Morrill Act: Most significant law si...

Morrill Act: Most significant law since country formed.

Posted in the Berkeley Forum

Winfield Abbe

Athens, GA

#1 Apr 28, 2012
As this enlightening statement above by Chancellor White relates, the Morrill Act of 1862, signed into law by no less than Abraham Lincoln himself in the middle of a great Civil War, 150 years ago, was likely the most significant piece of legislation passed by Congress since its inception.
About 6 years later this act provided the spark which ignited one of the greatest institutions of higher learning in the world; the University of California, which began its life with the Berkeley campus as an Agricultural-Mechanical University.
Its new president in 1868 was brought in from across the country, a brilliant scientist, physicist and scholar from Savannah, Georgia, Dr. John LeConte, M.D., whose policies set the pace for greatness which was to come in the next century and has been called “The Father of the University of California”.
Other great institutions of higher learning resulted from this act in many other states as well. All this led to the great industrial development of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Once in a while our government got it right. Say a prayer of thanks for those rare times in our history and pray that it happens more often.
Justin Morrill was clearly born of the same mold as the other great educator Horace Mann and satisfied his dictum:“Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity”. Although Horace Mann died 3 years before the signing of this great bill, he would have been proud.
Winfield Abbe, AB, Physics, UC Berkeley, 1961
Ph.D., Physics, UC Riverside, 1966
Winfield Abbe

Athens, GA

#2 Apr 28, 2012
By John Samuel Lupold, Ph.D. Dissertation,, Department of History, University of South Carolina, 1970.
Many papers and books have been written about the life of the most significant scientist and first president of the University of California, John LeConte, M.D. However, I believe the single one listed above by Dr. Lupold is the most seminal and significant and enlightening one. It is a must read for anyone who desires to understand the role this great scientist and scholar had in the early and later development of the University of California and indeed, why he is indeed its “Father”.
I went in and out of the physics building called LeConte Hall for years in the late 1950’s, but had no idea of the great man behind this name. I doubt if any of my professors then knew that information either.
In fact I doubt if Chancellor White or President Yudof know the story today and this is not stated with any disrespect. John LeConte was as much responsible for the greatness of UC as the Morrill Act and the above fabulous Ph.D. Dissertation by Dr. LuPold proves it. If you have any interest in this subject read the above book. Dr. Lupold traveled from Harvard to Berkeley, from New York to Pennsylvania and elsewhere to document his fabulous findings.
I knew none of this then, but it was so enlightening to read it many years later.
John LeConte came from a Plantation near Savannah, Ga. He basically learned science from his Father who had a world famous plant collection. Yes he had formal education at the University of Georgia, Athens and Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York, but his basic attitudes about science came from that Plantation via his Father. It is truly amazing that the Board of Trustees had the foresight to select him among others for its first president and first professor of physics.
By the way, his younger brother Joe soon followed him on the newly created transcontinental railroad to be the first professor of geology and wrote a seminal textbook used world wide past the turn of the century. They were both friends of John Muir and charter members of the Sierra Club.
Next time you think of reading a novel, read the above fabulous biography of John LeConte instead, the Ph.D. dissertation of John Lupold. Truth is much more fun and enlightening than fiction.

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