North American Scholar

WOOLSEY, Theodore Dwight

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  • Date of Birth: 1801-10-31
  • Born City: New York
  • Born State/Country: NY
  • Parents: William Walton, a hardware merchant, & Elizabeth Dwight W.
  • Date of Death: 1889-07-01
  • Death City: New Haven
  • Death State/Country: CT
  • Married: Elizabeth Salisbury, 5 Sept. 1833; Sarah Sears Prichard, 6 Sept. 1854.
  • Education:

    A.B. Yale, 1820; study at Princeton Theol. Sem., 1821-3; study in Paris, 1827; LL.D. Wesleyan U. (CT), 1845; ordained, 1846; D.D. Harvard, 1847; LL.D., 1886.

  • Professional Experience:

    Tutor Gk. Yale, 1823-5; prof. Gk., 1831-71; pres. 1846-71; chair New Testament Co., Am. Comm. on Revision of Bible, 1871-81.

  • Publications:

    Alcestis of Euripides (Cambridge, 1834); Antigone of Sophocles (Cambridge, 1835), Prometheus Bound of Aeschylus (Boston, 1837); Electro of Sophocles (Boston, 1837); Gorgias of Plato (Boston, 1842); Introduction to the Study of International Law (Boston & Cambridge, 1860; 6th ed. rev. & enl. by Theodore Salisbury Woolsey [New York, 1891]); Essay on Divorce and Divorce Legislation (New York, 1869); The Religion of the Present and of the Future (New York, 1871); Francis Lieber, On Civil Liberty and Self-Government, 3d ed. by Woolsey (Philadelphia, 1874); idem, Manual of Political Ethics, 2d ed. by Woolsey, 2 vols. (Philadelphia, 1875); Political Science, 2 vols. (New York, 1877); Communism and Socialism in Their History and Theory (New York, 1880); Helpful Thoughts for Young Men (Boston, 1882).

  • Notes:

    Theodore Dwight Woolsey was one of Yale's greatest teachers of Greek before being elevated to the presidency of Yale in 1846. He was graduated as valedictorian from Yale, spent one year reading the law in Philadelphia, another two studying theology, then following a brief tutorship, during which he concluded his theological work, left to study Arabic in Paris, then Greek in Leipzig, Bonn, and Berlin. He felt that his character had sufficient flaws to disqualify him from the ministry, so he resolved during his European period to devote himself wholeheartedly to the study of Greek. Appointed the first professor of Greek language and literature at Yale in 1831, he taught a generation of students and produced a series of editions of texts for college students. Though he initially resisted the offer of the presidency because he still felt his character was inadequate to the ministry (a requirement of the office), he accepted, turning over the Greek Department to James Hadley, while he taught courses in history, political science, and international law. During his tenure as president of Yale he became a recognized authority on political science and international law. During Woolsey's quarter-century as president, the curriculum was reorganized, graduate instruction was greatly expanded, new chairs were endowed (including a second chair of Greek, held by Lewis R. Packard), and many buildings erected. Yale's reputation grew as its academic standards and the quality of its faculty were raised by Woolsey. Woolsey Hall at Yale is named in his honor. He was a founder of The Independent. He was a distant, impressive, intensely moral figure, fair in his dealings with students and faculty. From his two marriages he fathered 13 children.

  • Sources:

    Timothy Dwight, Theodore Dwight Woolsey, Memorial Address (New Haven, 1890); NatCAB 1:170-1; Sandys, 463; Harris Elwood Starr, DAB: 20: 519-20; Joseph Henry Thayer, Atlantic Monthly 64 (Oct. 1889) 557-62; WhAmHS 668.

  • Author: Meyer Reinhold