Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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REDFIELD, William C, meteorologist, born near Middletown, Connecticut, 26 March, 1789; died in New York city, 12 February, 1857. He assumed the initial C on coming of age. At the age of fourteen he was apprenticed to a saddler in Upper Middletown (now Cromwell). In 1810, on the expiration of his apprenticeship, he went on foot to visit his mother in Ohio, and kept a journal of his experiences. After spending the winter in Ohio he returned to Upper Middletown, and engaged in his trade for nearly fourteen years, also keeping a small country store. In 1827 he came to New York city. Meanwhile, after the great September gale of i821, Mr. Redfield arrived at the conclusion that tile storm was a progressive whirlwind; but other enterprises prevented the development of his theory at that time. He became interested in steam navigation, and as the general community had become alarmed by several disastrous steamboat explosions he devised and established a line of safety-barges, consisting of large and commodious passenger-boats towed by a steamboat at sufficient distance to prevent danger, to run between New York and Albany. When the public confidence was restored he transformed his line into a system of tow-boats for conveying freight, which continued until after his death. He was largely identified with the introduction of railroads, and in 1829 he issued a pamphlet in which he placed before the American people the plan of a system of railroads to connect Hudson river with the Mississippi by means of a route that was substantially that of the New York and Erie railroad. During the same year he became convinced of the desirability of street-railways in cities, and petitioned the New York common council for permission to lay tracks along Canal street. In 1832 he explored the proposed route of the Harlem railroad, and was instrumental in securing the charter of that road; also, about that time he was associated with James Brewster in the movement that resulted in the construction of the Hartford and New Haven railroad. His first paper on the "Atlantic Storms" was published in 1831 in the "American Journal of Science," and in 1834 it was followed by his memoir on the" Hurricanes and Storms of the United States and West Indies," which subject he continued later, with numerous papers, descriptions, and tables of particular hurricanes. Subsequently he devoted some attention to geology, studying the fossil fishes of the sandstone formations. In 1856 he demonstrated that the fossils of the Connecticut river valley and the New Jersey sandstones, to which he gave the name of the Newark group, belonged to the lower Jurassic period. In 1839 he received the honorary degree of A. M. from Yale, and he was an active member of the American association of naturalists and geologists. To his influence the change of the latter organization to the more comprehensive American association for the advancement of science was largely due, and in 1843 he was its first president, having charge of the Philadelphia meeting of that year. See "Scientific Life and Labors of William C. Redfield," by Dennison Olmsted (Cambridge, 1858).--His son, John Howard, naturalist, born in Cromwell, Middlesex County, Connecticut, 10 July, 1815, removed with his father to New York city in 1827, and was educated at the high-school, which he left to enter business, and was engaged in freight-transportation on the Hudson river from 1833 till 1861, when he removed to Philadelphia, where, until 1885, he was cashier of a ear-wheel foundry. In 1836 he became a member of the Lyceum of natural history (now the New York academy of sciences), and he was its corresponding secretary from 1839 till 1861. He contributed to its "Annals " numerous papers, of which the first, in 1837, was upon "Fossil Fishes," and contained the earliest intimation that the sandstones of Connecticut and Massachusetts were of a more recent formation than that to which they had been previously referred. His subsequent papers were chiefly on conchological subjects. He was appointed conservator of the herbarium of the Philadelphia academy of natural sciences in 1876, and he has contributed botanical papers to the " Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club," and to the "Botanical Gazette." Mr. Redfield has also published "Genealogical History of the Redfield Family in the United States" (Albany, 1860).
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