Member of the faculty, Hobart College
October 6, 1990
John Towler was born in Yorkshire, England, in 1811. He studied for ten years as a non-resident at St. John’s in Cambridge before teaching English as a private tutor in Germany. Upon his arrival in the United States in 1850, Towler taught at Lima Seminary until he was appointed professor of modern languages at Hobart College in 1852.
Throughout his career at Hobart, Towler was often called upon to accept additional teaching responsibilities. At various times he taught modern language and literature, mathematics, natural philosophy, chemistry, toxicology, medical jurisprudence, anatomy, pharmacy, and civil engineering - many simultaneously. In addition, Towler was awarded an M.D. from Geneva Medical College in 1855 and served as its dean from 1853 to 1872. He also served as acting president of Hobart from 1875 to 1876.
Towler authored many books on the developing process of photography, edited a journal and an almanac, and, for five years, wrote monthly articles for the Philadelphia Photographer. His most important book on the subject, Silver Sunbeam (1863), was perhaps the most popular of the time and was translated into four languages by the time of its ninth edition in 1879.
Towler was the father of two sons, who became students of his at Geneva Medical College, and two daughters. Upon resignation from Hobart in 1882, he became U.S. Consul to Trinidad. In 1886 he retired to the home of his daughter in West Orange, New Jersey, where he devoted himself to literary work until his death in 1889.