Nathan Daboll

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Nathan Daboll
Born May 5 1750 [O.S. April 24, 1750]
Groton, Connecticut, United States
Died March 9, 1818(1818-03-09) (aged 67)
Groton, Connecticut
Occupation Writer, educator,
navigation school operator
Nationality American
Genre Almanacs
Textbook (Mathematics)
Textbook (Navigation)

Nathan Daboll (May 5 1750 [O.S. April 24, 1750] – March 9, 1818) was an American teacher who wrote the mathematics textbook most commonly used in American schools in the first half of the 19th century.[1] During the course of his career, he also operated a popular navigation school for merchant mariners, and published a variety of almanacs during the American Revolution period.

Early years[edit]

Born in Groton, Connecticut, Daboll was the son of Nathan Daboll (born c. 1725 in East Hampton, New York; died c. 1780) and Anna Lynn (born 1724 in Groton). He had two brothers, John (born 1755) and Benjamin (1757–1848), and two sisters Susannah (born 1748) and Amy (born 1764). Daboll's father was born with the surname Dibble, but changed it to Daboll. Daboll's grandfather was born with the surname Dibble (sometimes spelled Deble).

Daboll had little formal education but mastered mathematics quickly while earning a living as a cooper.[2]

Career[edit]

Daboll's early career was that of a teacher. He taught mathematics at the Academic School in Plainfield, Connecticut.[3]

Because of Daboll's ability with mathematics, Samuel M. Green, an early almanac publisher in the colonies, asked Daboll to calculate almanac entries. Daboll did so, beginning in 1771, under the alias "Edmund Freebetter",[4] before switching to publishing almanacs and registers under his own name. Almanacs were useful instruments in propaganda wars during the American Revolution. Some of Daboll's almanacs contained satirical or factual political commentary, while others didn't.[2] For the most part, they contained common almanac material:[5]

"lunations; eclipses of the luminaries; aspects; judgment of the weather; rising, sitting and southing of the seven stars; sun and moon's rising and sitting; festivals, and other remarkable days; courts; roads"

The textbook Daboll's schoolmaster's assistant: being a plain, practical system of arithmetic, adapted to the United States was published in 1799, and updated with Daboll's Schoolmaster's assistant, improved and enlarged being a plain practical system of arithmetic: adapted to the United States in 1814. Its popularity was based, in part, on its practicality:[6]

"We were taught arithmetic in Daboll, then a new book, and which, being adapted to our measures of length, weight, and currency was a prodigious leap over the head of poor old Dilworth, whose rules and examples were modelled upon English customs."

Daboll was also quite notable for his maritime navigation school in New London, Connecticut where he taught navigation and nautical astronomy to as many as 1,500 seamen.[7] In 1811, at the invitation of Commodore John Rodgers, Daboll instructed midshipmen on the frigate President.[8] Daboll's Practical Navigator was published posthumously in 1820 by his long-time colleague Green.

Even after his death, Daboll was remembered for his mathematics. Herman Melville referred to Daboll in his 1851 novel Moby-Dick:[9]

"I'll get the almanac and as I have heard devils can be raised with Daboll's arithmetic, I'll try my hand at raising a meaning out of these queer curvicues here with the Massachusetts calendar."

In his 1890 book The teaching and history of mathematics in the United States, mathematics historian Florian Cajori described Daboll as one of the "three great arithmeticians in America".[6]

Personal life[edit]

Daboll married his first cousin, Elizabeth Daboll (1742–1813), around 1778. They had a daughter, Lydia (born c. 1782), and a son, also named Nathan (1780–1863). A grandson, Celadon Leeds Daboll, invented the Daboll trumpet.

Daboll died in Groton in 1818.[7]

Works[edit]

Books[edit]

Cajori, F. (1890). The teaching and history of mathematics in the United States. Washington: Govt. Print. Off.

  • Daboll's schoolmaster's assistant: being a plain, practical system of arithmetic, adapted to the United States, New-London, Conn.: Cady & Eells, for S. Green, 1799 
  • Daboll's Schoolmaster's assistant, improved and enlarged being a plain practical system of arithmetic : adapted to the United States., New-London, Conn.: Samuel Green, 1814, OCLC 15437427 , Internet Archives
  • Daboll's practical navigator:: being a concise, easy, and comprehensive system of navigation; calculated for the daily use of seamen, and also for an assistant to the teacher: containing plane, traverse, parallel, middle latitude, and Mercator's sailing; with all the necessary tables. : Concise rules are given, with a variety of examples in every part of common navigation; also, a new, scientific, and very short method of correcting the dead reckoning; with rules for keeping a complete reckoning at sea, applied to practice, and exemplified in three separate journals, in which may be seen all the varieties which can probably happen in a ship's reckoning., New-London, Conn.: Samuel Green, 1820, OCLC 191273862 

Almanacs[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bunt 1988:33
  2. ^ a b Stowell 1976:92
  3. ^ "Plainfield Connecticut School History". connecticutgenealogy.com. Retrieved 2008-05-15. 
  4. ^ Freebetter 1771
  5. ^ Daboll 1785
  6. ^ a b Cajori 1890:47
  7. ^ a b Johnson 1904:n.s.
  8. ^ Ohles, John F. (1978), Biographical dictionary of American educators, Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, p. 346, ISBN 0-8371-9893-3 
  9. ^ Melville 1851
  • Bunt, L. N. H.; Jones, P. S.; Bedient, J. D. (1988), The historical roots of elementary mathematics, New York: Dover Publications, ISBN 0-486-25563-8 
  • Cajori, F. (1890), The teaching and history of mathematics in the United States, Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, OCLC 635151 
  • Daboll, N.; Strong, N. (1785), The New-England almanack, and gentlemen and ladies diary, for the year of our Lord Christ, 1786.: Being the second year after bissextile or leap-year. And the tenth year of American independence. Containing, lunations; eclipses of the luminaries; aspects; judgment of the weather; rising, sitting and southing of the seven stars; sun and moon's rising and sitting; festivals, and other remarkable days; courts; roads, &c. &c. Calculated for the meridian of Hartford, latitude 41 deg. 56 min. north., Hartford, Conn.: Barlow & Babcock, OCLC 79411551 
  • Freebetter, E.; Daboll, N.; Elliott, C. (1771), The Connecticut almanack, for the year of our Lord Christ 1772 ... Calculated for the meridian of New London, in Connecticut, lat. 41 deg. 25 min. north; and 4 h 45 m. west from the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, New London: T. Green, OCLC 55831696 
  • Johnson, R.; Brown, J. H. (1904), The twentieth century biographical dictionary of notable Americans, Boston: Biographical Society, OCLC 6182270 
  • Melville, Herman (1851), Moby Dick; or The Whale 
  • Stowell, Marion Barber (1976), Early American Almanacs ; the Colonial Weekday Bible, New York: Ayer Publishing, ISBN 0-89102-063-2 

External links[edit]