Co-founder of Rensselaer
Polytechnic Institute (RPI)
Amos Eaton was we might call “a Renaissance man.” He was a published and widely recognized botanist and a pioneer in the field of geology. Many of his students went on to become State Geologists all over America during the 1800’s. But most importantly, he was an early educator who believed that the traditional humanities education, with its emphasis on studying Greek and Latin, was useless for educating the engineers, scientists and farmers of his time, who needed a practical, hands-on education. With Stephen Van Rensselaer, who provided the money, he founded the Rensselaer Institute, which became Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, or RPI. This was the first higher education school of science and technology in the English-speaking world.
Believing that females should have the same education as men, Eaton taught a group of female students the same curriculum, separated from men, as an experiment. The females did well and the experiment was successful, but the trustees of the school discontinued the experiment. Eaton had a lively correspondence with another famous Oakwood resident, Emma Willard, and taught some of her students. Their correspondence is preserved in the RPI archives