John S. Hougham

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Instrument made by JS Hougham
Instrument (detail) made by JS Hougham

John Scherer Hougham (28 May 1821 – 31 March 1894), was Purdue University’s first appointed professor, first (unofficial) acting President (March 11, 1874-June 11, 1874) after Purdue's first President Richard Dale Owen resigned on March 1, 1874, and later an official acting President (November 6, 1875-April 30, 1876) between the administrations of Abraham C. Shortridge and Emerson E. White.[1]

Hougham first graduated from Wabash College, Crawfordsville, Indiana, in 1846, where he was a member of Beta Theta Pi fraternity.[2] He then rose to Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy at Franklin College in Franklin, Indiana (1848 – 1867).[3] During this time he was also a well regarded maker of scientific instruments (see images, right) for educational and professional use in medicine, chemistry, astronomy, and other related fields (e.g., Solar Compass).[4]

After those appointments, he was Chairman of Philosophy and Agriculture at Kansas State University (1868 – 1872). He then took an appointment as Professor of Physics and Industrial Mechanics, and Chairman of Agricultural Chemistry at Purdue University (1872 – 1876),[5] serving in those early years of Purdue’s history as an academic "handyman" — and for a time acting President for parts of 1874 and 1876 — to John Purdue and the founding Trustees, visiting other universities around the country in search of new ideas and faculty to bring back to his native Indiana. Around 1876, he returned to Kansas State where he spent the remaining years of his academic career.


  1. ^ Topping, Robert W. (10-1-1988) A Century and Beyond: The History of Purdue University. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press. p63, p383.
  2. ^ Wabash College Archives, John S. Hougham Manuscript Collection. Retrieved September 27, 2007.
  3. ^ Indiana School Journal, April 1860 V(4):147. Retrieved September 26, 2007.
  4. ^ Virtual Museum of Surveying. Retrieved September 26, 2007
  5. ^ A History of Physics at Purdue]. Retrieved September 26, 2007.

Additional Sources[edit]

  • Presidents of Purdue University. Retrieved January 21, 2014.
  • Rittenhouse Journal index. Elgin, Richard L. "John S. Hougham and the Early History of the Solar Compass." Rittenhouse: The Journal of the American Scientific Instrument Enterprise 7(28):117-121. Retrieved September 28, 2007
  • The Hougham/Huffam Family Tree. "John Scherer Hougham - Developer of the solar compass" by RICHARD L ELGIN, PHD, LS, PE, ELGIN SURVEYING & ENGINEERING, NC.