This section details the events that occurred in direct relation to Colden’s activities as a scientist and engineer. Although there are a number of events noted that are genealogical, political and historical in nature, they are included in order to produce background information on Cadwallader Colden. Also included in this chronology is coverage of the activities of Cadwallader’s daughter Jane.
Currently, the focus of this chronology is mostly publication driven, and is intended to provide the reader with citations of Colden’s work and his impressions upon other writers throughout his life and for decades after. It is quite surprising to see when and where Colden’s work had its greatest influence. The British paid little attention to Colden until they obtained the manuscript of his daughter Jane Colden with the purchase of a large part of the Linnean Collection around 1810. Event then, the ongoing political history of the United States and England impeded any successful interactions that might have taken place betwen Anglican Science and United States Science. For this reason, whereas one might expect the influences of the Coldens’s work on the scientific community to be mostly America and Great Britain in nature, we find the opposite to be the case. A large amount of the publications involving the Coldens took place in other parts of Europe, in particularEastern European and the Germanic Prussian parts of Europe. It is within these countries that we find the mention of the Coldens’s influences as important writers, contributors to their fields, etc., really outstanding.
In general it could be said that Cadwallader’s influences on a per country basis even had their underlying histories and personalities. To the French, Cadwallader was an important Natural Philosopher specialized in the influences of natural energies upon the human body and the universe as a whole. To the Germans and Prussians, and some Moravians and Bohemians, he was an important source of inspiration regarding their pursuits in Botany and Colonial or Foreign Missionary work. To several Anglican academic settings, he was for a short time influential upon such unique studies as the study of language and writing in relation to culture, and even the study of the classics as they related to political and military history. The anthropologists strongly admired Colden’s work due to his study of the Iroquois in his History of the Five Nations, a project which perhaps had the largest and longest overall impact of Colden’s work in history and the political sciences as a whole. Another line of anthropological thinking that Colden’s work influenced pertained to food and eating habits. Coldens review of the five types of corn found in the New York setting paved the way for later marketing and successful production of a variety of corn products and recipes, the most important of which was farina. This influence even reflects back upon Colden’s own local history in New York, for one of the major contributors to the writings about this piece of local food and agriculture history was a member of a famous Huguenot family back in France and the Netherlands–the Parmentiers.
To many of locals, Colden’s work especially hit home regarding his local work on natural history and botany. These naturalists appreciated Colden’s influences upon the new plant classification system developed by Carl Linne and the applications of American plants to the botanical medicine field as a whole, both naturally as well as itnernationally. Fue to the roles Colden played in documenting local medicinal plants uses by indigenous and traditional Hudsonians, he strengthened our background and with regards to better understanding such unique local folk legends about plants such as their use for treating the snakebites or preventing the yellow fever from striking and taking many more lives. Colden’s most unique and most important local historical contribution to this area of study is his work on the Black Snake Root plant and its historical use in treating and preventing the bite of the local snake by the same name. It was not so much the influence his recipe had on locals for using a local plant to treat the bite, as it was for the tendency for this local natural history story to bloom and blossom well into the 1800s. What amazed the readers of Colden’s work was the ability of this snake to mesmerize its prey, and to take advantage of this unique skill, without the use of rattles, to obtain its next meal.
Other examples of Colden’s impacts as a physician with strong metaphysical training include his work involving the use of Tar-Water for treating infectious disease, his work in the field of inoculation of measles and small pox, his writings about a Throat Distemper (possibly Diphtheria), and his mention of various unique uses of local plants by the Indians for treating everything from simple colds and chest conditions like consumption, to eliminating the deadly forms of cancer that abound locally. All in all, nearly every activity and study which Colden engaged in had some important impact on local Hudson valley medical and science history. The main reason for this pertained mostly to his stay in the region and life spent in the Hudson Valley and New York as a well educated American. Colden’s work in medicine was mostly as a medical climatologist, adhering to the European tradition regarding this view of diseases so common for this time. Colden’s would take a basic philosophy regarding epidemiology, add his own interpretation on the natural events that unfolded before him about such diseases, and often end up with his own unique theory for the illness based on reasoning very much identical to that of his peers in Europe. Colden was also a traditional Scotsman in the Valley, making the best use of the various topographic hindrances which might otherwise limit or hinder his lifestyle on the marshy, hilly lands in and around Coldenham, a section of the Valley that must have been very reminiscent of his old family’s homestead in Coldinham, Scotland, close to Edinburgh. Colden practices this lifestyle into his final days as a scientist, writer and inventor of new ideas. For these reasons alone, he deserved better respect than he received during the late Colonial and early United States period in American history. Both locally and abroad, Colden was not treated well by the mother country he spent much of his time working for. Instead it appears as though he was highly respected by nearly every other country in the immediate vicinity of England, and even more countries in Eastern Europe normally lacking the respect they deserve for the accomplishements and discoveries they made due to Colden’s work.
The influences of Cadwallader’s daughter, Jane, took a similar route, but lacked much of the poor respect that Britain had offered to ehr father. Instead, Jane was simply not acknowledged to exist publically, and her works in the sciences not at all romanticized much by any English author until she was much later discovered, due to fate, not due to any search for knowledge on England’s behalf. Although we know of Jane or Jenny Colden’s cheif role as a botanist, she is better admired as a highly skilled artist, using a method popularized, and possibly invented, by Ben Franklin to produce her works of plant art, while adhering to the skills her father had taught her as a taxonomist and botanist.
To many writers during her post-humous years, we find that Jenny was in actuality more an inspiration due to her influences as a women in the male-dominant field of sciences, but most importantly in the natural sciences, not just botany. For this reason she is often referred to in the writings for the time as one of several other influential women in this field of science, in particular involving the work of Linne. But the additional evidence found about her in the writings suggests that as a women her work symbolized more two things about science that men could not provide the much-needed support and inspiration for–the Art of science and the study of Natural History. In a womenly fashion, skills attached skills to knowing Nature and Natural Philosophy had a strong aspect of it that could be romanticized in the writings of the late 1700 and early 1800s, and so it was. Some of these images and suggestions could only be assigned to some sort of feminine, womenly or maternal influence involving mankind and nature. Jenny did give her locals the chances to experience this piece of her personality, but only following her untimely death. By the late 1790s, this symbolism of her impacts on science are found in numerous textbook-like writings on plants and overall natural history, which appear throughout this chronological review and are covered more extensively elsewhere in my writings on Hudson Valley Colonial Medicine.
So why bring all of this up? The answer to this question is simple, and already implied in the last few paragraphs.
The question sholars need to ask is why was Colden appreciated outside the Anglican, English speaking scientific community more than within his native science community?
It could be that these scholars interpreted Colden’s work simply as unimportant to the British scientists and press, relative to the impacts of English scholars in general. But this lack of respect Colden had could also be due to a series of prejudices that Great Britain had against him related to the war, their failure with controlling the America colonies, and several of the impacts Colden’s accomplishments outside of the science fields later had upon British discoveries in general. An addition factor working against Colden’s local and British recognition during the late 18th and early 19th centuries was the fact that to some, Colden seemed to be neither a patriot for the Americans to respect, nor a full-fledged loyalist in terms of British respect and support. Colden served officially and professionally as a representative of British Government and therefore a loyalist. But due to his problems as a leader of this important North American colony, the British lessened their impressions about his overall value to them politically at times. It is also possible that Colden loss support from the British due to several attempts he made to contact Royalty regarding this political and economic problem in New York and the surrounding Colonies. The resulting attitudes about Colden due to these events continued well into the 1800s. As the British continued to try and retake control of this part of North America, events that ultimately resulted in the War of 1812 did not help him in achieving any fame in Great Britain at all.
So, there were several major factors working against Colden’s acceptance by both sides of American medicine and science–British and American. In Great Britain, Colden’s impacts upon the common beliefs influenced him professionally in medicine, even though he was no longer employed as a physician, and in the physical science fields, even though he was working mostly as a philosopher and politician by this time. Still, these problems alone are still not enough to be the cause for why British scientists developed their strong dislike Cadwallader and his writings, during his most influential years as a writer. Isaac Newton lived from 1642 – 1727. Colden had a brief written encounter with him, and following Newton;s death, redefined one of Newton’s most important philosophies and the related theories. Due to Newton’s death, Colden was left without a direct debator of his new non-mechanistic theories meant to serve as a substitute for Newton’s very mechanical and physical definition of the universe, its rotating bodies and their impacts upon each other. To many later non-Anglican writers, Colden brought the metaphysics of the universe back to life for the natural philosophers and theologians, thereby retaining some of his adherence to his father’s own natural theological thinking as well which he experienced as a part of his childhood. The public dislike and condemnation of Colden on behalf of British scholars becomes clear when one reviews their various reviews of the book Cadwallader had published earlier about his theory on Matter and Action, followed by supporting work produced by another member of the Colden family. based on a review of these later writings, the British critics were apparently very much against anything any of the Coldens wrote. This may be because it was in direct competition with the teachings of Newton at times (an insight recently shared with me by another Colden biographer). This insight into the anti-Colden British scheme is made even clearer when we review the attempts of his descendent Alexander Colden, a theologian like Alexander, Senior, to provide his own religiously-based metaphysical interpretation of the natural universe in the “light” that drives the mind of the religious philosopher (see ca. 1790-1795 notes). Like his father, Alexander Colden got little respect from British scholars, but the deserved respect for non-scientist, non-medical thinkers and non-British writers.
This review of Colden’s writings is anticipated to extend another 30 years than already presented, ending around the year 1825 or 1830. But it may extend a bit further depending upon my sense of completeness with this part of my work. A summary of this work is then in the works in order to demonstrate the influences Colden had intellectually and well as geographically worldwide based on GISing his biography and the circulation globally of his various discovereies and influences. Using the right qualitative analysis GIS methods, one can even demonstrate to what extent Colden had his influences upon the different European and American countries during this period of time, before he became more a curiosity of historians in anthropology, medicine and science. From 1725 to 1825 approximately, Colden’s thinking and intellectual process itself influenced his followers, and made professional enemies of some of his competitors within the intellectual fields. We are fortunate that Colden’s influences were not as overstated as those of several other 18th/19th century scientists. This enables us to trace the route of his influences across political boundaries, from one intellectual field to the next, demonstrating along the way when and where certain prejudices against his lines of reasoning got the best of Cadwallader Colden’s teachings. This is the purpose of this line of research on Hudson Valley Medicine, and or this case, Medicine and Science, etc..