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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
John William Draper (1811–1882)
Critical and Biographical Introduction
THE SUBJECT of this sketch was born at St. Helen’s, near Liverpool, England, on the 5th of May, 1811. His earliest education was obtained at a Wesleyan Methodist school, but after a time he came under private teachers, with whose help he made rapid progress in the physical sciences, thus showing in his boyhood the natural bent of his mind and the real strength of his intellect. He afterwards studied for a time at the University of London, but in 1833 came to the United States, and three years later graduated at the University of Pennsylvania with the degree of M. D. In 1839 he was elected to the chair of chemistry in the University of New York, a position which he held until his death in 1882.  1
  Draper’s contributions to science were of a high order. He discovered some of the facts that lie at the basis of spectrum analysis; he was one of the first successful experimenters in the art of photography; and he made researches in radiant energy and other scientific phenomena. He published in 1858 a treatise on ‘Human Physiology,’ which is a highly esteemed and widely used textbook. He died on the 4th of January, 1882.  2
  Draper’s chief contributions to literature are three works: ‘History of the Intellectual Development of Europe’ (1863), a ‘History of the American Civil War’ (1867–1870), and ‘The History of the Conflict between Religion and Science,’ which appeared in the International Scientific Series in 1873. Of these works, the one on the intellectual development of Europe is the ablest, and takes a place beside the works of Lecky and Buckle as a contribution to the history of civilization. The history of the Civil War was written too soon after the events described to have permanent historical value. ‘The History of the Conflict between Religion and Science’ is a judicial presentation of the perennial controversy from the standpoint of the scientist.  3
  Draper’s claims to attention as a philosophic historian rest mainly on his theory of the influence of climate on human character and development. He maintains that “For every climate, and indeed for every geographical locality, there is an answering type of humanity”; and in his history of the American Civil War, as well as in his work on the intellectual development of Europe, he endeavored to prove that doctrine. Another theory which is prominent in his principal work is, that the intellectual development of every people passes through five stages; namely, 1, the Age of Credulity; 2, the Age of Inquiry; 3, the Age of Faith; 4, the Age of Reason; 5, the Age of Decrepitude. Ancient Greece, he thinks, passed through all those stages, the age of reason beginning with the advent of physical science. Europe as a whole has now also entered the age of reason, which as before he identifies with the age of physical science; so that everywhere in his historical works, physical influences and the scientific knowledge of physical phenomena are credited with most of the progress that mankind has made. Draper has left a distinct mark upon the scientific thought of his generation, and made a distinct and valuable contribution to the literature of his adopted country.  4

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