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Silas Hamilton Douglas











Silas Hamilton Douglas, chemist, born in Fredonia, New York, 16 October 1816,  the son of Benjamin Douglass, born 1785, a descendant of Deacon William Douglas, born 1610.  He was educated at the academy in Fredonia, and then entered the office of Dr. Zina Pitcher in Detroit, Michigan, for the study of medicine, after which he was graduated in Baltimore as a physician, and entered on the practice of his profession in Dearborn, Michigan. 

In 1844 he was appointed instructor in chemistry in the University of Michigan, and at once was given charge of that department, Dr. Douglas Houghton, the professor of chemistry, being absent in the prosecution of the geological survey of Michigan. Two years later he was elected professor of chemistry, and took part in the establishment of the department of medicine, which was organized in 1848. He secured at that time the promise of a chemical laboratory in the medical department, but its fulfillment was delayed until 1856, when he was given a separate building, provided with tables for twenty-six students, at a time when few of the older Colleges of this country, and not many universities in Europe, were supplied with laboratories. 

Dr. Douglas served in charge of the chemical department of the University of Michigan for thirty-three years, during which time his labors were directed to the establishment of a laboratory of instruction, as the object of his life, a purpose in which he was eminently successful. As a result of his efforts the laboratory through successive enlargements reached a capacity for 270 students in 1880. 

He has been connected with various scientific societies, both as active and corresponding member. His publications include, " Tables for Qualitative Chemical Analysis" (Ann Arbor, 1864); and, jointly with Professor Albert B. Prescott, "Qualitative Chemical Analysis" (New York, 1873; 3d ed., 1880).

Silas Hamilton Douglas married on May 1st 1845, Helen Welles (died 1880), and had three daughters, Kate, Marie, and Louise.

He died in Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County, Michigan on August 26th, 1890, and was buried in Forest Hill Cemetery, Ann Arbor.


Extended photo caption:
Civic leader Silas Douglass, dean of the UM medical faculty and twice mayor of Ann Arbor, lived in this home at 502 East Huron Street from 1848 until 1902. His three daughters, Kate, Marie, and Louise, shown here around 1890, enjoyed the luxuries of privileged America. Kate wrote in her reminiscences, "Ann Arbor society was unusually good for a small place. There were many tea parties where both gentlemen and ladies were invited. They sat around little tables enjoying the good supper and pleasant talk. They often had dances in private homes. There were many tableaux too, which we had in our bay window." In contrast, Harriet Noble recalled that when she arrived from New York State in late 1824, "there were six or seven log huts occupied by as many inmates as could crawl into them."


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Last modified: Monday, 25 March 2024