David Young, Philom

(1781-1852)

During the early 1800‘s European Theologists pondered some intriguing questions with regard to the birth and death of Christ. They questioned: could the Star of Bethlehem, when Christ was born, have been a comet? Could the Darkening of the Sun upon his death, have been an eclipse? They summoned French and English scholars to answer these questions. The scholars were puzzled. During an informal follow up meeting at the Court of St. James in England, a member of the court stood and suggested; “there is a man in the United States that can solve this problem! Somewhere on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, in a small village called Hanover Neck, a tall, dark and slender man lay on a large rock gazing to the heavens. (in the vicinity of Lurker Park) Without hesitation for $150, David Young accepted the challenge and performed these calculations. A couple of centuries later computer models would verify his findings. David Young was born in Pine Brook, NJ but spent the majority of his extraordinary life and made all of his accomplishments in what we now call East Hanover. Although there is no record of his education, he was a very scholarly man, highly advanced; in physics, mathematics, astronomy, literary and technical writing, farming and lecturing. Subsequently, David Young founded the popular “Farmers Almanac” (an annual publication that scientifically forecasts the upcoming year’s environmental conditions and trends). The equations and calculations he formed were all based on planetary physics, lunar cycles and solar activity. They are still the basis of the publication today.

Around the Block

David’s qualities were many and profound. Through his science publications, literary writings and lectures he touched thousands of lives. The local townspeople, his peers and his students had an affinity for his extreme intellect and easy-going personality. 45 years after his passing, Mrs A.E. Kitchell, a native of Hanover Neck and former student of David Young’s, ventured back to pay homage at his burial site. Just to the left of the front door of the First Presbyterian Church on Mount Pleasant Ave in Hanover, lie David Young and his wife. Upon her arrival she realized the foot stone marking the site was no longer legible. As are most of the historic stones that were made of marble. Disenchanted by her observation and in consideration of all David Young’s accomplishments, Mrs. Kitchell would set out to better mark his place in history. She would do so by publishing a little red book titled: ”Around the Block”. In the book, Mrs. Kitchell, actually go “Around the Block” in Hanover Neck, naming residents and describing life in the town from 1811-1834. The proceeds would fund the granite monument we see today.

“David Young was a man of fine presence, amiable and unpretending; a great worker. I feel very grateful for what he did for me and no doubt many others. The neighborhood has reason to be proud of such a man who lived and died among them, and it would be a debt of gratitude to erect a monument in his memory; let it be like him-unpretentious, good and substantial and let his wife’s name be put upon it."
A.E. Kitchell

The Natural Astronomer

Although there is not much written about David Young. It has been made clear through the brief publications regarding him, that he was; brilliant, peculiar and eccentric. David was a good farmer, fielding produce and meat like no other. His meat was among the best butchered in New Jersey. However, he treated each and every animal on his farm as if they were his children, grooming them, washing their faces and ensuring them comfortable and proper rest. Certainly an odd precursor to butchering. David strolled around as if he were lost. He would speak before he was spoken to, saying: “my wife is doing very well, thank you”. Obviously he was lost, lost in the celestial bodies the he studied. Lost in the deep and abstract ideas of how life and the universe actually functioned. We live in a world where Kepler’s Laws of Planetary Motion can be found with the click of a mouse. Understanding them is a different story though and only a small percentage of people ever really do. For David Young however, it was easy, that’s how his mind worked. Computational. His ability to visualize, comprehend and predict multivariable systems was uncanny, savant-like some might say. His contributions in math and science are first among equals, the towns-people called him “The Natural Astronomer” Thousands of people drive through East Hanover every day, not realizing that these were the farms and skies once mastered by David Young, Philom, the founding editor of the “FARMERS ALMANAC”. Thanks to Mrs A.E. Kitchell, history has been re-written and the American Astronomer now has a substantial monument for all to see.

Long before Edison and Einstein called it their home, New Jersey had David Young Philom.

By Rich Ford , Philom

For more information consult the EAST HANOVER HISTORICAL SOCIETY