Francis Andrew March (1825 - 1911)

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About Francis Andrew March

Francis Andrew March (October 25, 1825 – September 9, 1911) was an American polymath, academic, philologist, and lexicographer. He is considered the principal founder of modern comparative linguistics in Anglo-Saxon.

March applied the methods of studying the Latin and Greek classics towards the study of English literature, and led the way for the first scientific study of the English language.

March was born in Millbury, Massachusetts. He graduated from Amherst College in 1845, and received a M.A. degree from Amherst in 1848. After studying law and teaching for three years, he became instructor at Lafayette College. March occupied the chair of English language and comparative philology at Lafayette College, in Easton, Pennsylvania, from 1857 to 1907. It was the first post of its kind. March was one of the first professors to advocate and teach English in colleges and universities.

In addition to English, March also taught French, German, Greek, Latin, botany, "mental philosophy", political economy, the Constitution, and law.

He also served as president of the American Philological Association (1873–1874; 1895–1896), the Spelling Reform Association (after 1876), and the Modern Language Association (1891–1893).

March was the first American superintendent over the volunteer reading program of the Oxford English Dictionary, thus providing valuable support to James Murray in the compilation of this monumental work.


A Comparative Grammar of the Anglo-Saxon Language (1870) (reprinted, 1977). Based on ten years of intensive research, the work examines the relationship of Anglo-Saxon to Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, and five Germanic languages.

Method of Philological Study of the English Language (1865)

Latin Hymns with English Notes (1874)

An Anglo-Saxon Reader (1882)

The Spelling Reform (1893), a contribution to the reform of English orthography.

Edited Works

March served as editor of the Douglass Series of Christian Greek and Latin Writers, to which he contributed Latin Hymns.

With his son Francis Andrew March (1863–1928), he edited A Thesaurus Dictionary of the English Language (1903; 2nd ed., 1980).

Death and legacy[edit]

March was the father of General Peyton Conway March, aid to Gen. MacArthur in the Spanish-American War and Army Chief of Staff from May 20, 1918 – June 30, 1921.

March died at Easton, Pennsylvania. A chaired professorship now exists at Lafayette College to honor his achievements in the field of English.

Francis A. March Elementary School, near the Lafayette Campus, is named in his honor.

March Field, on the Lafayette College Campus, is named in honor of his son, Francis Andrew March, Jr.

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