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Collection Overview

Minto, Walter, 1753-1796
Princeton University. Library. Special Collections
Walter Minto Collection
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
1 box and 0.2 linear feet
Storage Note:
Firestone Library (mss): Box 1


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.

Collection Description & Creator Information


The collection consists of selected correspondence, documents, and a travel journal of Walter Minto. The correspondence and the documents chiefly concern the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University). Included are receipts (1790, 1791) for tuition payments made by Alexander H" for the college; a letter from Minto to the mother of a student, dated 29 October 1792, explaining various charges made by the college on her son's account; and another letter, dated 20 April 1793, to a "Col. Nelson" about getting goods to the college. There is a letter to John Ewing, provost of the University of Pennsylvania, written at Princeton on 31 July 1788, regarding "the elements of the orbit of the new planet . . ." and containing mathematical calculations. On the verso is an inscription by Prof. James C. Moffat of the Theological Seminary in Princeton, which reads, "This letter of Prof. Minto was presented to me by Rev. Dr. Carnahan, when he retired from the presidency in 1854." The inscription is signed by Moffat and dated 24 August 1886. In addition, there is a statement of accounts sent to the trustees of the college, dated 9 April 1793, as well as a brief biographical statement written in an unknown hand concerning Minto's family. A small travel journal, containing facts and impressions, documents a trip Minto took in 1787 from Massachusetts to Georgia, with facts and impressions of the cities he traveled through. Page one of the wrapper lists the states that he visited.


Folders are arranged by accession number.

Collection Creator Biography:

Minto, Walter, 1753-1796

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.

Collection History


Letter to John Imlay was a gift of Dr. W. H. Green in 1896 .

Receipts to Dr. Hosack were a gift of William Nelson on March 21, 1903 .

Letter to Col. Nelson was a gift of Pyne-Henry, in 1904 .

Statement of accounts to the Trustees was a transfer from the Hunt papers, in 1906 .

Letter to John Ewing was a gift of Chas L. Cooder on July 4, 1929 .

Biography of Minto and travel diary were purchased in July 1940 .

Letter to the mother of a student was purchased in December 1944 .

Custodial History

The collection was formed as a result of a Departmental practice of combining into one collection material of various accessions relating to a particular person, family, or subject.


No appraisal information is available.

Processing Information

Folder inventory added by Nicholas Williams '2015 in 2012.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. No further photoduplication of copies of material in the collection can be made when Princeton University Library does not own the original. Inquiries regarding publishing material from the collection should be directed to RBSC Public Services staff through the Ask Us! form. The library has no information on the status of literary rights in the collection and researchers are responsible for determining any questions of copyright.

Credit this material:

Walter Minto Collection; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
(609) 258-3184
Storage Note:
Firestone Library (mss): Box 1