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date: 07 April 2020

Porter, John Addisonlocked

(15 March 1822–25 August 1866)
  • Donald B. Marti


Porter, John Addison (15 March 1822–25 August 1866), chemist, professor, and university administrator, was born in Catskill, New York, the son of Addison Porter, a merchant, and Ann Hogeboom. His family moved to New York City in 1831 and to Philadelphia in 1836. After attending the Kinderhook, New York, academy, Porter had private instruction in Philadelphia until 1838, when he enrolled at Yale College. A somewhat erratic student—inclined to fail in assignments that were considered easy but brilliant at mathematics and a voracious reader of poetry and fiction—he studied metaphysics and read Kant in translation during his senior year. Hoping to become a Presbyterian minister, as his paternal grandfather had been, he was frustrated by a “persistent skepticism” that he considered the “great calamity” of his undergraduate years. It troubled him until 1860, when he joined St. John’s Episcopal Church of New Haven, Connecticut. Graduating from Yale in 1842 and still hoping to be called to the ministry, he studied Hebrew and modern languages at his parents’ home in Philadelphia, returned to New Haven for a sample of theological study, and then accepted a new vocation....

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