Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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CASWELL, Alexis, educator, born in Taunton, Massachusetts, 29 January, 1799; died in Providence, Rhode Island, 8 January, 1877. He studied at the Bristol academy in Taunton; and was graduated at Brown in 1822, standing first in his class. In 1823 he was appointed a tutor in Columbian University, Washington, and in 1825 became professor of ancient languages in that institution. At this time he also pursued a course of theology under Dr. William S~oughton, and, having received a license to preach, frequently conducted services in the College chapel, and occasionally preached in Washington. In 1827 he resigned his professorship and, after receiving ordination in October of that year, became pastor of the Baptist congregation in Halifax, N.S. During the following year he declined the professorship of mathematics and natural philosophy in Waterville College; but in July of 1828 he accepted an invitation to the 1st Baptist church, Providence, and soon afterward became professor of mathematics and natural philosophy at Brown. All of the scientific instruction was then included in this chair, which he occupied for thirty-five years, serving also in 1840-'1 as president pro tern during the absence of Dr. Francis Wayland in Europe. He resigned his professorship in 1863, but five years later was again called into active service, and elected president of the University on 7 February, 1868. This office he held until 1872, when he resigned, just fifty years from the date of his graduation. On his retirement he was at once chosen a trustee, and in 1875 a fellow of the university. The excellent condition of the library is largely the result of his earnest work; the museum of natural history owes its establishment to his plans and efforts; the present alumni association was founded by him, and he became its first president. He was long associated in the management of the Providence athenmum, for eight years one of its directors, and its vice-president for a similar length of time. For many years he was connected in various capacities with Newton theological institution, and was the third president of its board of trustees. He was prominent in the Baptist missionary union, and its president during 1867-'9, and also one of the original trustees of Rhode Island hospital, and its president from 1875 until his death. In 1850 he became an associate fellow of the American academy of arts and sciences, in 1849 was elected a member of th.e American association for the advancement of science, and in 1857 became its vice-president. He was also one of the original members of the National academy of sciences established by act of congress in 1863. Prof. Caswell delivered four lectures on astronomy before the Smithsonian institution in 1858, which were published in the annual report for that year. His meteorological observations, made at Providence, of which monthly abstracts appeared in the Providence "Journal," were published as " Meteorological Observations at Providence, Rhode Island, 1831-1860 " (Washington, 1860; enlarged ed.. 1831-1876, 1882). He was also the author of numerous addresses, including a Phi Beta Kappa oration on "The Mathematical Studies as a Branch of Liberal Education," and also "A Memoir of John Barstow" (1864).
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