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Root, Oren, 1803-1885



Oren Root was born in Vernon, New York on November 1, 1803, the son of Elihu Root and Achsah Pomeroy. He earned a Bachelor's Degree from Hamilton College in 1833, married Nancy Whitney Buttrick in 1837, and was awarded an LLD from the University of Rochester in 1865. He served as headmaster of the Onondaga Academy in Syracuse, New York, and later as Professor of Mathematics, Astronomy, Mineralogy and Geology at Hamilton College from 1849 to 1881. He discovered and reported the peridotite/kimberlite dikes in Syracuse, though no diamonds were ever found in them.

Paleontologist James Hall, in his autobiography, claimed that Hamilton College hired Oren Root primarily in order to acquire his important mineral collection, which they did, beginning in 1834. Root's collection numbered over 10,000 specimens, mostly field-collected in northern New York and adjacent areas of Canada, or acquired by exchange with other collectors worldwide. It was rich in specimens from the Rossie lead mine, the Sterling mine and other producing localities of his time. Part of the Root Collection is currently on long-term loan to the New York State Museum in Albany, where a selection of important specimens is on display. Other specimens were purchased by Hamilton College for $4000, in 1866.

Oren Root died May 23, 1885 in Kirkland, New York. His descendants have also served Hamilton College, as faculty and as donors. References: JESSUP, P. (1938) Elihu Root. From The Mineralogical Record: Biographical Archive


Oren Root, son of Elihu and Achsa (Pomeroy) Root, was born in Vernon, Oneida County, N.Y., Nov. 1, 1803. His father came from Great Barrington, Mass., and was one of the early settlers of this region, his purchases of land being made of the Oneida Indians. Reared upon his father’s farm, he was noted for physical vigor, sturdy industry and a great fondness for study. He began his work as a teacher in a district school in the town of Fenner, Madison County, in the winter of 1823. During two winters following he taught first at Stockbridge Hill and then in Lenox in the same county. During 1829 and 1830 he attended the academy at Belleville; in 1831 he studied and taught with Dr. Wicks on Paris Hill. In 1832 he entered Senior at Hamilton College, and was graduated in 1833. He taught in Clinton after graduation and during 1835-37 was tutor in Hamilton College. In the fall of 1837 he took charge of Syracuse Academy, where he remained until 1844. After a winter’s teaching in the old Utica Academy- in 1845 he became principal of Seneca Falls Academy, where he remained until, on the death of Professor Catlin in 1849, he was elected professor of Mathematics and Astronomy in Hamilton College. In the college professorship he remained until June, 1881, when he resigned. While at Syracuse he began his work as a mineralogist, visiting the New York localities and exchanging with many foreign mineralogists. He brought with him to Hamilton College his collection of nearly 10,000 specimens, which the college purchased. In connection with the late John C. Hastings and A.D. Gridley he began the movement for ornamenting the college grounds, and for many years he gave much time to the planting and care of the grounds. He did little from ambition for fame. In 1837 and 1838, during the existence of Gill’s Mathematical Micellany, he was one of four who solved all the questions proposed, the others being Professor Theodore Strong, Marcus Catlin and Charles Avery. He contributed some able articles to Runkle’s Mathematical Monthly, 1859-61, and in 1863 revised the surveying and navigation of Robinson’s mathematical series. In 1865 Rochester University conferred on him the honorary degree of Doctor of Law. Of Professor Root’s family, the youngest, Oliver, died in 1864, at the age of nine years; the second son, Edward W., died while Professor of Chemistry in Hamilton College. His wife, Nancy W. (Buttrick) Root and two sons, Professor Root, Jr., of Hamilton College, the successor of his father, and Hon. Elihu Root, of New York, United States Attorney for the Southern District of this State, survive him. From necrology in Hamilton Literary Monthly, v. 20, Nov. 1885, pp. 119-120.

Found in 2 Collections and/or Records:

Oren Root's notebook of physics problem solutions

 Unprocessed Material
Identifier: yhm-arc-2016-014
Dates: 1834-1855

Resignation Letter of Root, Oren, Sr., 1881 (copy)

 Unprocessed Material
Identifier: yhm-arc-0000-330
Dates: 1881

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