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Francis Hopkinson


Francis Hopkinson, Independence National Historical Park
Francis Hopkinson
Independence National Historical Park
Francis Hopkinson was a native of Pennsylvania, and was born in the city of Philadelphia, in the year 1737. His father, Thomas Hopkinson, was an Englishman, who emigrated to America, but in what year is unknown to the writer. A short time previous to his emigration, he became respectably connected by marriage, with a niece of the bishop of Worcester.

   On his arrival in America, he took up his residence in the city of Philadelphia, where he honorably filled several offices of distinction, under the government of his native country. Mr. Hopkinson was distinguished for his scientific attainments. He was intimate with that distinguished philosopher, Benjamin Franklin, by whom he was held in high estimation. The intimacy which subsisted between these gentlemen, seems to have arisen from a similarity of taste, particularly on philosophical subjects. To Mr. Hopkinson is attributed the first experiment of attracting the electric fluid, by means of a pointed instrument, instead of a blunt one. This experiment he had the pleasure of first exhibiting to Dr. Franklin. Its practical importance consisted in preventing the severe explosion, which always takes place in the passage of the electric fluid, upon a blunted instrument.

   Upon the death of Mr. Hopkinson, which occurred while he was in the prime of life, the care of his interesting and numerous family devolved upon his widow. Fortunately, Mrs. Hopkinson was a lady of superior mental endowments, and well qualified to superintend the education of her children. At an early period, discovering indications of genius in her son, the subject of the present memoir, she resolved to make every sacrifice, and every effort in her power, to give him the advantages of a superior education. Her income was comparatively limited, but a mother can relinquish every enjoyment for her children. This Mrs. Hopkinson did with the greatest pleasure; and to the practice of self-denial for her son, she added, for his benefit, the most admirable precepts, and the most excellent example. Her efforts were crowned with singular success. She lived to see him graduate with reputation, from the college of Philadelphia, and become eminent in the profession of law. He possessed talents of a high order. His genius was quick and versatile. He penetrated the depths of science with case, and with grave and important truths stored his capacious mind. But he by no means neglected the lighter accomplishments. In music and poetry he excelled, and had some knowledge of painting. Few men were more distinguished for their humor and satire.

   In the year 1766, Mr. Hopkinson embarked for England, for the purpose of visiting the land of his fathers. Such was the estimation in which he was held in his native city, that he received a public expression of respect and affection, front the board of trustees of the college of Philadelphia, which the provost of that institution was desired to communicate to him, and wish him, in the behalf of his Alma Mater, a safe and prosperous voyage.

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Last modified January 2, 2004