Theodore Wesley Koch

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Theodore Wesley Koch
Born (1871-08-04)August 4, 1871
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Died March 27, 1941(1941-03-27) (aged 69)
Evanston, Illinois
Nationality American
Occupation Librarian

Theodore Wesley Koch (August 4, 1871 – March 27, 1941)[1][2] was the Director of Northwestern University's library (1919–1941), and the Director of the University of Michigan Library (1905–1915). He also held positions at the Cornell University Library and the Library of Congress.[3]


Koch was born in Philadelphia in 1871, the son of William Jefferson Koch (pronounced by the family as "coke") a descendant of German immigrants ("Pennsylvania Dutch"). Koch receive a BA from the University of Pennsylvania, followed by a second BA and an MA from Harvard University (1893 and 1894 respectively) in Romance Languages. He went on to study in Paris, before returning to Cornell University in 18xx[clarification needed], where he was responsible for producing a detailed, annotated catalogue of Cornell's extensive collection of Dante's works.[3][4]

Koch was the Director of the Library of Northwestern University (1919–1941), during which time he planned and raised the funds for the Deering Library at Northwestern.[4] His bust is carved into a pillar next to the entrance to the stacks.

During World War I, while on the staff of the Library of Congress, Koch played an instrumental role in ensuring that scientific publications from Germany and other combatants continued to be available to American researchers. He also organized programs to provide books to American soldiers in the trenches, and after the end of the war was very active in organizing American support for the rebuilding of European libraries that had been destroyed during the war.[4]

He was a translator of Italian poetry and essays; scholar of Dante; widely published on issues of libraries and public education from the 1910s to the late 1930s.

In 1940 he received the Cross of the Legion of Honor from the French Government, for his lifelong work in translating, promoting, and enhancing the appreciation of French literature in the United States.[5]

He died in 1941, a few months short of his scheduled retirement.


  1. ^ "Illinois, Deaths and Stillbirths Index, 1916-1947 [database on-line]". Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc. 2011. 
  2. ^ "Online Books". Online Books by Theodore Wesley Koch. Retrieved 18 February 2016. 
  3. ^ a b "Michigan Historical Collections Bentley Historical Library University of Michigan". Retrieved 18 February 2016. 
  4. ^ a b c "Guide to the Theodore Wesley Koch (1871-1941) Papers". Northwestern University. Retrieved 18 February 2016. 
  5. ^ Catalogue of the Dante collection presented by Willard Fiske / Cornell University Library ; compiled by Theodore Wesley Koch. Cornell University Library; Ithaca, N.Y., 1898-1900.

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