April 25, 2016

Walter George Whitman

Courtesy of  Science Education 
(Volume 37, Issue 1 - February 1953)

On May 4, 1874, Walter George Whitman was born in Norway, Maine to George Washington Whitman and Eliza Jane Davis Whitman. Following his graduation from Norway High School, he attended Tufts College, where in 1898; he received an A.B. degree (artium baccalaureus) and began teaching at Goddard Seminary in Barre, Vermont and later at high schools in Gloucester and Springfield, Massachusetts. In 1906, he received a M.A. degree at Columbia University, while teaching at New York City’s Ethical Culture School. On August 20, 1912, he married Grace Bates. Together, the couple had three children, George B. Whitman, who became the eccentric owner of the bookstore, Shakespeare and Company in Paris, France, Mary C. Whitman and H. Carlton Whitman. Whitman continued to teach at a number of universities and secondary schools. His longest tenure was at State Normal School, Salem Massachusetts, where he taught Practical Science and served as Head of the Science Department. 


While teaching, he also established and served on boards of numerous science-based organizations, becoming the founder of General Science Quarterly in 1916. In 1925, Whitman took a yearlong sabbatical from Salem Normal School and along with his family, moved to China, where he taught physics at Nanking University. While living in China, Whitman chose to live among the Chinese instead of the homes provided for Americans. While there, Whitman took a number of photographs and lantern slides, chronicling the everyday life of the Chinese people. While in Asia, Whitman traveled to multiple countries including Japan, India and Egypt, also making stops in Europe. Keeping records and taking souvenirs of his trips. During the 1920’s and 1930’s, Whitman authored and co-authored a number of science textbooks that included lesson plans and exams. These textbooks were widely used across the country and abroad, they remained relevant for many decades.


Walter George Whitman died in his Orlando, Florida home at age 78 on November 2, 1952, following a heart attack. He is largely recognized as a pioneer and leading force in general science and science education in the first half of the 20th century. 

View Salem State University Archives' collection of postcards belonging to
Walter George Whitman 


*This article was written by Jen Ratliff for use by Salem State University Archives and Special Collections.

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