edward olney


Mathematics 1863-1887?

EDWARD OLNEY was born at Moreau, Saratoga County, New York, July 24, 1827. He was a lineal descendant of the Thomas Olney who came from England to Salem, Massachusetts, in 1635, and who afterwards followed Roger Williams to Providence. When a mere child his family removed to Wood County, Ohio, where the boy grew up under the conditions of pioneer life common in those days. The country was sparsely settled, and school privileges were few. He used to recall how he went through Day's Algebra, writing out the formulas upon the plow-beam, and upon the cylinder of the fanning-mill. At the age of nineteen he began to teach a district school, and at the age of twenty-one became principal of the Union School at Perrysburg, the county seat. In 1853 he was called to the Chair of Mathematics in Kalamazoo College. In that year Madison University conferred upon him the honorary degree of Master of Arts. Ten years later he was appointed Professor of Mathematics in the University of Michigan, where he acquired a national reputation, both as a teacher and as an author of mathematical works. His textbooks consist of Arithmetics for elementary schools, and of treatises on Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry, and the Calculus, for use in high schools and colleges.  He became very influential in university councils and had much to do in shaping policies. He had a large part in bringing about the so-called diploma system of admission to the University in 1871 and in the adoption of the elective and credit systems in 1878. He was a prominent member of the Baptist Church, a member of educational and missionary societies, and for two years editor and proprietor of "The Michigan Christian Herald." He was a frequent contributor to "The Michigan Journal of Education," and author of the article on "Pure Mathematics" in the "Educational Cyclopedia." In 1873 Kalamazoo College conferred upon him the degree of Doctor of Laws. About 1850 he was married to Sarah Huntington of Perrysburg, Ohio. He died at Ann Arbor, January 16, 1887, and was buried at Kalamazoo. (See page 55.)

Burke A. Hinsdale and Isaac Newton Demmon, History of the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1906), pp. 237-238.