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 [decorative delimiter] Class of 1828

Vol. I

(Born Ct.)

Albert E. Church

(Ap'd Ct.)


Military History. — Cadet at the Military Academy, July 1, 1824, to July 1, 1828, when he was graduated and promoted in the Army to

Bvt. Second Lieut. of Artillery, July 1, 1828.

Second Lieut., 3d Artillery, July 1, 1828.

Served: at the Military Academy, as Asst. Professor of Mathematics, Aug. 31, 1828, to Aug. 28, 1831; in garrison at Ft. Wolcott, R. I., 1832, — and Ft. Independence, Mas., 1832‑33; at the Military, 1833‑78, as Asst. Professor of Mathematics, Oct. 28, to November 24,

(First Lieut., 3d Artillery, Jan. 13, 1836, to Mar. 13, 1838)

1833, — as Principal Asst. Professor of Mathematics, Nov. 24, 1833, to June 1, 1837, — and as Professor of Mathematics, June 1, 1837, to

(Professor of Mathematics, Military Academy, June 1, 1837)

p405 Mar. 30, 1878; and as a Member (ex officio) of the Army Board constituted by the Law of Aug. 4, 1854, "for the Examination of Non-Commissioned Officers for Promotion," 1859‑78.

Civil History. — Degree of A. M., conferred by Washington College, Ct., 1837, — and by College of New Jersey, Princeton, N. J., 1837; and of LL. D., by Yale College, Ct., 1852. Author of "Elements of Differential and Integral Calculus," 1842, and of an "Improved Edition containing the Elements of the Calculus of Variations," 1851; of "Elements of Analytical Geometry," 1851; of "Elements of Analytical Trigonometry," 1857; and of "Elements of Descriptive Geography, with its Applications to Spherical Projections, Shades and Shadows, Perspective, and Isometric Projections," 1865. Member of several scientific associations, 1835‑67.

Died, Mar. 30, 1878, at West Point, N. Y.: Aged 70.

Biographical Sketch.a

Professor Albert E. Church was born, Dec. 16, 1807, at Salisbury, Ct. His father was a distinguished Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Connecticut. The son was also destined for the legal profession, and, with his clear and logical mind, would doubtless have become one of its shining lights. But while preparing to enter Yale College, he unexpectedly received a Cadet appointment from the Secretary of War, John C. Calhoun, who had been his father's College classmate. This changed young Church's whole course of life to another sphere of usefulness, for which his talents and temperament even better fitted him.

Before reaching his majority, Church was graduated from the Military Academy, July 1, 1828, at the head of his class, and, with the exception of about two years on garrison duty as an artillery officer, his whole after life, of half a century, was devoted to the instruction of Cadets in Mathematics.

Upon the resignation of Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Professor Davies, June 1, 1837, Church was appointed to fill the vacated chair, and no more fortunate choice could have been made, for he was a natural-born teacher, and a thorough master of all the intricacies and difficulties of mathematical science.

Punctual to the minute, the Professor was always in his seat to hear the recitations of his pupils. To those who had mastered the lesson he was all smiles, but woe betided the unprepared, for whom there was no plenary indulgence. If, however, the failure was due to the complexity of the subject, the Professor, with the utmost amiability and patient painstaking, would eliminate every knotty point by a few sagacious suggestions, and, even for the dullest, simplified them by some familiar illustration, so that none except the utterly deficient failed to be taught. Besides the mathematical instruction thus implanted, he required great precision of language in the demonstration of the subject under discussion, thereby making the mental drill in the recitation room as exact as the parade drill in the field. But this martinet training was accompanied with so little harshness, that all revered their professor, and felt its necessity for methodical learning and securing true scholarship.

Church, as a member of the Academic Board, was invaluable, not only because of his sagacious opinions, but on any doubtful question his accurate memory could always furnish a precedent in point. He never played the wrangling attorney, but was ever the conservative, upright judge, and, when the balance was nearly even, he did not fail to throw his whole weight into the proper scale. With strict fidelity and conscientious impartiality, he merged all personal interests in the welfare of the Academy.

p406 Though not a hard-working student, Church was well-informed on current topics, besides being a thorough proficient in the whole curriculum of the Military Academy. Neither did he write much beyond the preparation of several valuable mathematical text-books. While himself a Cadet he had studied his mathematical course chiefly from French works, and knew their vast superiority for thinking minds to those elementary text-books substituted by his predecessor, which were more suitable for common schools than for the higher scientific education of the Military Academy. To correct the latter evil, and at the same time preserve the essentials of the French in English garb, Church wrote in his clear, lucid style the several works of which the titles are given in his preceding Civil History.

In social life Church was always a cheerful companion, and his merry laugh magnetized all around him. His kindly nature won friends, his temperate habits insured health, and his punctual performance of every duty made him a most valuable officer. He has left a strong impress upon the Military Academy, which will not soon be effaced.

Thayer's Note:

a Another, somewhat warmer, biographical sketch is provided by the obituary in AOG 1878; more finely shaded biographical elements can be found on this page at the Department of Mathematical Sciences, U. S. M. A., along with a list of his publications and a brief bibliography. His Personal Reminiscences of the Military Academy from 1824 to 1831 (A Paper Read to the U. S. Military Service Institute, West Point, March 28, 1878) are also online.

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