1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Harris, William Torrey

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HARRIS, WILLIAM TORREY (1835-1909), American educationist, was born in North Killingly, Connecticut, on the 10th of September 1835. He studied at Phillips Andover Academy, Andover, Massachusetts, and entered Yale, but left in his junior year (1857) to accept a position as a teacher of shorthand in the St Louis, Missouri, public schools. Advancing through the grades of principal and assistant superintendent, he was city superintendent of schools from 1867 until 1880. In 1858, under the stimulus of Henry C. Brockmeyer, Harris became interested in modern German philosophy in general, and in particular in Hegel, whose works a small group, gathering about Harris and Brockmeyer, began to study in 1859. From 1867 to 1893 Harris edited The Journal of Speculative Philosophy (22 vols.), which was the quarterly organ of the Philosophical Society founded in 1866. The Philosophical Society died out before 1874, when Harris founded in St Louis a Kant Club, which lived for fifteen years. In 1873, with Miss Susan E. Blow, he established in St Louis the first permanent public-school kindergarten in America. He represented the United States Bureau of Education at the International Congress of Educators at Brussels in 1880. In 1889 he represented the United States Bureau of Education at the Paris Exposition, and from 1889 to 1906 was United States commissioner of education. In 1899 the university of Jena gave him the honorary degree of Doctor of Philosophy for his work on Hegel. In 1906 the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching conferred upon him “as the first man to whom such recognition for meritorious service is given, the highest retiring allowance which our rules will allow, an annual income of $3000.” Besides being a contributor to the magazines and encyclopedias on educational and philosophical subjects, he wrote An Introduction to the Study of Philosophy (1889); The Spiritual Sense of Dante's Divina Commedia (1889); Hegel's Logic (1890); and Psychologic Foundations of Education (1898); and edited Appleton's International Education Series and Webster's International Dictionary. He died on the 5th of November 1909.

See Henry R. Evans, “A List of the Writings of William Torrey Harris” in the Report of the Commissioner of Education for 1907, vol. i. (Washington, 1908).