Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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HOUGHTON, Douglas, naturalist, born in Troy, New York, 21 September, 1810; died 13 October, 1845. At an early age he removed to Fredonia, New York He erected a hermitage in his father's orchard, where he began his research into the laws of nature. Among his experiments was the manufacture of percussion-powder, which had been recently invented. An explosion occurred in which he was blown up with his manufactory. Although receiving no serious injury, he bore evidence of this accident throughout his life. He was graduated at the Rensselaer polytechnic institute in 1829, remained there as assistant, and in the following year was appointed adjunct to the junior professor of chemistry and natural history. He delivered a course of scientific lectures in Detroit in 1830, which attracted large audiences. In 1831 he was licensed to practise medicine by the medical society of Chautauqua county, and at this time served as physician and botanist on the government expedition organized by Henry R. Schoolcraft to explore the sources of Mississippi river. His report on the botany of this region proved his extensive knowledge of the itora of the northwest, and extended his reputation. He settled in Detroit, where he practised as a physician and surgeon from 1832 till 1837, when he projected the geological survey of Michigan, and received the appointment of state geologist. In 1838 he was appointed professor of geology, mineralogy, and chemistry in the University of Michigan. In 1840 he explored the southern coast of Lake Superior, the results of which research he reported to the legislature. In 1842 he was elected mayor of Detroit. He was a member of the National institute of Washington, D. C., of the Boston society of natural history, an honorary member of the Royal antiquarian society of Copenhagen, and of other scientific and literary associations. He lost his life while engaged in a new government survey on Lake Superior. Anxious to arrive at his destination, he did not heed the warnings of the threatened snowstorm, his frail boat encountered the violent sea, and he was drowned.
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