Concise Encyclopedia of Tufts HistorySauer, Anne
Dolbear, Amos Emerson, 1837-1910
|Amos Emerson Dolbear (1837-1910), known to his students at Tufts as "Dolly," chaired the Department of Astronomy and Physics at the college beginning in 1874. He was a "theoretical scientist" who enjoyed the discovery of new possibilities, including his pioneering research concerning telephony.|
Dolbear was born in Norwich, Connecticut, on November 10, 1837.Following his father's death, he and his mother moved to Newport, Rhode Island, where he remained with his mother until her death in 1847.He then went to live on a relative's farm in New Hampshire and eventually was sent to Worcester, Massachusetts, to learn a trade. He was employed briefly by a pistol-making factory. At the age of eighteen, he headed west, finding employment as a school teacher in Missouri. Suffering from poor health, he soon returned to New England and continued to carry out physically laborious jobs in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
Desiring a better education in order to advance professionally, Dolbear enrolled in Ohio Wesleyan University. As a result of his upstanding performance, he soon became an assistant in both the Physics and Chemistry Departments. He graduated in 1866 following two years of study and became an assistant instructor in the Chemistry Department the University of Michigan. He received two degrees, an M.A. and a M.E. from Michigan. Dolbear then assumed the position of assistant professor of Natural History at Kentucky University. After two years he moved on to become professor of Physics and Chemistry at Bethany College in 1868.In 1869, he married Alice Hood, with whom he had six children. Before leaving West Virginia, he served as the Bethany's mayor from 1871-1872.
In 1874, Dolbear arrived at Tufts College, accepting the chair of the Physics and Astronomy Department and continued to pursue his interest of the study of the convertibility of sound into electricity. He stayed at the college for the remainder of his academic career.
Dolbear contributed many notable inventions to the scientific world, including the static telephone, the electric gyroscope used to demonstrate the Earth's rotation, the opeidoscope, and a new system of incandescent lighting. His research on the static telephone was conducted in his laboratory on the top floor of Ballou Hall, and the first transmissions using the device were made from Ballou to his house on Professors Row. He published several books, articles, and pamphlets, including "Matter, Ether, Motion," and was recognized for his contributions to science at both the Paris Exposition in 1881 and the Crystal Palace Exposition in 1882.
Dolbear was amember of the American Association ofArts and Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and an examiner at the World's Fair.
Dolbear was one of only three faculty members to offer unqualified support of the College's decision to admit women beginning in 1892. In 1905-6, he became the first faculty member to be granted permission for a full academic year's leave with pay prior to the establishment of a sabbatical leave program in 1908.
Dolbear died in February of 1910 following a long illness.
Source: TCG, HTC
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