Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Herman Burlingame, a faculty biography

Herman Burlingame was a professor of mathematics at the Normal School, and he did double duty by also serving as the librarian. Born in 1835, he was from Norwich, where he had attended the Norwich Academy and worked as a surveyor with his father. He later taught mathematics at that academy, and then in 1868 came to Brockport as teacher of mathematics. A keen mathematician, he offered one of the early algebraic proofs of the Pythagorean Theorem, and developed a set of special blocks for teaching calculation of cubic roots; a set of the blocks are on display in the Alumni House.

In his role as librarian for the Normal School he helped expand a small book collection into more of a real library, building one of the larger libraries among New York Normal Schools. This and the reading room he established were forerunners of today's Drake Library.

A popular teacher and colleague, he appears to be have had the unfortunate distinction of being the first serving faculty member to die (1891) while still on the staff. His death was widely mourned in both the campus and village communities, and a special memorial booklet was published by his colleages, who observed of Professor Burlingame that he was:

"...always genial and courteous, ready to lend a helping hand whenever needed, constant and faithful in his work. He commanded our respect by his ability as an instructor and his manly Christian character, and we never failed to find in him a steadfast and symapthizing friend, while his cheerful patience and fortitude during these last months have made him still more dear to us."

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