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George Barton Cutten (1874 - 1962) was a Canadian-born psychologist, moral philosopher, historian and university administrator. He was president of Acadia Universitymarker from 1910 to 1922 and Colgate Universitymarker from 1922 to 1942.


Born in Amherst, Nova Scotiamarker, the son of a stipendiary magistrate, he was uncertain about what path his life should take. He had various jobs including reporter, salesman, and pipe fitter before his uncle locked him in a room, refusing to let hem out until he agreed to go to university. By the fall of 1892, he had enrolled at Acadia University, and there he joined the varsity rugby team and within three years had led the team to victory over rival Dalhousie Universitymarker in 1895. He earned his BA in 1896 and a year later he was ordained a Baptist minister. He went on to Yale Universitymarker and by 1902 he had earned a degree in divinity and a PhD in psychology. At Yale, he continued his outstanding career as a football player and on Sundays he served as a preacher at local churches. His thesis was titled The Psychology of Alcoholism which would he publish, in revised form, in 1907. At Yale, he obtained a position as professor of moral philosophy, but he returned to Wolfville in 1910 to accept a position as president of the university. For more than a decade at Acadia, he actively supported the university’s sporting programs and opened the Memorial Gym in 1920, a facility which continues to function today.

After twelve years at Acadia, in 1922 he moved to Hamilton, New York where he had accepted the presidency of Colgate University. Finding the university’s financial affairs in disorder he set out to turn its finances around. For the next seventeen years the school declared a surplus, in the meantime doubling its faculty, plant and assets. His football teams also won championships. In 1928 he introduced the "Colgate Plan," an influential curriculum.

He retired from Colgate in 1942.

Later work and personal life

In his retirement, Cutten devoted his efforts to a vocation entirely divorced from his academic pursuits. Arising from an interest in American silver which began in the 1930s, in which he amassed one of the finest private collections of his time, he published several pioneering works on the history of silver design and manufacture.

He was married to Minnie W. Brown who shared his passion for silver and contributed to his books on the subject. They had three children. He died in 1962.

Legacy and latter reassessment

There was a women’s residence named for Cutten that opened at Acadia University in 1975. He was also an original inductee into the Nova Scotia Sports Hall of Fame.However, a 2001 proposal to name a building for Cutten at Colgate resulted in a serious debate about his role as a eugenicist. At issue was his statement to the Canadian Society of New York in 1923 that "the melting pot is destructive to our race ... we must build up from our resources and conserve our race power, or else we must admit only such immigrants as shall strengthen and not weaken our race, or both. The danger the melting pot brings to the nation is the breeding out of the higher division of the white race and the breeding in of the lower divisions." The Colgate debate has yet to be resolved.

Publications include

  • The Psychology of Alcoholism, Scribners, 1907
  • The Psychological Phenomena of Christianity, Scribners, 1908 ( NYT review)
  • Three Thousand Years of Mental Healing, 1911 ( Google Books)
  • Mind, its origin and goal, Yale University Press, 1925
  • The Threat of Leisure, Ayer, 1926 ( Google Books)
  • Speaking with Tongues Historically and Psychologically Considered, Yale, 1927
  • The Silversmiths of Utica, Hamilton, 1936
  • The Silversmiths of Georgia (together with watchmakers and jewellers), 1733-1850
  • The Silversmiths, Watchmakers and Jewellers of The State of New York Outside of New York City, private, 1939
  • Instincts and Religion, Harper and Brothers, 1940
  • Silversmiths of North Carolina 1696-1860, 1948
  • Silversmiths of Virginia: together with watchmakers and jewellers, 1694 to 1950, 1952

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