North American Scholar
WHEELOCK, Frederic Melvin
A.B. Harvard, 1925; A.M., 1926; Ph.D., 1933; Corey Fell., 1933-4.
- Professional Experience:
Instr. Lat. Haverford, 1926-9; instr. & tut. Harvard, 1929-30; instr. CCNY, 1935-8; instr. to asst. prof. Brooklyn Coll., 1938-52; prof, human. Cazenovia Jr. Coll., 1954-8; dean, 1957-8; master Lat. Darrow Sch. Boys (New Lebanon, NY), 1958-60; asso. prof, to prof, class. U. Toledo, 1960-8; vis. prof, class. Florida Presbyterian (now Eckert) Coll., 1969-70.
"De Probi commentariorum Vergilianorum textu recensendo" (Harvard, 1933); printed as "The Manuscript Tradition of Probus," HSCP 46 (1936) 85-153.
"Leto's Hand and Tasso's Horace," HSCP 52 (1941) 99-123; Latin (New York, 1956; 2d ed. as Latin: An Introductory Course based on Ancient Authors, 1960; 3d ed. 1963; 4th ed. as Wheelock's Latin Grammar, 1992); Latin Literature: A Book of Readings (New York, 1969); Quintilian as Educator, trans. H. E. Butler, intro. & notes by Wheelock (New York, 1974).
Wheelock did important work on Probus' Life of Virgil (the basis for C. Hardie's text of Probus, Vitae Vergilianae Antiquae [Oxford, 1966], 25-8), but his name will always be synonymous with Latin instruction, for his textbook has been the most popular college Latin text of its day. He began writing the book while on sabbatical from Brooklyn College in 1950 at San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. He dropped out of the field and "dabbled in business" for two years at Cazenovia, NY, before returning to academics and completing his textbook for publication in 1956, the first of four editions. He was attracted to the Darrow School by the opportunity to teach nothing but Latin and later he moved to the University of Toledo to reinstitute a classics program ten years after it had been canceled. The course was successful and the program rapidly grew to employ three professors. He retired to a world of hobbies in Amherst, NH, but in 1969 he slipped back into the traces for a year at Florida Presbyterian. Wheelock was a conservative, unattached to any doctrine but discipline. His book frees the teacher to exercise his/her own personality in the delivery of the lessons, and his refinement of the materials in his Brooklyn College classes (in which students leafed through mimeographed copies) tell in the structure and arrangement. It presents the grammar in a most sensible order, alternating verbs and substantives, with an appropriate balance of grammar and forms, without excessive vocabulary. The addition of unabridged Latin passages (Loci Immutati) and self-tutorial exercises in the second and third editions increased the book's value as a self-teacher for the older student. His taste in readings ran heavily to the Ciceronian with the result that his reader was far less successful because of its difficulty and monotony. His conservatism came to the fore in his last work, his edition of Butler's Quintilian, "in which some of the old, time-proven values and requisites in education are presented to our troubled period." He said, "Teaching is an act of faith which often bears its fruits years later when the teacher is not present to witness them. Some say that how one teaches is as important as what one teaches. For let us along with Quintilian emphasize that character is paramount and example is more effective than preachment."
DAS 1982:525; Richard M. Krill, APA Newsletter (Winter 1988) 15; NYTimes (10 Nov. 1987) D33.
- Author: Ward W. Briggs, Jr.