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William Allen Edit Profile

Clergyman , College president

William Allen was an American biographer, scholar and academic.


Allen, William was born on January 2, 1784 in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, United States. Son of Review Thomas and Elizabeth (Lee) Allen.


He graduated from Harvard College in Cambridge in 1802 and after a few years of work became assistant librarian at Harvard. He became Pastor of Pittsfield 1810. President of Dartmouth University, 1817.

And President of Bowdoin College 1820-1839.


He was largely responsible for establishing the Medical School of Maine at Bowdoin College in 1820. He resigned in 1839. Died at Northampton in 1868. He prepared his American Biographical and Historical Dictionary (1809), the first work of general biography published in the United States.

In 1810 he succeeded his father as pastor of the Church in Pittsfield. He was chosen president of Dartmouth University in 1818 and remained until the Dartmouth College Case extinguished the institution in 1819. In 1820 he went to Bowdoin College, over which institution he presided until 1839, when he resigned and devoted himself to literary studies.

He collected 10,000 words not contained in standard dictionaries, and published them as a supplement to Webster's "Dictionary." He wrote "Junius Unmasked," in which he sought to prove that Lord Sackville was the author of the Junius letters (Boston, 1828). "Psalms and Hymns" (1835). "Memoirs of Dr. Eleazar Wheelock and of Dr. John Codman" (1853).

"A Discourse at the Close of the Second Century of the Settlement at Northampton, Massachusetts" (1854). "Wunnissoo, or the Vale of Housatonnuck," a poem (Boston, 1856). A Dudleian lecture at Cambridge.

A book of "Christian Sonnets" (Northampton, 1860). "Poems of Nazareth and the Cross" (1866). "Sacred Songs" (1867).

And numerous pamphlets, and contributed biographical articles to Sprague's "Annals of the American Pulpit." See his "Life, with Selections from his Correspondence" (Philadelphia, 1847).


  • He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1823.


[American Academy of Arts and Sciences]\r\nAllen was elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society in 1814.


Married Maria Wheelock, January 28, 1813, 8 children. Married second, Sarah Breed, December 2, 1831.

Review Thomas Allen

Elizabeth (Lee) Allen

Sarah Breed

Maria Wheelock