DescriptionRobert R. Livingston Autograph Letter Signed Advising Rensselaer Co-founder Amos Eaton on Electromagnetism. Two and one-third pages with integral address leaf, 5.75" x 7", Clermont, New York, April 10, 1807, to Amos Eaton. Signed "Rob R Livingston" at close. Four months before Livingston and Robert Fulton reached their goal of a viable steam engine for locomotion with the steamboat Clermont (named after the Livingston family estate), Livingston penned this letter to the American lawyer, inventor, and botanist regarding electromagnetism and perpetual motion. Both men were following in the footsteps of Benjamin Franklin, who had investigated the forces of electricity and magnetism a generation before them.
Robert R. Livingston (1746-1813), son of statesman Robert R. Livingston, studied law with William Smith. Livingston was on the committee that drafted the Declaration of Independence, swore in George Washington in 1789, negotiated the Louisiana Purchase, and was instrumental as a co-inventor of the steamship with Robert Fulton.
Amos Eaton (1776-1842), a native New Yorker, was a botanist, geologist and educator who is credited with developing modern science education for the American school system based on "the application of science to the common purposes of life." Eaton studied science under Benjamin Silliman at Yale, and subsequently lectured on the subject at a variety of institutions, including West Point. He cofounded the Rensselaer School (now Institute) in 1824, and served as its senior professor for many years.
Condition: Multiple flattened folds.
"Clermont 10th. Apl 1807
I must appologize [sic] to you for my delay in replying to your interesting letter of 19th. Jany[.] I have been so much occupied & so much abroad as not to have before hand [illegible] me to consider it as fully as it merited [.] You have removed the greater part of the objections that struck me as f [illegible] to your plan & I think your experiment shows that that I proposed will not succeed at least with weak magnets[.] what it might do with more powerful ones, aided by a fly, is perhaps yet doubtful[.] that yours however bids [fairest?] for success I frankly acknowledge, & think the object sufficiently interesting to merrit [sic] an experiment I do not myself see any radical defect in it[.] But experience alone can determine whether it has power sufficient to over come the friction, & cut off magnetic communication, on this [illegible] must depend upon the accuracy & delicacy of the construction of the machine-could this be effected I should think with you, that you had discovered perpetual motion. It remains to be considered whether it could be applied to any useful purpose since the power would at all events be small, and perhaps the irregularity of the force, (for magnetism is by no means equal at all times or in all places,) would prevent its being applied to time with effect-& yet perhaps this is the only use to which so small a power could be applied but it would at all events be a curious &interesting discovery-
I am Sir with much esteem Your Most Obedt Hume Servt
Rob R Livingston
Amos Eaton Esqr
[Address:] Amos Eaton Esqr / Cats Kill / Greene County
[Notation:] Clermont Ap. 26 1807
[Docket:] R. R. Livingston 20 Ap 1807"
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