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Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1887-1889 and 1999. Virtualology.com warns that these 19th Century biographies contain errors and bias. We rely on volunteers to edit the historic biographies on a continual basis. If you would like to edit this biography please submit a rewritten biography in text form . If acceptable, the new biography will be published above the 19th Century Appleton's Cyclopedia Biography citing the volunteer editor





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John Fries Frazer

FRAZER, John Fries, scientist, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 8 July 1812 ; died there, 12 October 1872. His grandfather, Lieutenant Colonel Persifor Frazer, served during the Revolutionary war in the 5th Pennsylvania regiment under Colonel Anthony Wayne. John was graduated at the University of Pennsylvania in 1830. Daring his College career, and for some time afterward, he acted as laboratory assistant to Professor Alexander D. Bathe, and in that capacity aided in determining with accuracy, for the first time in the United States, the periods of the daily variations of the magnetic needle, and the connection of the aurora borealis with magnetic forces. He also assisted Dr. Robert Hare, who at that time held the chair of chemistry in the University of Pennsylvania. Subsequently he studied law with John M. Scott, and also followed a medical course.

He was admitted to the bar, but absence from Philadelphia at the time when the examinations were held prevented his receiving a medical degree. In 1836, when the first geological survey of Pennsylvania was organized, he became first assistant geologist under Professor Henry D. Rogers, but held the office only one year, when he resigned to accept the professorship of chemistry and natural philosophy in the Philadelphia high school. In 1844, Professor Bathe having losophy was offered to Professor Frazer, who thenceforth became connected with the University of Pennsylvania. At the time of his death he was senior professor, was vice provost from 1855 till 1868, and acting provost during the year 1859'60.

In addition to his duties in the University he delivered many courses of lectures on physical and chemical science in the Franklin institute, and from 1850 till 1866 edited its "Journal." His studies to keep abreast of the progress of the sciences that he taught fully occupied his time, and in consequence he was unable to carry on any original researches, or to devote his attention to the preparation of papers. He received the degree of Ph.D. from the University of Lewisburg in 1854, and that of LL.D. from Harvard in 1857. Professor Frazer was elected a member of the American philosophical society in 1842, and its secretary in 1845, becoming vice president in 1855. He was one of the original members of the National academy of sciences, and served on several of its committees that furnished reports to the U.S. government. See the sketch by Professor John L. Leconte in the " Biographical Memoirs of the National Academy of Sciences" (vol. i., Washington, 1877).

His son, Persifor Frazer, geologist, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 24 July 1844, was graduated at the University of Pennsylvania in 1862, and at once became an aide on the U. S. coast survey, serving in the South Atlantic squadron till June 1863. He joined the cavalry and remained in active service at the front during the Gettysburg campaign. In October 1863, he was made acting ensign in the U. S. navy, and served in the Mississippi squadron until the end of the war, when he was honorably discharged in November 1865. Subsequently he spent three years in Germany, studying, principally in the Royal Saxon School of mines in Freiberg, where he completed his course in 1869. On his return to the United States he was appointed mineralogist and metallurgist on the U. S. geological survey, and wrote the report on these subjects in 1869.

In 1870 he was appointed professor of chemistry in the University of Pennsylvania, and four years afterward resigned this chair to become assistant on the geological survey of the state. He presented a thesis to the scientific faculty of Lille in the University of France, for which, in 1882, he received the degree of doctor of natural sciences. This was the first time that this degree was ever awarded to one not a native of France. He was connected with the Franklin institute as professor of chemistry, and also as one of the editors of its "Journal" in 1881, and its board of managers. His investigations have included researches on the cause of the white color of the moon by day; on the application of composite photography to testing the genuineness of signatures; and on carbon buttons to register delicate variations of pressure. Professor Frazer is a member of numerous scientific societies, both in the United States and Europe, and secretary of the committee representing American geologists in the International congress. Besides memoirs published in various journals and transactions, he has published "Tables for Determination of Minerals" (Philadelphia, 1874), and the volumes C, CC, CCC, and C4 of the geological survey of Pennsylvania (1874'80).

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