Edward and Mary Judson Hitchcock Family Papers
Edward Hitchcock (AC 1849) was born in 1828, three years after the fledgling Amherst College received its charter. He was the oldest son of geologist and Amherst College President Edward Hitchcock and his wife, artist Orra White Hitchcock. He graduated from Amherst with the Class of 1849. After receiving an M.D. from Harvard Medical School, Hitchcock returned to Amherst where he served on the faculty as Professor of Hygiene and Physical Education for fifty years, beginning in 1861. Affectionately known as "Old Doc," he also served as the college physician and as de facto collector of Amherst College history. As noted at the time of his death on February 15, 1911, "his life [was] inseparably linked with the life of the College."
Hitchcock was a major figure in the area of collegiate physical education. In 1861 he was called to Amherst to head the newly created Department of Physical Education and Hygiene, the first of its kind in the country. Hitchcock believed in the importance of sound physical health for college students so that the mind could accomplish its best work and the students could look forward to "the promised labor of a long life." To achieve that goal, he developed systems of physical training (a precursor of today's fitness exercises) intended to appeal to the students both mentally and physically. His program at Amherst, fine-tuned over the next fifty years, became a model for college and secondary school programs nationally and internationally. The development of this first college program was Hitchcock's major contribution to the field of physical education.
Hitchcock devoted his life to the study of comparative anatomy, focusing particularly in the area of tests and measurements. In the fall of 1861, Hitchcock began his system of anthropometric measurements documenting the physical size and strength of every freshman for more than 20 years. These measurements became the American standard for comparative purposes and earned Hitchcock the reputation as "one of the pioneers in the field of anthropometrics."
In addition to heading the Department of Physical Education and Hygiene at Amherst, Hitchcock taught physiology, comparative anatomy, and hygiene. He served as Dean of the College for many years.
Hitchcock was active in his profession and held numerous positions in professional societies, many of which he helped to establish. He wrote largely on physical education and prepared, with his father, one work on human physiology. (See the Edward Hitchcock Chronology.)
One of Hitchcock's farsighted projects was to gather together the "raw materials" of the history of the College into what became known as the Memorabilia Collection. This collection became the foundation of today's Amherst College Archives and Special Collections. He also gave the College a large collection of American Indian relics, which he started as a boy and actively added to all his life.
Hitchcock's broad interests were not limited to the College. He was active in town and state life and served for many years on the Massachusetts Board of Health, Lunacy, and Charity and as a trustee of both Williston Seminary and Mount Holyoke College. (See the Edward Hitchcock Chronology.)
Hitchcock was kind, broad-minded, vigorous, optimistic, honest, a faithfully religious man with shrewd common sense, and loyal to the College. He was devoted to his students and believed in them and their well-being, serving as inspiration, helper, and sometimes their salvation. His College obituary notes: "Many a man who has struggled through college against overwhelming odds of financial, moral, or spiritual difficulties or hindrances will never forget the help which he received from Dr. Hitchcock, a help known only to the two." Hitchcock remains one of Amherst's most beloved faculty members, mourned by scores of alumni and townspeople who remembered him for his capacity for friendship and his "great heart."
Edward Hitchcock died on February 15, 1911 with the cause of death listed as angina pectoris. Dr. Paul C. Phillips (AC 1888), Hitchcock's colleague and successor in the Department of Physical Education and Hygiene, wrote of Hitchcock three years after his death: "It is three years since he left us but his spirit is with us still, the inspiration of his life made a different atmosphere at Amherst; his memory is among its most precious heritages."
In 1853, Hitchcock married Mary L. Judson (1831-1918). Together they had ten children, two of whom were graduates of Amherst. Mary Judson Hitchcock was devoted to her family and to the communities of Amherst College and the town. Described as a "remarkable woman," Mrs. Hitchcock was known as cheerful, inspiring, and helpful. Her obituary noted that "as the helmsman of the family she was guided by a healthy philosophy and right living and thinking." The Hitchcocks lived most of their life together in a house on College Street, built two years after they came to Amherst. Their home was described as "the life of the college world at Amherst."
Both Edward and Mary Judson Hitchcock are buried in Wildwood Cemetery in Amherst.
EDWARD"DOC" (AC 1849) HITCHCOCK
MARY JUDSON HITCHCOCK