Denison Olmsted (1791-1859), scientist, teacher, Christian : a biographical study of the connection of science with religion in antebellum America Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/5712m921r

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  • A biographical study of Denison Olmsted, focusing upon his own Christian world view and its connection with his various activities in science, supports the view that religion served as a significant factor in the promotion of science in America during this time period. Olmsted taught physics, meteorology and astronomy at Yale from 1826 to 1859, and from this position of influence, helped mold the minds and outlook of a new generation of scientists, of hundreds of students who came to Yale to obtain a liberal education, and of those members of society who attended his popular lectures. Olmsted's personal perspective was that science was God-ordained, that it would ever harmonize with religion, that it was indeed a means of hastening the glorious millennium. Olmsted lived in an era characterized by an unprecedented revivalism and emphasis upon evangelical Christianity. He graduated from Yale (1813) at a time when its president, Reverend Dr. Timothy Dwight, one of the most influential clergymen in New England, was at the height of his fame. Olmsted subsequently studied theology under Dwight, but before completing his preparation for the ministry, Olmsted was appointed to a professorship of science at the University of North Carolina where he taught from 1818 until he was called to Yale in 1826. As a scientist, Olmsted initiated the first geological survey to be sponsored by a state (1824), made a comprehensive study of the famous meteoric shower of November, 1833, formulating a cosmical theory of its origin, was the first in America to sight Halley's comet in its return of 1835, and manifest a life-long interest in such phenomena as the zodiacal light and the aurora borealis, publishing a paper on the latter topic in the Smithsonian Contributions to Knowledge in 1856. In addition, he often lectured on scientific subjects to popular audiences. As a teacher, Olmsted actively promoted science at Yale, constantly revising his classroom lectures and authoring successful textbooks in physics and in astronomy. Olmsted was a scientist almost inadvertently; he viewed teaching as his peculiar sphere of usefulness; but he was, above all, a Christian. As a Christian he believed it was his duty to teach more than science, and his classroom lectures were imbued with religious sentiment. He imparted wisdom along with knowledge, leading his students from nature to nature's God. During his later years, his time was increasingly occupied with contemplative writing on natural theology. Many of the topics he chose were those he had presented to his classes at Yale. An analysis of his natural theology displays his Christian perspective in his choice of data and his method of reasoning. He emphasized the good in nature because he knew God was good and found evidence of his goodness in adversity as well as in prosperity. Thus, his writings on natural theology were a natural outgrowth of his Christian world view.
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  • File scanned at 300 ppi (Monochrome) using ScandAll PRO 1.8.1 on a Fi-6770A in PDF format. CVista PdfCompressor 5.0 was used for pdf compression and textual OCR.
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  • description.provenance : Approved for entry into archive by Kirsten Clark(kcscannerosu@gmail.com) on 2013-11-05T20:52:31Z (GMT) No. of bitstreams: 1 SchoepflinGaryL1978.pdf: 3085390 bytes, checksum: 0fe957029e492aec3315b2d397de2f03 (MD5)
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