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follow, or was shorn of its virulence. The discovery was thus established, at once and forever in the public mind, and in medical practice, and Dr. Waterhouse deservedly received the appellation of the "American Jenner.”
He soon began a correspondence with Dr. Jenner, which continued for many years. In 1801, he sent some vaccine material received from Jenner, to President Jefferson, who used it successfully in his own family and studied the laws of vaccination with his usual acumen. He wrote Waterhouse that he had fixed on "8 times 24 hours” as the period which the vaccine disease should be allowed to mature itself and be ready for propagation. Waterhouse claimed to have sacrificed his private business to the diffusion of this practice. He was charged by some with selfishness, in not sending vaccine material to all who asked it; but this seems to have been only a proper precaution to prevent disaster to individual patients, or to the cause he was seeking to promote. He seems to have had a faculty of being in opposition. He was a political partisan and correspondent of Jefferson, at a time when that illustrious name was not in favor in the most influential circles in Boston. In 1807, Jefferson appoint ed him tothe care of the Marine Hospital at that port; and in the war of 1812, he was medical superintendent of military posts in New England. He is said to have been once solicited to be candidate of his party for the office of governor, but replied, that he had office enough, -he was lieutenant-governor in his own household.
Dr. Waterhouse was very fond of writing and appearing in print. He published notes of his lectures upon different subjects. Those on botany were published in Monthly Anthology, Boston, 1804–1808, and expanded into a volume, “The Botanist," in 1811. This is even now a readable book, with more or less of his personal history in it, and an interesting review of the progress of the science. For him the last word in systematic botany and zoölogy was that of Linnaeus.
In 1831, he published a volume in which he endeavored to prove that the Earl of Chatham was author of the Letters of Junius. This book, which he presented to our library, is very discursive, and gives an interesting and animated account of the early years of George III.'s reign, the influences behind the throne, and in other respects is lively historical reading, its style though diffuse not lacking in point and vigor.
To his latest years, he cherished a great fondness for the beautiful island of his birth. He published in the Boston Intelligencer, 1824, a notice of Newport as he remembered it, and especially of the physicians and scholars who had given lustre to its social and professional life, before the Revolution. These notices have been often quoted. He wrote that :
“Metallurgical Chemistry was perhaps as well known, if not better, at that period in Rhode Island, as in any city in the English colonies. At that time there were more and more complete laboratories in Rhode Island than were to be found in Mas. sachusetts prior to fifteen years ago.”
At the age of almost eighty, he wrote to a gentleman in Newport, suggesting modes of increasing the usefulness of the Redwood Library, and proposing the formation of a Museum of natural history and lectures in connection with it. The following sentences are characteristic enough to be worth preserving:
“Commence a Musoeum, by collecting and preserving the very numerous fishes of Rhode Island, which can be easily preserved and by due care kept free from vermin ;-make also a collection of stuffed birds-and shells of all kinds, and indeed every production of nature. If I do not mistake, Mr. Hunter has it valuable folio book on Fishes by Redi.--From these you may go to insects, including butterflies. — Only begin and you will be surprised how a collection will grow to respectability. BEGIN, and remember the potent efficacy of • le premier pas.' Remember that the greatest body was once in embryo, therefore begin.
“Allow me to recommend Lyceum Lectures to the gentlemen of Newport, and that on any subject except politics, religion, or the mystic tie, or anything savoring of party.-I was the first who commenced the all-important subject of Natural History by giving a few lectures at Providence College in the year 1785 ; and from that sinall beginning, see how that department of knowledge has grown and spread throughout the Union. Therefore I say-Begin, and echo the truth that the greatest body was once in embryo!
“To show that I am in earnest, I will do my part and assist in the business.-I will, if my health and faculties should be spared six months longer, come to Newport, and give you a Lecture or two by way of aiding in the good cause which you have been the means of suggesting.”
My own remembrance of Dr. Waterhouse is very indistinct; but I can quote a description of him by an older Cambridge boy than myself,—James Russell Lowell :
“His queue, slender and tapering like the tail of a violetcrab, was held out horizontally by the high collar of his shepherd's-grey overcoat, whose style was of the latest when he studied at Leyden in his hot youth. He wore amazing spectacles, fit to transmit no smaller image than the page of mightiest folios, and rising full-disked upon the beholder, like those prodigies of two moons at once, portending change to monarchs. The great collar, disallowing any independent rotation of the head, I remember he used to turn his whole person in order to bring their foci to bear upon an object. One can fancy that terrified Nature would have yielded up her secrets at once, without cross-examination, at their first glare.".
Or, here is Dr. Holmes' picture of him:
“A brisk, dapper old gentleman, with bàir tied in a ribbon behind, and I think powdered, marching smartly about with gold-headed cane, with a look of questioning sagacity, and an utterance of oracular gravity, -the good people of Cambridge listened to his learned talk when they were well, and sent for one of the other two doctors when they were sick.”
Dr. Waterhouse died at Cambridge, October 2, 1846,
In conclusion,–We cannot chronicle any great discovery or advance in physical science to give lustre to Rhode Island history. But we may certainly claim that Rhode Island furnished, from the pen of her founder, the earliest American contribution to philology—and that she took part in suggesting the first great
(1)For notices of the personal history of Waterhouse, see his writings, passim. physical discovery made in these colonies, that of the relations of electricity to lightning. I believe that we may assert that the first botanical garden, cultivated for scientific purposes, the first lectures on anatomy, and the first professorship of natural history, in New England, were here. And lastly we have seen that a native of Newport, whose medical education was begun in that town and “ripened in the skies of many lands," was the first American to perceive the importance of vaccination, began its introduction by submitting his own child to the repulsive experiment, and succeeded in establishing it, through doubt and obloquy, in general and lasting confidence. If we could continue our study down to more recent times, we should find more achievements to record, either in pure science, or in its applications to the arts and commodities of life.