Theodore William Dwight - Encyclopedia




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THEODORE WILLIAM DWIGHT (1822-1892), American jurist and educationalist, cousin of Theodore Dwight Woolsey and of Timothy Dwight, was born on the 18th of July 1822 in Catskill, New York. His father, Benjamin Woolsey Dwight (1780-1850), an abolitionist and reformer, removed to Clinton, New York, in 1831. The son graduated at Hamilton College in 1840, studied physics under S. F. B. Morse and John William Draper, taught classics in Utica Academy in 1840-1841, and studied law for one year at Yale. He was tutor at Hamilton in 1841-1846, at the same time teaching law privately; was made Maynard professor of law, history, civil polity, and political economy in 1846; received recognition of his law school in 1853, and in 1858 accepted an invitation to Columbia to teach law upon his own condition that he should found a law school. He himself was this school for many years and did not retire from it until 1891, about a year before his death, at Clinton, New York, on the 28th of June 1892. A man of broad culture, he was best known as the founder of a famous school of law and a famous method of legal teaching, which was broadly educational and which called for class-room recitation on the text-book studied and opposed mere "taking notes" on lectures. His questioning was illustrative and its method Socratic. He was a non-resident professor of law at Cornell (1869-1871) and at Amherst (1870-1872). Dwight was an able jurist, frequently acted as referee in difficult questions, in1874-1875was a judge of the New York commission of appeals, appointed to clear the docket of the court of appeals, and in 1886 was counsel for the five Andover professors charged with heresy. He was a prominent figure in political and social (notably prison) reforms; published in 1867 a Report on the Prisons and Reformatories of the United States and Canada, the result of his labours on a New York state prison commission with Enoch Cobb Wines (1806-1879); favoured indeterminate sentences; drew up the bill for the establishment of the Elmira Reformatory; and organized the State Charities Aid Association. He edited Sir Henry Maine's Ancient Law (1864); was associate editor of the American Law Register and legal editor of Johnson's Cyclopaedia; and published Charitable Uses: Argument in the Rose Will Case (1863).

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