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John Lathrop was elected the first chancellor of the University of Wisconsin in September 1849 and was inaugurated on January 16, 1850. John Hiram Lathrop was born in Sherburne, New York on January 22, 1799. He spent two years at Hamilton College then went to Yale where he received his undergraduate degree in 1819.
Lathrop came to Wisconsin from the University of Missouri where he had served as the first president since 1841. Lathrop was responsible for establishing the academic setting at Wisconsin, and he recommended the university’s seal with the words “Numen Lumen.” The regents and the legislature, however, were critical of the university’s record of low scholarship and lack of practical training.
On July 27, 1858, Lathrop resigned and became a professor of moral philosophy, ethics and political science. He remained as acting chancellor, however, until Henry Barnard’s arrival in mid 1859. In August of that year, he accepted the presidency of Indiana University, where he stayed for only one year before returning to Missouri as a law professor.
In 1865 he again was elected president of the University of Missouri and remained in that office until his death on August 2, 1866.