A.M. Washington College (now Washington & Lee U.), 1869; study at Berlin, 1872-3; Ph.D. Leipzig, 1874.
Tchr., 1865-6; asst. prof, to adj. prof. anc. langs. Washington Coll., 1869-75; prof. Gk. Vanderbilt U., 1875-83; U. Texas, 1883-7; U. Virginia, 1887-1912; pres. APA, 1882-3.
“Quaestiones metricae: De quibusdam accentus et elisionis momentis in hexametro dactylico et trimetro iambico” (Leipzig, 1874); printed as De accentus momento in versu heroico (Leipzig, 1874).
“On Negative Commands in Greek,” TAPA 7 (1876) 46-9; “On Certain Influences of Accent in Latin Iambic Trimeters,” ibid., 107-45; “Influence of Accent in Latin Dactylic Hexameters,” TAPA 9 (1878) 39-58; “Elision, especially in Greek,” ibid., 84-97; “On the Nature of the Caesura,” TAPA 10 (1879) 25-31; “On Certain Effects of Elision,” ibid., 32-60; “A Contribution to Infantile Linguistic,” TAPA 11 (1880) 5-17; “The Fourth Play in the Tetralogy,” AJP 1 (1880) 187-96; “The Agon of Old Comedy,” AJP 8 (1887) 179-206; The Clouds of Aristophanes (Boston, 1888); The Antigone of Sophocles (New York, 1891); “The Equivalence of Rhythmical Bars and Metrical Feet,” TAPA 23 (1892) 157-77; “Hephaestion and Irrationality,” TAPA 46 (1915) 29-33.
Milton W. Humphreys was a distinguished professor of Greek at the University of Virginia for 25 years. Born in what is today West Virginia to a devout Presbyterian family, he was the seventh of twelve children in this Scotch-Irish brood. He might never have emerged from his native Greenbrier County if it had not been for the interest of a visiting Presbyterian minister, who saw in young Humphreys the stuff of which clergymen are made. So he was sent to Charleston (VA) for the beginnings of his education, at the hands of another Presbyterian minister. Humphreys always remained a Presbyterian but he never became a minister. His academic career at Washington College was interrupted by the Civil War, in which he served from 1862 until the end as an artilleryman in the Army of Northern Virginia. Following Gen. Robert E. Lee in peace as in war, Humphreys returned to Washington College, graduated first in his class, and stayed on to teach.His subsequent career involved appointments at major new universities, Vanderbilt and the University of Texas. If in these twelve years Washington and Lee had offered him a position in Greek, he would gladly have accepted it: he had become a classicist because that is where he sensed his alma mater needed him. Lexington's loss was Charlottesville's gain. Throughout his life he maintained an interest in mathematics, astronomy, ballistics, and botany, along with a preternatural interest in gunnery that led him to contribute frequently to The United States Journal of Artillery. His classical scholarship covered a broad range of interests, but he is best remembered for his metrical work, begun with his dissertation and for his texts and commentaries.
Joseph R. Berrigan, “Milton W. Humphreys, an Appalachian Odysseus,” SHR, Special Issue, The Classical Tradition in the South (1977), 27-31; Ollinger Crenshaw & William W. Pusey, III, “An American Classical Scholar in Germany, 1874,” American-German Review 22,6 (1956) 30-33; Robert H. Webb, DAB 5:377-8; autobiography and Civil War diary in Alderman Library, U. Virginia.
AUTHORJoseph R. Berrigan