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Cadwallader Colden

Born: 7-Feb-1689
Birthplace: Dunse, Scotland
Died: 20-Sep-1776
Location of death: Long Island, NY
Cause of death: Natural Causes
Remains: Buried, Colden Family Cemetery, Queens, NY

Gender: Male
Religion: Anglican/Episcopalian
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Physicist, Government
Party Affiliation: Whig

Nationality: England
Executive summary: Colonial scientist and statesman

Cadwallader Colden was a noted 18th century physicist, botanist, merchant, physician, and historian who also compiled astronomical tables and wrote on psychology, mathematics, cancer and yellow fever. He is generally cited as the author of the first scientific texts published in the colonies, and his better-remembered works include an attempt to expand on the work of Isaac Newton, and a finding that filth and foul air had been contributing factors in an epidemic that swept New York City. He corresponded with Carolus Linnaeus and was a friend of Benjamin Franklin, until politics drove them apart. He served as surveyor-general and later as Governor of the province of New York (though Lieutenant Governor was his official title).

In his public posts Colden was strictly loyal to England. When he announced that he would enforce the Stamp Act, he was first burned in effigy, then imprisoned by the New York City Council until he agreed not to collect the hated tax. Perhaps as a result of this, he was disdainful of proposals for democracy, equating it with mob rule. He was the featured speaker at the Manhattan unveiling of a statue of King George III, and in another controversy, he ordered a political opponent, one Alexander McDougall, to be arrested and charged with seditious libel.

After hearing reports of the 1775 Battle of Lexington and Concord, Colden feared that his royalist ties could cost him his life, and retired from the public arena. He died in his home shortly after the American radicals declared their 1776 independence from the Crown. The statue of King George, dedicated by Colden, was later melted to make bullets for the Revolutionary War, and after the war his estate was seized and sold by the government.

His son, David Colden, was forced to flee to Canada, and his daughter, Jane Colden, died before the war but is is generally acknowledged as America's first female botanist. Colden's grandson, Cadwallader David Colden, served with distinction in the War of 1812, and was later New York District Attorney from 1798-1810, Mayor of New York City from 1818-1821, and a US Congressman from 1821-23.

Father: Alexander Colden (minister, b. 1664, d. 1738)
Mother: Janet Hughes Colden (d. 1731)
Wife: Alice Chrystie Colden (m. 1689, m. 1715)
Son: David Colden
Daughter: Jane Colden (botanist)

    High School: Royal High School, Edinburgh, Scotland
    Theological: University of Edinburgh (1705)

    Governor of New York (1760-61, 1763-65, 1769-70, and 1774-75)
    New York State Official Surveyor General (1718-21)
    American Philosophical Society
    Scottish Ancestry

Author of books:
The History of the Five Indian Nations (1727)
Principles of Action in Matter (1751)


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