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Benjamin Ide Wheeler

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Subject: History of the University of California, Berkeley, David Prescott Barrows, University of California regents, 1906 San Francisco earthquake, Wheeler Hall
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Benjamin Ide Wheeler

Benjamin Ide Wheeler, 1899

Benjamin Ide Wheeler (July 15, 1854 in Randolph, Massachusetts [1]– May 2, 1927)[2] was a Greek and comparative philology professor at Cornell University as well as President of the University of California from 1899 to 1919.

Life and career

Early years

Benjamin Ide Wheeler was born at Randolph, Massachusetts, on July 15, 1854, the son of the Rev. Benjamin and Mary Eliza (Ide) Wheeler. His father was successively a church pastor in Plaistow, New Hampshire; Pawtucket, Rhode Island; Randolph, Massachusetts; Haverhill, Massachusetts; Saco, Maine; Franklin, New Hampshire. His mother, Mary Eliza Ide, was born in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, daughter of Ebenezer Ide of the Ide family which had its origin in South Attleborough, then Rehoboth. Their only son, Benjamin Ide Wheeler, had his education first in the public schools of Haverhill and Saco, Maine. It was at Saco that he first entered a high school in 1866. This high school was the institution which formerly had been called Thornton Academy, and subsequently resumed that name.[1]

Higher education

On removing in 1868 to Franklin, New Hampshire, he entered the Franklin Academy, and after six months there, went to the New London Academy, subsequently Colby–Sawyer College. From this school he was duly graduated in the summer of 1871. In the following autumn he entered Brown University from which he was graduated in 1875. His studies at college followed the usual curriculum without any suggestion of specialization. On the commencement stage he had the honour of the classical oration. During his college course he received the Dunn premium, given for the best work of the year in the department of English, with special reference to writing and speaking, and also one of the Carpenter prizes given to the two students of the year who in the opinion of the faculty combined in the highest degree the elements of success in life.[1]

Teaching career

After graduation he taught for four years in the Providence High School. During the first two years he instructed mostly in mathematics; during the last two his work was about evenly divided between classics and mathematics. In 1879 he was appointed Tutor in Brown University to take the place, during a temporary absence of two years, of Professor Poland, Assistant Professor in Greek and Latin.[1]

Studies abroad

For four years, 1881–85, Wheeler studied in German universities—for a year at Leipzig, then for two years at Heidelberg, a half year at Jena, and a half year at Berlin. In the spring of 1885, he received on examination at Heidelberg the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, summa cum laude, presenting a thesis entitled Der griechische Nominalaccent, afterwards published at Strasburg as a separate book.[1]

Return to America

On returning to America he was for one year Instructor at Harvard, 1885–86, then for thirteen years Professor at Cornell University, holding at first the title Acting Professor of Classical Philology, 1886–87, then of Professor of Comparative Philology 1887-88, and from 1888 to 1899 that of Professor of Greek and Comparative Philology. In 1899, he became President of the University of California. During the year 1895-96, he was Professor of Greek Literature at the American School of Classical Studies in Athens, and during the year 1909-10, Roosevelt Professor at the University of Berlin. He was member of the American Oriental Society, the American Philological Association, and the Kaiserliches Archaeologisches Institut. He received the degree of Doctor of Laws from nine different American universities, Princeton, 1896; Harvard, 1900; Brown, 1900; Yale, 1901; Johns Hopkins, 1902; University of Wisconsin, 1904; Dartmouth, 1905; Columbia, 1906; and the degree of Doctor of Letters from the University of Athens in Greece.[1]


He is author of Analogy in Language (1887); Introduction to the Study of the History of Language (1890); Dionysos and Immortality (1899); Organization of the Higher Education in the United States (1896), published in Munich; Life of Alexander the Great (1900); Instruction and Democracy in America (1910) (published in Strasburg, Germany).[1]

During the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire he was a member of Mayor Eugene Schmitz's Committee of Fifty.

Under Wheeler the University of California underwent one of its periods of greatest growth. He also expanded the powers of the president, gaining the power to appoint all faculty.

The University of California, Berkeley named Wheeler Hall in his honor. A Liberty ship was also named in his honor, the SS Benjamin Ide Wheeler.


On June 25, 1881, he was married to Miss Amey Webb of Providence, Rhode Island, daughter of Henry Aborn Webb, a banker of Providence, Rhode Island, and Amey Gorham Webb (daughter of Jabez Gorham, founder of the Gorham Silver Manufacturing Company).[1]


  • Der griechische Nominalaccent (1885) [3]
  • Analogy, and the Scope of its Application in Language (1887)[4]
  • Principles of Language Growth (1891)
  • Introduction to the Study of the History of Language (1891) [5]
  • The Organization of Higher Education in the United States (1897)
  • Dionysos and Immortality (the Ingersoll Lecture for 1898) [6]
  • Alexander the Great: The Merging of East and West in Universal History (1900) [7]
  • The Whence and Whither of the Modern Science of Language (1905) [8]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h The Genealogical and Encyclopedic History of the Wheeler Family in America (1914) American College of Genealogy (Digitized by Google)
  2. ^ Benjamin Ide Wheeler. Columbia Encyclopedia. 
  3. ^ Benjamin Ide Wheeler (1885). Der griechische Nominalaccent (in German). K.J. Trübner. 
  4. ^ Benjamin Ide Wheeler (1887). Analogy and the scope of its application in language. University of Cambridge, Mass. 
  5. ^ Strong, Herbert Augustus; Logeman, Willem Sijbrand; Wheeler, Benjamin Ide; Paul, Hermann (1891). "Introduction to the Study of the History of Language". London: Longmans, Green, & Co. 
  6. ^ Benjamin Ide Wheeler (1899). Dionysos and immortality: the Greek faith in immortality as affected by the rise of individualism. Houghton, Mifflin and company. 
  7. ^ Wheeler, Benjamin Ide (1900). "Alexander the Great: The Merging of East and West in Universal History". New York:  
  8. ^ Benjamin Ide Wheeler (1905). The Whence and Whither of the Modern Science of Language. University Press. 

External links

  • Guide to the Benjamin Ide Wheeler Papers at The Bancroft Library
  • Three Faces of Berkeley--Competing Ideologies in the Wheeler Era, 1899-1919
  • Benjamin Ide Wheeler materials in the South Asian American Digital Archive (SAADA)
Academic offices
Preceded by
Martin Kellogg
President of the University of California
Succeeded by
David Prescott Barrows
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