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Theophilus Adam Wylie

Theophilus Adam Wylie

Born in Philadelphia on October 8, 1810, Theophilus was the son of the Rev. Samuel Brown Wylie, D.D. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1830, studied theology in the Seminary of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, and was licensed to preach in 1836. He later received the honorary D.D. from Miami University, Ohio; Monmouth College, Illinois; and Princeton College, New Jersey. An honorary LL.D. was bestowed upon him by the University of Pennsylvania.

Theophilus came to Bloomington in 1837 from Philadelphia at the age of 27 to teach natural philosophy and chemistry at Indiana College.

“D[ea]r Cousin, At a meeting of the Board of Trustees of Indiana College held yesterday you were unanimously appointed to the office of Professor of Mixed Mathematics till the next regular meeting of the Board with a salary of $800 per annum. The appointment was thus made pro tem. in pursuance of your own preference as expressed in your letter. Should you on trial of yourself . . . give satisfaction to yourself & others concerned you may expect the salary to be raised to $1000. Should you accept, please lose no time in setting out. I will expect you at the very furthest by the first of May at which time the next college term commences.”
Andrew Wylie, Bloomington, IN to Theophilus A. Wylie, Philadelphia, PA, March 29, 1837

His appointment was made permanent at the end of one year's service. Aside from two and a half years spent at Miami University in Ohio (1852-55), Theophilus was an active faculty member at Indiana University until 1886 at which time he became emeritus professor. He served in that capacity until his death in 1895.

“Dr. Wylie was a versatile scholar. At various times, when there was need, he taught all the subjects offered in the curriculum. During most of his service he was professor of natural philosophy and chemistry. In addition to his regular college teaching he served for many years as librarian, as superintendent of grounds, and, just before and after President Daily's term of office, Dr. Wylie acted as president. He was the mainstay for all extra burdens.”
James A. Woodburn, History of Indiana University, 1820-1902
“Professor T.A. Wylie was a great acquisition to the institution... He was no orator but was a very interesting preacher, invariably bringing out by his criticisms and intimate knowledge of the Greek language the true meaning of the text; and with all his varied learning and attainments was entirely free from any thing like ostentation.”
Matthew Elder, Autobiography

Evidence of his “varied learning and attainments” can be found in his diaries where he talks about his many interests and experiments. He took up photography soon after the invention of the daguerreotype process in 1839 and continued to practice photography for many years. He often took his telescope onto the roof of Wylie House to observe celestial events. According to his grandson, T. A. Wylie III, Theophilus built and installed the first telephone in the state of Indiana, working from plans sent him by a professor at Pennsylvania University in 1876. A wire was run from Wylie House to the laboratory in the college building that was destroyed by fire in 1883 on the original campus.

Theophilus was said to be a very effective teacher, respected by his students. Speaking of him at the dedication of Kirkwood Hall on January 25, 1895, Isaac Jenkinson, then president of the Board of Trustees of the University, had this to say:

“A man who has given his whole life's service to sustaining, perpetuating, and making useful the work of this University. He has labored with a zeal, and earnestness, and a devotedness which has brought him rich reward from the grateful hearts of hundreds of students, but which has left him poor indeed in other recompense.”

Theophilus was described as “small of stature, weak of voice, diffident in manner, far from self-confident.” (James A. Woodburn, History of Indiana University, 1820-1902) But at the time of his death in June 1895, the Indiana Student had this to say:

“As has been well said 'it was in his home that Dr. Wylie was at his best. There you saw in its highest degree the refinement and learning of the old time culture, the hospitality and openheartedness of the born gentleman.' There the slightest suggestion of the University served to call forth interesting reminiscences of early days at Indiana University and expressions of just pride in her wonderful progress. It is indicative of the broad scholarship of Dr. Wylie that in the various vicissitudes of the early days, he filled with credit at one time and another nearly every chair in the University.”
Another Theophilus Wylie Portrait

T. A. Wylie, who had a deep affection for books and education, served as librarian for 38 years and left his 1200 volume working library to the University. Including as it does volumes in the fields of science, religion, and the classics, it represents the breadth and depth of knowledge of a nineteenth-century scholar. This library is intact as a collection and we hope to someday make it available to scholars at the Museum.

Theophilus married Rebecca Dennis of Germantown, PA in 1838. Together, they had 8 children, 6 of whom lived with them in Wylie House. Mrs. Wylie continued to live in Wylie House after her husband's death and died there in 1913, just two months before her 101st birthday.

Theophilus and Rebecca's children and grandchildren include:

Elizabeth Louisa Wylie (1839-1930): Married Herman Balthasar Boisen;
      children Anton Theophilus Boisen, Marie Louisa Boisen
Richard Dennis Wylie (1841-1861)
Margaret Wylie (1843-1938): Married Arthur Calvin Mellette;
      children Theophilus Wylie Mellette, Charles Edmond Mellette, Arthur Anton Mellette,
      Joshua Theodore Richard Mellette
Susan Emma Wylie (1846-1848)
Samuel Brown Wylie (1848-1851)
Theophilus Andrew Wylie (1852-1878)
Samuel Brown Wylie (1854-1890): Married Sara Seabrook Mitchell;
      children Theophilus Andrew Wylie, Samuel Brown Wylie, Rebecca Wylie, Laurence Seabrook Wylie
Theodorus William John Wylie (1857-1934): Married Fannie Thompson


Last Update 11.16.2010 (JR) | Send Comments to libwylie@indiana.edu | Libraries Privacy Policy