Barnard attended Wilbraham & Monson Academy and graduated from Yale University in 1830. In 1835, he was admitted to the Connecticut bar. In 1837 — 1839, he was a member of the Connecticut House of Representatives, effecting in 1838 the passage of a bill, drafted and introduced by himself, which provided for “the better supervision of the common schools“, and established a board of “commissioners of common schools” in the state. He was the secretary of the board from 1838 until its abolition in 1842, and during this time worked indefatigably to reorganize and reform the common school system of the state, thus earning a national reputation as an educational reformer.
In 1843, he was appointed by the governor of Rhode Island agent to examine the public schools of the state, and recommended improvements; and his work resulted in the reorganization of the school system two years later. From 1845 to 1849, he was the first commissioner of public schools in the state, and his administration was marked by a decided step in educational progress. In 1845, Barnard established the first "Rhode Island Teachers Institute" at Smithville Seminary.
In 1852, Barnard was offered the newly created position of President of the University of Michigan, but he declined. From 1859 to 1860, he was chancellor of the University of Wisconsin–Madison and agent of the board of regents of the normal school fund; in 1866 he was president of St. John's College in Annapolis, Maryland; and from 1867 to 1870 he was the first United States Commissioner of Education, and in this position he laid the foundation for the subsequent work of the Bureau of Education.
American Journal of Education
Barnard's chief service to the cause of education, however, was rendered as the editor, from 1855 to 1881, of the American Journal of Education, the thirty-one volumes of which are a veritable encyclopedia of education, one of the most valuable compendiums of information on the subject ever brought together through the agency of any one man. He also edited from 1838 to 1842, and again from 1851 to 1854, the Connecticut Common School Journal, and from 1846 to 1849 the Journal of the Rhode Island Institute of Instruction.
He is buried at Cedar Hill Cemetery in Hartford.
- 'Roll of State Officers and Members of General Assembly of Connecticut from 1776-1881,' Press of the Cass, Lockwood & Brainard Co.: 1881, pg. 387-389
- Monroe, Will Seymour (1893). The educational labors of Henry Barnard: a study in the history of American pedagogy. C. W. Bardeen. p. [page needed].
- Chisholm 1911.
- Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Barnard, Henry". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press
- The Fales Library of NYU's guide to the Henry Barnard Papers
- School Architecture, Barnard, Henry, 4th ed., 1850
John Hiram Lathrop
|Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin–Madison
John W. Sterling
|United States Commissioner of Education
March 11, 1867–1870