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Encyclopedia Dubuque


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Family History: http://wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?op=GET&db=hoar_and_horr&id=I5912

HORR, Asa. (Worthington, OH, Sept. 2, 1817--Dubuque, IA, June 2,1896). Until the death of his father, Horr was kept at school most of the time. With the death, he was put to work on a farm, and, for several years, attended schools only during the winter season.

At the age of twenty, he returned to his native town in Ohio and read medicine with a cousin. He attended lectures at two colleges in Ohio, and graduated from both. After leaving Cleveland College, he practiced six years in Ohio and one in Illinois, and, in 1847, made a permanent settlement in Dubuque, Iowa. He studied botany with a good degree of success, and for more than twenty years was one of the leading observers for the Smithsonian Institution. In Dubuque he was influential in originating, and prominent in building up, the Iowa Institute of Science and Arts and was its president for many years. A true man of science, Horr owned one of the finest chemical and medical libraries in the state as well as a superb collection of geological and plant specimens. (1) Horr wrote many professional and scientific papers and with John M. Bigelow published a "Catalogue of the Plants of Franklin county, Ohio."(2)

Dr. Horr was president of the Dubuque County Medical Society; a founder of the IOWA INSTITUTE OF ARTS AND SCIENCES (1868), and elected its president in 1869 and remained in the office through 1874; president of the St. Paul, Minnesota, Academy of Natural Sciences, and of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences in 1871; of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1872; of the American Public Health Association in 1875. He was one of the hundred American and English shorthand writers chosen to make improvements in phonography. (3)

Being one of few Iowans capable of telling time from the stars, Horr was appointed the official regulator of the town clock, a position he held for twenty years. Horr was also a prominent supporter of building the original TOWN CLOCK. The longitude of Dubuque was determined using his astronomical transit. (4)

With the encouragement of the Smithsonian Institute, Horr became part of a "telegraphic network formed to solve the problems of America's storms." His observations began on January 22, 1851 with his observation station being Fifth and Main. From then through 1871 Horr measured the barometric pressure, humidity, rain and snowfall, the temperature in the city, and using his hand wind velocity. After seven years, he moved his observation point to 9th and Main. (5)

Horr reported his information to the Commissioner of Patents and the Smithsonian Institution. His reports often carried unusual additional comments concerning the amount of river ice, notes about the bird migrations, and remarks about the success of the harvests. He was gradually eased out of the weather gathering business by the government as the United States Army Signal Corps took charge in 1873.

Gravestone in Linwood Cemetery



1. Oldt, Franklin. History of Dubuque County, Iowa. Chicago: Western Historical Company, 1880, p. 812

2. "Asa Horr," Virtual American Biographies," Virtualology.com Online: http://famousamericans.net/asahorr/

3. "Asa Horr," Online: http://iagenweb.org/boards/dubuque/biographies/index.cgi?read=268557

4. Ibid.

5. Tauke, Tom. "U. S. Weather Bureau is 100 Years Old," Telegraph Herald, January 4, 1970, p. 20, Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=aEyKTaVlRPYC&dat=19700104&printsec=frontpage&hl=en