On September 20, 1848, the American Association for the Advancement of Science was founded in Philadelphia. (http://www.aaas.org/) Its purpose was to “procure for the labors of scientific men increased facilities and a wider usefulness.”
This was actually a new concept, the term “scientist” having been used in England for the first time in 1833. Of course, in those days Europe was the center for scientific theories. In 1848, Léon Foucault set up his first rudimentary pendulum to demonstrate the Earth’s rotation; Darwin was working on his theory of evolution; Michael Faraday was at the height of his work on electromagnetism. But this country was cut off from Europe, and it was hard to compete with what was happening there. In the U.S., there was more of an interest in invention and any science that supported industry. Only four years earlier, the first telegraph line had been installed, running from Baltimore to Washington, D.C. Train tracks were being built all over the country, with four times as many train tracks laid in 1848 as in 1847. In 1845, Elias Howe had invented the mechanical sewing machine, and inventor Cyrus McCormick had sold the patent for his McCormick Reaper in the 1830s.
Adapted from The Writer’s Almanac, Sunday, Sep 20, 2015.