Elisha Mitchell

Elisha Mitchell bigraphy, stories - educator, geologist

Elisha Mitchell : biography

August 19, 1793 – June 27, 1857

Elisha Mitchell (August 19, 1793 – June 27, 1857) was an American educator, geologist and Presbyterian minister. His geological studies led to the identification of North Carolina’s Mount Mitchell as the highest peak east of the Mississippi River.

Findings Challenged

Elisha Mitchell fell to his death at nearby Mitchell Falls in 1857, having returned to verify his earlier measurements, which had been challenged by state senator Thomas Clingman, a former student of Mitchell’s. He was originally buried in Asheville, but was reinterred in a tomb on the mountain in 1858. In 1881-82 the U.S. Geological Survey upheld Mitchell’s measurements and officially named his peak Mt. Mitchell. At 6,684 feet (2,037 m) high, Mt. Mitchell is the highest point east of the Mississippi River. The , published by the , was founded in his honor in 1883.

Mitchell at the University of North Carolina

Mitchell began his career as a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1818, teaching math and natural philosophy. In 1825, he began teaching geology – the field with which he would be primarily associated for the rest of his life.Watson, Elgiva D. "Elisha Mitchell." Originally published in the "Dictionary of North Carolina Biography," edited by William S. Powell. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1991. Available at:http://docsouth.unc.edu/browse/bios/pn0001194_bio.html In addition to teaching, Mitchell also served as the university’s bursar, accountant, and acting president at various times; he also led chapel services, as he had been ordained by the Presbytery of Orange in Hillsborough, NC, in 1821.

Discovery of "Mount Mitchell"

Mitchell completed a geographical survey of North Carolina in 1828 and observed a peak in the Black Mountains he believed to be higher than Grandfather Mountain, thought to be the highest in the region at that time.Mewborn, Suzanne. "Elisha Mitchell and his mountain." Originally published in "Tar Heel Junior Historian," volume 46, no.1 (Fall 2006). Published by the North Carolina Museum of History. Available at: http://www.learnnc.org/lp/editions/nchist-newnation/4391 In 1835, he first measured the height of this mountain, and through subsequent measurements in 1838 and 1844, proved it was higher than New Hampshire’s Mount Washington.

Early life

Elisha Mitchell was born August 19, 1793, in Washington, Connecticut. He was graduated from Yale University in 1813, where he studied under chemist Benjamin Silliman, whose courses would shape his own teaching career.