Theodore Dwight Woolsey

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Theodore Dwight Woolsey
Theodore Dwight Woolsey portrait.jpg
10th President of Yale University
In office
Preceded byJeremiah Day
Succeeded byNoah Porter
Personal details
BornOctober 31, 1801
New York City, New York
DiedJuly 1, 1889(1889-07-01) (aged 87)
New Haven, Connecticut

Theodore Dwight Woolsey (October 31, 1801 – July 1, 1889) was an American academic, author and President of Yale College from 1846 through 1871.[1]:445


Theodore Dwight Woolsey was born October 31, 1801 in New York City. His mother was Elizabeth Dwight (1772–1813) and father was William Walton Woolsey (1766–1839).[2] He graduated from Yale College in 1820, spent a year in legal study in Philadelphia, and two years of the study of theology at Princeton. For some time, he was a tutor at Yale, then went abroad to study Greek in Leipzig, Bonn, and Berlin. From 1831 to 1846 he was professor of Greek at Yale. His mother's brother Timothy Dwight (1752–1817) had been president of Yale 1795–1817. Jeremiah Day was the only president Yale had in between the family members. He was elected an Associate Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1845.[3] After being chosen as president of Yale, he instructed students of history, political economy, political science, and especially international law. He resigned as president of Yale in 1871. After Noah Porter served as president, the office was back in the family as his cousin once removed Timothy Dwight V (1828–1916), was selected in 1886.[1]

During his 25 years as president, Yale advanced in wealth and influence and two new departments, the Scientific School and the School of Fine Arts, were begun. Woolsey was one of the founders of the New Englander, chairman of the American commission for the revision of the Authorized Version of the Bible, president of the World's Evangelical Alliance at its international meeting in New York, a lifelong member and at one time president of the American Oriental Society, and a regent of the Smithsonian Institution. Among his writings and publications are these: Editions of the Alcestis of Euripides (1834), of the Antigone of Sophocles (1835), of the Prometheus of Æschylus (1837), of the Electra of Sophocles (1837), and of the Gorgias of Plato (1843); an edition of Lieber's Civil liberty and Self Government, and:

  • Introduction to the study of International Law (1860, many times republished)
  • Essays on Divorce and Divorce Legislation (1869)
  • Religion of the Present and Future, a collections of sermons (1871)
  • Political Science (1877)
  • Communism and Socialism (1880)
  • Helpful Thoughts for Young Men (1882)

Family and legacy[edit]

Dwight married twice and had a total of 13 children. On September 5, 1833 he married Martha Salisbury, who was born November 30, 1812 and died November 3, 1852. Their children were:[2]

  1. Edward Salisbury Woolsey was born June 10, 1834, but died from scarlet fever on December 17, 1843.
  2. Elizabeth Woolsey was born November 30, 1835, but died in the same scarlet fever epidemic on the same day as her two brothers.
  3. Agnes Woolsey was born June 30, 1838, married Edgar Laing Heermance (1833–1888), had three children and died in 1915.
  4. William Walton Woolsey was born June 12, 1840, and died in the 1843 scarlet fever epidemic.
  5. Laura Woolsey was born June 22, 1842 but died of typhoid fever on March 23, 1861.
  6. Catherine Woolsey was born January 17, 1845 but died June 7, 1854.
  7. Martha Woolsey was born July 7, 1847 but died December 6, 1870.
  8. Helen Woolsey was born August 7, 1849 but died December 8, 1870.
  9. Theodore Salisbury Woolsey was born October 22, 1852 and died April 24, 1929.
Theodore Dwight Woolsey statue on Yale's Old Campus

On September 6, 1854 he married Sarah Sears Prichard, who was born March 3, 1824 and died in 1900. Their children were:

  1. Mary Pritchard Woolsey born September 1, 1855, married Alfred Terry Bacon and died in 1931.
  2. John Muirson Woolsey was born February 13, 1858 but died from typhoid fever March 13, 1861.
  3. George Woolsey was born May 2, 1861
  4. Edith Woolsey was born July 2, 1864.

Dwight died July 1, 1889 in New Haven.[4]

Dwight was a descendant of George (Joris) Woolsey, one of the earliest settlers of New Amsterdam, and Thomas Cornell (settler)[5]

Woolsey Hall at Yale, completed in 1901, and Woolsey Street in New Haven, Connecticut are named in his honor. The statue erected in his memory, now displayed on Yale's Old Campus, has a golden toe from being rubbed for good luck.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Lewis Sheldon Welch and Walter Camp (1899). Yale, Her Campus, Class-rooms, and Athletics. Boston: L. C. Page and Company. OCLC 2191518.CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
  2. ^ a b Benjamin Woodbridge Dwight (1874). The history of the descendants of John Dwight, of Dedham, Mass. 1. J. F. Trow & son, printers and bookbinders. pp. 250, 257–259.
  3. ^ "Book of Members, 1780-2010: Chapter W" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 22 April 2011.
  4. ^ Timothy Dwight (August 1889). "Theodore Dwight Woolsey". The New Englander and Yale review. 51. J. pp. 143–153.
  5. ^ Cornell, Thomas Clapp Adam and Anne Mott: their ancestors and their descendants. A.V. Haight, 1890 Retrieved November 10, 2013

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
Jeremiah Day
President of Yale College
Succeeded by
Noah Porter III