Concise Encyclopedia of Tufts History

Sauer, Anne

Branco, Jessica

Bennett, John

Crowley, Zachary


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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  • The encyclopedia seeks to capture more than 150 years of Tufts' achievements, societal contributions and outstanding alumni and faculty in concise entries. As a source of accurate factual information, the Encyclopedia can be used by anyone interested in the history of Tufts and of the people who have made it the unique institution it is.
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Numeric Entries
Dame, Lorin Low, 1838-1903
Dana, Charles A., 1881-1975
Dana Laboratory, 1963
Daniel Ounjian Prize in Economics,
Davies, Caroline Stodder, 1864-1939
Davies House, 1894
De Florez Prize in Human Engineering, 1964
de Pacheco, Kaye MacKinnon, ca. 1910-ca. 1985
Dean Hall, 1887-1963
Dean, Oliver, 1783-1871
Dearborn, Heman Allen, 1831-1897
Department of Anatomy and Cellular Biology, 1893
Department of Anesthesia, 1970
Department of Art and Art History, 1930
Department of Biochemistry, 1893
Department of Chemistry, 1882
Department of Community Health, 1930
Department of Dermatology, 1897
The Department of Economics, 1946
Department of Medicine, 1893
Department of Molecular Biology and Microbiology
Department of Neurology, 1893
Department of Neuroscience, 1983
Department of Neurosurgery, 1951
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 1893
Department of Ophthamology, 1893
Department of Orthopedic Surgery, 1906
Department of Otolaryngology, 1895
Department of Pathology, 1893
Department of Pediatrics, 1930
Department of Pharmacology, 1915
Department of Physics and Astronomy, 1854
Department of Physiology, 1893
Department of Psychiatry, 1928
Department of Radiation Oncology, 1968
Department of Radiology, 1915
Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, 1955
Department of Surgery, 1893
Department of Urban and Environmental Policy, 1973
Department of Urology, 1910
Dental Health Sciences Building, 1969
Dewick, Cora Alma (Polk), 1875-1977
Dewick/MacPhie Dining Hall, 1959
Dickson Professorship of English and American History, 1913
Dirlam, Arland A., 1905-1979
Dog Cart, 1900
Dolbear, Amos Emerson, 1837-1910
Donald A. Cowdery Memorial Scholarship, 1946
Dr. Benjamin Andrews Professorship of Surgery, 1987
Dr. Philip E. A. Sheridan Prize, 1977
The Drug Bust, 1970
Dudley, Henry Watson, 1831-1906
Dugger, Edward Jr., 1919-75
Durkee, Frank W., 1861-1939
Durkee, Henrietta Noble Brown, 1871-1946
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