Andrew Dickson White (November 7, 1832 – November 4, 1918) was an American historian and educator, who was the cofounder of Cornell University and served as its first president for nearly two decades. He was known for expanding the scope of college curricula. A politician, he had served as state senator in New York. He was later appointed as a US diplomat to Germany and Russia, among other responsibilities.
In October 1858, White accepted a position as a Professor of History and English literature at the University of Michigan, where he remained on faculty until 1863. White made his lasting mark on the grounds of the university by enrolling students to plant elms along the walkways on The Diag. Between 1862 and 1863, he traveled to Europe to lobby France and England to assist the United States in the American Civil War or at least not come to the aid of the Confederate States.
While at Cornell, in 1871, he took leave to serve as a Commissioner to Santo Domingo, along with Benjamin Wade and Samuel Howe, at the request of President Grant in order to determine the feasibility of a United States annexation of the Dominican Republic. Their report (available here) supported the annexation, but Grant was unable to gain sufficient political support to take further action.
Later, White was appointed as the US Ambassador to Germany (1879–1881). After returning to the United States, he was elected as the first president of the American Historical Association (1884–1886). Upstate New York Republicans nominated him for governor in 1876 and for Congress in 1886, but he did not win either primary.
Following his resignation in 1885 as Cornell's president, White served as Minister to Russia (1892–1894), President of the American delegation to The Hague Peace Conference (1899), and again as Ambassador to Germany (1897–1902). In 1904, White published his Autobiography, which he had written during a period of time relaxing in Italy following his retirement from the Department of State with the change in administrations. Cornell's third president, Jacob Gould Schurman, was appointed as ambassador to Germany from 1925 to 1929.
At the onset of World War I, White supported the German cause within Europe, because he had strong professional and emotional ties to Germany. By the summer of 1915, he retreated from this position, refraining from offering any support, either publicly or privately. In the fall of 1916, President Woodrow Wilson appointed White to a peace commission to prepare a treaty with China. As of December 1916, White had reduced some of his obligations, resigning from the Smithsonian Board of Regents and the trustees of the Carnegie Institution.
While serving in Russia, White made the acquaintance of author Leo Tolstoy. Tolstoy's fascination with Mormonism sparked a similar interest in White, who had previously regarded the Latter-Day Saints (LDS) as a dangerous cult. Upon his return to the United States, White took advantage of Cornell's proximity to the religion's birthplace in Palmyra to amass a collection of LDS memorabilia (including many original copies of the Book of Mormon); it is unmatched by any other institution outside the church itself and its flagship Brigham Young University.
He was known for expanding the scope of college curricula. A politician, he had served as state senator in New York. He was later appointed as a US diplomat to Germany and Russia, among other responsibilities.
The bibliography of Andrew Dickson White spans his career from 1852, during his junior year at Yale University, through his death in 1918. The primary topics of his works were related to social sciences such as history, government, economics, and international relations. Secondary topics included architecture and educational theory.