Prof. Benjamin Silliman Sr. was born 18 August 1779 in Trumbull, Fairfield County, Connecticut, United States to Gold Selleck Silliman (1732-1789) and Mary Fish (1736-1818) and died 24 November 1864 New Haven, New Haven County, Connecticut, United States of unspecified causes. He married Harriet Trumbull (1783-1850) 17 September 1809 in New Haven, New Haven County, Connecticut, United States.

Professor Benjamin Silliman was an early American chemist and science educator. He was one of the first American professors of science, at Yale College, the first person to distill petroleum in America, and a founder of the American Journal of Science, the oldest continuously published scientific journal in the United States.

Silliman was born in a tavern in North Stratford, now Trumbull, Connecticut, a few months after his mother, Mary (Fish) Silliman (widow of John Noyes), fled for her life from their Fairfield, Connecticut, home to escape two thousand invading British troops that burned Fairfield center to the ground. The British forces had taken his father, General Gold Selleck Silliman, prisoner in May 1779.

Marriage & Family

1st Marriage: Harriet Trumbull

His first marriage was on September 17, 1809, to Harriet Trumbull, daughter of Connecticut governor Jonathan Trumbull, Jr., who was the son of Governor Jonathan Trumbull, Sr. of Connecticut, a hero of the American Revolution. Silliman and his wife had four children: one daughter married Professor Oliver P. Hubbard, another married Professor James Dwight Dana; and youngest daughter Julia married Edward Whiting Gilman, brother of Yale graduate and educator Daniel Coit Gilman. His son

  1. Benjamin, Jr. - also a professor of chemistry at Yale, wrote a report that convinced investors to back George Bissell's seminal search for oil.

2nd Marriage: Isabella McClellan

His second marriage was in 1851 to Mrs. Sarah Isabella (McClellan) Webb, daughter of John McClellan. Silliman died at New Haven and is buried in Grove Street Cemetery.


Offspring of Prof. Benjamin Silliman Sr. and Harriet Trumbull (1783-1850)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Faith Wadsworth Silliman (1812-1887)
Benjamin Silliman (1816-1885) 4 December 1816 New Haven, New Haven County, Connecticut, United States 14 January 1885 New Haven, New Haven County, Connecticut, United States Susan Forbes (1819-1878)
Harriet Frances Silliman (1823-1907)
Julia Silliman (1826-1892)


Things named for him

Silliman College, one of Yale's residential colleges, is named for him, as is the mineral Sillimanite.

In Sequoia National Park, Mount Silliman is named for him, as is Silliman Pass, a creek and two lakes below the summit of Mount Silliman.


Footnotes (including sources)

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