Twining, Alexander Catlin LL. D.


Dr. Alexander Catlin Twining, scientist, inventor, educator, civil engineer and astronomer, whose life, covering eighty-three years, was devoted to those interests which in large measure have been uplifting forces in the world's work, was born in New Haven, July 5, 1801, and was descended from one of the distinguished and prominent New England families whose ancestral history can be traced back to the days of William the Conqueror. The founder of the family in New England was William Twining, who came to America before 1641 and settled on Cape Cod in the Plymouth colony of Massachusetts, where the name is well known and honored.

Stephen Twining, the father of Professor Alexander C. Twining, was born in Tolland, Massachusetts, then known as Granville, September 28, 1767, and was a son of Thomas and Anna (Cole) Twining. He was graduated from Yale University with the class of 1795 and took up the practice of law in New Haven. He built a residence on Elm street, in which he ever afterward made his home. He served as steward and acting treasurer of Yale and was an active member of the First Church of Christ (Congregational) of New Haven, in which he filled the office of deacon from 1809 until 1832. At times he taught a Bible class of young men in the Sunday school. He died on the 18th of December of the latter year, at the age of sixty-five, and was laid to rest in New Haven cemetery, where his tombstone bears the inscription, "He feared God." On the 3d of October, 1800, he had married Almira Catlin, who was born in Litchfield, August 24, 1777, a daughter of Alexander and Abigail (Goodman) Catlin, of Litchfield. Mrs. Twining passed away in New Haven, May 30, 1846, and was laid to rest by the side of her husband in New Haven cemetery. She was a devoted wife and mother and a true Christian woman, holding membership in the First Church of Christ. By her marriage she had become the mother of six children: Alexander Catlin, whose name introduces this record; William, who died June 5, 1884; Mary Pierce, who passed away in March, 1879; Helen Almira, who became the wife of Seagrove W. Magill; Julia Webster, who died July 8, 1893; and Ann Loring, who became the wife of Professor James Hadley and the mother of Dr. Arthur Twining Hadley, president of Yale University.

Alexander Catlin Twining attended the Hopkins grammar school of New Haven, after which he entered Yale and was graduated as a member of the class of 1820, at which time he received his Master's degree. Among his classmates were President Woolsey and Rev. Leonard Bacon, D. D. He then entered Andover Theological Seminary to prepare for the ministry, but after a period abandoned this object and became a tutor at Yale, where he served from 1823 until 1825, and during that time gave some attention to the study of mathematics and natural sciences. He afterward went to West Point, New York, where he pursued a private course in civil engineering, adopting the profession and following it for a number of years. He surveyed the site of what is now the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad between New York and New Haven, and although the company did not adopt his survey at the time, thinking the route too costly, and took up another which enabled them to build the line for a less figure, it is understood that the route that was surveyed by Professor Twining has of late years been adopted by the railroad company and is now used. He followed his profession in New Haven until 1839, when he accepted the professorship of mathematics, civil engineering and astronomy in Middlebury College at Middlebury, Vermont, occupying that chair for a period of ten years. Returning to New Haven, he continued to follow his profession of civil engineering and was engaged in connection with the construction of several railways and canals for a number of years. He was a man of the strictest honesty, however, and had the greatest contempt for fraud and deception, and when work was demanded of him that did not mean the full measure of his high standard and ability, rather than do inferior work in that connection, he would no longer accept a position of that character and abandoned his profession. He gave the remainder of his days to the pursuits of scientific research, for which he was well qualified. He was thoroughly learned in the higher mathematics and astronomy and was the author of numerous monographs and abstruse problems, such as the doctrine of parallels and the origin of meteors. He is said to be the first to establish the cosmical theory of the latter. He gave much of his time and attention to the study of the heavenly bodies and found great pleasure and interest in this work. He was also an inventor of note and among his inventions was a machine for the manufacture of artificial ice in commercial quantities, in which connection he erected his first plant at Cleveland, Ohio. This proved a success and he received patents for his invention from England as well as from the United States, but for the want of large capital and the oncoming of the Civil war, which largely paralyzed trade, especially in connection with initial ventures, he did not find it possible to put his ice manufacturing plant in operation and later his patents were infringed upon. During one of the later years of his life he delivered lectures in the Yale Law School.

Dr. Twining was married at West Point, New York, March 2, 1829, to Harriet Amelia Kinsley, who was born at West Point, a daughter of Zebina and Anne (Duncan) Kinsley. Mrs. Twining, who was a lady of broad Christian charity, a devoted wife and mother and a sincere member of Center church, passed away in New Haven in 1871 and was laid to rest in Grove Street cemetery. The children of this marriage were seven in number. Kinsley, who was graduated from Yale with the class of 1853, also attended the Yale Divinity School and the Andover Theological Seminary and was ordained to the ministry of the Congregational church, after which he engaged in preaching from 1859 until 1876. In 1878 he became a member of the editorial staff of the New York Independent and in 1898 he became literary editor of the Evangelist. Yale University conferred upon him the degree of Doctor of Divinity and Hamilton College the degree of Doctor of Letters. He passed away in 1901. Harriet Anne, the second of the family, died February 23, 1896. Theodore Woolsey and Sutherland Douglas were twins. The former was graduated from Yale College in 1858 and the law department of Yale in 1862 and was admitted to practice in Connecticut. He enlisted for service in the Civil war in a New York regiment and later was appointed paymaster in the United States navy. He died from yellow fever August 14, 1864, while on board the United States steamship Roebuck in Tampa bay, Florida. Sutherland Douglas Twining graduated from the Sheffield Scientific School in 1859 and from the medical department of Yale in 1864 and served as surgeon in the United States army at Baltimore and at Alexandria, Virginia. He has continued in the practice of medicine throughout his active life and is now living retired at Buffalo, New York. The others of the family are: Julia, at home; Mary Almira, who became the wife of Rev. A. Delos Gridley, a Presbyterian clergyman, who died in 1876, while her death occurred in 1915; and Eliza Kinsley. The daughters, Julia and Eliza Kinsley Twining, reside at the family homestead on Prospect street in New Haven. They are devoted members of the Center church and have always been active in church and charitable work. Miss Julia Twining was for thirty-six years treasurer of the New Haven branch of the Woman's Board of Missions, while Miss Eliza Kinsley Twining was for years recording secretary of the New Haven Orphan Asylum and is now a member of its board.

The death of Professor Alexander Catlin Twining occurred in New Haven, November 22, 1884, and he was laid to rest in Grove Street cemetery. He was long a devoted member of Center church, in which he served as deacon for many years. He lived a true Christian life, was a devoted Bible student and was most convincing in his arguments on religion. He was also opposed to slavery and was one of the signers of the petition concerning slavery sent from Connecticut to President Buchanan. He was active in the organizing and financing of the band of colonists who went from New Haven to Kansas to oppose slavery in the '50s. He took up all those vital public questions with the same thoroughness that marked his research work along scientific lines. Middlebury College of Vermont conferred upon him the degree of Master of Arts in 1839 and Yale conferred upon him the degree of Doctor of Laws in 1865. His breadth of mind found an even balance in his broad humanitarian spirit and he ranked with nature's noblemen. At his passing the New York Independent commented upon his life in the following beautiful tribute: "The death of Professor A. C. Twining ends a long life of varied and brilliant achievements and which was even richer and more brilliant in richness and fruitfulness of Christian character. Professor Twining is known among astronomers as the author of the 'Cosmic Theory of Meteors.' As a civil engineer he was engaged as chief or controlling engineer of every line running out of New Haven and on the Northeast roads, through Vermont, on the Lake Shore, the Cleveland, Columbus, Pittsburgh, and various roads of Chicago, including the Rock Island and Old Milwaukee Line. As an inventor he pioneered to a successful result the industrial manufacture of artificial ice. For nine years he served as professor of mathematics and astronomy in Middlebury College, and while then residing in Vermont was active in the temperance reform, into which he entered with much energy as chairman of the state temperance committee. In political matters he took a deep interest as one of the promoters of the original movement which issued in the foundation of the republican party. He was one of the projectors of the famous 'Conn' letter to President Buchanan. He was deeply interested in constitutional questions and reached the highest point in his lectures on the constitution of the United States in Yale Law School. In the discussion of questions of theology and philosophy he showed vigor and subtle ingenuity. To his friends he was always at home and upon them the beauty of his face and head, the winning courtesy of his manner and the simplicity of his Christian character made a lasting impression, while few that ever met him even casually failed to notice that to him it was given to invite and receive the spiritual confidence of others and to give them solid and permanent assistance."

Modern History of New Haven
Eastern New Haven County


Volume II

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The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company 

pgs 282 - 286

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