George Baron

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. 


  1. "1801, January 6. Mr. George Barron [sic] appointed teacher of arts and sciences; dismissed Feb. 11, 1802. He acted as professor of mathematics, had been a colleague of Hutton, and introduced the Woolwich methods of instruction at West Point. Swift's Memoirs. (A)" [From Centennial, vol. 2, p. 52. The (A) means that there is a copy of Swift's work in the USMA library. The initial date here is challenged by the following documents.]
  2. Henry Dearborn to George Barron [sic; it should be "Baron"], April 11, 1801, asking if he is interested in teaching mathematics at West Point. Note that the letter is conveyed through Edward Livingston.
  3. Henry Dearborn to George Baron, May 11, 1801, informing him he will be appointed  teacher of mathematics at West Point.
  4. George Baron to Henry Dearborn, May 19, 1801, asking for a higher salary.
  5. Baron in New York to Henry Dearborn, June 1, 1801. "Accepts appt Teacher of Mil School; relying Congress to up pay; books" is the description of LTC John Robertson. RG107 M22 Roll 1. Should be at USMA.
  6. Letter from Henry Dearborn to George Baron, June 6, 1801, hiring him to teach at West Point.
  7. Baron at West Point to Henry Dearborn, July 24, 1801. "Relates prep for Mil School; req $59 reimburse for books" is the description of LTC John Robertson.  RG107 M22 Roll 1. Should be at USMA.
  8. Henry Dearborn to Major Thos. H. Cushing reports, October 19, 1801, that a letter from Baron reports that some subalterns will refuse to receive instruction and that Cushing is to take action. 
  9. Henry Dearborn writes Cadet Joseph S. Swift on October 30, 1801 saying that he shall immediately "make proper concessions to Mr. Barron [sic]" or be dismissed. 
  10. November 9, 1801. Swift writes Dearborn that he has apologized to Baron. Known from 1801-11-16-Dearborn-Swift. 
  11. "1801, November 16. Letter of Secretary of War to Cadet Swift respecting his misunderstanding with Mr. Baron. War Dept. Military Book No. 1." [From Centennial, vol. 2, p. 52.]
  12. Baron at West Point to Henry Dearborn, November 27, 1801. "Continued problem with discipline; books" is the description of LTC John Robertson.  RG107 M22 Roll 1. Should be at USMA. This letter is mentioned in 1802-12-05-Dearborn-Swift.
  13. "1801, December 5. Letter of Secretary of War to Cadet Swift in re quarrel with Mr. Baron. Swift must apologize and must lodge with the other cadets or quit the service. War Dept. Military Book No. 1." [From Centennial, vol. 2, p. 53.]
  14. "1801, December 18. Letter of Secretary of War to Maj. Johathan Williams respecting serious charges against Mr. Baron, Teacher of Mathematics. War Dept. Military Book No. 1." [From Centennial, vol. 2, p. 53.]
  15. George Baron to Thomas Jefferson, December 21, 1801 about the dissemination of scientific knowledge in the US and about a law ensuring standards for the preparation of mathematics teachers.
  16. January 15, 1802. Jonathan Williams to the Secretary of War indicating that he has LT Osborne's charges against Baron. Have copy from Williams Paper's microfilm.
  17. January 17, 1802. Baron to Williams. Included in copy book of Williams in January 18, 1802 letter.
  18. January 18, 1802.
  19. Jonathan Williams asks Baron, on January 31, 1802, to put in writing his intention of resigning as of this date. 
  20. Jonathan Williams reports to Tousard, January 31, 1802, that he has ordered Lieutenants Strong and Worrell to appear for the Court Martial of Baron the next morning. 
  21. Jonathan Williams to Henry Dearborn about the Court Martial of Baron, February 1, 1802
  22. Williams to Dearborn, February 4, 1802. Reports that Baron departed West Point on February 2, 1802. But this letter is much more interesting for its discussion of mathematical instruments and curriculum. 
  23. "1802, February 11. Secretary of War to Maj. Jonathan Williams respecting court of inquiry on Mr. Baron's conduct. Baron's dismissal is forwarded with total disapprobation of his public and private conduct. War Dept. Military Book No. 1." [From Centennial, vol. 2, p. 53.]
  24. Williams to Dearborn, February 20, 1802, saying that he has published the dismissal orders of Baron and will forward them to him as per 1802-02-11-Dearborn-Williams. 
  25. Need to find letter from R. W. Osborn, whomever he is, to Dearborn and to find out why he wanted documents about Baron. 
  26. On April 5, 1803, Henry Dearborn (I presume) writes R. W. Osborn saying that he cannon provide copies of documents dealing with Baron, but that Col Williams should be able to do so. 
  27. Letter from George Baron to John Vaughan, April 25, 1806. Mentions a proposed work on navigation.
  28. Obituary of George Baron, June 20, 1812.



  1. Hogan, E. R., "George Baron and the Mathematical Correspondent," Historia Mathematica, 3 (1976), 403-415.
  2. Zitarelli, David E., "The bicentennial of American mathematical journals," The College Mathematics Journal, vol. 36, no. 1, January 2005, pp. 2-15.