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Noah Knowles Davis, LL.D.
Baptist Educator

      Noah Knowles Davis, LL.D., son of Noah and Mary Young Davis, was born in Philadelphia, Pa. May 15, 1830. His father died when he was yet an infant. His mother married Rev. John L. Dagg, at that time a pastor in the city, and the family shortly afterwards removed to Tuscaloosa, Ala. In 1843, Dr. Dagg became president of Mercer University, then located at Penfield, Ga. Here young Davis was baptized, and in 1849 graduated with high honor. He then spent several years in his native city in the study of chemistry, supporting himself by teaching, by service in an architect's office, and by editing two books, the "Model Architect" and the "Carpenter's Guide." In 1852 he was appointed to the chair of Natural Science in Howard College, Marion, Ala. In 1859 he became principal of the Judson Female Institute, at the same place, which, under his management, attained its highest success, having during the six years of his presidency an average annual attendance of 225 pupils. In 1868 he was elected president of Bethel College, Russellville, Ky. He reorganized this institution, enlarged its curriculum, raised the standard of scholarship, and thus placed the college on a level with other similar institutions in the country. In his position as president of Bethel College he had an opportunity to give special attention to metaphysical studies, for which he always entertained a preference. In 1873 he was elected to the chair of Moral Science in the University of Virginia, recently made vacant by the death of W. H. McGuffey, D.D., LL.D., who had long filled it with distinguished success. This high position be still holds. Asa teacher he is enthusiastic and thorough, and has made his course of instruction second to that in no institution of America. He is a clear and forcible, but not a prolific, writer.

      Besides articles in reviews, he published in 1880 (by Harper & Bros.) "The Theory of Thought, a Treatise on Deductive Logic." This work, while based on the writings of Aristotle, and aiming to reproduce his logical system, is yet both original and profound. Every principle enumerated is verified by the author's own processes: he has only followed Aristotle as he followed the laws of thought. It is not too much to say that he has produced by far the most acute, original, and satisfactory treatise on logic ever written in this country, and that his book deserves a place among the best on the subject in the English language. Space will not allow even a bare statement of the many excellencies of this admirable work. From the studies he has pursued and the positions he has filled, it may easily be inferred that Dr. Davis is a man of varied and high attainments. While not disposed to seek society, he is of a genial and social disposition, conversing readily and well on a great variety of subjects. His religious convictions are strong, and his piety deep, genuine, and unobtrusive. During the sessions of the university he lectures on Sunday afternoons on select portions of the Bible, and his lectures are largely attended by professors, students, and others. His presence in the Associational meetings of his denomination is always welcome; and his addresses on public occasions are heard with attention and profit. His own words, in a letter to a friend, will best indicate his spirit, and close this sketch: "A homeless wanderer and sojourner, yet ever abundantly blessed by a kind Providence all through an ill-spent life, grant me, my Master, to serve thee better in the few years or days that are left."


[From William Cathcart, The Baptist Encyclopedia, 1881, republished in 1988, p. 315. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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