Frederick Augustus Porter Barnard

Last updated
Frederick A. P. Barnard
PSM V11 D008 Frederick A P Barnard.jpg
10th President of Columbia University
In office
Preceded by Charles King
Succeeded by Seth Low
Personal details
Born(1809-05-05)May 5, 1809
Sheffield, Massachusetts
DiedApril 27, 1889(1889-04-27) (aged 79)
New York City, New York
Spouse(s)Margaret McMurray
Relations John G. Barnard (brother)
Alma mater Yale University

Frederick Augustus Porter Barnard (May 5, 1809 – April 27, 1889) was a deaf American scientist and educator.


Early life

Australia map compiled by Arnold Henry Guyot and Frederick Augustus Porter Barnard Arnold Guyot03.jpg
Australia map compiled by Arnold Henry Guyot and Frederick Augustus Porter Barnard

Frederick Augustus Porter Barnard was born in Sheffield, Massachusetts, on May 5, 1809. His brother, John G. Barnard was a career engineering officer in the U.S. Army, serving as the Superintendent of the United States Military Academy and then as a general in the Union Army during the American Civil War. Barnard was a Deaf American scientist and classically trained scholar. After he became deafened, he worked as an instructor at the American Asylum of the Deaf and the NY Institute for the Instruction of the Deaf. He then worked at the University of Alabama and the University of Mississippi as a professor in the areas of mathematics, chemistry, natural history, and natural philosophy.

In 1828 he graduated, second on the honour list, at Yale University, where he was a member of the Linonian Society. Barnard pursued astronomical studies and an observatory is named for him at the University of Mississippi. As the president of a college, Columbia, and a chancellor at the University of Mississippi, he holds the distinction of being the first Deaf president. During the Civil War, he left Mississippi as he believed in anti-slavery. Barnard College was named in his honor as he believed in women having educational opportunities.


Following his graduation from Yale, he then became a tutor there. As he began to lose his hearing due to a hereditary condition he became a teacher (1831–1832) in the American Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb at Hartford, Connecticut, and a teacher (1832–1838) in the New York Institute for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb. [1]

From 1838 to 1848, he was professor of mathematics and natural philosophy, and from 1848 to 1854 was professor of chemistry and natural history in the University of Alabama, [2] also, filling the chair of English literature. In 1854 he was ordained as deacon in the Protestant Episcopal Church. In the same year he became professor of mathematics and natural philosophy in the University of Mississippi, of which institution he was chancellor from 1856 until the outbreak of the Civil War, when, his sympathies being with the North, he resigned and went to Washington. During his time at Ole Miss, Barnard was "tried" by the Board of Trustees for taking the testimony of a slave against a student who allegedly assaulted her. [3]

In 1860, he was one of the party sent to Labrador to observe an eclipse of the sun; in 1862 he was at work on the reduction of Gilliss's observations of the stars of the southern hemisphere, and in 1863 he superintended the publication of maps and charts of the United States Coast Survey. He was elected an Associate Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1860. [4] He was president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1866; a member of the board of experts of the American Bureau of Mines in 1865, and a member of the American Institute in 1872. [5] [6] He was elected as a member to the American Philosophical Society in 1871. [7]

Eastman Johnson's portrait of Frederick Augustus Porter Barnard, 1886 Frederick Augustus Porter Barnard by Eastman Johnson.png
Eastman Johnson's portrait of Frederick Augustus Porter Barnard, 1886

Columbia College

In 1864, he became the tenth president of Columbia College (now Columbia University) in New York City, which position he held until the year before his death, his service thus being longer than that of any of his predecessors. During this period the growth of the college was rapid; new departments were established; the elective system was greatly extended; more adequate provision was made for graduate study and original research, and the enrollment was increased from about 150 to more than 1000 students.[ citation needed ]

Barnard was a classical and English scholar, a mathematician, a physicist, a chemist, and a good public speaker. His annual reports to the Board of Trustees of Columbia included valuable discussions of educational problems.[ citation needed ]

Barnard and Arnold Henry Guyot were Editors-in-Chief of the 1876 Johnson's New Universal Cyclopaedia. [8]

Barnard wrote Treatise on Arithmetic (1830); an Analytical Grammar with Symbolic Illustration (1836); Letters on Collegiate Government (1855); History of the United States Coast Survey (1857); Recent Progress in Science (1869); and The Metric System (1871).

He died in New York City on April 27, 1889. [9] [10] He left the bulk of his property to Columbia College. [11]


Barnard strove to have educational privileges extended by the university to women as well as to men, and Barnard College, for women, established immediately after his death, was named in his honor. [12]

Barnard Observatory, one of the few buildings at the University of Mississippi on the Ole Miss campus to survive the Civil War, is named in his honor. [13]

Barnard Medal for Meritorious Service to Science

In his will, Barnard left the following instructions:

The Trustees of Columbia College shall cause to be struck, with suitable devices, a medal of gold, nine-tenths fine, of the bullion value of not less two hundred dollars, to be styled "THE BARNARD MEDAL FOR MERITORIOUS SERVICE TO SCIENCE," and shall publicly announce that a copy of the same will be awarded, at the close of every quinquennial period, dating from the probate of this my last Will and Testament, to such person, whether a citizen of the United States of or any other country, as shall, within the five years next preceding, have made such discovery in physical or astronomical science, or such novel application of science to purposes beneficial to the human race, as, in the judgment of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States, shall be esteemed most worthy of such an honor. And I make it my request that the said National Academy of Sciences shall charge itself with the duty of declaring to the Trustees of Columbia College, aforesaid, at the close of every term of five years, as above defined, the name of the person whom they judge worthy to receive such medal, with a statement of the reasons on which their judgment is founded; and that upon such declaration and nomination, the Trustees shall proceed to award the said medal, and shall transmit the same to the person entitled to receive it, accompanied by a diploma or certificate attesting the fact and the occasion of the award. But, if the National Academy of Sciences shall judge that, during the five years preceding the date at which, as above provided, this award shall become due, no discovery in physical or astronomical science, or no new application of scientific principles to useful purposes, has been made worthy of the distinction proposed, then it is my wish and request the award shall be for that time omitted. And I would further desire, that the medal above described should bear, if it can be accomplished without interfering with the appropriate artistic devices upon its obverse side, the motto, Magna est Veritas, and upon its reverse the motto, Deo optimo Maximo, Gloria in Excelsis.

See also

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  1. Annual Report of the Directors of the New-York Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb. New York: Mahlon Day, Printer. 1837.
  2. Alfred L. Brophy, The University and the Slaves: Apology and Its Meaning
  3. Alfred L. Brophy, University, Court, and Slave: Pro-Slavery Thought in the Southern Colleges and Courts and the Coming of Civil War (2016).
  4. "Book of Members, 1780-2010: Chapter B" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved May 17, 2011.
  5. D. Appleton (1890). The American Annual Cyclopedia and Register of Important Events. 29. p. 74. Retrieved December 10, 2014.
  6. "The American Bureau of Mines—The Organization Complete," The New York Times , January 31, 1866, p. 4.
  7. "APS Member History". Retrieved 2021-04-28.
  8. Frederick Augustus Porter Barnard (1885). Johnson's new general cyclopaedia and copperplate hand-atlas of the world: combined and illustrated: being specially adapted for daily use in the family, school, and office, Volume 2. Johnson's New General Cyclopaedia and Copperplate Hand-atlas of the World: Combined and Illustrated: Being Specially Adapted for Daily Use in the Family, School, and Office. A. J. Johnson. p. 1411. Retrieved May 17, 2014.
  9. Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Barnard, Frederick Augustus Porter"  . Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  10. Gilman, D. C.; Peck, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). "Barnard, Frederick Augustus Porter"  . New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.
  11. A History of the First Half-Century of the National Academy of Sciences: 1863–1913. National Academic Press (US). 1913. p. Chapter 13. Retrieved 30 October 2019.
  12. "Barnard's History | Barnard College". Retrieved 2020-07-26.
  13. "Barnard Observatory". Center for the Study of Southern Culture. Retrieved 2020-07-26.
Academic offices
Preceded by
Augustus Baldwin Longstreet
Chancellors of the University of Mississippi
Succeeded by
John Newton Waddel
Preceded by
Charles King
President of Columbia College
Succeeded by
Seth Low