Fonds MG2045 - Thomas Sterry Hunt Fonds

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Thomas Sterry Hunt Fonds

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Fonds

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CA MUA MG2045

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  • 1845-1891 (Creation)
    Creator
    Hunt, Thomas Sterry, 1826-1892

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60 cm of textual records

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(1826-1892)

Biographical history

Geochemist Thomas Sterry Hunt was born in Norwich, Connecticut, and educated at Yale. In 1846 Hunt, then an employee of the Vermont Geological Survey, was hired by William Logan as a chemist for the Geological Survey of Canada. While at the survey, he undertook routine tasks of field exploration, chemical analysis of minerals, mining surveys, and administration. From his empirical laboratory experience he developed an interest in theoretical problems, which eventually produced the totally chemistry-based geology of his revolutionary "Report on the Chemistry of the Earth" (1870). Hunt's prolific publishing, as well as his important discoveries on petroleum and the chemistry of crystalline rocks, earned him an international reputation. In 1872, unsatisfied with the new administration of the Geological Survey, Hunt departed for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He stayed there only until 1878, for though he had taught at Laval (1856-1863) and McGill (1862-1868), he did not enjoy educational work. Hunt never again found a truly remunerative or satisfying position. However, he remained a very active member of numerous scientific organizations, including the Royal Society of Canada, of which he was president in 1884, continued to publish, and revisited Canada frequently.

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Scope and content

The bulk of the Hunt papers consists of scientific correspondence, with a fairly large component of notes on scientific subjects. Most of the material dates from after Hunt's departure for the United States. With the exception of a letter of appointment to the Geological Survey of Vermont in 1845, all Hunt's correspondence (incoming, with copies of some outgoing) dates from the period 1863-1891, with the majority of items from the 1880s. There are a few letters of a social or personal nature, but most concern scientific matters: geological and chemical research problems, exchange of specimens, Hunt's theories and the controversies they stirred, his publications, negotiations for patents on some of his discoveries, the business of various scientific societies, and in particular the organization of the Geological Congress. Amongst his correspondents were James D. Dana (with whom he engaged in a heated quarrel over scientific theory), James Hall, Persifor Frazer, J.W. Dawson, and various members of the Geological Survey of Canada, such as G.M. Dawson, Robert Bell, Henry Y. Hind, and George Iles. Hunt's scientific notes mostly deal with special topics in chemistry, geology, mineralogy, railways, coal products and the controversy with Dana. There are also reading notes for geological texts, lecture notes for courses in geology, 1876, and chemistry, and indexes, apparently for Hunt's books. A manuscript on "Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography: an episode in its history", notes for a lecture on "People I have met", and sketches of family history represent Hunt's wider interests. There are also clippings of reviews of books and lectures by Hunt, biographical notices, reports on scientific themes and institutions, and news of the Geological Survey.

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