John D’Wolf (1786-1862), professor of chemistry, was born in Bristol on February 26, 1786. His early studies were under the instruction of Abner Alden 1787 and President Eleazar Wheelock of Dartmouth College. He was a member of the Class of 1806 at Brown, but did not graduate, although he is said to have nearly completed the course. He was given an honorary A.M. degree in 1813. He was appointed professor of chemistry in 1817 in association with the Medical School in the position left vacant since 1813 when it was resigned by Dr. William C. Bowen. His chemistry course also became part of the undergraduate curriculum. Edwards A. Park 1826 wrote of him:
“I attended Professor De Wolf’s lectures on chemistry when I was a member of Brown University. I think he lectured without notes, and am confident that he was not confined to any written manuscript. He lectured with a loud voice and with great freedom of manner. His speech was rapid and conversational. He enlivened his lectures with his wit. He appeared to be enthusiastic in his subject. He took a lively interest in his pupils. We felt that he was our friend.”On August 12, 1826, D’Wolf wrote a long letter to his classmate and member of the Corporation, David Benedict, criticizing the College for its low admission requirements and elementary courses, recommending the teaching of political economy and an option between the modern and ancient languages, and suggesting that Benedict go to the College to check on the performance of the instructors. D’Wolf was a loyal son of the University, to whom the scorn pointed at the College in comparison with other institutions was painful, and his letter ended, “For Heaven’s sake raise your requisitions dismiss your schoolboy studies give the whole course a more useful & practical bearing and minutely inspect the proceedings of your officers, & make us all do our duty, or dismiss us.” He resigned his position in 1834, being unable to comply with a requirement of residency in the college, and became professor of chemistry at the Medical School at Woodstock, Vermont. He held a similar position at Castleton Medical School. In 1840 he was appointed professor of chemistry at the McDowell Medical College in St. Louis, where he taught until 1844, still returning to Bristol in the summers. After that he engaged in farming near Bristol, and in his later years moved back into the town and died there on February 23, 1862.