The New International Encyclopædia/Rogers, William Barton

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ROGERS, William Barton (1804-82). An American scientist and educator, first president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was born in Philadelphia, a son of Patrick Kerr Rogers (1776-1828), then tutor in the University of Pennsylvania, and from 1819 to his death professor in William and Mary College, where his son graduated in 1822 and in 1828 succeeded him in the chair of natural philosophy and mathematics. During the seven years that he held this post he began with his brother Henry a minute study of the geology of Virginia. From 1835 to 1853 as professor of natural philosophy in the University of Virginia he extended this work and became head of the State Geological Survey; the Papers on the Geology of Virginia (1884) give the results of this period, in which he was assisted by his three brothers, Robert Empie Rogers having become professor of chemistry and materia medica at the university, in 1842, and Henry Rogers being State geologist of Pennsylvania. As a geologist his work was remarkable for its conscientious foundation on observed facts. Rogers removed to Boston in 1853; as inspector of gas and gas meters reformed the system of inspection (1861); and in 1859 began to urge the establishment of a technical school. For this institution he drew up a scheme in 1860, repeating the outline he had made in 1846, and in 1862 received a charter. In 1865, after a year in Europe to study apparatus, he saw the actual establishment of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (q.v.) and was appointed its president and professor of physics and geology. He introduced laboratory instruction in physics, chemistry, mechanics, and mining. In 1878, after a forced retirement of several years, he returned to his work, and in the following year succeeded Joseph Henry in the presidency of the National Academy of Sciences. From the presidency of the Institute of Technology he resigned in 1881; in the next year he fell dead on the platform while making an address to the graduating class. Rogers wrote Strength of Materials (1838), and Elements of Mechanical Philosophy (1852), as well as many papers for scientific associations. Consult his Life and Letters, edited by his wife and William T. Sidgwick (Boston, 1897).