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Edward Youmans

Updated on December 1, 2016

Edward Livingston Youmans was an American science editor.

Born in Coeymans, N.Y. on June 3, 1821. From his father, a mechanic and farmer, he received an interest in practical science that stayed with him throughout his entire life; but an attack of ophthalmia forced the termination of his formal education after the completion of the elementary grades. His search for a cure for his near blindness led him to New York City, where he met Horace Greeley, Walt Whitman, and (most important) the publisher William Henry Appleton, for whom he wrote what became a standard school text in chemistry, A Class-Book of Chemistry (1851). At the same time, he began to give public lectures on science, which soon were in great demand. During the years 1851-1868 he lectured throughout the Midwest on chemistry and its applications; he was also one of the first to speak favorably on evolution and its implications.

Youmans' intense desire to bring science to the intelligent layman led to two eminently successful publishing ventures. In 1871 he initiated the International Scientific Series and persuaded men of the caliber of Thomas Huxley and John Tyndall to write individual volumes. In 1872, assisted by his brother William Jay Youmans, he founded the Popular Science Monthly, which has served ever since to provide scientific and technological knowledge for the general reader.

His brother, William Jay Youmans (1838-1901), studied chemistry at Columbia and Yale, received a medical degree from New York University (1865), and practiced in Winona, Minn. He was editor of the Popular Science Monthly from 1887 to 1900. Fifty of his monthly biographical articles on leading men of science were collected in book form as Pioneers of Science in America (1896).

Edward Youmans died in New York City on January 18, 1887.


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