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Joseph Caldwell, 1773-1835
Autobiography and Biography of Rev. Joseph Caldwell, D.D., L.L.D., First President of the University of North Carolina
Chapel Hill, [N.C.]: J.B. Neathery, 1860.


Joseph Caldwell was born in 1773 in Lamington, New Jersey. He graduated with a degree in mathematics from the College of New Jersey (Princeton) in 1791. In 1796, he accepted a teaching position at the University of North Carolina, and became the presiding professor of the university the following year. In 1804, the trustees of the university created the position of president and elected Caldwell. That same year he married Susan Rowan, who died in 1807. Caldwell remarried to Helen Hogg Hooper in 1809. He stepped down as president in 1812 to concentrate on teaching, but returned to the position in 1817. During his service as president, he made several important changes to the physical campus, the curriculum and methods of instruction. He built an observatory with his own funds, he introduced the study of physics, and he was the first person to use textbooks in the classroom. Caldwell also had a profound impact on the state of North Carolina by campaigning for modernization, calling for railroads, and promoting improvements in grammar school education. He founded the North Carolina Institution for the Deaf and Dumb in 1827.

Joseph Caldwell's Autobiography of Rev. Joseph Caldwell, D.D. (1860) begins with a discussion of his ancestry. Caldwell then traces his childhood experiences at the Princeton grammar school and describes his education at Princeton. He discusses his move to North Carolina and his travels throughout the state during his life. Following the autobiography is a biographical sketch that highlights moments of particular importance in Caldwell's career.

Works Consulted: Garraty, John A. and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York: Oxford University Press, 1999; Powell, William S., ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, vol. 1, Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1979.

Harris Henderson

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