Daniel Coit Gilman

Karrah Schuster

Engl 1102, Section 225, Prof. Weaver

Research Project

November 24th, 2018


“File:Portrait of Daniel Coit Gilman.jpg.” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository. 28 Jan 2018, 07:43 UTC. 17 Nov 2018, 21:23 <https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=File:Portrait_of_Daniel_Coit_Gilman.jpg&oldid=283418074>.         

Daniel Coit Gilman was born July 6th1831 in Norwich, Connecticut and died October 13th1908. During his 77 years he made countless contributions to American higher education seen by his work in colleges around the United States such as; Yale College, University of California, Sheffield Scientific School, and the Carnegie Institution. It was 1875 when 44-year-old Daniel Coit Gilman accepted the call to Baltimore to assist in establishing the new John Hopkins University. Gilman’s presidency at John Hopkins University is said to be his most influential and important accomplishment. The example he set became the standard that changed the nation,and naturalized the idea of a true university in America.It is because of his years of experience in different fields at different schools across America, his studies made in foreign institutions and libraries across the country, and his success in changing the meaning of a university, thatDaniel Coit Gilman is remembered as a successful higher education scholar.

It all started when 14-year-old Daniel Coit Gilman moved to New York, and later attended Yale College. It was during his experience at Yale where he became interested in lexicography, which is the practice of compiling dictionaries. Upon graduation at Yale, he spent a year at Harvard college with the idea of preparing a new dictionary. His intense interest in literacy led him to a journey across the world where he traveled to foreign institutions and libraries to investigate foreign education. Gilman returned to America in 1855 and was appointed librarian at Yale until 1865. During his time as Yale librarian, Dr. Gilman stayed busy and continued to dig deeper into the education system in countless ways. Gilman then began to dig deeper into scientific schools in America. He worked to raise funds for the founding of the Sheffield Scientific School leading to his new title of geography professor at the Scientific School in 1863, where he worked to what the Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society Vol 48 calls, “raising it to a higher level of efficiency” (Andrews lxv). His success led to an offer to be President of the University of California which he accepted in 1871. Four years later Gilman took up the proposal he is best remembered for, the offer to be the first president of the John Hopkins University.

In 1875 Gilman was offered the position to be the first president of the John Hopkins University.  Dr. Gilman spent that year carefully selecting staff that met his standards and deciding on an educational model. One year later he was officially appointed as the first president of the John Hopkins University. He picked the brightest and most promising professors and students.  Trustees gave Gilman free reign in shaping and running the university. At the time Gilman’s principles were said to be radical and caused controversy in the community. For example, the initial idea being that John Hopkins University was to be a school for graduates to further their education. At that time universities admitted students with no previous higher-level academic preparation. Gilman sought good relations with the public to be important, so due to public pressure Gilman accepted some undergraduates. Another example is Gilman’s introduction of the incorporation of sciences into curriculum. This created controversy because up to that time colleges focused on traditional Latin, and Greek theology courses. Almost every new idea sparked a discussion. Other examples include John Hopkins being the first graduate research university in America to grant the Ph.D. and the factors Gilman searched for when selecting educators for the new university.

Gilman believed there were colleges and then there were universities. In Gilman’s book, University Problems in The United States, he describes universities as, “…a place for the advanced and Special education of youth who have been prepared for its freedom by the discipline of a lower school” (Gilman 13). The “lower school” Gilman mentioned is what he defines a college to be. Gilman’s goal in shaping the John Hopkins University was for each student to grow intellectually and morally. Gilman believed the focus of a true university was to encourage research and the advancement of individual scholars. In “University Problems in the United States”, Gilman shares, “…there is nothing which seems to me so important, in this region, and indeed the entire land, as the promotion of good secondary schools, preparatory to the universities” (Gilman 37).

Gilman contribution to the rebirth of higher education in America is little known. He worked his entire life to better education. He is remembered for his organization, leadership, and precision. He was said to be an enthusiastic, motivated, humanitarian, a master educational planner and administrator. He always expressed that he wanted to make these changes to education for the betterment of society. The changes he made to higher education continue to be valid today. The Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences Vol. 52, No 13 states, “…one of the greatest secrets of his success as president of the university that he made his associates feel sure that he took a genuine and sympathetic interest in what they were doing” (Lanman 839).


Charles R. Lanman. “Daniel Coit Gilman (1831-1908).” Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, no. 13, 1917, p. 836. EBSCOhost, ezproxy.gsu.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edsjsr&AN=edsjsr.20025721&site=eds-live&scope=site.

Gilman, Daniel Coit. University Problems in the United States. Ardent Media, 1969, books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=YH8PEAYUX-YC&oi=fnd&pg=PA1&dq=daniel+coit+gilman&ots=teBPnsZ8Zf&sig=71McwU-nw_zm1AKkCXvyXhFgY48#v=onepage&q=daniel%20coit%20gilman&f=false.

M. Andrews. “Daniel Coit Gilman, LL. D.” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, no. 193, 1909, p. lxii. EBSCOhost, ezproxy.gsu.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edsjsr&AN=edsjsr.984068&site=eds-live&scope=site.

Young, Arthur P. “Daniel Coit Gilman in the Formative Period of American Librarianship.” Library Quarterly, vol. 45, no. 2, Jan. 1975, pp. 117–140. EBSCOhost, ezproxy.gsu.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ahl&AN=45983911&site=eds-live&scope=site.