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Education] (Yale University) Pratt, Susan S.



[Education] (Yale). Pratt, Susan S. (Denison Olmstead, Benjamin Silliman, and William Tully). Material Documenting the Yale Studies of a Young Woman in the Sciences. [New Haven, Connecticut: 1846-1851].
A small archive as follows:
  • one leather-bound notebook (4" x 6"), with 98pp. of notes (approximately 9500 words) in her closely written hand on ruled sheets;
  • two printed admission cards from 1846 (4.5" x 3"), lettered in gilt and issued in manuscript to "Miss Pratt" by the Philosophical Department, granting Pratt admittance to Olmsted's lectures on Meteorology and Astronomy (signed by Denison Olmsted)
  • one printed admission card from the Chemical Department, granting her admittance to Silliman's lectures on Chemistry and Pharmacy (signed by Benjamin Silliman).
  • two lengthy holograph letters by William Tully: Nov. 18, 1850 (7 pp., approx. 2200 words, her signature clipped), and Feb. 12, 1851 (6 pp., approx. 1700 words).
An important collection of manuscripts by or belonging to Susan Pratt of Saybrook, Connecticut, one of the first women permitted to study the sciences at Yale College, more than 20 years before Yale admitted its first female students in the School of the Fine Arts in 1869. Her manuscript notebook, titled: "Astronomy. Lectures by Professor Olmstead," includes her notes from 14 lectures delivered by Yale physicist and astronomer Denison Olmsted, for his course on Astronomy given in the spring of 1846. Olmsted, considered the founder of meteor science, discusses the history of astronomy, the structure of the universe, solar, and stellar systems, sun spots, and comets. He won international recognition for his study of the 1833 Leonid meteor shower over North America, and he was the first American to observe Halley's Comet in 1835. Benjamin Silliman, professor of chemistry and natural history, was the founder and editor of the American Journal of Science and Arts, the world's leading scientific journal in the first half of the 19th century. Both men played a leading role in helping women gain informal entry into Yale, as evidenced her by their granting Pratt admittance to their lectures.
William Tully was a Yale graduate and retired professor, specializing in materia medica, or the pharmacological uses of botanicals. In his letters, he advises Pratt on the treatment of her mother's illness, and thanks her for clippings she sent to him relating to theories on medicine and quackery. Susan Pratt was the daughter of Richard E. Pratt, Postmaster of Saybrook Connecticut. She was likely well known to Dr. Tully, also a native of Saybrook.
This evidence of Pratt's interest and participation in astronomy and materia medica certainly qualify her as a pioneering female student at Yale College, nearly two decades before women were officially allowed to attend classes, and over a century before women undergraduates were admitted in 1969.

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