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William Woolsey Johnson papers

Call Number: MS 954

Scope and Contents

The William W. Johnson Papers consist of ten inches of correspondence, personal financial records, and miscellaneous items spanning from 1858 to 1903. Most of the letters were exchanged among members of the family principally William W. Johnson, his wife and children, and his parents, brother, and sisters. The largest groups of letters were sent to his parents from Yale (1858-1862) and to his future wife from the U.S. Naval Academy (1867-1869). There are also many notes and postcards from family members in Europe in the 1880s and 1890s. The non-family correspondence consists mainly of a sprinkling of letters to William W. Johnson from friends and professional associates, including Thomas Wentworth Higginson (1866 May 22) and Albert Francis Judd. The financial records include household accounts kept by Johnson's wife, Susannah Leverett (Batcheller) Johnson.

The William W. Johnson Papers were purchased from F.H. Sweet and William Sanders in 1955; gift of Charles Fredrick Johnson, 1999.


  • 1783-1903


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Unpublished materials authored or otherwise produced by the creator(s) of this collection are in the public domain. There are no restrictions on use. Copyright status for other collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased in 1955 from F. H. Sweet and William Saunders; gift of Charles F. Johnson, 1999.


1.25 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The papers consist almost entirely of family correspondence among Johnson, his wife, children, and parents, including letters from Johnson as a student at Yale University. Among the family correspondents is Theodore Dwight Woolsey, an uncle of Johnson's. Also in the papers are account books (1877-1894) and a small amount of correspondence with friends and professional associates.

Biographical / Historical


Born at Owego, Tioga County, New York, June 23, 1841. Entered college from Owego

Father, Charles Frederick Johnson, a gentleman farmer in Tioga County; son of Robert Charles Johnson (B.A. 1783, M.A. 1786 and Columbia 1788) and Catherine (Bayard) Johnson; grandson of William Samuel Johnson (B.A. 1744, M.A. and Harvard 1747, honorary M.A. Columbia 1761, D.C.L. Oxford 1766, LL.D. Yale 1788), delegate to Stamp-Act Congress 1765, member of Continental Congress 1784-1787, and of U. S. Constitutional Convention 1787, president of Columbia College 1787-1800, and U. S. senator 1789-1791; great-grandson of the Rev. Samuel Johnson (B.A. 1714, M.A. Oxford 1723, M.A. Cambridge 1723, D.D. Oxford 1743), first Protestant Episcopal minister in Connecticut and first president of King's (Columbia) College 1754-1763; descendant of the Rev. Robert Johnson, who came from England and was one of the settlers of Guilford, Conn., in 1639. Mother, Sarah Dwight (Woolsey) Johnson; daughter of William Walton and Elizabeth (Dwight) Woolsey; niece of President Timothy Dwight (B.A. 1769); granddaughter of Timothy Dwight (B.A. 1744); great-granddaughter of the Rev. Jonathan Edwards (B.A. 1720); descendant of George Woolsey, who came from England to New Amsterdam in 1623, was subsequently at Plymouth, Mass., until 1647, and then settled in Flushing, Long Island. Yale relatives include: William Johnson (B.A. 1748) (great-great-uncle); Samuel W. Johnson (B.A. 1779) (great-uncle); and William S. Johnson (B.A. Union 1816, honorary M.A. Yale 1819), Edwards Johnson (B.A. 1823), John B. Dwight, '40, James M. B. Dwight, '46, Timothy Dwight, '49, Henry E. Dwight, '52, T. Bradford Dwight, '59, and Winthrop E. Dwight, '93 (cousins).

Prepared for college under a private tutor; first prize in mathematics Freshman year, prize for mathematical solutions Sophomore year, first and second prizes Senior year; oration appointments Junior and Senior years; member Phi Beta Kappa; graduate member Wolf's Head. He receieved his B.A. in 1862.

After two years in the Nautical Almanac office at Cambridge; six as Assistant Professor in the Naval Academy at (Newport but soon removed to) Annapolis; two as Professor of Mathematics in Kenyon College; and nine in like office in St. John's College, Annapolis, Johnson again (1881) entered the Naval Academy, this time as full Professor. He was a professor at U. S. Naval Academy from 1881 until his retirement in 1921; in 1913 was given a commissioned rank in the Navy by a special act of Congress and upon his retirement held the rank of Commodor. There he remained. He went abroad several times in the summer; and once for a year's leave of absence, including in his stay both summer vacations. At that time (1886-1887) all his family were with him, keeping house for the most part in Cambridge, England. He was busied meanwhile on his book on Differential Equations. He was a member of the Council of the American Mathematical Society; a member of the London Mathematical Society; a Corresponding member of the British Association for the Advancement of Science; and a member of the American Association. — A list of his books follows, and then part of a private letter to Morse.

An Elementary Treatise on Analytical Geometry, embracing Co-ordinate Geometry and an Introduction to Geometry of Three Dimensions. Lippincott. 1869.

A Treatise on the Differential Calculus. Wiley. 1879. (In this work, Johnson was associated with one of his colleagues.)

A Treatise on the Integral Calculus. Part I. Wiley. 1881.

Curve Tracing in Cartesian Co-ordinates. Wiley. 1882.

A Treatise on Differential Equations. 1889. Also the chapter on this subject in Higher Mathematics, published by Wiley, in 1896.

The Theory of Errors and Method of Least Squares. 1890. Mechanics. 1895.

Many of Johnson's papers have been printed in the (English) Messenger of Mathematics and Quarterly Journal of Mathematics; in the Analyst, the American Journal of Mathematics, the Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society; and in the Proceedings of the United States Naval Institute and of the London Mathematical Society.

He was one of the founders of New York Mathematical Society, which later became American Mathematical Society, and of whose council he was a member; member London Mathematical Society; corresponding member British Association for the Advancement of Science; former Fellow of American Association for the Advancement of Science; member Protestant Episcopal Church.

Married August 12, 1869, in Annapolis, Susannah Leverett, daughter of the Rev. Breed Batcheller (B.A. Dartmouth 1835) and Sarah Miller (Leverett) Batcheller. Children: Charles William Leverett (B.A. Johns Hopkins 1891, Ph.D. 1896) and Theodore Woolsey (B.A. Johns Hopkins 1892, M.E. Stevens Institute of Technology 1896). Mrs. Johnson died March 12, 1916.

Death due to bronchopneumonia and the infirmities of age. Buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, Baltimore. Survived by two sons, four grandchildren, one great-granddaughter, and a brother, Charles F. Johnson, '55. Married, August 12, 1869, to SUSANNAH LEVERETT BATCHELLER, of Annapolis.

Guide to the William Woolsey Johnson Papers
Under Revision
compiled by Susan Grigg and Thomas J. Connors
September 1984
Description rules
Finding Aid Created In Accordance With Manuscripts And Archives Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

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