Sunday, February 7, 2010

Brief Biographical Sketch of Doctor Van der Weyde -- February 7, 2010

Doctor Peter Henri Van Der Weyde wrote the series of articles which gave this blog its name. Here is a brief biographical sketch from the book The World's Sages, Thinkers and Reformers by DM Bennett, 1876.

The image comes from the first installment of his memoirs, "Reminisces of an Active Life", in the February, 1893 issue of Manufacturer and Builder.

P. H. Van der Weyde.

This eminent scientist was born February 5, 1813, in Nymeque, Netherlands. He is a descendant of Walter Van der Weyde, the brave troubadour of the fourteenth century. His family emigrated from Germany to the Netherlands during the reformation, in which they took an active part.

The subject of this sketch studied in Durpldorf, and later in the Royal Academy of Delft, where he graduated.

His principal occupation has been that of a writer and teacher of science in Holland, and Professor of Mathematics in a government school of design, and lecturer on Natural Philosophy. He founded, in 1842, a journal for Mathematics and Physics; and obtained, in 1865, a gold medal from the Netherland Association for the Promotion of Scientific Knowledge for a textbook in Natural Philosophy. He took an active part in the politics of Netherlands, writing extensively and acting as editor-in-chief of a Liberal daily paper, attacking the defects in the administration and successfully advocating reforms.

In 1849 he moved to New York and established himself as private teacher. His inclination attracted him towards Prof. John W. Draper, by whose advice he went through the course of medical studies in the New York University, where he graduated in 1856, and was appointed Physician to the Northwestern Dispensary in New York. He abandoned the practice of medicine in 1859 and became connected with the Cooper Institute, where he successively filled the positions of Professor of Natural Philosophy, Chemistry, and Higher Mathematics and Mechanics. He accepted also, at the same time, the Professorship of Chemistry in the New York Medical College. In 1864 he was called to a chair expressly created for him, that of Industrial Science in Girard College, Philadelphia; the institution, however, becoming a mere political engine, caused him to resign in 1866, and in 1867 he returned to New York to accept the chair of Professor of Chemistry in the New York Dental College, which he afterwards left for that in the Medical College for Women.

For the last ten years he has been chiefly engaged in writing on practical scientific subjects for several journals, as the "Scientific American," "Journal of Mining and Engineering," etc. In 1869 he produced, with the Brothers Watson, an Industrial Monthly, entitled "The Manufacturer and Builder," which has since enjoyed an eminent success. His name is also mentioned as one of the editors of "Appleton's New American Cyclopedia," to which he contributed valuable articles.

Prof. Van der Weyde is one of the most advanced, independent, and Liberal thinkers of the age. This is evinced occasionally in his writings, but more especially in his lectures before the New York Liberal Club, of which he is one of the founders. He agrees with Draper, Darwin, Huxley, Spencer, Haeckel, and others of that class. He is perfectly familiar with their works as well as the doctrines of the older philosophers, as Kant, Leibnitz, Descartes, and Spinoza. His remarks before the Club and in other meetings, show an honest desire for a knowledge of the truth, whatever that may be, no matter if it requires the sacrifice of personal predilections. This is also the reason why he has steadily acted as the champion in unmasking the frauds perpetrated in in the name of Spiritualism, and being an acute experimenter and observer, he has detected the class of frauds alluded to, where scores of other witnesses were deceived. Besides his scientific attainments, he is familiar with several languages; he is an amateur artist painter of no mean pretension and a superior musician. Every Sunday he may be heard performing on the organ at one of the lending orthodox churches in Brooklyn.

He has occupied a position of a similar character for twenty years. His treatment of the organ is said to be peculiar; all his performances are improvisations, eminently dignified and of a strictly religious character. They add more to the devotional feelings of the orthodox congregation than is the case with any other organist. This is an interesting fact, considering that he does not himself share in belief with the orthodoxy; it proves that the devotional feelings are independent of particular theological doctrines.

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