WILLIAM BARTON ROGERS Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Founder
WHO IS WILLIAM BARTON ROGERS December 7, 1804 – May 30, 1882) was a geologist, physicist andeducator. He is best known for setting down the founding principlesfor, advocating for, and finally obtaining the incorporation of theMassachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1861.The universityopened in 1865 after the American Civil War. Mount Rogers, thehighest peak in Virginia, is named after him.
PROFESSOR WILLIAM BARTON ROGERS In 1828 Patrick Kerr Rogers died and William Barton Rogerssucceeded him at the College of William and Mary as Professor ofChemistry and Natural Philosophy. In 1835 Rogers was appointedgeologist of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and headed the statesgeological survey (as his brother Henry did in New Jersey andPennsylvania).
PROFESSOR WILLIAM BARTON ROGERS CONTINUED Also in 1835 he was appointed Professor of Natural Philosophy atthe University of Virginia and moved to Charlottesville. He served asChairman of the Faculty from 1844 to 1845, and in 1845 he waselected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
ROGERS IN BOSTONWhile William held his faculty position at the University of Virginia in the 1840s hefrequently traveled north to the New England area. In New England he found anintellectual and social culture more to his liking: people who valued education andhard work along with financial enterprise. Fast growing urban centers filling with immigrants from Europe andCanada, new railroads and mill towns, flourishing literary circles, a center of anti-slavery and other reform movements
THE MOVEMENT CLOSER TO MIT After speaking to Boston philanthropist John Lowell in1846, Henry Rogers asked his brother William, who was still inVirginia, to draft a plan for a scientific school. William outlined hisplan in a March 1846 letter to Henry.
LETTER FROM WILLIAM ―The true and only practicable object of apolytechnic school is, as I conceive, the teaching, not of the minute details and manipulations of the arts, which can be done only in the workshop, but the inculcation of those scientific principles which form the basis and explanation of them, theirleading processes and operations in connection with physical laws.‖ - Life and Letters of William Barton Rogers 1:420
SETTING THE SCENE In Boston during those years the marshy lands in Back Bay weregradually being filled in as a state project, and the governor ofMassachusetts proposed in 1859 that some of the new ground be setaside for public educational improvements
ASSOCIATEDINSTITUTIONS OF SCIENCE AND ART ―Associated Institutions of Science and the Art‖ prepared a―memorial‖ seeking some of that land for various educationalpurposes, but their request was not successful—at least not at first.The next year the same group enlisted William Barton Rogers tospearhead a new land grant proposal, and as part of that campaignRogers produced a 30-page pamphlet titled Objects and Plan of anInstitute of Technology which was distributed widely.
ROGERS PROPOSAL OF MIT The plan was introduced to the state legislature in 1860. And ayear of support and defense of the plan ensued. This letter from Massachusetts Governor John Andrew urgesRogers to speak before the Board of Education in defense of theestablishment of the Institute. "Be thou the advocate," statesGovernor Andrew, as he extols Rogerss virtues as a persuasivespeaker. And persuasive he was…
MIT WAS BORN In April 1861, by an act of the Massachusetts legislature (chapter183, acts of 1861), MIT was formally established. Governor Andrewsigned the act on April 10, 1861, just two days before Fort Sumterwas fired upon, marking the start of the Civil War.
RETIREMENT While president of MIT, Rogers also taught classes includingphysics. Years of strenuous effort and resulting debilitating healthforced William Barton Rogers to relinquish his duties in 1868 and toretire from the presidency of MIT in 1870. He spent the ensuingdecade recuperating.
DEATH During the 1870s, the Institute began to have financial difficulties andenrollment decreased (partially due to outside influences such as the Great BostonFire and the Panic of 1873). In 1878 Rogers was asked to resume the presidency ofMIT. He agreed on the condition that he would only do so until a successor couldbe found. Francis Amasa Walker was chosen to be the new president in 1880;however, due to obligations regarding his work overseeing the U.S. Census, he couldnot take office until the fall of 1881. Rogers continued his involvement, andultimately died while on the podium at commencement in 1882.