Henry Augustus Rowland was born in Honesdale, Pennsylvania, in 1848, into a family of ministerial tradition, but he himself at an early age displayed an inclination toward and precocious gift for scientific experiment. The first twenty-seven years of his life were spent in self-preparation for a scientific career, although formally trained as a civil engineer at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he also taught physics. In 1875 occurred his “discovery” by Daniel C. Gilman, founder and first President of the new Johns Hopkins University, then in search of a suitable faculty. Now came his great opportunity, which Rowland eagerly seized upon, to spend a year in Europe, on salary from Johns Hopkins. Rowland's zealous and rewarding exploitation of this opportunity is the theme of this article. Rowland's letters and travel journal supply abundant material revealing how he traveled widely across Europe from Ireland to France, to Germany, Switzerland and Austria, and everywhere he visited the physical laboratories. He met many of the European men of science, inspected their facilities, and actually performed an important experiment in electromagnetism in Helmholtz's laboratory in Berlin. His critical commentary provides a unique survey of the state of physics in Europe at this time. In May, 1876, Rowland returned to America, unusually well-informed and self-assured, to assume the responsibilities of his new position as the first professor of physics in the Johns Hopkins University, where he built a distinguished scientific career for himself, broken off unhappily by his premature death in 1901.