Location: Bowdoin / Library / Special Collections & Archives / Manuscript Collections / Parker Cleaveland Collection

Parker Cleaveland Collection, 1795-1994 (bulk 1805-1858)

7.5 linear feet + 3 folio volumes

Catalog Number: M34

Series List:


Agency History / Biographical Note:
Parker Cleaveland (1780-1858) was an educator, studied law and theology, and was, in 1803, appointed tutor at his alma mater, Harvard (class of 1799). In 1805, he became Bowdoin's first professor of mathematics and natural philosophy, soon adding to his disciplines chemistry and mineralogy. He served the Medical School of Maine as secretary of the faculty and professor of materia medica, and he attended to the college's specimen collection.

Cleaveland's interest in mineralogy and geology developed from studies of local samples, particularly those found along the banks of the Kennebec and Androscoggin Rivers. He consequently recognized the need for an American textbook to supplant the European works then in use. His An Elementary Treatise on Mineralogy and Geology (1816, 2nd ed. 1822) became a standard text. Cleavealand's scientific interests also included astronomy, biology, conchology, the collection of natural history specimens, and instrument design, among others. He was renowned for his exciting classroom demonstrations, both at Bowdoin and at popular public lectures in Portland, Hallowell and Portsmouth; for his eccentric personality; and for his continuing interest in the Bowdoin men he had taught.

Cleaveland married Martha Bush in 1806. They had three daughters and five sons; all four sons who survived into adulthood graduated from Bowdoin.

Scope and Content:
Correspondence, scientific records, notes and catalogs, financial records, images, clippings, printed ephemera and book drafts, directly documenting Cleaveland's professional career. Included are exchanges with scientific colleagues, weather observations, information about the preservation and cataloging of natural history collections, and the draft of Cleaveland's never published 3rd edition of An Elementary Treatise on Mineralogy and Geology.

Cleaveland's contacts included most of the notable American scientists of his day, both amateur and professional, including: Caleb Atwater, James Bowdoin III, Chester Dewey, George Evans, John Farrar, George Gibbs, John Gorham, Benjamin Hale, Levi Hedge, Edward Hitchcock, Charles Thomas Jackson, Stephen Longfellow, William Maclure, Elijah Parish, Isaac Ray, and John Torrey.

For related materials, please see the Cleaveland-Chandler Family Papers (M35).

Cite as: Parker Cleaveland Collection, George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections & Archives, Bowdoin College Library
Access Restrictions: None.

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