My column in last weeks edition featured two great men in the field of science: Max Planck and Albert Einstein. In this weeks column I decided to focus on a man that had a tremendous influence on education in America: Noah Webster. He was also a great innovator. My maternal grandfathers name was Noah Webster Harper.
My guess is that Noah Webster was a fairly common name in that era. In that day many folks were named Bible names and of course naming children names associated with famous people was also popular. Noah Webster shouldnt be confused with Daniel Webster who was a lawyer, a member of Congress and a secretary of state. Further, Daniel Webster was perhaps one of the greatest American orators of all times. Noah Webster was a lexicographer (a writer or compiler of a dictionary).
Noah Webster published and revised several spelling books but his work as a lexicographer was perhaps his most important contribution to the education of Americas students. He noted from his travels that the schoolhouses at that time were very primitive. Most of them were one-room buildings with bad lighting, insufficient heat and the students had few books or material sufficient for their education. One of the problems of that time was that several words in the spelling books contained words that were used by Britains with British spelling such as plough, honour, musick, gaol, to plow, honor, music and jail respectively. Webster felt that America needed its own spellings and words to instill a sense of pride in the new country. His masterpiece was his An American Dictionary of the English Language of 1828. On top of all of that he found time to practice law and to teach.
Noah Webster, Sr., was Noah Websters father. Noah Webster, Jr. was born the fourth of five children to Noah Webster, sr. and Mercy (Steele) Webster. Noah Jr. probably started school at the age of seven as was the custom at that time. At the age of 14 he began training for entrance to Yale or Harvard. At the age of 16, Noah entered Yale. After a two-year courtship, He married Rebecca Greenleaf of Boston in 1789.
Of course this column is just a sketch of the life and times of this great man who contributed much to establish a distinctly American language system that we now have.