Pritchett, Henry S. (Henry Smith), 1857-1939
- Existence: 1857 April 16 - 1939 August 28
Henry Smith Pritchett, 1857-1939, AB, Pritchett College, 1875; PhD, University of Munich, 1895, was president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1900 to 1907. Born in Fayette, Missouri, Pritchett was the son of a noted astronomer, Carr Waller Pritchett, and would later work at the US Naval Observatory. There, in 1876, he operated as assistant astronomer to Asaph Hall, best known for discovering the two moons of Mars in 1877.
In 1880 he began work at the Morrison Observatory in Missouri, alongside his father. Afterward, Pritchett served as an astronomer on the Transit of Venus Expedition to New Zealand in 1882. Upon his return to the US in 1883, he became professor of mathematics and astronomy, also assuming the position of director of the observatory at Washington University in St. Louis until 1897.
Pritchett briefly studied in Europe in the early 1890s, where he earned a PhD from the University of Munich in 1894. He was then appointed Superintendent of the US Coast and Geodetic Survey from 1897, resigning the post in 1900 to become the President of MIT.
As President, Pritchett created the office of the dean, also appointing the Institute’s first registrar, recorder, and medical advisor. He abolished intercollegiate football and substituted Field Day for Cane Rush after the annual sophomore-freshman donnybrook resulted in a death. He is perhaps best known for his unsuccessful efforts to negotiate a merger between MIT and Harvard in 1904, defeated by a court decision in 1905. He was President of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching (CFAT) from 1906 until he retired in 1930.
Pritchett had three sons with his first wife, Ida P. Williams, married to each other in 1881 until her death in 1891. He would marry again to Eva McAllister in June 1900, and share another daughter together. Henry Smith Pritchett would die on August 28th, 1939 in Santa Barbara, California
Found in 4 Collections and/or Records:
Dugald C. Jackson papers
Henry S. Pritchett publications and speeches
The collection consists of speeches and publications of Henry Smith Pritchett, who was president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1900 to 1907.