Josiah Meigs (August 21,
1757 in Middletown,
Connecticut – September 4, 1822 in Washington, D.C.) was an American academic,
journalist and government official.
Meigs was the 13th and last child of Return Meigs and Elizabeth
Hamlin Meigs. His older brother was Return J. Meigs, Sr.
and a nephew was Return J. Meigs, Jr.
, who served as a United States Senator
and Governor of Ohio
graduating from Yale
University in 1778 with
a Bachelor of Arts (B.A) degree, Meigs studied law and was (from
1781 to 1784) a Yale tutor in mathematics, natural philosophy and astronomy. He was admitted to the bar in New Haven,
Connecticut, in 1783, and served as New Haven city clerk from
1784 to 1789.
During this period he established and
published The New Haven Gazette
(later known as The
New Haven Gazette and the Connecticut Magazine
) and in 1788
published the first American Medical Journal.
Meigs left New Haven for St. George, Bermuda, where he practiced law and was involved in
defending the owners of U.S. vessels that had been captured by
he returned to the United States and took the chair of mathematics
and natural philosophy at Yale. He taught there until 1801 when he was chosen
as the president of the University of Georgia (UGA) in Athens.
salary at Georgia was fixed at fifteen hundred dollars, and he was
given four hundred dollars in moving expenses for his family.
At Georgia, Meigs implemented the university's first physics
curriculum in 1801. He resigned as president
on August 9, 1810, after clashing with the Board of Trustees for
the University; however, he continued on in the position of
Professor of Mathematics, Natural Philosophy and Chemistry for one
more year. John Brown was elected by the Board of Trustees as the
After his academic career at UGA, Meigs was appointed Surveyor General
President James Madison
in 1812. He
then accepted an appointment as Commissioner of the United States General Land Office
Washington, D.C., in 1814. During his tenure at the U.S. Land
Office, he instituted the nation's first system of daily meteorological
observations at the land
offices throughout the country.
also the president of the Columbian Institute, one of the original
corporators and trustees of Columbian College (now George Washington University), and professor of experimental philosophy
In 1782, Meigs married Clara Benjamin. Their son Henry Meigs
served in the U.S. Congress
Another son, Charles Delucena
, became a prominent obstetrician
. Their daughter Clara married
, U.S. Secretary of State
under Andrew Jackson
and Martin Van Buren
Meigs died on September 4, 1822 and was originally buried in
Holmead's Cemetery in Washington, D.C. The cemetery was
disbanded and the graves removed, so he was reinterred in Arlington
National Cemetery in 1878 in the lot of his grandson, Major General
Montgomery C. Meigs
He is remembered at the University of Georgia in the name of the
university's highest teaching honor. The university annually
recognizes up to five faculty members with the Josiah Meigs
Distinguished Teaching Professorship.
Also, Meigs Hall, at the
northwest corner of the university campus
named in his honor.
- , Meigs Family History and Genealogy website
- Josiah Meigs by Rick Meigs, Meigs Family History and