Family:Whitney, William Dwight (1827-1894)

From WRG
Jump to: navigation, search

Prof. William Dwight8 Whitney, Ph. D., Ll. D. (Josiah Dwight7, Abel6, Aaron5, Moses4, Moses3, Richard2, John1), son of Josiah Dwight7 and Sarah (Williston) Whitney, was born 9 Feb 1827, Northampton, MA, and died Jun 1894, New Haven, CT.

He married, 27 Aug 1856, Elizabeth Wooster Baldwin dauughter of Gov. Roger Sherman Baldwin. She was born 8 Aug 1824. Her father was born 4 Jan 1793; gr. at Yale in 1811, an eminent lawyer in New Haven, CT, and at one time Governor of the state, 1844-45, and United States senator, 1848-51.

He was born at Northampton, MA. The mother was daughter of Rev. Payson Williston (Yale 1783) of Easthampton, and sister of the founder of Williston seminary, in that town. The father was a business man, later manager, first as cashier and then as president, of the Northampton bank, and widely and honorably known for his ability and integrity; his children mostly turned to literary pursuits; the oldest, Josiah Dwight, being a well-known scientist, long head of the California survey and now professor of economical geology in Harvard university; the third son, James Lyman, being one of the heads of the Boston public library; and the fourth, Henry Mitchell, a professor in Beloit college, Wisconsin; while a daughter, Maria, is a teacher, formerly in charge of the department of modern languages at Smith college (for women) in Northampton; all the sons except William D., are graduates of Yale.

William D. Whitney made his preparation for college entirely in the free public schools of his native town. The teachers whom he remembers with most gratitude are Rodolphus B. Hubbard, long the head of the high school there, and John B. Dwight, of New Haven (Yale, 1840). He entered the class at the beginning of the sophomore year. No small part of his time while in college was spent roaming over the hills and through the valleys, collecting birds for the Natural History society and setting them up; and work of this kind has never since been entirely abandoned. On leaving college, being undecided what occupation to turn to, he at first went provisionally into the bank, under his father, and it ended in his staying there more than three full years. During the first year, indeed, he stopped and made a feint of beginning the study of medicine-commencing service in a doctor's office one day, only to be taken down with a long fit of illness the next, and returning to his first work when this was over. He did in the three years a good deal of bird and plant-collecting; and a case of his birds, chiefly the acquisitions of this period, now forms a part of the collection in the Peabody museum of New Haven. He did also a good deal of studying, especially in some of the modern European languages; and finally, early in 1848, was led, partly under the influence and encouragement of his father's pastor, now Professor George E. Day, of Yale, to turn his attention to Sanskrit, text-books for which were within his reach in his brother's library. In the spring of 1849, he left the bank; and the summer of that year was spent by him among the swamps and mosquitoes of Lake Superior, as "asssistant sub-agent" (at $2 a day) in the United States geological survey of that region, carried on under the care of his brother and the late J. W. Foster; he had under his charge the botany, the ornithology, and the accounts. On returning home, he went for a year to New Haven, to continue his Sanskrit studies under Professor E. E. Salisbury and in company with Professor James Hadley, and to prepare for a visit to Germany, already planned. He sailed for Bremen direct in the autumn of 1850, and returned home in July, 1853. Three winters were passed by him in Berlin, and two summers in Tubingen (in southern Germany), chiefly under the instruction of Professors Albrecht Weber and Rudolph Roth, respectively, but also of Professor Lepsius and others. Having copied in Berlin all the manuscripts of one of the oldest and most important Hindu scriptures, the Atharva-Veda, then unpublished, he planned an edition of it in conjunction with Professor Roth; and on the way home, in 1853, he stopped in Paris, Oxford, and London, to collate the remaining European manuscripts. The first volume of the work containing the text alone, was published at Berlin in 1855 and 1856; a complete Index Verborum to it was added at New Haven in 1881; a volume of notes, translations, etc., is still due. Before leaving Germany, he had accepted an invitation to return to Yale college as professor of Sanskrit; but he did not go there to remain until August, 1854, spending the interval in part in scientific work. Since 1854 he has lived continuously in New Haven. The salary of the Sanskrit professorship having been for the first sixteen years a very small one, he was obliged to help support himself by teaching German and French; at the outset, partly in private classes; later, in college classes only; on the establisment of the Sheffield scientific school he had for some time the charge in it of the department of modern languages; nor has he entirely withdrawn from that work even down to the present time. This has led to his preparing a series of text-books, especially for the study of German, which is not yet quite complete; it consists of two German grammars, a larger (1869) and a smaller (1885), a German reader with an elaborate vocabulary (1870), a brief German dictionary (1877), and a number of annotated German texts (from 1876 on); a French grammar (published in 1886). He was elected a member of the American Oriental Society in 1850; in 1855 he undertook the charge of its library, remaining librarian until 1873; in 1857 he was made its corresponding secretary, and performed the duties of that office till 1884, when he was chosen its president (resigned in '90); no small part of his work has been done in the service of the society; from 1857 to the present time, just a half of the contents of its journal (vols. vi-xii.) is from his pen. In this are included four works of considerable extent; the annotated translation of a Hindu treatise of astronomy (the Surya-Siddhanta, 1860); the texts, translations, etc., of two Sanskrit grammatical treatises (Atharva-Veda Praticakva, 1862, and Taittiriya-Praticakhya, 1871; to the latter work was awarded by the Berlin Academy the Bopp prize, as the most important Sanskrit publication of the triennium); and the Atharva-Veda Index Verborum, mentioned above. Some of his minor contributions to the same journal, along with others to various periodicals, were collected and published in two volumes of "Oriental and Linguistic Studies" (1873 and 1874), also supervising editor-in-chief of the great "Century Dictionary" (6 vols. 4to), completed in 1891. He has also produced a couple of volumes on the general science of language, entitled, respectively, "Language and the Study of Language" (1867; it was first prepared as Smithsonian and as Lowell lectures; it has been translated into German and Netherlandish), and "The Life and Growth of Language" (International scientific series, 1875 translated into French, Italian, German, Swedish, and Russian); and the articles on "Language" in Johnson's Cyclopaedia (vol. ii., 1876), and on "Philology" in the Encylopaedia Britannica (vol. xviii., 1885), are by him. On the formation of the American Philological Association (1869), he was its first president, and has contributed extensively to its proceedings and transactions. He has also written an English grammar ("Essentials of English Grammar," 1877), and a Sanskrit grammar (see below : two editions, English and German)-to which last he has this year added a supplement half as big as the work itself ("Roots, Verbforms, and Primary Derivatives of the Sanskrit Language," Leipzig, 1885; two editions, English and German) second English edition, 1889. He received the honors degree of doctor of philosophy from Breslau University in 1861; doctor of literature from Columbia College, New York, in 1884; that of doctor of laws from his alma mater in 1868, from William and Mary College in Virginia in 1869, and from Harvard in 1876, also from St. Andrew's University in Scotland in 1874, and Edinburgh University in 1884. He is further connected with many learned societies in various parts of the world; is an honorary member of the Oriental or Asiatic societies of Great Britain and Ireland, of Germany, of Bengal, of Japan, and of Peking; of the Philological Society of London; of the literary societies of Leyden, Upsala, and Helsingfors; member or correspondent of the Academies of Dublin, Turin, Rome (Lynces), Saint Petersburg, and Berlin; also correspondent of the Institute of France; and Foreign Knight of the Prussian order "pour le merite" for science and arts (being elected to fill the vacency made by the death of Thomas Carlyle)- and so on. William D. Whitney married Elizabeth Wooster, daughter of Roger Sherman and Emily (Perkins) Baldwin, of New Haven; her father, a lawyer of the highest rank, had been governor of Connecticut and senator in congress, and inherited his name from Roger Sherman, the well-known signer of the Declaration of Independence, and one of the committee charged with drawing it up, whose grandson he was. They have had six children, three sons and three daughters; of these are living one son born 16 Aug 1857, Edward Baldwin, a lawyer in New York City (firm Burnett & Whitney, 67 Wall Street), and the three daughters. Very soon after their marriage, Whitney and his wife went, partly for health and partly for study, to spend somewhat less than a year in France and Italy (Nov., 1856 to July, 1857), passing several months at Rome. In the summer of 1875 he visited, alone, England and Germany, mainly for the collection of further material for the Atharva-Veda. In 1878, again, having been engaged by German publishers to prepare a Sanskrit grammar, as one of a series of grammars of the principal languages related with our own, he went abroad with his wife and daughters, to write out the work and carry it through the press; and they spent fifteen months in Europe, chiefly at Berlin and Gotha, just accomplishing the prescribed task; the last proof-sheets of the index to the volume were read in the cars on the way to the homeward steamer at Havre. Their way off the continent took them through Switzerland and across France, and at Berne they had the pleasure of falling in with Davison and his family. The life of a college teacher is composed of uneventful years, little marked save by the succession of classes instructed and of literary labors brought to a conclusion. Only now and then comes in a noteworthy varietyas when, in 1873, Whitney was invited to take part in the summer campaign of the Hayden exploring expedition in Colorado, and passed two full months on horseback and under canvas, coursing over regions which in good part had been till then untrodden by the feet of white men, and seeing Nature in her naked grandeur-mounting some nine times up to or beyond the altitude of 14,000 feet. It is said of him, in the report of the survey for that year (p.8), that he "rendered most valuable assistance to Mr. Gardner in his geographical work, for the months of July and August, without compensation from the government"-the disinterested man! His letters describing the fortunes of the summer were printed in the New York Tribune and afterwards gathered in one of its supplements (Extra No. 14 Scientific Series).

The death of William Dwight Whitney removed the most distinguished of American scholars. He secured more than any other the admiration both of those who could weigh and appreciate his achievements and of the general public, and had come to be regarded by most as the foremost representative of American learning. When in this land and in others the question has been asked: "Who is the most notable American man of science?" his name came oftenest in answer. Notable as his achievements were, he held this position in the estimation of the public more by virtue of what he was than of what he had done. There has been little in his work, much of which has been conducted in a very special field, to touch the popular imagination. His name is not connected with any great discovery, nor with any striking or revolutionary theory. His positive contributions, also, to the progress of knowledge were, perhaps, not as brilliant as those made by some other Americans. But it was recognized by all who knew him that no one of his contemporaries possessed in larger measure that combination of qualities, that union of untiring industry, breadth and depth of knowledge, grasp of principles, and mental balance which makes the great scholar. He won his commanding position by the force and dignity of his intellectual character. He had, above all, that profound Yankee reverence for the plain, unadorned fact, with distrust of speculation, which, though it sometimes, even in brilliant minds, leads perilously near the commonplace, is an efficient check upon intellectual vagaries of all kinds, especially upon that besetting sin of the specialist-the reckless- striving after originality. He was an apostle of common-sense, simplicity of thought and statement, and self-restraint in science; and these we take to be the most genuine of our national characteristics. Nothing so sharply challenged his contempt as a theory which wilfully ignored essential facts, or went gaily on without any facts at all; and nothing so quickly provoked his mirth as the cheap profundity which tortures the statement of a plain truth into the appearance of abstruseness. Indeed, not the least valuable lesson of his life, for the younger generation, is the evidence which it gives that the national character and genius are quite adequate, without any foreign alloys, to the production of the very highest intellectual results. Of what he accomplished as a philologist is impossible to speak in detail. He was first of all a specialist, and a specialist in a field-the study of Sanskrit which lies quite apart from the knowledge and interest of the general public. His great achievements here can be understood only by his fellow scientists. He did not, however, confine himself to these special labors, but in two directions rendered notable public services, the importance of which has been abundantly recognizednamely, the popularization of his science and in the recording and explaining of our mother tongue. In these labors he has come close to thousands and has won not only their admiration but their gratitude; and by them, perhaps more than by his work as a Sanskritist, he will live in the general memory. As a master of clear exposition he has opened to the layman, as no one else has done, the way to a sound understanding of the structure and growth of language, and by the charm of his style has made the path a delightful one to follow. In this field he was easily first, and it would be difficult to estimate the debt which those who are interested in such studies owe to him. The same may be said of his work as an English lexicographer. In "The Century Dictionary," of which he was the editor-in-chief, the public has been enabled to find for the first time the English language, as a whole, set forth in accordance with the principles of sound philology, under the guidance of a master of the science. To this labor he devoted much of his time for nearly ten years; and while it would be unjust to others to emphasize unduly his part in the great composite structure, it may safely be said that in its guiding principles the book is distinctly his contribution to the study and development of our language. The service thus rendered to all English speakers is one the influence of which must continue to widen as the years pass, and is of a kind which the public can appreciate and will not readily forget. To the culture and attainments of the scholar he added the grace of the true hearted, unpretending, kindly man. No human interest was foreign to him, and nothing that was genuine failed to arouse his sympathy. He was, moreover, essentially a man of peace, and although--as all the world knows--he not infrequently went forth to battle against the Philistines, giving and receiving many sounding blows, it seemed to the onlooker that he always fought only for the justice of the cause and without the fervor, and, perhaps, the skill of one who fights for the pleasure of the conflict. Taken for all in all, as a scholar and a man, he has occupied a place in our national life which will not soon again be filed. He resided New Haven, CT.

Personal Tributes.

The death of William Dwight Whitney, professor of Sanskrit in Yale university, marks the end of a distinct epoch in the history of American philology. For more than a generation he has been the foremost figure among us in the department of science. In many foreign lands he was of all native American scholars by far the best known; and at home, his personality and his achievements were, and will long remain, a source of loftiest inspiration to his fellow-workers. His popular fame will doubtless rest chiefly upon his connection with "The Century Dictionary;" but his works upon the antiquities of India, especialy its language and religion, although read by the fewest, are destined to affect profoundly-albeit indirectly- certain elements of the new education which are to be of prime and practical influence in shaping our conceptions of human history and of religion. His great breadth of learning was coupled with extreme thoroughness. His insight and originality were tempered with the utmost self-restraint. And, altogether, for power of intellect, conjoined with purity of soul and absolute genuineness of character, we shall not soon look upon his like again.

C. R. Lanman, Harvard College, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 12 Jun 1894.

America and the world have lost by the death of William D. Whitney one of the foremost scholars in any domain of human science. Whitney's great originality lay in the power of collecting and arraying vast quatities of facts, and judging them with rare inerrancy and the severest self-correcting criticism. In this respect he resembles Darwin. The influence of his method will never perish. In close correspondence with the quality of his work is the extraordinary range and quantity of his accomplishment. He is best known for the cultured public by his classical works on the science of language, and his essays on a great variety of Oriental and linguistic subjects. But his massive works on the Vedas and on Sanskrit grammar would by themselves constitute a great scholar's full life's work. There has never been just such a man, and it is safe to say that there never will be again.

Maurice Bloomfield, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD., 11 Jun 1894.

Prof. Whitney's magnificent pre-eminence in American scholarship was everywhere recognized. His was a scholarship marked by the greatest breadth as well as by depth. He possessed, above all, an unerring judgement. Every possible side of a question was studied before a conclusion was reached. In the nature of the case, this led him to reject conclusions which others had based upon a more superficial investigation of the case. But in connection with his scholarship, and with his uniformly good judgement, there was a directness of aim, a sincerity of purpose, which made his character almost ideal. His estimate of the work of other men was always appreciative, although he was never able to shut his eyes to work of inferior grade. His pupils will always remember him as kind and helpful, and as in the highest degree stimulating. No man ever came in contact with him who did not, as a result of that contact, become a better and stronger man. Humanity and scholarship are both greatly indebted to him.

William R. Harper, University of Chicago, 12 Jun 1894.

In his own department, Prof. Whitney was the foremost scholar of the United States, and among the great scholars of Europe his authority was second to none. He inspired confidence by the calmness and moderation with which he gave his opinion, even on the highest questions, and the value of his statements never had to be discounted on the ground of enthusiasm or partizanship. He was a great scholar, in the largest sense of that term; and no scholar ever bore greatness more gracefully or becomingly.

W. W. Goodwin, Harvard Colege, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 9 Jun 1894.

In the death of Prof. Whitney American scholarship has lost its most accomplished representative, and the world one of its most distinguished specialists. To the rarest intellectual vigor he added a geniality which made intercourse with him a delight and study under him a fascination. A prince of many provinces of the spirit has fallen on him--a Sanskritist of the first rank, an investigator of unique powers and penetration, a master of the difficult science of linguistics, and a lexicographer unrivaled in the breadth and comprehensiveness of his learning. Permit me to add to all this, as one who has personally witnessed it, the rare beauty of his household life. Of him may truly be said what the Roman historian said of Vespasian: "Venerabilis senex et patientissimus veri."

James A. Harrison, Washington and Lee University, Lexington, Virginia, 10 Jun 1894.

In losing Whitney we have lost our foremost American philologian, a scholar whose world-wide fame is a national honor, so that the example which he himself set of exact and sober estimate is just the example it is hardest to imitate now. As early as 1850, when I first knew him, he had laid down the lines which he followed unswervingly to the end. For heroic toil, for scholarly accuracy, for soundness, clearness, cogency, we shall not see his like. To differ with him bred self-dissatisfaction, for he was a manner of conscience to the rest of us.

B. L. Gildersleeve, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, 11 Jun 1894.

Children of William Dwight8 and Elizabeth Wooster (Baldwin) Whitney:

i. Edward Baldwin9 Whitney, b. 16 Aug 1857. Edward B. Whitney was born in New Haven, CT. He was graduated from Yale in 1878, Judge Taft of the United States circuit court being one of his classmates. After studying law at Yale and Columbia law schools he was admitted to the bar of New york in 1880, and for a time was managing clerk of the firm of Bristow, Peet & Opdyke. In 1883, with Gen. Henry L. Burnett, who was a member of that firm, he formed the firm of Burnett & Whitney, to which he now belongs. Although he has never held public office he has been an active Democrat and was an organizer of the national association of Democratic clubs, being its secretary from its organization in 1888 to 1890. He was secretary, also, of the so-called anti-Hill organization in New York up to the time of the February convention last year, when it was reorganized. At the May convention at Syracuse he was chosen a delegate to the National Democratic convention at Chicago. Mr. Whitney is a trustee of the Reform club, a member of the Century club, also of the Democratic club at 617 Fifth Ave., New York, having been formerly on its executive committee; of the Lawyers' club and of the bar association of New York. He was appointed by President Cleveland assistant attorney-general of the United States, and still holds the office. Among the most important cases in which he has been interested is that of the income tax, which he recently argued before the supreme court of the United States. His home is at 238 West Seventy-eighth St., New York, and he is unmarried.
ii. Williston Clap Whitney, b. 2 Apr 1859, d. 11 Mar 1861.
iii. Marian Parker Whitney, b. 6 Feb 1861.
iv. Roger Sherman Baldwin Whitney, b. 6 Jan 1863; drowned 17 Jan 1874, while skating on Mill river, NH.
v. Emily Henrietta Whitney, b. 29 Aug 1864.
vi. Margaret Dwight Whitney, b. 19 Nov 1866.


66 77 Wm. D. Whitney 33 M - Prof. of Sanscrit $7000 $1000 Mass. Elizabeth B. " 34 F - Conn. Edward B. 2 M - Do William C. 1 M - Do Fanny W. Perkins 20 F - $8500 Do Ann Higgins 28 F - Dom. $120 Ire. Hannah McGee 25 F - Dom. $100 Ire.

534 780 Whitney, William D. 42 M W Prof. of Sanscrit $18000 $14000 Mass. Male citizen over 21 -----, Elizabeth W. 44 F W Keeping house Conn. -----, Edward B. 12 M W Conn. Attended school -----, Marian B. 9 F W Conn. Attended school -----, Roger S. B. 7 M W Conn. Attended school -----, Emily H. 5 F W Conn. Attended school -----, Margaret D. 3 F W Conn. Leonard, Grace H. 16 F W Conn. Attended school Manski, Adelgunde 21 F W Domestic Servant Prussia Parents foreign born McLay, Agnes 17 F W Domestic Servant Scotland Parents foreign born Smith, Alice 40 F W Domestic Servant Ireland Parents foreign born

William WHITNEY 53 Self M M W MA Professor Of Sanscrit At Yale College MA MA Elizabeth WHITNEY 55 Wife F M W CT Keeping House CT CT Marion WHITNEY 19 Dau F S W CT Attending School MA CT Emily WHITNEY 15 Dau F S W CT Attending School MA CT Margaret WHITNEY 13 Dau F S W CT Attending School MA CT Adelgunde ERBSEN 31 Oth F D W PRUSSIA Servant PRUSSIA PRUSSIA Margaret GERON 40 Oth F S W IRE Servant IRE IRE Ann MCBRIDE 27 Oth F S W IRE Servant IRE IRE

  • 1880, Edward not found.


Copyright © 2006, 2009, 2010, Robert L. Ward and the Whitney Research Group

Personal tools