Biography and History

Walter Minto was one of Princeton's earliest teachers of mathematics and perhaps the first deserving the designation "mathematician." He was born in the Merse district of Scotland in a family of Spanish origin. He studied philosophy and literature at the University of Edinburgh. He traveled to Italy as a tutor to two boys and was in Pisa on March 13, 1781, when William Herschel discovered the planet Uranus, which Minto got to see in a telescope. It was then that he became interested in astronomy and mathematics, and two years later he published his treatise Researches Into Some Parts of the Theory of the Planets(1783). Minto was a supporter of the of American independence, and in 1787 he sailed to America. In the same year he was called to the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) to succeed Ashbel Green as professor of mathematics and natural philosophy. His fellow countryman, Dr. John Witherspoon, was president of the college at the time. His inaugural oration, "On the Progress and Importance of the Mathematical Sciences," presented the night before the commencement in 1788, was subsequently published. He became treasurer of the college and wrote a textbook on mathematics, which was in manuscript form at the time of his death. Minto died at the age of forty-two and was buried in the Princeton (N.J.) cemetery.

Source: From the finding aid for C1181

  • University Land Records. 1752-1992 (inclusive), 1752-1860 (bulk).

    Call Number: AC028

    The University Land Records consist of deeds, mortgages, bonds, other legal papers, and maps concerning the acquisition, disposition, or description of University properties. The records document the physical expansion of the University from its earliest period through the acquisition of large tracts of land in the 20th century, including the properties around Carnegie Lake and numerous farms. A portion of the papers relate to research conducted by Professor Gerald Breese for his book Princeton University Land, 1752-1984 (1986).

  • Walter Minto Collection. 1787-1793 (inclusive).

    Call Number: C1181

    Consists of selected correspondence and documents of the eighteenth-century Scottish mathematician Walter Minto, who was one of Princeton University's earliest teachers of mathematics.