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Memoir

George Palmer Williams
Hinsdale and Demmon, History of the University of Michigan 221

George Palmer Williams was born at Woodstock, Vermont, April 13, 1802. He was graduated Bachelor of Arts from the University of Vermont in 1825, and then studied about two years in the Theological Seminary at Andover, Massachusetts. He did not complete the course, but took up teaching, which proved to be his life work.

He was Principal of the Preparatory School at Kenyon College, Ohio, from 1827 to 1831. In 1831 he was elected to the chair of Ancient Languages in the Western University of Pennsylvania, but after two years he returned to Kenyon College, where he remained until he called, in 1837, to the branch of the incipient University of Michigan at Pontiac.

In 1841, when the College proper was opened at Ann Arbor, he was made Professor of Natural Philosophy. In 1854 he was transferred to the chair of Mathematics and in 1863 to the chair of Physics. From 1875 to 1881 he was Emeritus Professor of Physics.

He received the degree of Doctor of Laws from Kenyon College in 1849. The University Senate in a memorandum relative to his death declared that: "Dr. Williams welcomed the first student that came to Ann Arbor for instruction; as President of the Faculty he gave diplomas to the first class that graduated, and from the day of his appointment to the hour of his death his official connection with the University was never broken."

In 1846 he was ordained to the ministry of the Protestant Episcopal Church; but he did no regular parish work, except for a short time in Ann Arbor. He was first and last a teacher, beloved by his colleagues and pupils and universally respected and honored.

Some years before his death the alumni raised a considerable fund, the proceeds of which were to be paid to him during his lifetime and after his death were to be used for maintaining a professorship named in honor of his memory.

He died at Ann Arbor, September 4, 1881.

In 1827 he was married to Elizabeth Edson, of Randolph, Vermont. She died in 1850 leaving a daughter, Louisa (afterwards Mrs. Alfred DuBois); and in 1852 he married Mrs. Jane Richards.