Life and work
He was born in Walpole, New Hampshire, the son of William Hooper and Elvira Pulsifer Hopper, and grew up on his parents' farm. After local schooling he studied at Antioch College, Yellow Springs, Ohio, from 1867–1871, and in 1872 enrolled at Harvard University to study biological sciences, where Louis Agassiz and Asa Gray were among his professors. He participated in the first biological summer school at the short-lived Anderson School of Natural History, founded by Agassiz in 1873 on Penikese Island, Cape Cod. After graduating with a B.A. in 1875 (Hon. M.A. 1897) he worked for the Smithsonian Institution to study algae and coralline formations in the Florida Keys.
After three years as head of the high school in Keene, New Hampshire, from 1877-1880, he was appointed professor of chemistry and geology at Adelphi College, Brooklyn, where he taught until 1889. He was the first president of the Brooklyn Ethical Association 1881–1883.
In 1889 he was appointed as General Director of the revitalised Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences (BIAS), where he had been a Fellow, and (continuing the earlier example set by Agassiz) was instrumental in the founding of its summer school Biological Laboratory (Bio Lab) at Cold Spring Harbor, Long Island, in 1890.
Hooper greatly expanded the institute's work of presenting a wide range of public lectures and concerts, quadrupling its membership. One of the regular visiting orchestras to play at the institute was the Boston Symphony, whose founder married Agassiz' daughter.
Under his leadership the institute's art and architecture departments were set up, leading to the competition to design the Brooklyn Institute's new museum (now the Brooklyn Museum), opened in 1897. Until his death in 1914 he continued as director of the institute and de facto director of the museum, and chairman of the Committee on Lectures. More departments were opened during his time as director, including the Brooklyn Children's Museum (1899) and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (1911). He was a member of the New York City Board of Education and a trustee for the Brooklyn Public Library. He was president of the board of trustees of his alma mater, Antioch College, from 1901–05.
In 1904 Hooper was one of the founders of the American Bison Society with Ernest Harold Baynes. At his suggestion Baynes wrote to President Theodore Roosevelt, who became the society's first Honorary President. Hooper also suggested the inclusion of the Premier of Canada, Earl Grey, as an officer of the society. Hooper himself became the society's president in 1911.
He was instrumental in setting up the Old Rockingham Meeting House Association in 1911, for the continued preservation of the newly restored Vermont church which his great-great grandfather David Pulsipher had helped to found in 1778.
Hooper's obituary in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle summed up his work: "No man ever did so much to dignify the position of the old City of Brooklyn, in the world of science and art, as Professor Franklin William Hooper ... For a quarter of a century his energetic activities have been given to the development of this institution which has become the pride of the city and a model for work in many other cities."
His bust by Edmond Thomas Quinn is at the Brooklyn Museum.
He married Martha Holden of Augusta, Georgia, in 1877. She was the daughter of Peter B. Holden (superintendent of Augusta cotton factories) and Meritable Emery Holden, ardent abolitionists before and during the Civil War, whose house was part of the Underground Railroad for escaped slaves.
Martha Hooper was vice-president of the Brooklyn Institute's Domestic Science department in 1909. They had three children: Rebecca L. Hooper, born in Walpole, March 23, 1877, married William H. Eastman in July 1912; William S. Hooper, born in Keene, New Hampshire, June 1880; and Franklin Dana Hooper, born in Brooklyn, New York, October 30, 1883.
- Watson 1991, p. 20-23.
- Cavaioli 2009.
- Janes, Lewis G. (March 1893). "The Brooklyn Ethical Association". Popular Science Monthly. 42: 672–3.
- Cooke 1904.
- "Connecting Cultures: A World in Brooklyn". Brooklyn Museum.
- Steffensen-Bruce 1998, p. 160.
- In 1921 Hooper's collection of over 100 boxes of lantern slides was distributed to the Museum, the Children's Museum, and the Botanic Garden. Brooklyn Museum archives
- Where the Buffalo roamed... The story of Baynes' preservation of bison.
- Am. Bis. Soc. 1908, p. 1.
- Other managers included Commander Robert Peary and Dr. Charles B. Davenport. Davenport had been the director of the summer school of the Long Island BIAS Bio Lab which Hooper had helped set up in 1890, and was director of the Biological Station of the Carnegie Institution, situated next door.
- Fullerton 1912.
- Hayes & Hayes 1915, p. 59.
- Hayes & Hayes 1915, p. 60.
- New York Times, 3 July 1912
- Annual report of the American Bison Society, 1905 - 1907. American Bison Soc. 1908.
- Cavaioli, Frank J. (2009). "Chartering the New York State School of Agriculture on Long Island". Long Island History Journal. 21 (1, Fall 2009).
- Cooke, James Francis (September 1904). "The Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences - Its Musical Work". The Etude.
- Fullerton, Edith Loring (1912). The lure of the land. The history of a market-garden and dairy plot developed within eight months upon Long Island's idle territory... (4th ed.). Long Island, New York: Long Island Rail Road Company.
- Hayes, Lyman S.; Hayes, William D. (1915). The old Rockingham meeting house, erected 1787 and the first church in Rockingham, Vermont, 1773-1840 (illustrated ed.). Bellows Falls, Vermont.
- Steffensen-Bruce, Ingrid A. (1998). Marble Palaces, Temples of Art: Art Museums, Architecture, and American Culture, 1890-1930. Bucknell University Press. ISBN 9780838753514.
- Watson, Edith L. (1991). Houses for Science: a pictorial history of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. CSHL Press, 1991. ISBN 9780879694036.