Burke Aaron Hinsdale


Science and the Art of Teaching 1888-1900

BURKE AARON HINSDALE was born at Wadsworth, Medina County, Ohio, March 31, 1837, son of Albert and Clarinda (Eyles) Hinsdale. His parents were of New England stock, the families of both having made their way from Connecticut to the Western Reserve shortly after the War of 1812. He received his education in the district schools, and at the Western Reserve Collegiate Institute, afterwards Hiram College. Here he met the young Garfield, who was about four years his senior, with whom he formed a close and enduring friendship. He early entered upon the work of the Christian ministry and preached regularly for some years. His first pastoral charge was at Solon, where he also conducted a school. Later, while pastor of an East Cleveland church, he was associate editor of "The Christian Standard," to which he contributed a large number of carefully prepared book reviews, chiefly historical and literary. On the opening of Alliance College in 1868 he was appointed to the chair of History, Political Economy, and Governmental Science. This position he resigned at the end of the first year to accept the chair of Philosophy, History, and Biblical Literature in Hiram College. He succeeded to the presidency of the College in 1870, and continued in that office till 1882. On the nomination of General Garfield for the Presidency in 1880, Mr. Hinsdale naturally was deeply interested in the result of the election; and at the request of the National Committee he prepared "The Republican Text-Book" and made numerous speeches in the pivotal states of Ohio and Indiana. In 1882 he was called to the superintendency of the Cleveland public schools. The condition and needs of the preparatory schools had occupied his thoughts for several years, and he had published some things on the subject by way of criticism and suggestion. He now entered upon a careful study of the whole question with a view to improvement in methods and aims. His annual reports during the four years of his superintendency contained the results of these studies and attracted the favorable attention of educators throughout the country. The chair of the Science and the Art of Teaching in the University of Michigan having fallen vacant by the resignation of Professor Payne, on February 17, 1888, he was elected to that position and entered immediately upon its duties. From that day to the time of his death he was a large factor in the life of the University. His Ann Arbor life proved agreeable to him for several reasons, but especially because he found here release from much of the administrative drudgery that had weighed him down for so many years. He now had more time for research and authorship, for which he possessed a remarkable aptitude. During the Hiram period he had published at least three works on ecclesiastical subjects. The national tragedy of 1881 called forth two works by him: " Garfield and Education," with a biographical introduction (1882); and a collected edition of General Garfield's Works, in two octavo volumes (1883). In 1884 appeared "Schools and Studies," a collection of miscellaneous papers and addresses; and in 1888 "The Old Northwest," one of his most original and sustained productions. The Ann Arbor period was, for reasons stated above, especially prolific. The following are the principal titles: "The American Government" (1891, several times revised); " How to Study and Teach History" (1893); "Jesus as a Teacher" (1895); "Teaching the Language Arts" (1896); "Studies in Education" (1896); "The Civil Government of Ohio" (1896); "Life of Horace Mann" (1898); and "The Art of Study" (1900). Besides these he published numerous reviews, pamphlets, and editorials, which if collected would fill many volumes. The last work of importance done by him was on the present " History of the University," which he left in manuscript. He was a member of the National Educational Association; of the National Council of Education, of which he was president in 1897; and of the Michigan State Teachers' Association, of which he was president at the time of his death. He was also a member of the American Historical Association, and the Historical and Archaeological Society of Ohio; also an honorary member of the Historical Society of Virginia. Of academic honors, he received from Bethany College and  from Williams College the honorary degree of Master of Arts in 1871, from the Ohio State University the honorary degree of Doctor of Philosophy in 1888, and from the Ohio University that of Doctor of Laws in 1892. In 1862 he was married to Mary Turner, of Cleveland, who had been a student with him at Hiram. Four daughters were born to them, of whom three survive: Ellen Clarinda, A.B. (Adelbert College) 1885, A.M. 1893, Ph.D. (Gottingen) 1897, now Professor of German in Mount Holyoke College; Mary Louisa, A.B. (Adelbert College) 1885, A.M. 1890, for some years a teacher, and now engaged in literary work; and Mildred, Ph.B. 1895, now a teacher in the Detroit Central High School. In the summer of 1900 his health became seriously impaired. He made a heroic effort to take up his work in September, but he steadily declined, and finally relinquished all work and went to Atlanta, Georgia, for a change of climate. He experienced no relief, and died at Atlanta, November 29 of that year. His body rests in Forest Hill Cemetery, Ann Arbor.

Burke A. Hinsdale and Isaac Newton Demmon, History of the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1906), pp. 278-280.