Daniel Coit Gilman

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Daniel Coit Gilman

Daniel Coit Gilman (1831-1908) was an American educator.

Born in Norwich, Connecticut in 1831, Gilman graduated from Yale College in 1852 with a degree in geography. At Yale he was a classmate of Andrew Dickson White, who would later serve as first president of Cornell University. The two were members of the Skull and Bones secret society, and would remain close friends. After serving as attaché (1853–55) of the American legation at St. Petersburg, he returned to Yale and was active in planning and raising funds for the founding of Sheffield Scientific School.

From 1856 to 1865 Gilman was librarian of Yale College and was also concerned with improving the New Haven public school system. He was appointed in 1863 professor of geography at the Sheffield Scientific School, and became secretary and librarian as well in 1866. He resigned these posts in 1872 to become the second president of the newly-organized University of California. His work there was hampered by the state legislature, and in 1875 Gilman accepted the offer to establish and become first president of Johns Hopkins University.

Before being formally installed as president in 1876, he spent a year studying university organization and selecting an outstanding staff of teachers and scholars. His formal inauguration, on February 22, 1876, has become Hopkins' Commemoration Day, the day on which many university presidents have chosen to be installed in office. Among the legendary educators he assembled to teach at Johns Hopkins were classicist Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve, mathematician James Joseph Sylvester, historian Herbert Baxter Adams and chemist Ira Remsen.

Gilman's primary interest was in fostering advanced instruction and research, and as president he developed the first American graduate university in the German tradition. Gilman was also active in founding Johns Hopkins Hospital (1889) and Johns Hopkins Medical School (1893). He founded and was for many years president of the Charity Organization of Baltimore and served as a trustee of the John F. Slater and Peabody Education funds and as a member of the General Education Board. He retired from Johns Hopkins in 1901, but accepted the presidency (1902–4) of the newly founded Carnegie Institution of Washington. His books include biographies of James Monroe and James Dwight Dana, a collection of addresses entitled University Problems (1898), and The Launching of a University (1906).

Daniel C. Gilman died in 1908. The main academic building at Johns Hopkins University, Gilman Hall, is named in his honor. University legend has it that no building on campus may exceed the height of its bell tower. On the University of California, Berkeley campus, Gilman Hall, also named in his honor, is the oldest building of the College of Chemistry and a National Historic Chemical Landmark.

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