Silliman family.

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Benjamin Silliman was born in Trumbull (North Stratford), Connecticut on August 8, 1779. He graduated from Yale College in 1796, studied law with Simeon Baldwin, was appointed as a tutor at Yale College (1799), and was admitted to the bar in 1802. He was appointed professor of chemistry and natural history at Yale College in 1802. Silliman taught, lectured, and published until 1853. He died in New Haven, Connecticut on November 24, 1864.

Four generations of Sillimans, surrounding the central figure of Benjamin Silliman (1779-1864), are represented in the Silliman Family Papers. According to a number of sources, Silliman's ancestors were Italian Protestants named Sillimandi, who moved to Geneva some time during the Reformation and later to Holland. Elizabeth Schenck in History of Fairfield, Fairfield County, Connecticut notes that the first member of the family in America, Daniel Sillivant, settled in Fairfield around 1658. By 1690 the family name was established as Silliman.

The relationships of various members of the Silliman family are sketched in outline form below. For additional information, consult the genealogical charts immediately following the outline (in the repository) and the family Bible in the Yale Archives.

Graduated from Yale College in 1727. Judge of the superior court of New Haven Colony and member of the Governor's Council. Married Abigail Selleck.

Son of Ebenezer and Abigail (Selleck) Silliman. Graduated from Yale College in 1752. Married Martha Davenport. They had one surviving son, William Silliman. In 1775 Gold Selleck married Mary (Fish) Noyes. During the Revolution, Silliman held the rank of general and was charged with the defense of southwestern Connecticut.

Daughter of Joseph Fish, Harvard graduate and for fifty years pastor of a church in North Stonington, Connecticut and of Rebecca (Peabody) Fish who was a descendant of Priscilla and John Alden. Mary had one sister, Rebecca, wife of Benjamin Douglas, who died in 1766. In 1758 Mary married John Noyes, pastor of the First Church in New Haven. They had five children:

Rebecca (1759-1760)

Joseph (b. 1761)

John (b. 1762)

James (b. 1764)

Mary (1766-1770)

John Noyes died in 1767 and in 1775 Mary married Gold Selleck Silliman. They had two children:

Gold Selleck Silliman

Married Hepsa Ely, daughter of David Ely of Newport, Rhode Island. Moved to Brooklyn in 1815. Their thirteen children include Benjamin Douglas Silliman and Augustus Ely Silliman.

Benjamin Silliman

Mary was married a third time in 1804 to John Dickinson of Middletown.

In 1809 Benjamin Silliman married Harriet Trumbull, daughter of Governor Jonathan Trumbull.

Governor of Connecticut 1769 to 1784. Married Faith Robinson, daughter of John Robinson of Duxbury, Massachusetts in 1735. They had six children, including:

Jonathan Trumbull (1740-1809)

John Trumbull (1756-1843), artist

Governor of Connecticut 1797 to 1809. Married Eunice Backus in 1767. They had five children, including:

Faith (Trumbull) Wadsworth

Maria (Trumbull) Hudson

Harriet (Trumbull) Silliman

The notes below outline some significant dates in the lives of Benjamin Silliman and Benjamin Silliman, Jr. For additional biographical information on both Sillimans, consult the Dictionary of American Biography and the biographical sketches and memoirs in the Silliman Family Papers. George P. Fisher's Life of Benjamin Silliman is a good source of biographical data on the elder Silliman and Scientists in Conflict: The Beginnings of the Oil Industry in California by Gerald White contains valuable information on the younger Silliman's career as a mining consultant. For a comprehensive bibliography of the works of Benjamin Silliman, Jr., Consult Arthur Williams Wright's "Biographical Memoir of Benjamin Silliman 1816-1885," published in 1911 by the National Academy of Sciences. A copy of this pamphlet is filed with the biographical sketches and memoirs.

  • 1779: born in North Stratford (now Trumbull), Connecticut on August 8
  • 1792: entered Yale College
  • 1796: graduated from Yale; taught in a private school in Wethersfield
  • 1798: returned to New Haven to study law with Simeon Baldwin and Charles Chauncey
  • 1799: appointed a tutor in Yale College
  • 1802: admitted to the bar. Appointed professor of chemistry and natural history in Yale College. Spent the next two winters (1802-1804) studying chemistry with James Woodhouse and Robert Hare in Philadelphia and with John Maclean in Princeton. Elected to membership in the American Philosophical Society.
  • 1804 - 1805 : gave first chemistry lectures at Yale
  • 1805 - 1806 : traveled to Europe to study chemistry, mineralogy and geology in London and Edinburgh and to buy books and scientific equipment for Yale
  • 1806: helped formulate plans for a medical school at Yale
  • 1807: observed and wrote an account of the famous "Weston (Connecticut) Meteor." Became acquainted with Col. George Gibbs who first loaned and later sold his mineral cabinet to Yale
  • 1808: gave first series of lectures on chemistry to the public in the Yale College Laboratory
  • 1809: married Harriet Trumbull
  • 1810: published Journal of Travels in England, Holland and Scotland. Edited William Henry's The Elements of Experimental Chemistry
  • 1813: introduced full course of illustrated lectures on mineralogy and geology at Yale
  • 1818: published first issue of The American Journal of Science and Artsin July
  • 1819: traveled to Quebec with brother-in-law Daniel Wadsworth
  • 1820: published A Short Tour between Hartford and Quebec in the Autumn of 1819
  • 1824: traveled to Washington, D. C. with Daniel Wadsworth
  • 1830: published Elements of Chemistry
  • 1830: appointed a director of the General Hospital Society of Connecticut, the first state-chartered hospital in Connecticut
  • 1831 - 1833 : gave first public lectures in chemistry outside Yale at the Franklin Institute, New Haven
  • 1832: instrumental in the founding of the Trumbull Gallery at Yale
  • 1832 - 1833 : conducted an investigation of the culture and manufacture of sugar sponsored by the Federal government
  • 1833: edited Robert Bakewell's An Introduction to Geology
  • 1834: gave a series of public lectures on geology in Hartford, the first public lectures outside New Haven
  • 1835: gave a series of geology lectures in Boston
  • 1836: made a professional tour of gold mines in Virginia, accompanied by Benjamin Silliman, Jr.
  • 1839 - 1840 : delivered the inaugural lectures of the Lowell Institute, Boston, on geology
  • 1840: elected president of the newly-formed Association of American Geologists, parent organization for the American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • 1840 - 1843 : continued the Lowell Institute series with lectures on chemistry
  • 1840s: gave public lectures in Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Charleston, New Orleans and throughout the South
  • 1846: retired as an active editor of Journal of Science
  • 1851: traveled to Europe accompanied by Benjamin Silliman, Jr. Married Sarah Isabella (McClellan) Webb
  • 1852: gave a course in geology at the Smithsonian Institution
  • 1853: gave final lecture in Yale College
  • 1863: one of fifty original members elected to the National Academy of Sciences
  • 1863: retired after fifteen years as president of the American Mutual Life Insurance Company
  • 1864: died in New Haven, November 24
  • 1816: born in New Haven, December 4
  • 1833: entered Yale College
  • 1836: accompanied his father on a professional tour of gold mines in Virginia
  • 1837: graduated from Yale; became an assistant to his father
  • 1838: became associate editor of The American Journal of Science and Arts
  • 1840: married Susan Huldah Forbes
  • 1842: began teaching general and analytical chemistry and mineralogy to private students
  • 1845 - 1846 : gave a series of lectures on agricultural chemistry in New Orleans
  • 1845 - 1849 : member, Common Council of New Haven
  • 1846: became co-editor, with James Dwight Dana, of Journal of Science. Appointed professor of practical chemistry in the newly-created Department of Philosophy and the Arts in Yale College. John Pitkin Norton appointed professor of agricultural chemistry- beginnings of the Yale Scientific School
  • 1847: published First Principles of Chemistry
  • 1849 - 1854 : professor of medical chemistry and toxicology at University of Louisville
  • 1851: traveled to Europe with his father; studied geology and met many European scientists
  • 1853: appointed professor of general and applied chemistry at Yale. Supervised chemical, mineralogical and geological exhibits at the Crystal Palace in New York. Edited World of Science, Art and Industry with Charles R. Goodrich
  • 1854: assumed teaching duties in Yale Scientific School and in Yale Medical School. Edited The Progress of Science and Mechanism with Charles R. Goodrich
  • 1855: published "Report on the Rock Oil, or Petroleum, from Venango County, Pennsylvania"
  • 1858: second trip to Europe
  • 1859: published First Principles of Physics or Natural Philosophy
  • 1863: one of fifty original members elected to the National Academy of Sciences
  • 1865 - 1885 : consulting chemist and geologist for mining interests
  • 1869: appointed state chemist of Connecticut
  • 1870: resigned duties in Sheffield Scientific School
  • 1874: delivered address at the centennial celebration of American chemistry
  • 1885: died in New Haven, January 14

From the guide to the Silliman family papers, 1717-1977, 1717-1911, (Manuscripts and Archives)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Silliman family papers, 1717-1977 (bulk 1717-1911) Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Abbott, Gorham D., 1807-1874 person
associatedWith Agassiz, Louis, 1807-1873 person
associatedWith Bache, Franklin, 1792-1864 person
associatedWith Blake, William P. (William Phipps), 1826-1910 person
associatedWith Brongniart, Alexandre, 1770-1847 person
associatedWith Bruce, Archibald, 1777-1818 person
associatedWith Brush, George Jarvis, 1831-1912 person
associatedWith Carpenter, George W. (George Washington), 1802-1860 person
associatedWith Chauncey, Charles, 1777-1849 person
associatedWith Clayton, Joshua E. (Joshua Elliot) person
associatedWith Collier, Peter, 1835-1896 person
associatedWith Dana family. family
associatedWith Dana, Henrietta Frances Silliman, 1823-1907 person
associatedWith Dana, James Dwight, 1813-1895 person
associatedWith Dana, Richard Henry, 1815-1882 person
associatedWith Darling, Noyes, 1782-1846 person
associatedWith Darwin, Charles, 1809-1882 person
associatedWith Day, Jeremiah, 1773-1867 person
associatedWith Delafield, Joseph, 1790-1875 person
associatedWith Dickinson, Mary Fish Noyes Silliman, 1736-1818 person
associatedWith Dix, Dorothea Lynde, 1802-1887 person
associatedWith Douglas, Benjamin, 1719-1775 person
associatedWith Douglass, David Bates, 1790-1849 person
associatedWith Dwight, Timothy, 1752-1817 person
associatedWith Eaton, Amos, 1776-1842 person
associatedWith Fish family. family
associatedWith Fish, Joseph, 1706-1781 person
associatedWith Fish, Rebecca Peabody, 1703-1783 person
associatedWith Gibbs, Josiah Willard, 1790-1861 person
associatedWith Gilman family. family
associatedWith Glass, Anthony, ca. 1773-1819? person
associatedWith Goodrich, Charles, 1778-1871 person
associatedWith Gould, Benjamin Apthorp, 1824-1896 person
associatedWith Grimké, Thomas Smith, 1786-1834 person
associatedWith Henry, Joseph, 1797-1878 person
associatedWith Herrick, Edward Claudius, 1811-1862 person
associatedWith Hewitt, Abram S. (Abram Stevens), 1822-1903 person
associatedWith Hildreth, Samuel P. (Samuel Prescott), 1783-1863 person
associatedWith Hubbard, Faith Wadsworth, 1812-1887 person
associatedWith Jackson, Charles T. (Charles Thomas), 1805-1880 person
associatedWith Littell, Eliakim, 1797-1870 person
associatedWith Locke, John, 1792-1856 person
associatedWith Loomis, Elias, 1811-1889 person
associatedWith Maley, John. person
associatedWith Mantell, Gideon Algernon, 1790-1852 person
associatedWith Maury, Matthew Fontaine, 1806-1873 person
associatedWith Meade, William, d. 1833 person
associatedWith Morse, Samuel F. B. (Samuel Finley Breese), 1791-1872 person
associatedWith Morton, Samuel George, 1799-1851 person
associatedWith Olmsted, Denison, 1791-1859 person
associatedWith Pascalis Ouviere, Felix, 1762-1833 person
associatedWith Pendleton, William S., 1795-1879 person
associatedWith Porter, Noah, 1811-1892 person
associatedWith Putnam, George Palmer, 1814-1872 person
associatedWith Rogers, Henry D. (Henry Darwin), 1808-1866 person
associatedWith Ruggles, Samuel Bulkley, 1800-1881 person
associatedWith Silliman, Benjamin, 1779-1864 person
associatedWith Silliman, Benjamin, 1816-1885 person
associatedWith Silliman, Gold Selleck, 1732-1790 person
associatedWith Silliman, Harriet Trumbull. person
associatedWith Silliman, Susan Huldah Forbes, 1819-1878 person
associatedWith Smith, J. Lawrence (John Lawrence), 1818-1883 person
associatedWith Sparks, Jared, 1789-1866 person
associatedWith Stebbins, Josiah, 1766-1829 person
associatedWith Stokes, Anson Phelps, 1874-1958 person
associatedWith Street, Augustus Russell. person
associatedWith Sullivan, John L. (John Langdon), 1777-1865 person
associatedWith Taft, Alphonso, 1810-1891 person
associatedWith Tallmadge, Frederick A. (Frederick Augustus), 1792-1869 person
associatedWith Tappan, Benjamin, 1773-1857 person
associatedWith Thomas, David, 1776-1859 person
associatedWith Torrey, John, 1796-1873 person
associatedWith Town, Ithiel, 1784-1844 person
associatedWith Trumbull family. family
associatedWith Trumbull, John, 1756-1843 person
associatedWith Trumbull, Jonathan, 1740-1809 person
associatedWith Twining, Stephen, 1767-1832 person
associatedWith Webster, John White, 1793-1850 person
associatedWith White, Henry, 1803-1880 person
associatedWith Whitney, J. D. (Josiah Dwight), 1819-1896 person
associatedWith Williams, S. Wells, (Samuel Wells), 1812-1884 person
associatedWith Woolsey, Theodore Dwight, 1801-1889 person
associatedWith Woolsey, Theodore Salisbury, 1852-1929 person
associatedWith Wright, Arthur Williams, 1836-1915 person
associatedWith Yale University. Art Gallery. corporateBody
associatedWith Yale University. Curricula. corporateBody
associatedWith Yale University. Faculty. corporateBody
associatedWith Yale University. Sheffield Scientific School. corporateBody
associatedWith Yale University. Students. corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
South Africa
United States
Great Britain.


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