The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Alcott, William Alexander
ALCOTT, William Alexander, M. D., an American author, cousin of the preceding, born at Wolcott, Conn., Aug. 6, 1798, died at Auburndale, Mass., March 29, 1859. He supported himself until he reached the age of 25 by working on the farm in summer and teaching in winter. Subsequently he studied medicine at Yale college, and after practising about four years he engaged with Mr. Woodbridge, the geographer, in the preparation of school geographies and atlases, and in editing the “Juvenile Rambler,” the first weekly periodical for children published in America, and the “Annals of Education.” At this time he coöperated actively with Gallaudet, Woodbridge, Hooker, and others, in striving to effect a reform in the public schools of the state. He wrote many articles on this subject for the Hartford and New Haven papers, one of which, “On the Construction of School Houses,” gained a premium from the American institute of instruction. In 1833 Dr. Alcott removed to Boston, and published his “Young Man's Guide,” which has exerted a great influence in spreading important physiological principles. For more than 20 years he passed his summers in laboring at home with his pen, and his winters in lecturing in different parts of the country, upon the topics which especially occupied his attention. He visited upward of 20,000 schools, before many of which he lectured. He published above 100 books and pamphlets, among which may be specified, in addition to those already mentioned, “The House I Live In,” “The Young Woman's Guide,” “Young Housekeeper,” the “Library of Health” (6 vols.), “Moral Reform,” and “My Progress in Error.” Dr. Alcott, though the advocate of many opinions which are open to the charge of singularity, was a philanthropist of the genuine stamp, and his name is identified permanently with some of the most valuable reforms in education, morals, and physical training, which the present century has witnessed. The amount of labor which he performed without the expectation of any compensation for his services, is believed to be almost unparalleled. So unintermitting and engrossing were his various avocations, that he hardly ever found time to read a book through; and the books which he wrote probably exceed in number those which he read entirely. Dr. Alcott's views of reform did not lead him to the adoption of any violent and destructive measures. The great object of his labors was to prevent poverty, vice, and crime, by means of correct physical and moral training, and the judicious application of intelligence to the improvement of society.