November 1993

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Biography of

Samuel Hart Wright

M.D., A. M.

from Cleveland's History of Yates County, New York, 1873

Dr. Samuel H. Wright, born in 1825, now a citizen of Jerusalem, is a native of Peekskill, N. Y. His father is a minister of distinction in the Methodist Church. His mother was Zillah Hart, and died at Geneva in 1865. He followed farming till he was twenty-five years old, and in his boyhoood had no educational aspirations, learning but little at the district schools. At twenty he was electrified by two carpenters who at the end of a day's work took from their tool chest books on mathematics and philosophy for study and discussion. This lighted up a new ambition; he resolved to be his own educator, and made rapid advancement in the most solid acquirements. While plowing he carried on his studies, stopping occasionally to draw a diagram on the fresh upturned soil. He declined his father's offer of academical opportunities, which he said would be soon enough sought when he found a science too difficult to master without aid. In 1845 he married Joanna, daughter of William McLean. In 1848, the third year of his study, he made his first set of astronomical calculations, which he sold in Rochester for fifteen dollars, getting cheated out of his pay, a loss which he afterwards deemed a profitable one, because it gave him an idea that business had its importance as well as theoretical knowledge. In 1849 he made a set of astronomical tables for the four principal latitudes of the United States. In attempting to sell them in the city of New York, he was repulsed and disheartened till he applied at the Tribune Office, where he sold his manuscript. Ever since that time the Whig and Tribune Almanacs have made use of his calculations.

In 1850 he moved to Dundee and assisted Richard Taylor one term as teacher in the Dundee Academy. The next winter he taught a district school at Big Stream. David Young who had long been almost the sole collector for almanacs in this county, died in 1822, and thenceforth Samuel H. Wright took his place, and has done much of the same work for Cuba, Canada, Mexico, the countries of South America, China, Persia and Australia. He bids fair to hold a profitable business through life in working calendars alone. Speaking of his work he says:

"The great solar eclipse of May 26, 1854, afforded me the first opportunity of testing and witnessing the confirmation of my calculation of solar eclipses, which is conceded to be a problem of no easy dimensions. It was watched with anxiety and palpitation, as my reputation and possibly my fortune depended upon the result. The great solar eclipse of 1869 gave me no such feelings; my reputation was established, and had it failed it would have done me little damage, as ten thousand men would have sought some reason to excuse the blunder in me, but would instantly consign to obscurity a novice who might make such a mistake. So unfair is mankind."

He commenced the study of Medicine in 1854 with Dr. Henry Spence, attended a course of lectures in New York and in 1865 received from the Geneva Medical College the degree of Doctor of Medicine by diploma. He has practiced in this profession to some extent. In May, 1855 his wife died leaving three children Sarah Janett, Berlin Hart and Delia Bloomer. Sarah Janette is the wife of Ezra Tinker, A.B., B.D., a Methodist preacher of the New York Conference. Their other children reside with their father. Dr. Wright in November, 1855, married Mary Jane, daughter of Jeremiah S. Burtch, of Jerusalem. They have a daughter Florence.

In 1856 Dr. Wright engaged in the study of Botany and in three years collected an herbarium of over three thousand specimens, added to which sixteen hundred species from Europe, and others from the South and West, gathered by exchange, constitute a collection of nearly six thousand plants valued at twelve thousand dollars. This has been the cause of an extensive correspondence with all the native botanists of the country. In 1866, Williams College conferred on Dr. Wright the degree of Master of Arts. In April, 1865, he was drafted, and promptly informed the Provost Marshal he was ready; but as the war soon closed, the conscripts of that draft were not ordered forward. In 1866 he sold his home in Dundee, and has since resided at the home of his father-in-law in Jerusalem. Among his pursuits is that of land surveying. He has an admirable zeal as a student of nature and science, and has collected a fine scientific library.

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