Henry Smith Pritchett, 1857-1939

Henry S. PritchettHenry Smith Pritchett, 1857-1939, A.B., Pritchett College, 1875; Ph.D., University of Munich, 1895, was president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1900 to 1907. Between 1875 and 1880 he worked as an astronomer and from 1881 to 1897 was professor of mathematics and astronomy at Washington University in St. Louis. He traveled to New Zealand for the Transit of Venus expedition of 1882. He served as superintendent of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey from 1897 to 1900.

As president of MIT Pritchett created the office of the dean, and also appointed the Institute’s first registrar, recorder, and medical advisor. He abolished intercollegiate football and substituted Field Day for Cane Rush after the annual sophomore-freshman donnybrook resulted in a death. He is perhaps best known for his unsuccessful efforts to negotiate a merger between MIT and Harvard in 1904, defeated by a court decision in 1905.

Prepared by the Institute Archives, MIT Libraries
October 2004

Photograph courtesy of the MIT Museum

History of the Office of the MIT President