Cadwallader Colden was a Scottish émigré to the American colonies in the 18th century. Trained as a physician, he settled in Philadelphia in 1710 to establish a medical practice. In 1718, he was offered a minor administrative position in the Province of New York, and thereafter he rose through a number of appointed offices, culminating in that of lieutenant governor of the colony in the era leading up to the American Revolution. As a public figure, he cast his role as a loyal servant of the Crown and adamantly tried to maintain the royal prerogative in the face of increasing divisiveness and personal unpopularity. This legacy may have largely overshadowed his more substantial and enduring contributions in a range of intellectual and scientific fields, including botanical investigation and classification; medical writings; scientific treatises; philosophy; literature; and, to a lesser extent, his writings on such topics as education, ethics, and historiography.
Colden maintained an extensive correspondence with some of the leading men of the times, including noted physicians, philosophers, and scientists, both in the American colonies and in Europe. As such, he did much to initiate and sustain that trans-Atlantic community that served to enhance the values and achievements of the Enlightenment in the American colonies of the 18th century. Colden was the first in the colonies to introduce Linnaean classification, the first to publish a work on Newtonian science in America, and the first to write in English about the several tribes that were to play a crucial role in the British-French imperial conflict, particularly in New York. Hoermann hopes to correct a distortion in the record of Colden’s achievements that may have been the result of his loyalist sympathies.