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Josiah Meigs

josiah meigs, josiah meigs distinguished teaching professor
Josiah Meigs August 21, 1757 – September 4, 1822 was an American academic, journalist and government official He was the first acting president of the University of Georgia UGA in Athens, where he implemented the university's first physics curriculum in 1801, and also president of the Columbian Institute for the Promotion of Arts and Sciences His grandson was Major General Montgomery C Meigs


  • 1 History
    • 11 Career
    • 12 Societies
    • 13 Personal
    • 14 Legacy
  • 2 Notes
  • 3 Sources
  • 4 External links


Meigs was the 13th and last child of Jonathan Meigs and Elizabeth Hamlin Meigs1 His older brother was Return J Meigs, Sr, whose son Josiah's nephew was Return J Meigs, Jr, who served as a United States Senator and Governor of Ohio

After graduating from Yale University in 1778 with a Bachelor of Arts BA degree, Meigs studied law and was from 1781 to 1784 a Yale tutor in mathematics, natural philosophy and astronomy Yale class of 1778 included Noah Webster, Joel Barlow, Oliver Wolcott, Uriah Tracy, Zephaniah Swift, Ashur Miller, and Noah Smith2 He was admitted to the bar in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1783, and served as New Haven city clerk from 1784 to 1789 During this period he established and published The New Haven Gazette later known as The New Haven Gazette and the Connecticut Magazine and in 1788 published the first American Medical Journal3


In 1789 Meigs left New Haven for St George, Bermuda, where he practiced law and was involved in defending the owners of US vessels that had been captured by British privateers3 In 1794 he returned to the United States and took the chair of mathematics and natural philosophy at Yale As a Republican, he was in conflict with the Federalists who ran Yale4 He taught there until 1801 when he was chosen as the first acting

president of the University of Georgia UGA in Athens His salary at Georgia was fixed at fifteen hundred dollars, and he was given four hundred dollars in moving expenses for his family

At Georgia, Meigs implemented the university's first physics curriculum in 1801 He resigned as president on August 9, 1810, after clashing with the Board of Trustees for the University; however, he continued on in the position of Professor of Mathematics, Natural Philosophy and Chemistry for one more year John Brown was elected by the Board of Trustees as the new president

After his academic career at UGA, Meigs was appointed Surveyor General by President James Madison in 1812, residing in Cincinnati, Ohio5 He then accepted an appointment as Commissioner of the United States General Land Office in Washington, DC, in 1814 During his tenure at the US Land Office, under Jefferson ,he instituted the nation's first system of daily meteorological observations at the land offices throughout the country which evolved into the National Weather Service


During the 1820s, Meigs was a member of the prestigious society, Columbian Institute for the Promotion of Arts and Sciences, who counted among their members former presidents Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams and many prominent men of the day, including well-known representatives of the military, government service, medical and other professions6

Meigs was also at one point, the president of the Columbian Institute He was also one of the original corporators and trustees of Columbian College now George Washington University, and professor of experimental philosophy there


Marker over the grave of Josiah Meigs at Arlington National Cemetery

In 1782, Meigs married Clara Benjamin Their son Henry Meigs served in the US Congress Another son, Charles Delucena Meigs, became a prominent obstetrician Their daughter Clara married John Forsyth, US Secretary of State under Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren

Meigs died on September 4, 1822 and was originally buried in Holmead's Cemetery in Washington, DC The cemetery was disbanded and the graves removed, so he was reinterred in Arlington National Cemetery in 1878 in the lot of his grandson, Major General Montgomery C Meigs


He is remembered at the University of Georgia in the name of the university's highest teaching honor The university annually recognizes up to five faculty members with the Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professorship Also, Meigs Hall, at the northwest corner of the university campus, is named in his honor as is Meigs Street in Athens, Georgia


  1. ^ "Archived copy" Archived from the original on 2007-08-30 Retrieved 2008-11-26 , Meigs Family History and Genealogy website
  2. ^ Meigs 1887 : 10
  3. ^ a b Josiah Meigs Archived 2009-02-06 at the Wayback Machine by Rick Meigs, Meigs Family History and Genealogy website
  4. ^ Meigs 1887 : 38-43
  5. ^ Meigs 1887 : 62
  6. ^ Rathbun, Richard The Columbian institute for the promotion of arts and sciences: A Washington Society of 1816-1838 Bulletin of the United States National Museum, October 18, 1917 Retrieved 2010-06-20 


  • History of the University of Georgia, Thomas Walter Reed, Imprint: Athens, Georgia : University of Georgia, ca 1949
  • Arlington National Cemetery headstone and short bio for Josiah Meigs
  • New Georgia Encyclopedia entry for Josiah Meigs
  • History of Meigs Hall on the UGA campus
  • Meigs, William Montgomery 1887 Life of Josiah Meigs Philadelphia 

External linksedit

  • William M Meigs, Life of Josiah Meigs, Philadelphia JP Murphy, printer, 1887 132 pages
  •  "Meigs, Return Jonathan" Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography 1900 

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