Alexander Winchell

Alexander Winchell

Alexander Winchell
Born December 31, 1824 (1824-12-31)
North East, New York
Died Did not recognize date. Try slightly modifying the date in the first parameter. (aged 66)
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Nationality American
Occupation Geologist, author
Known for Adamites and Preadamites: or, A Popular Discussion (1878), Pre-Adamite hypothesis

Alexander Winchell (December 31, 1824, North East, New York - February 19, 1891, Ann Arbor, Michigan)[1] was a United States geologist, who contributed to this field mainly as an educator, and a popular lecturer and author. His views on evolution aroused controversy among his contemporaries; today the racism of these views is more cause for comment.


  • Biography 1
    • Education 1.1
    • Early career 1.2
    • Michigan 1.3
    • Syracuse University 1.4
    • Late career and controversy 1.5
  • Works 2
  • References 3



Winchell graduated from the Wesleyan University of Middletown, Connecticut, in 1847.

Early career

He then taught at Pennington Male Seminary of New Jersey, Amenia Seminary of New York (where he had previously been a student), an academy in Newbern, Alabama, and the Mesopotamia Female Seminary of Eutaw, the last of which was founded by him. He became president of the Masonic University at Selma, Alabama, in 1853.


In 1854 Winchell entered the service of the University of Michigan as professor of physics and civil engineering. Eventually he became professor of geology and paleontology at Michigan.[2][3]

In 1859, Winchell was appointed as State Geologist of Michigan for the newly formed second geological survey of the state. He held the post until 1863 when the state did not appropriate funding to continue the survey. The survey was resumed in 1869, and Winchell was reappointed in April. Owing to conflicting opinions between Winchell and his superiors, he resigned in 1871.[4]

He stayed at Michigan until 1872.[5]

Syracuse University

In 1872, he was appointed chancellor of Syracuse University. The depression of 1873 affected both his personal finances and those of Syracuse, and these troubles led him to resign this position in 1874.

Late career and controversy

The year 1875 found him a professor of geology and zoology at Vanderbilt University.[5] There, his views on evolution, as expressed in his book Adamites and Preadamites: or, A Popular Discussion (1878), were not acceptable to the University administration because they diverged from Biblical teaching. Today the views on the "inferiority of the Negro" (quote from his 1878 book) would probably have been the focus of controversy.[6] In any case, he was obligated to resign in 1878.

He then returned to the University of Michigan, where he was professor of geology and paleontology.[5]

His work in geology was not so significant as his teaching and popular lectures and writing in this field. He was much concerned with reconciling science and religion.[2]


  • Sketches of Creation
  • The Doctrine of Evolution
  • The Geology of the Stars
  • Reconciliation of Science and Religion
  • Pre-Adamites
  • Sparks from a Geologist's Hammer
  • World-Life: a Comparative Geology
  • Geological Excursions
  • Geological Studies
  • Proof of Negro inferiority[7]


  1. ^ "Sketch of Alexander Winchell". The Popular science monthly 41: 837. 1892. 
  2. ^ a b George P. Merrill (1936). "Winchell, Alexander".  
  3. ^  
  4. ^ Segall, R. Thomas (1980s). "A Brief History of the Michigan Geological Survey". Michigan Geological Survey, Department of Natural Resources. p. 2. Archived from the original on November 30, 2012. 
  5. ^ a b c "Chancellors Papers: Alexander Winchell". Syracuse University Archives. Retrieved May 29, 2013. 
  6. ^ Michon Scott (2011). "Rocky Road: Alexander Winchell". Retrieved May 29, 2013. 
  7. ^ "Proof of Negro inferiority". OCLC Classify. Retrieved May 29, 2013.