Eben Norton Horsford
Eben Norton Horsford
|Died||January 1, 1893(aged 74)|
|Spouse(s)||Mary L'Homedieux Gardiner|
|Institutions||Albany Female Academy|
Lawrence Scientific School
Eben Norton Horsford (27 July 1818 – 1 January 1893) was a United States scientist who taught agricultural chemistry in the Lawrence Scientific School at Harvard from 1847 to 1863. Later he was known for his reformulation of baking powder, his interest in Viking settlements in North America, and the monuments he built to Leif Erikson.
Life and career
Eben was born in Moscow, New York, located in the Genesee River valley, to Jerediah Horsford and Maria Charity Norton. "At home he showed a certain inventive or mechanical skill, great ability in sketching, and unbounded interest in collecting specimens from the rich fossil deposits on the family farm." In 1837 Eben met James Hall working on the New York State Natural History Survey. Eben was of such service that Hall wrote Amos Eaton, effectively recommending him for scholarship. He instructed in perspective drawing at the school in Troy, New York, county seat of Rensselaer County.
In 1838 Horsford was awarded Bachelor of Natural Science in Engineering from Rensselaer School and took up teaching mathematics and natural history at Albany Female Academy. At some point he met Mary L'Homedieux Gardiner of Shelter Island, Long Island, and she became the object of his affection, but her father found Eben unsuited.
Seeking advancement, Horsford twice, for six-weeks, taught chemistry at Newark College (Newark, Delaware). In 1842 he attended an event of the American Association of Geologists and Naturalists, and thereafter took up a study of Liebig's Organic Chemistry. Soon he was advocating Liebig's views on agricultural chemistry. He decided to study with Liebig, and departed October 10, 1844.  After he qualified to work in Liebig's lab in October 1845, he took up the analysis of nitrogen content of grains, an index of their nutritive value as fodder. In February of the following year he began quantitative elemental analysis of "sugar of gelatin", then called glycocoll. Previous attempts at this analysis by Mulder and Bossingault had yielded unwieldy giants; Horsford's result was not exactly right.
Henry Darwin Rogers had been the leading candidate for the Rumford Chair of Physics until John White Webster got involved. Rogers had been tarnished by association with Vestiges of Creation, and as recommended by Webster, Horsford in Germany visited laboratories and industrial plants before returning from Liebig's lab. Since Rogers and George B. Emerson had charged Webster with incompetence, and challenged his Harvard position, Webster was keen that Horsford take the Rumford Chair rather than Rogers. On January 30, 1847, Horsford was elected unanimously by Harvard Corporation
The new university president was Edward Everett, and Abbott Lawrence had come forward to finance a new scientific school at Harvard. But the funds for Horsford’s lab were consumed by heating costs and salaries for a janitor and assistants. In April of 1854 Horsford realized that the demands put upon him were unreasonably onerous and he wrote the Corporation: "The necessity of the elementary instruction made it my fortune to be oppressed pecuniarily and professionally. In attempting to do what seemed to be required, I was compelled almost to lose sight of the objects which as a scientific man I had placed before myself.":203
Horsford taught chemistry and conducted research at the Lawrence Scientific School at Harvard for 16 years. For textbooks, the same ones that were used in Germany were also followed at Harvard (and Yale): Heinrich Will's Outlines of the course of Qualitative Analysis followed in the Giessen Laboratory (1847) , and Remigius Fresenius's Instruction in Chemical Analysis (quantitative) (1846). His publication included such topics as phosphates, condensed milk, fermentation, and emergency rations.
A generous supporter of higher education for women, Horsford became president of the board of visitors of Wellesley College, and donated money for books, scientific apparatus, and a pension fund to the college. He enjoyed remarkable success through his development of processes for manufacturing baking powder and condensed milk. In seeking patents for his inventions, Horsford was assisted by Charles Grafton Page, a patent solicitor who had previously worked at the US Patent Office.
Professor Eben Norton Horsford created the Shelter Island Public Library in Shelter Island, New York in 1885. He donated 280 volumes for the first library, which was initially housed in a closet in the Old Store, a building that functioned as a post office, telegraph station, and local meeting place. After the store burned down in 1891, a new library for more books donated by Professor Horsford was built on a nearby lot donated by his daughter Lilian, and his daughter Cornelia became the library's first president.
Baking powder had contained baking soda and cream of tartar. Horsford replaced the cream of tartar with the more reliable calcium biphosphate (also known as calcium acid phosphate and many other names). He did this a little earlier than August Oetker. In 1854, Horsford, with partner George Wilson, formed the Rumford Chemical Works. They named it after the title of Horsford's position at Harvard.
Horsford obtained patents for the production of calcium biphosphate as well as other chemicals. The creation of a commercially successful baking powder was the basis of his wealth, enabling him to pursue personal and philanthropic interests in later life. Horsford's development of baking powder was designated a National Historic Chemical Landmark in 2006.
Horsford became interested in the theory that the Vikings, specifically Leif Ericson, had visited North America, and set out to prove it. He connected the Charles River Basin to places described in the Norse sagas, invented Old Norse etymologies for Algonquian place-names like Naumkeag, Namskaket, and Amoskeag, and 'discovered' Viking archaeological remains. Horsford had a plaque documenting all this placed on Memorial Drive near Mount Auburn Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts. A few miles upstream, at the mouth of Stony Brook, he had Norumbega Tower built marking the supposed location of Norumbega, a Viking fort and city, complete with its Althing and America's first Christian bishop. He also commissioned a statue of Leif Ericson that stands on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston. The professor wrote a series of books, articles, and pamphlets about the Vikings' visits to Massachusetts. After his death, his daughter Cornelia Horsford took up the cause. Their work received little support from mainstream historians and archeologists at the time, and even less today.
- 1846: Analyses of Grains and Vegetables (Distinguishing the nitrogenous from the non-nitrogenous ingredients, for the purpose of estimating their separate values for nutrition.) Includes On Ammonia found in Glaciers and Action and Ingredients of Manures.
- 1847: Glycocoll (gelatine sugar) and some of its products of decomposition, The American Journal of Science and Arts Series 2, 3:369–381 via Hathi Trust
- 1848: (editor) Liebig's Researches on the Chemistry of Food and the Motion of the Juices in the Animal Body, Lowell Massachusetts
- 1850: Connection between the atomic weights and the physical and chemical properties of barium, strontium, calcium and magnesium, and some of their compounds, American Journal of Science and Arts, series 2, volume 9, New Haven
- 1850: Relation of the chemical constitution of bodies to taste
- 1852: A Discussion of the Explosion of Burning Fluid which Took Place at Salem
- 1860: Chemistry: Theoretical, Practical and Analytical, as applied and relating to arts and manufacture
- 1860: Chemistry volume 2: Fuel to Zinc
- 1860: Problems in Physics, from Ausgaben auf der Physik by Fliedner
- 1864: The Army Ration
- 1869: The Theory and Art of Bread-making: A New Process Without the Use of Ferment
- 1875: Report on Vienna Bread
- 1887: (editor) Zeisberger's Indian Dictionary : English, German, Iroquois, Algonquin, Cambridge Massachusetts
- 1889: The Problem of the Northmen
- 1890: The Discovery of the Ancient City of Norumbega, Houghton, Mifflin.
- 1890: The Problem of the Northmen, Houghton, Mifflin.
- 1891: The Defenses of Norumbega, Houghton, Mifflin.
- 1892: The Landfall of Leif Erikson, A.D. 1000, and the Site of his Houses in Vineland, Damrell and Upham.
- Rossiter, Margaret (1975). The Emergence of Agricultural Science : Justus Liebig and the Americans, 1840-1880. Yale University Press. pp. 49–88. ISBN 978-0-300-01721-2.
- Henry Will (1847) Outlines of the course of qualitative analysis followed in the Giessen laboratory via Internet Archive
- C. Remigius Fresenius (1846) Instruction in Chemical Analysis (quantitative) via Internet Archive
- Post, Robert C. (1976). "Eben Horsford". Physics, Patents, and Politics: A Biography of Charles Grafton Page. New York: Science History Publications. p. 159.
- "Did Leif Erikson once live in Cambridge, Massachusetts?". The Straight Dope. Retrieved 10 February 2009.
- "Development of Baking Powder". American Chemical Society. Retrieved 20 April 2020.
- "Did Leif Erikson once live in Cambridge, Massachusetts?". The Straight Dope. Retrieved 9 August 2008.
- Horsford, Eben Norton (1892). The Landfall of Leif Erikson, A.D. 1000: And the Site of His Houses in Vineland. Damrell and Upham.
The Landfall of Leif Erikson: A.D. 1000.
- Horsford, Eben Norton (1890). The Discovery of the Ancient City of Norumbega. Houghton, Mifflin.
The Discovery of the Ancient City of Norumbega.
- Robin Fleming (1995). "Picturesque History and the Medieval in Nineteenth-Century America". The American Historical Review. 100 (4): 1079–82. doi:10.1086/ahr/100.4.1061. JSTOR 2168201.
- Eben Norton Horsford; Edward Henry Clement (1890). The discovery of the ancient city of Norumbega: A communication to the president and council of the American Geographical Society at their special session in Watertown, November 21, 1889. Houghton, Mifflin. p. 14. Retrieved 1 September 2011.
- Steven Williams, Fantastic Archaeology: The Wild Side of North American Prehistory, 1991.
- Gloria Polizzotti Greis "VIKINGS on the CHARLES or The Strange Saga of Dighton Rock, Norumbega, and Rumford Double-Acting Baking Powder". Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 25 August 2008.. Needham Historical Society
- John Greenleaf Whittier; Elizabeth Hussey Whittier (1894). The writings of John Greenleaf Whittier ... Houghton, Mifflin and company. pp. 222–. Retrieved 1 September 2011.
- Charles Loring Jackson (1892) Eben Norton Horsford Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences 28 via Internet Archive
- Munday, Pat (1999). "Eben Horsford". In Garraty, John A.; Carnes, Mark C. (eds.). American National Biography. 11. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 227–228.
- Rezneck, Samuel (1970). "The European Education of an American Chemist, and Its Influence in 19th-Century America: Eben Norton Horsford". Technology and Culture. 11 (3): 366–388. doi:10.2307/3102198. JSTOR 3102198. PMID 11615557.
- Stock, John T. (1988). "Eben Horsford (1818–1893) and the measurement of electrolytic resistance". Journal of Chemical Education. 65 (8): 700–701. doi:10.1021/ed065p700.
- Van Klooster, H. S. (1956). "Liebig and his American pupils". Journal of Chemical Education. 33 (10): 493–497. doi:10.1021/ed033p493.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Eben Norton Horsford.|
- Obituary – American Druggist, 1892, volume 22, no. 6, December issue, page 139
- Development of Baking Powder from American Chemical Society National Historic Chemical Landmarks
- Rumford Baking Powder history
- Horsford's picture at the Dibner Library
- Papers of the Horsford Family – at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute