Osborne. His mother had been an instructor in the Normal (later Hunter) College of New York City.
A tragic explosion and fire in the Zoology Museum took the life of John Isaiah Northrop just two weeks before his son was born in Yonkers, New York. Despite this devastating accident to her husband, Mrs. Northrop maintained a close association with both Columbia's Zoology Department and Hunter College while rearing her son. She was a botanist and naturalist and helped introduce nature studies into the curriculum of the New York City schools. She also prepared most of the manuscript of a book entitled Through Field and Woodland, which was later edited by Oliver P. Medsger and published in 1925 after her untimely death in 1922 when her car was struck by a train.
Young John's earliest recollection1 of his mother is of her sitting at her desk correcting proof of "A Naturalist in the Bahamas,"2 a report of a collecting trip his mother and father had made in 1889.
With a devoted mother interested in nature, it is not surprising that John was reared with a deep understanding of the natural world. Both John and his mother took long walks, going with ease over rough terrain for long distances.
John was educated in the public schools of Yonkers, New York, and recalled excellent teachers of mathematics (Mr. Graves) and chemistry (Dr. Metzger). The latter aroused an interest in chemistry that continued throughout his life. John attended Columbia College, where he was an outstanding member of the championship rifle and revolver team and the intercollegiate championship fencing teams. He received his B.S. in 1912 and proceeded directly to Columbia's graduate program in chemistry, earning a master's degree in 1913. He thought the following were exceptional teachers: F. C. Chandler, J. M. Nelson, and M. T.