364 History of Wake Forest College
In nearly all the period before the Civil War, Wake Forest was very
deficient in provision made for teaching the Sciences. The Trustees
and faculty indeed very early gave evidence that they were awake to
the importance of scientific training and made many efforts to provide
for it in the course of studies. Without doubt the advance made at the
University of North Carolina in scientific instruction had much to do
with creating interest in these subjects among our people and
especially in our colleges. In 1817 the University had two notable
accessions to its faculty, Professor Denison Olmsted as Professor of
Chemistry, and Professor Elisha Mitchell as Professor of
Mathematics. These men, graduating at Yale in the class of 1813,
were among the earliest pioneers in the field of experimental
scientific study in our country. Under the stimulus of their enthusiasm
much interest in scientific subjects began to be taken in the University
of North Carolina. There was no laboratory for students, but the
professor performed experiments in Physics and Chemistry before his
classes. Interest extended through the State since the Professor of
Chemistry was able to detect the presence of minerals in water from
springs, and even to tell the kind of mineral and the amount and to say
something about its valuable hygienic qualities.18 Again, with his
hammer and blow pipe and scales he was able to identify minerals. In
1822 the State Legislature being affected by this interest authorized a
geological and mineralogical survey of the State and put Professor
Olmsted in charge. He made a report, perhaps the first of its kind.
Though Professor Olmsted left in 1825 to become a Professor in Yale,
the interest which he helped to create at Chapel Hill in scientific
studies remained. In 1824 the University Trustees sent President
Caldwell to Europe, with six thousand dollars in his pocket to buy
books and apparatus; for the latter he expended $3,361.74, buying
apparatus of excellent quality, the most of it electrical.19 A
development of this interest at the University was "The School for the
Application of Science
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18 Biblical Recorder, June 9, 1838. Advertisement of Hickory Spring, now Mt.
Vernon Spring, Chatham County.
19 Battle, History of the University of North Carolina, I, 291 ff.
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