Henry Smith Pritchett


Henry Smith Pritchett
Pritchett 5455605787 c74a68412d o.jpg
Pritchett circa 1911
5th President of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
In office
Preceded byJames Crafts
Succeeded byArthur Amos Noyes (acting)
9th Superintendent of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey
In office
December 1, 1897 – November 30, 1900
Preceded byWilliam Ward Duffield
Succeeded byOtto Hilgard Tittmann
Personal details
Born(1857-04-16)April 16, 1857
Fayette, Missouri
DiedAugust 28, 1939(1939-08-28) (aged 82)
Santa Barbara, California
Alma materPritchett College

Henry Smith Pritchett (April 16, 1857 – August 28, 1939) was an American astronomer and educator.


Pritchett was born on April 16, 1857 in Fayette, Missouri, the son of Carr Waller Pritchett, Sr., and attended Pritchett College in Glasgow, Missouri, receiving an A.B. in 1875.

He then took instruction from Asaph Hall for two years at the US Naval Observatory after which he was made an assistant astronomer. In 1880, he returned to Glasgow to take a position at the Morrison Observatory, where his father Carr Waller Pritchett, Sr. was director. He served as an astronomer on the Transit of Venus Expedition to New Zealand in 1882. When he returned in 1883, he took an appointment as professor of mathematics and astronomy and director of the observatory at Washington University in St. Louis. In the early 1890s he studied in Germany, where he earned a PhD from the University of Munich in 1894. He was Superintendent of the US Coast and Geodetic Survey from 1897 to 1900.

Pritchett served as the president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) from 1900 to 1906.

Pritchett was elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society in 1902.[1] Pritchett later resigned, though the reasons and timing are unclear.[2]

He was president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching (CFAT) from 1906 until he retired in 1930. His principal accomplishment while with the CFAT was the institution of a fully funded pension program (the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association, TIAA) in 1918.

He also served as the first president of the National Society for the Promotion of Industrial Education (1907). He had a long involvement with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and served as a trustee for Carnegie Institute of Washington.

He died on August 28, 1939 in Santa Barbara, California.


Pritchett Lounge, on the second floor of the Walker Memorial building at MIT, is named in his honor.


  • PASP 51 (1939) 304


  1. ^ American Antiquarian Society Members Directory
  2. ^ Dunbar, B. (1987). Members and Officers of the American Antiquarian Society. Worcester: American Antiquarian Society.
  • Lagemann, Ellen Condliffe. Private Power for the Public Good: A History of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1983.

External links

  • NOAA biography
  • Medical Education in the United States and Canada, Pritchett authored the forward, 1910
Government offices
Preceded by
William Ward Duffield
Superintendent, United States Coast and Geodetic Survey
Succeeded by
Otto Hilgard Tittmann
Academic offices
Preceded by
James Crafts
President of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
1900 – 1907
Succeeded by
Richard Cockburn Maclaurin