accept a call from Bethany College, and became Professor of Physics and Chemistry in that institution, in 1868. He served as Mayor of the city of Bethany, West Virginia, in 1871-72. He accepted the chair of Physics and Astronomy at Tufts College in 1874.
Professor Dolbear began to display his inventive faculties at an early age, and wrestled with the illusion of "perpetual motion" with ingenious results. While working as a mechanic, and during his college course, he patented several inventions, but not until his experiments in telephony
|were made public did the world hear much of him as an inventor.|
He began the study of the convertibility of sound into electricity in 1873, and in 1876 he perfected and patented his magneto-electric telephone. In 1879 he made other discoveries in telephony, and invented the static telephone.
Some of his other valuable contributions to science are his magneto-electric telegraph; the electric gyroscope used to demonstrate the rotation of the earth; tuning forks for the illustration of Lissajous' curves; the opeidoscope for the illustration of vocal vibrations; and a new system of incandescent lighting.
His contributions to the scientific press have been numerous, and aside from their authority, they are characterized by a simplicity and clearness of style which recommends them at once to the reader. He is the author of several standard scientific works, - "A Handbook of Chemical Analysis," "A Treatise on Projections," "A Manual of Experiments in Physics, Chemistry, and Natural History," "The Telephone," and "Matter, Ether, and Motion." He has published several pamphlets on the speaking telephone, and has been an active contributor to scientific journals.
He has, besides, given addresses before scientific bodies both in this country and abroad. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a member of the Twentieth Century Club.
From the Paris Exposition he received a silver medal for his contributions to science, and also a gold medal from the Crystal Palace exhibition at London, in 1882. Both at the Electrical Exhibition in Philadelphia and at the World's Fair, he was one of the examiners.
Professor Dolbear was married, in August, 1869, to Miss Alice J. Hood. They have had six children, of whom three sons and two daughters are living.
Published by the Class of 1897. The original contains appendices with a directory of alumni, the college catalog, and the college charter. These were not included in this addition.
- This object is in collection:
- Digital Collections and Archives records
- Permanent URL