Ebenezer Emmons was born in Middlefield, Massachusetts on May 16, 1799, the son of Mary Mack and Ebenezer Emmons, Sr., a farmer. At an early age, his interest in natural science became apparent and he was destined for higher education. He received most of his training for college from the Reverend Moses Hallock, a teacher in nearby Plainfield.
He attended Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts from 1814 to 1818, where he became an assistant of the American geologist Amos Eaton. In 1824 Emmons enrolled at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to continue his Geology training. Between his days at Williams and Rensselaer, he had also studied medicine at the Berkshire Medical College where he received his medical degree. After graduating Emmons opened a medical practice specializing in obstetrics in Chester, Massachusetts. From 1828 to 1834, he delivered lectures in chemistry at Williams College. This led in 1833 to an appointment as professor of natural history, a position he held until 1859, when he was made professor of geology and mineralogy. He also worked to enlarge the cabinet of mineralogical and geological specimens at Williams.
In 1836, Emmons became one of the four head geologists of the new geological survey for the state of New York. the legislature of North Carolina in 1851 revived the state geological survey, defunct since 1827. In January 1852 Emmons became its chief, a position he would fill until his death. The Civil War shattered Emmons's life and destroyed of his work. Loyalty to the Union and separation from friends probably aggravated his health problems until he died on October 1, 1863. During the war much of the work he and his assistants had done was lost, including personal papers, collections of minerals and fossils, unpublished geological maps, and handwritten manuscripts sufficient for several volumes.
According to Canfield (1923), Emmons formed two major mineral collections. One is at Williams College, and the other (consisting of large, crystallized specimens from New York State) was acquired by the Hon. Erastus Corning and donated in 1870 to the New York State Museum in Albany.
POWELL, W. S. (1979-1996) Dictionary of North Carolina Biography.
CANFIELD, F. A. (1923) The final disposition of some American collections of minerals. Privately printed.
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