Skip to main content

John Florin Downey papers

Identifier: 705

Scope and Content

A portion of the John Florin Downey collection consists of letters exchanged by Dean Downey and George E. Vincent at the time of the latter’s election to the presidency of the University. There is material on the growth and development of the school, and notes and speeches about University people, including Presidents Northrop and Folwell, Maria Sanford and Jabez Brooks. A collection of clippings describes the University at that time, the Civil War, Dean Downey's work in China, his lectures and Mrs. Downey's public activities.

The collection also contains 26 lectures and speeches by Dean Downey, several manuscripts dealing with his Civil War experiences and notebooks on a bicycle trip through the British Isles made by Dean and Mrs. Downey in 1901 and a first person account of observations of rocks and minerals during a trip to northern England, Scotland and Ireland during the summer of 1888. A later addition to the collection relates to the Downey’s travels through China and includes 37 glass slides which have been placed in the audio visual collection under collection number 705.


  • Creation: 1864-1936


Language of Materials


Use of Materials

Items in this collection do not circulate and may be used in-house only.


Requests for permission to quote from the John Florin Downey papers should be arranged with the University of Minnesota Archives head.

Biographical Sketch of John Florin Downey (1846-1939)

John Florin Downey was born on January 10, 1846 in Hiramsburg, Ohio. At the age of 18, he enlisted in the 11th Michigan Infantry to serve in the Civil War as a drummer-boy; serving until October 1895, earning the rank of Sergeant Major. He earned his B.S. degree in 1870 and M.S. in 1873 from Hillsdale College, Michigan. From 1873-1880, he was professor of mathematics at the State College of Pennsylvania (Penn State University). He joined the faculty at the University of Minnesota as professor of mathematics and astronomy in 1880 and was appointed as Dean of the College of Science, Literature, and the Arts in 1903, retiring in 1914. After his retirement from the University of Minnesota, Dean Downey taught at the University of Nanking (Jinling da xue) from 1916-1918 and at Peking University (Beijing da xue) in 1919 as professor of mathematics. Dean Downey passed away on April 28, 1939 at the age of 93.


2 boxes (0.50 linear feet)


Collection contains the papers of John Florin Downey, dean of the College of Science, Literature, and the Arts at the University of Minnesota.

Source of acquisition

The collection was given to University Archives on October 10, 1947 by Margaret E. Downey. A second donation was made on August 6, 1968.

John Florin Downey papers, 1864-1936
Archives Staff; updated by Karen Spilman
April 1960; February 2005
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Collecting Area Details

Contact The University Archives Collecting Area