Robert Patterson (educator)

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Robert Patterson

Robert Patterson (May 20, 1743 – July 22, 1824)[1] was an American educator and director of the United States Mint.[2] He was born on a lease-held farm near Hillsborough, County Down, Ireland,[1] emigrated to the North American British colonies in 1768, and lived for a time in Philadelphia.

In 1774, he became principal of an academy in Wilmington, Delaware. A Patriot in the American Revolution, after the battles of Lexington and Concord he began instructing his students in military matters and served as adjutant in a local company of the Delaware militia. When classes were suspended because of the War of Independence, he returned to Greenwich Township, Cumberland County, New Jersey, where he had earlier lived, and hastily received enough training to serve as an assistant surgeon in a New Jersey militia company. Militia service was not a full-time activity, but he frequently served in the field for nearly three years, and was appointed a brigade major.

From 1779 to 1814, he was professor of mathematics in the University of Pennsylvania, being also serving as vice provost from 1810 to 1813. In 1805, without solicitation, President Jefferson appointed him director of the mint,[2] which position he held until a short time before his death. Always actively interested in the American Philosophical Society, he was elected a member in 1783 and served as its president from 1819 until his death.[3] He published The Newtonian System (1808) and edited various works on mathematics and physics. His son, Robert M. Patterson, followed in his footsteps, also becoming director of the mint and teaching at the University of Pennsylvania.

In 1803, after Jefferson's urging, Patterson taught Meriwether Lewis the refinements of computing latitude and longitude for the upcoming Lewis and Clark Expedition.[4][5]


  1. ^ a b "Robert Patterson (1743–1824), University of Pennsylvania Archives". University of Pennsylvania.
  2. ^ a b "Robert Patterson.". Dictionary of American Biography Base Set. American Council of Learned Societies, 1928–1936.
  3. ^ "APS Member History". Retrieved 8 December 2020.
  4. ^ Duncan, Dayton; Burns, Ken (1997). Lewis & Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. pp. 9–10. ISBN 978-0-679-45450-2.
  5. ^ Ambrose, Stephen (1996). Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West. New York: Simon & Schuster. pp. 81, 87–91. ISBN 978-0-684-82697-4.

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Government offices
Preceded by 4th Director of the United States Mint
Succeeded by