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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RUTHERFURD, John, senator, born in New York city in September, 1760; died in Rutherford, New Jersey, 23 February, 1840. His father, Walter, a son of Sir John, of Edgerston, Scotland, served in the British army from the age of seventeen, and, after taking part in the Canadian campaign of Sir Jeffrey Amherst, resigned his commission, married a daughter of James Alexander, and became a citizen of New York. The son was graduated at Princeton in 1776, studied law, was admitted to the bar, married a daughter of Lewis Morris, Was elected clerk of the vestry of Trinity church, and had charge of much of the property of that corporation. In 1787 he removed to Tranquillity, Sussex County, New Jersey He was a member of the legislature of New Jersey, and a presidential elector in 1788, and was twice elected to the United States senate, serving from 24 October, 1791, till February, 1798, when he resigned to devote his attention to the management of his estate in New Jersey, engaged extensively in agriculture, and was a promoter of public improvements. He was president of the board of proprietors of eastern New Jersey. In 1.826 he served on a commission to adjust the boundary between New York and New Jersey, and in 1829 and 1833 was one of a joint commission to settle boundary questions between those states and Pennsylvania. --His grandson, Lewis Morris, physicist, born in Morrisania, New York, 25 November, 1816, was graduated at Williams in 1834, and studied law with William H. Seward in Auburn. He was admitted to the bar in 1837, and practised as the associate of Peter A. Jay, and, after his death, of Hamilton Fish, in New York city. In 1849 he abandoned the practice of law and thereafter devoted his leisure to science, principally in the direction of astronomical photography and spectral analysis. In January, 1863, he published in the "American Journal of Science" a paper on the spectra of stars, the moon, and planets, with diagrams of their lines and a description of the instruments that he used, which was the first published work on star-spectra after the great revelations of Bunsen and Kirchhoff, and the first attempt to classify the stars according to their spectra. While engaged in making his observations upon star-spectra Mr. Rutherfurd discovered the use of the star-spectroscope to show the exact state of achro-matte correction in an object-glass, particularly for the rays that are used in photography. In 1864, after many experiments in other directions but for the same end. he succeeded in devising and constructing an objective of 11} inches aperture and about 15 feet focal length, corrected for photography alone. This objective was a great success, and was in constant use in making negatives of the sun, moon, and star-groups, until it was replaced in 1868 by another, which had about the same focal length but was 13 inches in aperture. This glass was an ordinary achromatic, such as is used for vision, and was converted into a photographic objective by the addition of a third lens of flint glass, which made the proper correction and could be affixed in a few minutes. Mr. Rutherfurd constructed a micrometer for the measurement of astronomical photographs, for use upon pictures of solar eclipses or transits and upon groups of stars, of which he has measured several hundred, showing, as he claims, that the photographic method is at least equal in accuracy to that of the heliometer or filar-micrometer, and far more convenient. The photographs of the moon made by Mr. Rutherfurd are of remarkable beauty and have not yet been surpassed. A German writer having suggested that the collodion film was not reliable, Mr. Rutherfurd published in 1872 a series of measurements that conclusively demonstrated its fixity under proper conditions. In 1864 he presented to the National academy of sciences a photograph of the solar spectrum that tie had obtained by means of bisulphide of carbon prisms. It contained more than three times the number of lines that had been laid down within similar limits on the chart by Bunsen and Kirchhoff. He constructed a ruling-engine in 1870 which produced interference-gratings on glass and speculum metal that were superior to all others until the recent productions of Professor Henry A. Rowland. With one of these gratings, containing about 17,000 lines to the inch, he produced a photograph of the solar spectrum which was for a long time unequalled. In 1876 he published a paper describing an instrument in which the divided circle was of glass and showed by readings that it gave a far greater accuracy than could be obtained from divisions on metallic circles of the same dimensions. Mr. Rutherfurd was named by the president of the United States one of the American delegates to the International meridian conference that met in Washington in October, 1885, and he took an active part in the work and framed and presented there solution that finally expressed the conclusions of the conference. He was invited by the French academy of sciences to become a member of the International conference on astronomical photography in Paris in 1887, and was appointed by the president of the National academy of sciences as its representative, but was obliged to decline on account of failing health. In 1858 he became a trustee of Columbia, but he resigned in 1884, after giving his astronomical instruments to that institution, in whose observatory they are now mounted. Mr. Rutherfurd was one of the original members named in the act of congress in 1863 creating the National academy of science, and is an associate of the Royal astronomical society, and his work has been recognized by the gift of many diplomas, memberships, orders, and medals, both domestic and foreign.
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