Member of the faculty, Hobart College
October 6, 1990
Hamilton Lanphere Smith was born in New London, Connecticut, in 1818. He attended Yale College, graduating with an A.M. degree in 1839. While a college student, he constructed what was then this country’s largest telescope. In 1849, Smith was appointed to the chair of natural philosophy and astronomy at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio. In 1868, he became Prendergast Professor of Astronomy and Natural Philosophy at Hobart College.
Smith became well-known internationally for his microscopic study of the diatomaceae and for the classification and arrangement of this group of cryptogrammic algae. He was the world’s pioneer in tintypes and is credited with being the first in this country to discover the comet of 1844.
He was one of five professors who “formed a distinguished faculty which made Hobart College respected through all the vicissitudes” of the late 19th Century and was known as a confidant and benefactor of students and younger faculty. In 1871, he received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. From 1883 to 1884 he served as acting president of Hobart College.
Smith was widely published and authored many books, including Natural Philosophy for School and Academies (1842), First Lessons in Astronomy and Geology (1848), A Few Remarks on Angular Aperture (1879), and Species Typicae Diatomacearum (1885-87).
In 1900, Smith retired, receiving the honorary degree Doctor of Science. He died on August 1, 1903.