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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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Sarah Platt Dorenus

DORENUS, Sarah Platt, philanthropist, born in New York City, 3 August 1802; died there, 29 January 1877. She was the daughter of Elias Haines, a merchant of New York, and her mother was the daughter of Robert Ogden, a distinguished lawyer of New Jersey. In 1812 she united with her mother in praying for the conversion of the world, and from that time dates her interest in foreign missions. She married, in 1821, Thomas C. Doremus, a merchant, whose wealth thenceforth was freely expended in her benevolent enterprises. In 1828, with eight ladies, she organized the Greek relief mission, and sent Dr. Jonas King to Greece to distribute supplies. Seven years later she became interested in the mission at Grand Ligne, Canada, conducted by Madame Henriette Feller, of Switzerland, and in 1860 was made president of the organization. In 1840 she began visiting the New York City prisons, and after establishing Sabbath services, used her influence in 1842 toward founding the Home for women discharged from prison, now the Isaac T. Hopper home, of which she became president on the death of her friend and cofounder, Miss Catherine M. Sedgwick. She aided in founding, in 1850, the House and school of industry for poor women, becoming its president in 1867, and in 1854 became vice president of the Nursery and child's hospital.

In 1855 she assisted Dr. J. Marion Sims in his project of establishing the New York woman's hospital, of which she was ultimately president. During the civil war she cooperated with the work carried on in the hospitals, ministering alike to the wounded from north and south. She founded, in 1860, the Woman's union missionary society, designed to elevate and Christianize the women of heathen lands, and she took an active part as manager in the Presbyterian home for aged women, organized in 1866. She aided in collecting supplies to relieve the sufferers from famine in Ireland in 1869, and was for many years manager of the female branch of the City mission and tract society and of the Female Bible society. The last society in which she labored was known as the "Gould Memorial," and had for its objects the establishment of Italo-American schools. All foreign missions, without regard to creed, shared her sympathies. Her private charities for the poor were incessant, amid the cares of a family of nine children of her own, and others that she adopted.

Her son, Robert Ogden, chemist, born in New York City, 11 January 1824, studied at Columbia, and was graduated at the New York University in 1842. Here he came under the influence of John W. Draper, and in 1843 became his assistant in the medical department of the University. This office he held for seven years, and aided Professor Draper in many of his famous researches on light and heat. In 1847 he went to Europe, continuing his chemical studies in Paris with special reference to electrometallurgy, also visiting the establishments where chemical products were manufactured. On his return to New York, in 1848, with Dr. Charles T. Harris, he established a laboratory on Broadway for the purpose of giving instruction in analytical chemistry, and for making commercial analyses. He was elected professor of chemistry in the New York College of pharmacy in 1849, and delivered the first lectures in his own laboratory. Meanwhile he studied medicine with Dr. Abraham L. Cox, and received his degree from the medical department of the University in 1850.

He was one of the founders of the New York medical College in 1850, and at his own expense arranged and equipped the first laboratory in the United States for instructing medical students in analytical chemistry, requiring all the candidates for graduation to pass this examination. In 1851 he was elected professor of natural history in the Free academy (now the College of the City of New York), and in 1859 was associated with others in establishing the Long Island College hospital, where he lectured for several years. He was appointed professor of chemistry and toxicology in Bellevue hospital medical College, New York, in 1861, which chair he has since retained. A year later he went to Paris, where he spent two years in developing the use of compressed granulated gunpowder in firearms. The cartridges patented by him require no serge envelopes as are ordinarily used in muzzle loading cannon, and hence no sponging of the gun after firing is necessary.

Dr. Doremus was authorized by the French minister of war to modify the machinery in the Bouehet pouderie so that gunpowder of the American character could be produced. Subsequently an exhibition of the firing of compressed granulated powder in cannon and small arms was made in Vincennes, before Napoleon III. and many of his generals. This system was adopted by the French government, and a large portion of the Merit Cenis tunnel was blasted with "la poudre comprimee." While in Paris he was invited to fill the chair of chemistry and physics in the College of the City of New York, and he still holds that appointment. His lectures on toxicology at Bellevue hospital medical College resulted in his being called upon by coroners and district attorneys to examine poison cases, and he introduced radical changes in the system of medical jurisprudeuce. He established a special toxicological laboratory, with a dissecting room attached, kept under lock and key, using only reagents of known purity, and purchasing new glass and porcelain vessels for each case. Dr. Doremus further insisted that the expert should have ample time for his researches, and that he should be properly remunerated for his services. His course has led to more thorough scientific investigation than was formerly common in poison examinations. In the case of James Stephens, convicted of poisoning his wife, Dr. Doremus analyzed not only the entire body of Mrs. Stephens, but also another human body, to test the question of "normal arsenic." he was the expert in the celebrated Burdell murder case (1857), and examined the bloodstains found in Dr. Burdell's room.

In another case he proved the presence of strychnine in a body that had been buried for four months. In 1865 the "Atlanta" arrived at quarantine, and during her voyage from Liverpool sixty of her passengers had died from cholera. A quick method of disinfections was necessary, and Dr. Doremus recommended that chlorine in enormous quantities be used. Under his direction, specially prepared vessels for the generation of this powerful gas were introduced between decks, the hatches battened down, and the vapor allowed to accomplish its work of destroying the disease germs. This heroic treatment proved thoroughly successful, and in 1875 the process was again used, with equal success, in the disinfections of hospital wards.

In 1871 he was appointed president of a Board for examining the druggists and their clerks in New York City, which in six months examined over 900 persons. He obtained aid from the Board of health in suppressing the gases emanating from the gashouses, and opposed its action in adopting the " lactometer with the senses" as the sole means of testing the purity of milk. Dr. Doremus is known as a brilliant lecturer on scientific topics, and has frequently appeared before New York audiences in that capacity. He has patented methods for extinguishing fires, and also other chemical processes, also introducing into the United States several chemical industries. The New York University has conferred on him the degree of LL.D. Dr. Doremus held for several years the presidency of the New York philharmonic society, and has also been president of the New York medico legal society, of which organization he was chemist for several years. His published writings include only a few addresses, notably that at the unveiling of the Humboldt statue in Central Park, and papers delivered before scientific societies.

His son, Charles Avery Doremus, chemist, born in New York City, 6 September 1851, was graduated at the College of the City of New York in 1870, and subsequently studied in the universities of Leipsic and Heidelberg, receiving the degree of Ph. D. from the latter institution in 1872. In 1877 he became professor of chemistry and toxicology in the medical department of the University of Buffalo, which office he held until 1882, when he became assistant to the chair of chemistry and physics in the College of the City of New York. Meanwhile he had received the appointments in New York City of lecturer on practical chemistry and toxicology in Bellevue hospital medical College, and professor of chemistry in the American veterinary College. The chemical laboratories in these institutions, excepting Bellevue, were organized under his direction. Dr. Doremus has made a specialty of medical chemistry and toxicology, and has frequently been called into courts as an expert in such matters. He is chemist to the Medicolegal society, and a member of the chemical societies of Berlin, Paris, and New York, and for some time edited the journal of the latter society. He has written frequent papers on sanitary chemistry and methods of analysis, which have appeared in the proceedings of the societies to which he belongs, and he is the author of a " Report on Photography," contributed to the U. S. government reports on the Exhibition held in Vienna in 1873.

Edited Appletons Encyclopedia, Copyright © 2001 VirtualologyTM

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