The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 53, July 1949 - April, 1950 Page: 423
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John William Mallet and The University of Texas
Mallet's appointment to the professorship of chemistry, and
his temporary assignment to the chair of physics, as well as his
selection as chairman of the faculty, was the result of a combina-
tion of circumstances. Certainly the salary offered, $4000, was a
considerable inducement. But this alone would hardly have lured
him from his position as professor of general and industrial
chemistry" at the University of Virginia. There is no doubt that
Ashbel Smith considered himself fortunate in securing Mallet
for the first faculty at Texas. And, had it not been for certain
mitigating factors, Smith would not have been so successful.
Mallet was born at Drumcondra House, Dublin, Ireland, on
October io, 1832. From the outset his environment shaped his
interests toward science. His father, Robert Mallet, was a Civil
Engineer, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of England. John's
early education was given him by his mother, Cordelia Watson
Mallet, who did nothing to inhibit her son's natural curiosity
about his father's library. Under these genial conditions, John
did much miscellaneous reading in his father's books. In the
course of this reading, some of the precepts of knowledge which
he carried with him through life were discovered. Never one to
shirk the reading of heavy tomes, John had soon mastered
Thomson's Annals of Philosophy in its formidable entirety. To
the reading of this work he ascribed the founding of his belief
that "our knowledge of nature is not complete and embodied in
textbooks, but that it rests on observation and experiment, is
constantly growing and is always subject to modification and
correction."' In this idea is clearly revealed the mind of the truly
original scientist, a man free of the oft-repeated prejudices of
During the winter of 1848-1849, young Mallet attended a series
of lectures on chemistry at the Royal College of Surgeons of
Ireland. These lectures were given by the renowned Dr. James
Apjohn, who apparently was impressed with the son of Robert
Mallet. Apjohn allowed young Mallet to become a private stu-
8Ibid., o20; Minutes of the Board of Regents of the University of Texas, Novem-
ber 14, 1882, p. 3o. In the office of the Secretary to the Board, The University of
Texas, Austin, Texas.
4The University of Texas Record, XI (1913), 496, copying the Virginian-Pilot
and Norfolk Landmark.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 53, July 1949 - April, 1950, periodical, 1950; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101126/m1/529/: accessed December 17, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.