About Josiah Willard Gibbs, Sr.
Josiah Willard Gibbs, Sr. (30 April 1790 – 24 March 1861) was a professor of theology and sacred literature at Yale University.
He was born in Salem, Massachusetts and graduated from Yale in 1809. He was a tutor at the college from 1811 to 1815, when he removed to Andover, studying Hebrew and biblical literature. He returned to New Haven in 1824 as professor of theology and sacred literature, a post he retained until his death.
Gibbs was one of the key witnesses in the Amistad trial in 1839 – 1840. He had been able to locate a translator for the defendants' Mende language by learning to count to ten in that language, and then counting out loud in the harbor of New York City until he located a sailor, James Covey, who was from West Africa and was able to understand and translate.
Gibbs was the father of physical chemist, engineer, and mathematician Josiah Willard Gibbs. Both are buried in New Haven's Grove Street Cemetery.
He was portrayed by Austin Pendleton in the 1997 film Amistad.