Thomas Cooper | History of SC Slide Collection

A scientist and educator, born in Westminster, England, Thomas Cooper (1759-1839) attended Oxford but never graduated. An industrial career, in which he successfully used chlorine as a bleaching agent in manufacturing cotton cloth, was cut short when his radical religious ideas became known. He came to the United States in 1794 and settled in Northumberland, Pennsylvania, near his friend Joseph Priestly, also a refugee from England because of his theology. There, Cooper practiced law and served unofficially as a doctor. He later entered the teaching profession. Cooper came to South Carolina in 1820 when he became professor of chemistry at the South Carolina College. Elected President shortly thereafter, he stayed with the college until 1834. Besides chemistry and mineralogy, Cooper taught political economy, in which he was a pioneer in America. He also played a major role in the establishment of the school of medicine and the first insane asylum in the state. Throughout his tenure in office, he was the target of attacks by the clergy, especially by the Presbyterians, for his deism. After his retirement from the college, Cooper edited the law statutes of South Carolina.

Courtesy of the South Caroliniana Library.

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