North American Scholar

ALISON, Francis

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  • Date of Birth (YYYY-MM-DD): 1705-01-01
  • Born City: Lac Parish, County Donegal (exact day unknown)
  • Born State/Country: Ireland
  • Date of Death (YYYY-MM-DD): 1779-11-28
  • Death City: Philadelphia
  • Death State/Country: PA
  • Married: Hannah Armitage.
  • Education:

    A.M. Yale, 1755; Princeton, 1755; D.D. U. Glasgow, 1756.

  • Professional Experience:

    Tutor in home of Samuel Dickinson; ordained min. Prsby. Ch., 1737; founded academy in New London, PA, 1743; headmaster Latin and Greek School, Coll. Philadelphia, 1752-5; vice provost and prof, moral philos., 1755-79.

  • Publications:

    Thanks to the Wardens of Christ Church and St. Peters (Philadelphia, 1764); An Address to the Rev. Dr. Alison (Philadelphia, 1765).

  • Notes:

    Francis Alison, a Presbyterian clergyman, was a celebrated teacher of Latin and Greek, highly honored for his broad range of knowledge, including science. He emigrated to America in 1735, settling first in Talbot Co., Maryland, ultimately in New London, Pennsylvania, and was tutor of John Dickinson. At his school in New London he educated such notables as Charles Thomson, Thomas McKean, and George Read; his school was later moved to Newark, DE, and became the foundation of the University of Delaware. An assistant pastor of his church in Philadelphia, he was active in the religious turmoil of his time. In his maturity, he was called by Ezra Stiles (later President of Yale) "the greatest classical scholar in America, especially in Greek." He became the headmaster of Philadelphia Academy, and when it became a college, he was its first vice-provost. His D.D. from Glasgow is likely the first doctorate granted an American by a European university.

  • Sources:

    DAB 1:181-2; Thomas H. Montgomery, A History of the University of Pennsylvania from its Foundation to A.D. 1770 (Philadelphia, 1900); NatCAB 1:346; Thomas C. Pears, "Francis Alison: Colonial Educator," Delaware Notes 17 (1944) 9-22; C. Roy Rylander, BDAE 1:25; The Scotch-Irish in America. Proceedings and Addresses 9 (1900) 109-14; William B. Sprague, Annals of the American Pulpit, 3:76; WhAmHS 87.

  • Author: Meyer Reinhold