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Thumbnail of Canvass White (source)
Canvass White
(8 Sep 1790 - 18 Dec 1834)

American civil engineer , known for his work in building canals, and who patented the first process for making hydraulic cement in the United States.


The Discovery of Hydraulic Cement

From Gazetteer and Business Directory of Madison County, N.Y. (1868)

The discovery of waterlime forms an interesting incident in the early history of this town [Sullivan, N.Y.]. When the construction of the Erie Canal was commenced, contracts were made to do the masonry with common lime, on account of the expense of hydraulic cement. Mason Harris and Mr. Livingstone, of Sullivan, entered into a contract to furnish a quantity for the construction of culverts, aqueducts, &c., on the middle section. They burned a large kiln and commenced delivering it, when, upon trial, it was found that it would not slack. All were greatly surprised, and Canvass White and Judge Wright, two engineers, taking an interest in the affair, examined it.

Dr. Barton, a scientific gentleman of Herkimer, was called to experiment, and, if possible, ascertain what it was. He broke a quantity in the trip hammer shop of J. B. Yates, of Chittenango, burned some, pulverized it in a mortar, and after mixing it with sand, rolled a ball and placed it in a bucket of water for the night. In the morning it had set, and was solid enough to be rolled across the floor. It was pronounced equal to the best Roman cement. It was first burned for market in log heaps, about a mile and a half west of Chittenango village. J. B. Yates fitted up a mill for grinding it.

Original text was set as one paragraph. Break added to improve readability on the web page. Image and text from: Hamilton Child (ed.), Gazetteer and Business Directory of Madison County, N.Y. for 1868-9 (1868), 58. (source)


See also:

Nature bears long with those who wrong her. She is patient under abuse. But when abuse has gone too far, when the time of reckoning finally comes, she is equally slow to be appeased and to turn away her wrath. (1882) -- Nathaniel Egleston, who was writing then about deforestation, but speaks equally well about the danger of climate change today.
Carl Sagan Thumbnail Carl Sagan: In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) ...(more by Sagan)

Albert Einstein: I used to wonder how it comes about that the electron is negative. Negative-positive—these are perfectly symmetric in physics. There is no reason whatever to prefer one to the other. Then why is the electron negative? I thought about this for a long time and at last all I could think was “It won the fight!” ...(more by Einstein)

Richard Feynman: It is the facts that matter, not the proofs. Physics can progress without the proofs, but we can't go on without the facts ... if the facts are right, then the proofs are a matter of playing around with the algebra correctly. ...(more by Feynman)
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