ONE of the most accomplished scholars and educators of our city and country is Dr. David Murray. Born in Bovina, Delaware County, N. Y., on the 15th of October, 1830, his earliest years were spent amidst the grand, rugged, picturesque scenery of his native place. He is of Scottish descent, his parents being William Murray and Jean (Black) Murray, natives of Ecclefechan, Scotland. In 1818 they emigrated to the United States of America. Possessing the sterling qualities of true, intelligent Scotch people, and impressed with the great value of education in its broadest sense, both moral and intellectual, they determined to give their children all the advantages of an education which lay in their power. Accordingly David, the subject of our sketch, was sent at a very early age to the district school of his rural home, and at the age of twelve we find him in the academy at Delhi, pursuing his studies with increasing interest and delight. He left this academy to engage in a brief business career, which was not so congenial to him as the calmer walks of science and literature. At the Fergusonville academy he was prepared for a collegiate course; and in 1849, at the age of nineteen, he entered the sophomore class of Union college, then in the days of its great prosperity and popularity under the presidency of Dr. Nott, when students from all parts of the United States were attracted to its justly renowned halls. And here during three years young Murray was a most careful and devoted student, pursuing his college curriculum with the greatest pleasure, and laying the foundation of his future usefulness and eminence as an educator.
In 1852 he graduated from Union college. Among his classmates were Silas B. Brownell, now a lawyer in New York city; Dr. T. P. Seeley, now of Chicago; Allen Wright, formerly governor of the Choctaw nation; Dr. James Demarest, and others who have become prominent in church or state. After graduating, Mr. Murray’s superior intellectual qualifications were not long to remain unrecognized. He received an invitation from the trustees of the Albany academy to become one of its teachers. Accepting the proposition, he entered at once upon the work of teaching mathematics and natural philosophy in the year 1853. For the laborious duties of this professorship he was admirably qualified, for he inherited the well-known traits of the educated Scotchman, excelling principally in the knowledge of mathematics, philosophy and logic. His career as a professor in the Albany academy was so highly successful that in 1857 he became its principal. In this position he succeeded the Rev. Dr. William A. Miller, who, as professor of languages, took the place of Dr. Peter Bullions, a man whose scholarly attainments and rare Christian virtues will not soon be forgotten.
Mr. Murray was principal of the Albany academy during a period of six years. Under his principalship the academy attained a degree of prosperity which has never been surpassed, and many young men received the training which fitted them to enter upon careers of great usefulness and prominence.
In 1863 Mr. Murray was chosen professor of mathematics and astronomy in Rutgers college, New Jersey, where a still wider field for his varied knowledge was afforded. He entered upon the duties of his new professorship with great earnestness, and his reputation as a successful teacher and educational organizer was speedily recognized.
It was while a professor at Rutgers college, where many of the Japanese students were receiving their education, that Mr. Murray became deeply interested in the education of Japan. At this time he prepared an able paper on this subject, for the volume of Japanese education which Mr. Mori, the acting minister from that country, had published by the Messrs. Appleton of New York This paper excited so much interest that Dr. Murray was called into consultation by the members of the embassy sent from Japan to investigate the governments of western nations. His views on education met with such approval from the members of the embassy that he was invited to accept the position of educational adviser to the Japanese government. He accepted the mission, and sailed for Japan in the spring of 1873. There he devoted himself to the work of organizing a national system of education. Highly appreciating his services in this department, the Japanese government sent him to the Philadelphia centennial exhibition in 1876, to attend to its educational interests. And here, in connection with the Japanese officials, he made extensive collections of materials for the museums of that country. Returning to Japan in the autumn of 1876, he continued in the service of the government until the winter of 1879. And on the resignation of his position at that time, he was honored with every testimonial of respect that the government could bestow, the emperor conferring on him the decoration of the Rising Sun. On his return to the United States, he was, in 1880, chosen secretary of the board of regents of the University of the State of New York. This board in the state of New York has charge of the academies and colleges and also is entrusted with the care of the state library and the state museum. The multiform duties of this position he performed with signal ability and success. He continued to hold it till the winter of 1888-9, when he resigned.
Dr. Murray published a “Manual of Land Surveying,” while in Rutgers College. He also prepared the interesting volume on Japanese education for the Philadelphia exhibition. He took an active part in laying before congress the facts in regard to the Japanese indemnity, which was ultimately returned. In 1881 and 1882 he contributed a large portion of the material on education to the third volume of the “Public Service of the State of New York.” Dr. Murray has also written and published various papers and addresses on educational subjects. In 1863 he received the honorary degree of doctor of philosophy from the regents of the state of New York. In 1873 the degree of doctor of laws was conferred upon him by Rutgers college, as was also the same degree by Union college in 1874.
For his supreme devotion to literature, science, and the fine arts, his faithful and unremitting labors in promoting the cause of higher education, his fine scholarship and rare executive abilities, his genial personal manners and strict integrity. Dr. David Murray is highly respected and honored, not only by Albanians, but by the country at large.
Dr. Murray is a brother of the late Judge Murray, of Delhi, who was so widely known for his fine legal attainments and noble qualities of the head and heart. In 1867 Dr. Murray married Miss Martha Neilson of New York city.