Edward Bromfield 1723-1746
After his untimely death, the young Harvard graduate Edward Bromfield was praised by the Reverend Thomas Prince for his artistic and scientific accomplishments; he was "ingenious, observant, curious, penetrating" and best known in Boston for "His clear Knowledge of the Properties of Light, his vast Improvement in making Microscopes, most accurately grinding the finest Glasses; and thereby attaining to such wonderous Views of the inside Frames and Works of Nature." In his portrait, Bromfield stands before shelves lined with books, including Newton's Optics, and gestures toward a Culpeper-type microscope, which may have been, to some extent, of his own making. Bromfield's banyan and cap also mark him as a man of studious habit. Such gowns were sold in Boston, but they were rarely depicted in portraits of New England sitters before midcentury.
Artist John Greenwood would have known Bromfield through their shared interest in drawing, as well as through Greenwood's uncle, who had been a professor of mathematics and natural philosophy at Harvard. He may have intended to suggest Bromfield's remarkable genius in his portrait. As Bromfield's eulogist noted: "Besides the moral Qualities of Serenity . . . Gentleness and Modesty, displaying in his very Countenance; there appeared especially in the Air and Look of his Eyes the strongest Signatures of a curious and accurate Genius, that I remember ever to have seen."