George Baron was born September 1, 1769.
It has long been believed that Baron was a colleague of Charles Hutton at the Royal Military Academy at Woolich, but that is wrong [Crackel 2002, p. 304]. Although it does not explain why this is wrong in Crackel's book, he told me that he checked the published records about Woolich that contain a list of all the faculty in the period when Baron could have been a faculty member. This error seems to have first been made by Swift.
On 11 April 1801, Jefferson's Secretary of War, Henry Dearborn, wrote Baron asking if he was interested in a job as teacher of mathematics at West Point at an annual salary of $700. Dearborn signs the letter "your friend" indicating that they must have known each other in Maine. Baron declined the position on May 19, complaining that the salary was too low, but that problem must have been solved (there should be another letter from Dearborn to Baron in this interval), for he accepted the position on June 1. Then on 6 June 1801 Dearborn wrote Baron sending him his commission as "Teacher of the Arts and Sciences to the Artillerists and Engineers" and requesting that he purchase "any number of copies not exceeding fifteen or twenty" of Charles Hutton's A Course in Mathematics for use at West Point. It is interesting that the choice of textbook was imposed by Dearborn and was not a decision made by Baron (or later by Jonathan Williams).
At the end of the first volume of The Mathematical Correspondent there is a list of subscribers. There are 347 names listed for a total of 487 copies. This seems to me to be a large subscription base. There are two large subscribers, Dr. Mackay in London, England, got 50 copies and Thomas Maughan in Quebec got 20. There are nine names that each received six copies and a smattering of names that got from 2 to 4 copies. I would surmise that most of these are book dealers; probably this could be verified by checking city directories. There are only two of the 347 names that are not individuals: the American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia got one copy (which is still in their library) and the Register of the Treasury in "Washington City" got two copies. There are only three individuals with the title of professor: Blackburn of the College of William and Mary in Virginia, Patterson of Philadelphia and Webber of Harvard. There is only one name that I recognize as a mathematician, viz., Robert Adrain of Reading, Pennsylvania. There are four individuals from "Hallowell, District of Maine": John Merrick, Samuel Moody, Benjamin Vaughan, and Joshua Wingate. This is of interest for this is the town where George Baron settled when he first came to this country.
In 1875 David S. Hart, a physician, published a "Historical Sketch of American Mathematical Periodicals," in The Analyst, volume 2, Issue 5 (Sept. 1875), 131-138 (this journal is available on JSTOR). He indicates that The Mathematical Correspondent is the first mathematical periodical published in the United States, albeit short lived:
The causes of the discontinuance of this periodical are obvious even upon a slight examination. In the first place, the Editors permit a contributor who calls himself A. Rabbit, to sneer at several works written by American authors, as Shepherd, Pike, Walsh and others. They themselves also speak in the most contemptuous manner of Col. Jared Mansfield, superintendent of the Military Academy at West Point. The writer has a copy of No. 2. stitched in a blue cover, on which is an advertisement of a Lecture delivered in New York by G. Baron, which contains (as he says) "a complete refutation of the false and spurious principles, ignorantly imposed on the public, in the 'New American Practical Navigator,' written by N. Bowditch and published by E. M. Blunt." The sub-editors endorsing the above say, "We agree with the author that he has shown in the most incontrovertible manner, that the principles on which the 'New American Practical Navigator" is founded, are universally false, and gross impositions on the public."
I would dearly love to find a copy of The Mathematical Correspondent "stitched in a blue cover," for such a cover could contain information about the other editors and hints about how the journal was run. Also I would not be the least surprised if "A. Rabbit" were George Baron.
LTC John K. Robertson in his "Who was Who" 1802-1990, gives (p. 83) Baron's dates at WP as 6 January 1801 to 11 February 1802. His footnote reads "George Baron was the only teacher at the predecessor school to the Military Academy. This school was authorized by Congress ???????????????". The dates given seem incorrect.
Contents of The Mathematical Correspondent.
Talk in Burlington VT at MathFest in August 2002.