The March/April 2010 issue of the Yale Alumni Magazine is particularly rich in LH-related items. First comes a nice writeup of William Dwight Whitney, “who served for four decades as the University Professor of Sanskrit and Comparative Philology at Yale”:

Whitney had been one of the early students at Yale’s Graduate School (then called the Department of Philosophy and the Arts) and became a great teacher of a variety of ancient and modern languages. Nineteenth-century Americans, who wrote to him from all over the country with their questions about language, knew him as the foremost U.S. philologist, an expert grammarian, and the lexicographer who took up Noah Webster’s torch to edit the multi-volume Century Dictionary….

Whitney went on to publish 360 books and articles, including Sanskrit Grammar—still in print—and German and English editions of the Atharva Veda, one of the four principal sacred texts of Hinduism. As a teacher, said Yale president Timothy Dwight, he “had unusual gifts and a singular ability” to help students develop their talents. Whitney also served for three decades on the governing board of Yale’s Sheffield Scientific School, and he became a major force in transforming Yale into a modern and internationally known university. (His siblings shared his extraordinary gifts. Josiah Dwight ’39, the Harvard geologist for whom Mount Whitney is named, headed the 1860s survey of California. James Lyman ’56 and Henry Mitchell ’64 became leaders in the library profession. Maria held the first professorship of modern languages at Smith College.)

Maria Whitney was a friend of Emily Dickinson’s and (according to Martha Dickinson Bianchi) “keen, scientific, agnostic, schooled in German criticism, a cool thinker… rational, calm, true as steel to friend or conviction…”; one would like to know more about her.

Then there’s a feature on bookplates from Yale University Library’s Arts of the Book Collection; you can click the image links to see a slideshow. And finally, Fred R. Shapiro, who writes a regular column on quotes for the magazine, discusses two discoveries by Barry Popik, “the restless genius of American etymology”: the term hot dog, long thought to have been invented by cartoonist “Tad” Dorgan around 1900, in fact goes back to at least 1893 (Popik found a September cite from the Knoxville Journal, and Shapiro a May mention in the Daily Times of New Brunswick, New Jersey), and the first use of the name Yankees for the new American League team in New York was a headline in the New York Evening Journal of April 7, 1904 (YANKEES WILL START HOME FROM SOUTH TO-DAY):

The sports editor of the Evening Journal in 1904, and the man Popik credits for the headlines, was Harry Beecher ’88. Beecher, great-nephew of Harriet Beecher Stowe, was captain of the national champion Yale football team in 1887. Hobbyists believe that the first football card ever printed was an 1887 Goodwin & Co. card—with Harry Beecher’s picture on it. To this distinction can now be added the likelihood that Beecher coined the name of the most storied franchise in all of sports.

Thanks for the heads-up, Jake!


  1. The mathematician Hassler Whitney (an intellectual hero of mine) was his grandson.

  2. Quite a family!

  3. J Blakeslee says

    Fifth cousins once removed from the cotton gin Whitney, it seems.

  4. And, interestingly enough, among The Descendants of John Whitney, Who Came from London, England, to Watertown, Massachusetts, in 1635, to get from William Dwight to Harry Payne — and so to Gertrude Vanderbilt and the Museum / Biennial, you have to go all the way back to John’s son Richard; they have no American born ancestors in common; fifth cousins twice removed (if I counted right).

  5. (none along the well-documented Whitney branch, that is)

  6. A very interesting wiki you turned up there; I actually registered, so I could add info on Maria if I turn up any (it cost me some effort even to find out she died in 1910, which I just added to this page).

  7. Can anyone just steal the Wikipedia page setup like that?

  8. Yes. It’s MediaWiki, which is what my colleagues and I usually use for in-group history and communication on our development projects, despite the fact that it’s written in PHP. It’s easy to set up for things like this (or for inside a firewall; accessible URL but all private is a bit more work).

  9. I’d no idea about that. Thanks; it could be useful inside my daughter’s school, perhaps.

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