Sylvanus Thayer, USMA 1808

Cullum # 33.

In the USMA Cadet Application Papers (Microfilm reel 688-2) Thayer is listed as 1806/8. There is a letter from John Hubbard, Professor of Mathematics and Experimental Philosophy at Dartmouth, indicating that Thayer was then in the senior class. I believe we can infer from the existence of this letter that Thayer did study some mathematics and physics at Dartmouth. The letter also recommends Alpheus Roberts (Cullum # 43) and calls them "young gentlemen of genius and respectability." In another letter, Hubbard also recommends Lawson Kingsbury (x1812; 1808/8) but does not use the word "genius." Typically there is no mention of mathematics. See Library Notebook II, p. 115. Microfilm not printed.

In the Joseph K. F. Mansfield files there is a folder entitled "Essay on U.S. Military Academy." On the back of this 4 page holograph is "New York Times 22 Feb 1860." The second paragraph reads: The mode of making appointments appears to have been left with the President and nothing said as to the limit of the Course of Instruction. This course when Col S. Thayer, of the Corps of Engineers, who may be justly called the father of the Academy, took command in 1817, was established at 4 years in four classes." This is the earliest attribution of Thayer as the "Father of the Academy." Most of this document deals with the 5 year course. In the Times this is signed "One of the People." This is the earliest use of the phrase in the Times. "Father of the Military Academy" does not appear till 1902 in the Times.

Thayer in Europe


Arney, Chris, West Point's Scientific 200: Celebration of the Bicentennial. Biographies of 200 of West Point's Most Successful and Influential Mathematicians, Scientists, Engineers, and Technologists, 2002.

Riddle, Wesley A., "Duty, Honor, Country: Molding Citizen-Soldiers," Policy Review, January-February, 1998, number 87. Published by the Heritage Foundation. On the web at  .


  1. “Sylvanus Thayer – Neglected American,” by William J. Morton, vol. 3 (Apr. 1944):  1-2, 5  (Class of 1923);
  2. “The Life and Character of General Sylvanus Thayer,” by Stacy B. Southworth, vol. 15 (Jan. 1957):  2-6;
  3. “Sylvanus Thayer;  More Than the Father of the U.S. Military Academy,” by Sidney Forman, vol. 17 (Spring 1958):  14-15;
  4. “Sylvanus Thayer…Educator and Engineer,” by Pat Ryan, vol. 22 (Spring 1963):  22-23;
  5. “Sylvanus Thayer:  Man of Destiny,” by R. Ernest Dupuy, vol. 24 (Winter 1966):  2-.5, 26;
  6. “Sylvanus Thayer Enshrined,” vol. 25 (Summer 1966):  36-37;
  7. “Sylvanus Thayer, 1817-1833 – A Personal Glimpse,” by Ed Cass,  vol. 40 (Mar. 1982):  8-9 and 29-30;
  8. “Thayer Bicentennial Celebration Will Center Around the Thayer Birthplace in Braintree, Massachusetts,” vol. 43 (Mar. 1985):  26;
  9. “Happy 200th Birthday, General Sylvanus Thayer 9 June 1985,” vol. 44 (June 1985): 2;
  10. “Academic Limits:  The Thayer Method for the 21st Century,” by Fletcher M. Lamkin, vol. 55 (Mar./Apr. 1997):  10 (Class of 1808).


Thayer Monument.  “Relocation of Thayer Monument,” ASSEMBLY, vol. 32 (June 1973):  24.

Thayer Hall

Contains picture of Thayer.

Cemetery where Thayer is buried.