Thomas Green Clemson

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Date: 1936
Publisher: Gale
Document Type: Biography
Length: 593 words
Content Level: (Level 4)
Lexile Measure: 1200L

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About this Person
Born: 1807 in Pennsylvania, United States
Died: 1888
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Clemson, Thomas Green (July 1, 1807 - Apr. 6, 1888), mining engineer and founder of Clemson College, was born in Philadelphia where his father was a merchant. As a student in the Philadelphia public schools and in a laboratory he became deeply interested in chemistry, an interest which took him to Paris about 1826. There he entered a practical laboratory and attended lectures at the Sorbonne by Thénard, Gay-Lussac, and DuLong. In 1827 he entered the laboratory of Robiquet. Through the influence of the American Consul at Paris he was admitted as auditeur libre to the École des Mines Royale (1828-32). He was examined at the Royal Mint of France and received a diploma as assayer. From about 1832 to 1839 he was engaged in Paris, Philadelphia, or Washington as consulting mining engineer, developing a profitable practise, and during this period he contributed numerous articles to the publications of various learned societies. In Washington he came to know the family of John C. Calhoun, in 1838 was married to Calhoun's eldest daughter, Anna Maria, and became associated with his father-in-law in Southern agriculture and gold mining. In 1844 he left his plantation upon being appointed by President Tyler to the post of chargé d'affaires in Belgium. In this post, which he held until 1851, he negotiated important commercial treaties, attempting to promote direct cotton trade between Southern ports and the German states through Antwerp (Letters to Calhoun). He was a keen observer of the growing European interest in agricultural and technical education. From 1853 to 1861 he made his residence at "The Home," near Bladensburg, Prince Georges County, Md., near Washington. He was engaged in planting and assaying, and probably was representing the Belgian government in a professional way. During this time he was a frequent contributor of articles on scientific agriculture and agricultural education, and was influential in the establishment of the Maryland Agricultural College in 1856. Three years later he was appointed superintendent of agriculture by Jacob Thompson, secretary of the interior. In this position he urged both the establishment of an independent bureau of agriculture and the establishment of land grant colleges. Resigning his post Mar. 4, 1861, because of his Southern sympathies, Clemson soon entered the service of the Confederate government. When he was paroled four years later he was supervisor of mines and metal works of the Trans-Mississippi Department. From 1865 to 1888 he lived in South Carolina at Pendleton or at Fort Hill, the latter being the home of the Calhouns. During the greater part of these years he was engaged, with almost passionate zeal, in an attempt to raise funds "for aid to found an institution for the diffusion of scientific knowledge that we may once more become a happy and prosperous people." Finally, despairing of attaining his end during his life, he left by will to the State of South Carolina the bulk of his estate, including Fort Hill, which he and his wife had purchased. When the State of South Carolina accepted his bequest and Clemson College was established, there was brought to fruition the great aim of his life.

Clemson had a very striking personality. He was six feet six inches in height, well proportioned physically, and a man of broad intellectual interests. He was a member of many learned societies, and received the decoration of the Order of Leopold and the French Legion of Honor. Something of a violinist, he was also an amateur in oil painting, and collected in Belgium about forty paintings, some of which are considered of rare value.


[Am. Farmer, 1855-98; Charleston News and Courier, Apr. 9, 1888; Yates Snowden, ed., Hist. of S. C., vol. II (1920); Patent Office Reports, 1859-60; manuscript letters of Clemson to Calhoun, in Clemson Ag. College; recollections of personal acquaintances.]

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Gale Document Number: GALE|BT2310015941