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Stephen Pearl Lathrop

Excerpted from Stephen Pearl Lathrop, M.D. First Professor of Chemistry and Natural History at Beloit College:

The Vermont Years.
    Born: September 20, 1816.
    Shelburne, Vermont.
    (the second of four children)

    Parents: Stephen Pearl Lathrop, Sr.; Sarah (Sally) Smith Lathrop
    (Lathrop's parents were farmers.)

1816-1834: Lived in the towns of Shelburne, Burlington, Monkton, and New Haven, Vermont.

1830-1831: Lived with Myron Chapin (New Haven, Vt.), where he trained as a tailor's apprentice.

1831: Joined 'the church' (probably Congregational) at New Haven.

1831-1831: Worked as a clerk in the store of Jim Smith at New Haven, and the store of Chapman & Wilson in Hinesburgh.

1834: Prepared for college at the academy in Shoreham, Vt.

1835-1839: Attended Middlebury College, Middlebury, Vt. Graduated with bachelor's degree in 1839. Later earned his master's degree there also.

1839-1841: Taught in Bridgeport, Wallingford, and Ludlow, Vt.

1841-1843: Enrolled at Vermont Medical College, Woodstock, Vt. Graduated with medical degree in 1843, and began medical practices in Middlebury, Vt.


  • Married Lucy Gibson Warner (Andover, Vt.).
  • Delivered lectures in anatomy at Middlebury College.


  • Appointed instructor of anatomy, botany, and physiology at Middlebury College.
  • Appointed Assistant Geologist for the State of Vermont.
  • Appointed to the Examining Committee of the Medical College at Castleton for the years 1845-1846.
  • First child born: William Pearl Lathrop. 1/30/1845.


  • Appointed superintendent of Middlebury schools.
  • Ran (unsuccessfully) for Middlebury town representative.
  • Appointed principal of the Middlebury Female Seminary.
  • Served as principal until 1849.


  • Lathrop's father died. For the next eight years, he provided for his mother's financial needs.
  • His second child born: Charles Linnaeus Lathrop (evidently named after Lathrop's brother, Charles, and the Swedish botanist, Linnaeus)


  • Wife, Lucy, died at Middlebury. 1/30/1848.
    (On his son William's, third birthday.)
  • Beloit College Board of Trustees unanimously elected Lathrop to the College's newly created chair of Chemistry and Natural History at Beloit College. September 19, 1848.
  • Lathrop accepted the Beloit appointment. March 1848.
  • Remarried; Martha Hemenway Clement, at Topsham, Mass. April 9, 1848.

The Wisconsin Years.

**Professor of Chemistry and Natural History. Beloit College. October 1849 - May 1854.


  • Arrived in Beloit with family between October 10-13, 1849.
  • Attended first official meeting of the Beloit College faculty; named chair of that group.
    October 13, 1849. Lathrop became the College's fifth faculty member. The other faculty members were: Professor Emerson, Bushnell, Porter, and the tutor, Mr. Carey.


  • Son Charles died. March 30, 1849. Age--3 years, 4 months.
  • Performed the first surgery using anesthesia (chloroform) in Rock County.
  • At the request of the Smithsonian, began a meteorological journal; the collection of that data has continued until the present at Beloit.

1851: Third child born. Mary Bodwich Lathrop.


  • Donated personal herbarium to Beloit College. (Noted in faculty minutes. February 25, 1852)
  • Part of a committee-of-five that organized the first Rock County Fair, which was held at Beloit.
  • Named vice-president of the Rock County Agricultural Society.
  • Mapped effigy mounds on the campus of Beloit College.


  • Became co-editor of The Wisconsin and Iowa Farmer.
  • Elected member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. July 1853.
  • Elected vice-president of the Wisconsin Fruit Grower's Association. November 18, 1853.
  • Fourth child born: John Clement Lathrop.


  • University of Wisconsin Board of Trustees selected Lathrop to fill the University's first Chair of Chemistry and Natural History. February 24, 1854.
  • Lathrop informs Beloit College faculty that he will accept the appointment at Madison. March 15, 1854.
  • University trustees receive Lathrop's letter of acceptance. April 5, 1854.

**Professor of Chemistry and Natural History. University of Wisconsin. May 1854 - December 1854.


  • Assumed duties at Madison. Taught first chemistry course at the University with equipment borrowed from Beloit College.
  • Attended the National Cattle Show in Springfield, Ohio as a state representative. 10/25/1854.
  • Traveled to Boston to procure a chemical apparatus for the University.
  • Contracted typhoid fever. 11/27/1854.
  • Died on Christmas Day, 1854.
  • Services for Professor Lathrop held in both Madison and Beloit. Buried in Oakwood Cemetery, Beloit, Wisconsin. December 28, 1854.

1855: Nearly six months after his death, Lathrop's youngest child was born. Helen (Nellie) Hoyt Lathrop. 5/30/1855.

1864: Lathrop's son, William Pearl, aged nineteen, listed as missing in action at the Battle of the Wilderness. May 5, 1864. His name is on the plaque in Beloit College's Memorial Hall, which memorializes Beloit College students who lost their lives in battles of the Civil War.

1869: Lathrop's oldest daughter, Mary, married Wm. H. Wheeler. December 4, 1869. Mr. Wheeler was the son of Leonard H. Wheeler, inventor of the Eclipse Windmill, and the brother of E.P. Wheeler, founder of an academy in Ashland, Wisconsin. Wheeler's academy was the beginning of Northland College, with whom Beloit College has exchange programs in both environmental studies and Native American studies.


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