Daniel Coit Gilman was the first president of Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, and is viewed as a pioneer in the American university movement. During his time at Johns Hopkins University, Gilman helped the school become one of the first major graduate schools in the U.S.
Gilman was born July 6, 1831, in Norwich, Conn. He attended high school in New York and entered Yale University, New Haven, Conn., as a member of the class of 1852. At Yale University, Gilman befriended Andrew D. White, who later became the first president of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.
In 1853, Gilman and White traveled to Europe as attachés of the American legation in St. Petersburg, Russia. Gilman visited England, France and Germany, gaining knowledge regarding European education.
In 1855, Gilman became chief administrator and secretary of the board of directors for Yale University's Sheffield Scientific School. He was a spokesman promoting instruction and research in science and technology. At the request of geologist James Dwight Dana, Gilman proposed a plan for the complete organization of a school of science. The plan was published in 1856 and acknowledged Europe's advancement in providing opportunities for the study of science "for its own sake.”
Gilman became professor of physical geography at Yale University and remained in that position until he left for the University of California, Berkeley, becoming president of the university in 1872. While in California, he remained connected to New Haven, serving as school visitor for New Haven Public Schools. He was involved with various reforms, including promoting and creating a public high school in New Haven. He later became a member of the Connecticut State Board of Education.
However, Gilman's main career achievement was creating and developing Johns Hopkins University. After Hopkins' death in 1874, a $3.5 million bequest was passed into the control of 12 trustees who chose Gilman as the university's president.
Gilman accepted the position in 1875 and spent the summer in Europe gathering ideas and seeking faculty members. He wanted to establish an institution that would make available a higher level of intellectual training than at other U.S. colleges and universities. In February 1876, Johns Hopkins University opened with a faculty of six and numerous young associates. Gilman strongly was influenced by German education, and the establishment of graduate education emphasizing research and scholarly publications as a leading element in U.S. universities began with the founding of Johns Hopkins University.
Gilman resigned as president of Johns Hopkins University in 1901 and served as president of the Carnegie Institution from 1902-04. He continued as a trustee until his death Oct. 13, 1908. During his lifetime, he also was president of the National Civil Service Reform League and was connected with the Peabody Fund, Slater Fund and Russell Sage Foundation.
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