Silliman, Benjamin (1779-1864) was an American educator and scientist. He made a number of important contributions to the development of science as a field of study in the United States.
Silliman was born on Aug. 8, 1779, in North Stratford (now Trumbull), Connecticut. He entered Yale University at the age of 13 and graduated in 1796. He then studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1802. That year, he became Yale's first professor of chemistry and natural history, a position he held until his retirement in 1853.
Silliman was best known for his research into the chemical composition of a meteorite that fell to the earth in 1807. His research helped prove that meteorites are made of materials that exist on the earth.
Silliman helped establish the Yale Medical School in 1813. He founded the American Journal of Science in 1818 and served as its editor for more than 20 years. The journal at first, published articles by scientists of many fields. Today, it contains only articles about geology.
In 1830 and 1831, Silliman published the two-volume textbook, Elements of Chemistry. From 1808 on, he was a popular public lecturer. Silliman was known for his ability to explain scientific topics in a way that most listeners could understand.
In 1863, Silliman became a founding member of the National Academy of Sciences. He died in New Haven, Connecticut, on Nov. 24, 1864, following a brief illness. The mineral sillimanite was named after Silliman.