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Daniel Vaughan
(c.1818 – 1879)

Daniel Vaughan, scientist, mathematician, physiologist and astronomer, was born at Glenomra near Kilbane, Broadford, County Clare, around 1818. His father, John, was a farmer and Daniel had a brother Edmund (or Owen) and a sister called Margaret. He was a nephew of Bishop Daniel Vaughan. Daniel received his early education at the local hedge school and later attended the Killaloe classical school.

He emigrated to the United States around 1840, though the circumstances and the date of his departure are unclear. One version states that, at eighteen years of age, he paid for his passage using money given by his uncle for the purpose of studying for the priesthood. There are also doubts as to his marital status at this time. He may have been a widower at the time he left Ireland and there is a possibility that he had a son who remained with relatives in Ireland.

He spent some time in the southern states and by 1842 was working as a tutor to the children of Colonel Stamps in Kentucky. Soon he was running a classical school in the area, teaching Greek, Latin, mathematics and astronomy. He was a gifted linguist, fluent in German, Italian, French and Spanish. He was appointed to the chair of Greek in a college at Bardstown in Kentucky. His interest in scientific studies was growing and he became a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Several of his journal articles were published and, resulting from his work in experimental physiology, he was awarded a fellowship in the Association. His articles included On the Motions of Numerous Small Bodies and the Phenomena Resulting there from and Solar Light.

By 1850 Daniel Vaughan was living in Cincinnati and continuing his studies in the scientific area. He was particularly interested in astronomy and natural phenomena. In December 1850 his article Chemical Researches in Animal and Vegetable Physiology was published in the Eclectic Medical Journal. This was seen as an important paper and earned him an honorary degree of a Doctor of Medicine in 1855. Daniel was in great demand on the lecture circuit, delivering papers on scientific matters in Ohio, Cincinnati and Miami. His reputation grew in Europe as his articles were published in the Journal of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. Several were translated into French and German. He was awarded honorary membership of learned societies in Europe and in America.

Daniel continued to publish widely throughout the 1850’s. His paper entitled The Stability of Satellites Revolving in Small Orbits was published in 1857 and was considered a very important study. Shy and eccentric, much of his time was spent in the public library on Vine Street, Cincinnati. He was held in high regard in the academic world, solving major problems of physical astronomy through his mathematical genius. He became professor of chemistry at the Cincinnati College of Medicine and Surgery in 1860, while continuing to lecture in schools and colleges.

However, by the mid 1870’s his writings had become infrequent and he was lecturing less and less. He no longer had a regular income and gradually became reclusive and isolated from society. Daniel spent the final years of his life in poverty and poor health. In April 1879 he was found by his friends in a miserable tenement room suffering from malnutrition and haemorrhaging. He died in hospital in Cincinnati on April 6th 1879 and is buried at Spring Grove cemetery. His final paper The Origins of Worlds was published in May 1879.

Clare County Library wishes to thank Beth Gerber, Cincinnati Museum Centre, for her kind assistance in providing information for this entry.

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Daniel Vaughan, M.D.