Imatges de pàgina


To the Executive Committee of the Smithsonian Institution, to which was

referred the subject of the claims of Mr. Lorin Blodgett relative to his labors in meteorology.

GentLEMEN: Mr. Lorin Blodgett was introduced to me by a member of Congress from the western part of the State of New York, in December, 1851. The gentleman who introduced him informed me that Mr. Blodgett desired temporary employment and an opportunity to improve himself, and that he would be satisfied with a small compensation.

Previous to this the meteorological returns had accumulated, and I was anxious that a beginning should be made in deducing results from them. That they contained important material was never for a moment doubted by myself.

I concluded to engage Mr. Blodgett on trial, and to set him at work at first in arranging the returns relative to the periodical phenomena. For upwards of three months I paid him at the rate of $i 50 a day, or until the end of April, 1852. From that time till the end of the following November he received remuneration at the rate of $50 a month, for which he gave receipts in the following form:

“Smithsonian Institution to Lorin Biodgett, Dr., to one month's services reducing meteorological observations, $50.

"Received of W. W. Seaton, treasurer of the Smithsonian Institution, fifty dollars, in full of the above account. “$50.


At his earnest request, in November, 1852, I concluded to allow him for a single year payment at the rate of $800, but beyond this, I informed him, I could not venture without the sanction of the executive committee.

Before the conclusion of the year, however, the meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science took place, at which time Mr. Blodgett, much to my astonishment, exhibited his peculiar views in regard to his ownership of the results. Previous to this his bearing had been entirely unassuming. He had shown a disposition to render himself useful in every way, and had made none of the claims which he has since set up. It is true he frequently talked to me of the importance of placing the system on a more extended footing, and of applying to Congress for an appropriation for this purpose. I, however, gave no encouragement to these propositions, and made him no promises as to future compensation. Indeed, Mr. Blodgett's views were so indefinite, or at least were so indefinitely expressed, that until I read and studied his communication to the executive committee I had no clear conception of them.

From the first moment of his engagement until the meeting at Cleveland I had no idea that Mr. Blodgett considered himself other than as a temporary assistant, engaged for a specified salary, on a definite work.

The only promises which I ever held out to him were, that if his labors proved satisfactory, and the means of the Institution could afford it, his salary should be increased, and that he should have due credit for all that he accomplished. It is true he questioned me several times as to the pecuniary advantages which would result to him from his labors, and intimated to me that his friends expected something important in this way. I distinctly told him that the prosecution of science, particularly in this country, did not result in pecuniary remuneration, but that he would have an opportunity, if he continued these investigations, 10 improve himself in knowledge, and establish a reputation which might be of use to him. I never had the least idea that in any case he expected to be paid extra for past services, or that bis salary was to be retrospective.

Although he was very industrious, the work on which he was employed required no special genius, and all the processes he has followed were well known, and involved nothing beyond the most elementary scientific attainments. I gave him a copy of Professor Loomis's paper on storms, and allowed him to make such preliminary experiments with the material as he should think fit. My own time was very much occupied, and Mr. Blodgett frequently reporied to me results, and made various propositions as to the points to be investigated. Some of these I rejected, and others adopted.

I never had for a moment the least idea of allowing him to publish a report as his own, under the auspices of the Institution, as he has since proposed, but I from the first intended that, after a series of definite results had been obtained, I would carefully study these myself, and call upon some meteorologist to assist me, and thus determine what would be proper to publish under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, giving to Mr. Blodgett full credit for all his labors. My idea was to publish a series of facts which might be used by meteorologists in every part of the world as the data on which to found their generalizations.

It should be distinctly understood that in all this I was acting as a mere agent of the Institution; that my own labors, whatever they might be, would not appear; and whilst I was anxious that the results should fully justify the expenditure of that portion of the Smithsonian fund which had been devoted to meteorology, I was desirous to give to Mr. Blodgett full and liberal credit for the manner in which he discharged his duties.

Up to the present time the Institution has paid Mr. Blodgett in all $2,323 18, and has expended for assistance to him and for other incidentals connected with the reductions, exclusive of stationery, $1,668 60.

The results I consider clearly the property of the Institution, Mr. Blodgett having no other claim in regard to them except that when they are published credit shall be given him for the reductions and discussions.

After the publication by the Institution of the facts which have been thus obtained they will then be common property, and Mr. Blodgett and all the meteorologists in the country may einploy them in any way they may see fit. But previous to their publication I considered it improper that Mr. Blodgett should use them in preparing meteorological reports

Rep. 141-7

under his own name I have constantly urged him since the meeting at Cleveland, on the contrary, to use all due diligence in bringing them into a condition proper for publication, and to defer his private essays on the subject until meteorologists of the country in general have an equal opportunity of employing the data produced at the expense of the Smithsonian fund. A prominent maxim in the policy of the Institution is co-operation, and not monopoly.

Again, it is not proper for an individual employed by the Institution, as Mr. Blodgett has been, on a particular work, to make use of facilities which his position affords him, to collect materials on his own account, or to mingle his own operations with those of the Institution.

The secretary issued a circular calling upon all persons having meteorological data in their possession to present it or lend it to the Institution. He also wrote a number ot' letters to individuals, asking for data of the same kind. Mr. Blodgett, I find, has also wri to a number of persons, requesting similar favors, and now, if I understand him aright, he considers the materials obtained by such letters as belonging to himself. It is true that, in case of a personal acquaintance, and under particular circumstances, the data may have been given to Lorin Blodgett, as an individual, but in most cases they have been presented to him as connected with the Smithsonian Institution, and as such, it is responsible for their safe keeping and proper use.


I have stated in the preceding paper that I had agreed to give Mr. Blodgett $800 for a year's services, but previous to the expiration of that period, he developed, at the meeting of the American Association, at Cleveland, his peculiar views and claims as to the work on which he had been engaged. He requested me, previous to this meeting, and indeed a year before, to allow him to present some of the results which had been obtained. I consented to this, though I informed him at the time, and in presence of Mr. Rhres, that he must be careful to present the results as having been obtained at the expense, and under the direction of the Smithsonian Institution ; and secondly, not to mingle these facts with his own speculations. I also authorized the construction of a number of large charts for this exhibition, which were afterwards paid for by the Institution.

We started together for Cleveland, and reached Pittsburg, where I fell sick ; Mr. Blodgett left me there, and hastened on to the meeting. When I arrived, the session had commenced, the programme of papers to be read had been printed, and to my surprise, I found that Mr. Blodgett had entered all the papers on meteorology entirely in his own name, without mentioning the Smithsonian Institution.

When his first paper was read, I rose, mentioned the facts in connexion with these papers, pointed out the omission, and stated that the Smithsonian fund had been accepted by the United States with the condition that it was to found an Institution to bear and perpetuate the name of the donor; that, consequently, all the good which might accrue to mankind from the employment of the income of the fund ought to be accredited to the name of Smithson, the agents employed in exe

cuting the trust having proper credit for the manner in which they discharged their duty.

The first paper which Mr. Blodgett read was on the northers, or the tempestuous winds which occasionally prevail in Texas. He stated that this paper was in no way connected with the Institution. I then explained to the audience in what manner this paper was connected wiih the Smithsonian Institution. A young officer of the American army, Lieutenant Couch, had presented to the secretary of the Smithsonian Institution a plan of a private exploration which he wished to make in Texas and Mexico. I studied this plan and commended it warmly, in a letter to the Secretary of War. He considered the request of Lieutenant Couch favorably, allowed him leave of absence, and transportation. The Smithsonian Institution gave him scientific instruction, assisted, I think, in fitting him out with instruments, and especially directed his attention to the existence, in Mexico, of a valuable collection of natural history, and of manuscripts which had been the

property of Dr. Berlandier, a member of the Academy of Geneva, Switzerland, who came to this country to make scientific explorations, and after a residence of twenty years, died in Mexico. Lieutenant Couch was so fortunate as to procure this collection, which he sent to the Institution. We paid about $150 for the transportation, and he gave me, in behalf of the Institution, permission to use any of the meteorological records we might require. The principal facts relative to the northers, given in Mr. Blodgeti's paper, were derived from this collec tion, though no credit was given by him to Lieutenant Couch or the Smithsonian Institution.

Again, an earthquake was felt in Washington and throughout a considerable portion of the middle States, and the idea was suggested by Professor Bache that it would be well to collect the facts in regard to this occurrence. I accordingly drew up a circular in which I asked a series of questions, in behalf of the Smithsonian Institution, as to the time of occurrence, direction of the motion, state of the atmosphere, &c., &c. To these circulars quite a number of answers were returned. These I placed in the hands of Mr. Blodgett, requested him to locate their position on a map, in order that the centre of action might be determined. My own time was very much occupied, and I gave no fürther attention to the subject, and I was surprised to find that Mr. Blodgett produced this, again, as his own, without mentioning the name of the Smithsonian Institution. After this development of his peculiar characteristics, I was convinced it would be improper to continue to employ him in the Smithsonian Institution, and therefore resolved to close my engagement with him as soon as the work on which he was immediately engaged could be completed. The meteorological correspondence of the Institution had been, up to that time, conducted by Dr. Foreman, who left the Institution, for a position of larger salary in the Patent office. At the time he left, however, and during my absence, he published a notice in the paper informing the observers that he had leti the Institution, and requested them to direct all their letters to the secretary: Mr. Blodgett returned to Washington before I did, and immediately commenced, without my authority, to write to the correspondents, dating his letters from the Smithsonian Institution, and

signing them “ Lorin Blodgett, in charge of meteorology." I forbid his writing any letters which were not submitted to me previous to being

This order he did not obey, but continued to write letters without showing them to me. At length, I gave him an order in writing, but to this he paid no attention also. After his return from Cleveland, The began to make claims for more salary, and to propose various plans for the establishment of a meteorological bureau, of which he, of course, was to be the head.

I gave no co-operation to these measures, but stated to him that if any means could be found for carrying on a system of meteorology independent of the Smithsonian fund, the Institution would willingly relinquish the charge, but that all data the Institution had collected most be reduced, discussed, and published before closing the work.

He failed, of course, in all these efforts, and then engaged in the preparation for publication, on his own account, of a number of reports and essays on meteorology, using the materials of the Institution for this purpose. To this course I objected. I stated to him that the great object of the Institution was co-operation and not monopoly ; that the results of the computations must be given to the world in a tabular form, and then distributed to all the meteorologists in this country, so that each might have an opportunity of making their own speculations on the subject ; that after they had been thus published, Mr. Blodgett would have the privilege in common with all others to make use of them as he might see fit.

He refused to give some of the materials, on several occasions, to persons who applied for them with my permission even, to be used for the purposes of the Institution. His demands for extra remuneration became greater and greater, and he at length declared that unless they were complied with, the Institution should not bave the materials in his hands, and rather than give them up he would, as I was told, burn them.

I was, therefore, obliged, in consequence of this and other threats, to institute measures for securing the papers, and for this purpose consulted Mr. Carlisle, the attorney for the Board of Regents, and took no step without his direction.



All the difficulties which have occurred in regard to the management of the Institution bad their origin, as it appears to me, in certain resolulions adopted at the early sessions of the Regents.

The following was adopted December 4, 1846, viz: Resolved, That it be recommended to the secretary of the Smithsonian Institution forthwith to employ, subject to the approval of the Board of Regents, an assistant secretary, well qualified to discharge the duties of librarian.

This was immediately subsequent to my election as secretary, but before I came to Washington.

« AnteriorContinua »