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Augustus William Smith papers

Biographical note

Augustus William Smith was born in Newport, New York on May 12, 1802. He attended Hamilton College, from which he graduated in 1825, and went on to teach at Oneida Conference Seminary in Cazenovia (located southeast of Syracuse). In 1831, Smith was among the founding faculty of Wesleyan University. He taught astronomy and mathematics at Wesleyan for twenty years before his selection as Fifth President of the university in 1851. After eight years at the helm of Wesleyan, Smith accepted a position as Professor of Natural Philosophy at the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis. He remained in this post until his death on March 26, 1866.

Smith was an accomplished scholar. In 1860 he was selected by the U. S. government to be one of the corps of astronomers sent to Labrador to observe the annular eclipse of the sun. He was reputed to be an excellent mathematician, and authored of several text-books, including an "Elementary Treatise on Mechanics" (New York, 1846). He married Catherine Rachel Childs, by whom he had several children including a daughter, Katherine Louisa. A convert to the Methodist-Episcopal Church, Smith also held a life-long interest in denominational affairs and was active in that capacity.


1802Born in Newport, Herkimer County, New York.
1825Recieved B.A. from Hamilton College, Clinton, New York.
1825-1831Teacher and later principal of the Oneida Conference Seminary, Cazenovia, New York.
1828Received M.A. from Hamilton College.
1831-1857Professor of Astronomy and Mathematics , Wesleyan University.
1850Honorary degree of LL.D. from Hamilton College.
1852-1857President of Wesleyan University.
1859-1866Professor of Natural Philosophy, United States Naval Academy.
1860Member of U.S. expedition to Labrador to observe annular eclipse.
1866Died at Annapolis, Maryland.