James Gates Percival

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

James Gates Percival
Born(1795-09-15)September 15, 1795
Berlin, Connecticut
DiedMay 2, 1856(1856-05-02) (aged 60)
Hazel Green, Wisconsin
Signature of James Gates Percival (1795–1856).png

James Gates Percival (September 15, 1795 – May 2, 1856) was an American poet, surgeon, and geologist, born in Berlin, Connecticut and died in Hazel Green, Wisconsin.[1][2][3]

Portrait of James Gates Percival, said to be painted by his brother


He was a precocious child, and a morbid and impractical, though versatile, man, with a facility in writing verse on all manner of subjects and in nearly every known meter. His sentimentalism appealed to a wide circle. He had also a reputation as a geologist. Percival entered Yale College at the age of 16, and graduated at the age of 20 at the head of his class. After graduating he was admitted to the practice of medicine and relocated to Charleston, South Carolina, where he pursued that profession. A volume of his collected poems was published in New York and London in 1823.[4] In 1824 he was briefly a professor of chemistry at West Point, where he resigned after a few months, and subsequently several years of his labor were devoted to assisting Noah Webster in editing his great American Dictionary of the English Language of 1828. In 1835 Percival was commissioned by the governor of Connecticut to prepare a geological survey of the state, which was completed and published in 1842. In 1854 he was appointed to make a similar geological survey for the state of Wisconsin, with the title State Geologist. The first annual report was issued in 1855, and while preparing the second annual report for the press he succumbed to illness and died in May 1856. Most of his life was spent at his home in New Haven, Connecticut. After his death he was the subject of an admiring biography by Julius H. Ward.

Select works[edit]

  • Poems (1821)
  • Clio. No. 1-2 (1822)
  • Prometheus, Part II, with Other Poems (1823)
  • Poems (1823)
  • A Geographical View of the World Embracing the Manners, Customs, and Pursuits of Every Nation, ed. (1825)
  • Poem delivered before the Connecticut Alpha of the Phi Beta Kappa Society (1826)
  • Clio. No. 3 (1827)
  • Report on the Geology of the State of Connecticut (1842)
  • The Dream of a Day (1843).[5]
  • Annual Report of the Geological Survey of the State of Wisconsin (1855-1856)
  • A short poem by him, "The Language of Flowers", was set to music by the English composer Edward Elgar at the age of fourteen.[6]


  1. ^ Kelly, Howard A.; Burrage, Walter L. (eds.). "Percival, James Gates" . American Medical Biographies . Baltimore: The Norman, Remington Company.
  2. ^ History of Grant County, Wisconsin. Chicago: Western Historical Company, 1881, pp. 576-581.
  3. ^ "A tribute to james gates percival, poet, scientist, linquist, buried at hazel green | Newspaper Article/Clipping". January 2012.
  4. ^ "U.S. Poet of Obscurity: James Gates Percival". The Salt Lake Tribune. September 20, 1959. p. W15. Retrieved April 28, 2017 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  5. ^ "James Gates Percival".
  6. ^ Diana McVeagh, Elgar the Music Maker, p. 3 "Elgar composed the song 'The Language of Lowers' (1872) when he was not quite fifteen. The verses are by the American poet and botanist, James Gates Percival."}


External links[edit]