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date: 10 July 2020

Dewey, Melvillocked

(10 December 1851–26 December 1931)
  • Wayne A. Wiegand


Dewey, Melvil (10 December 1851–26 December 1931), educational reformer and librarian, was born in Adams Center, New York, the son of Joel Dewey, a general store owner, and Eliza Greene. As a child, Dewey adopted his parents’ strict Republican and Baptist values and by the age of fifteen had defined his larger “destiny” as a “reformer” for the masses. In 1869 his family moved to Oneida, New York, where Dewey attended a local Baptist seminary. The following year he enrolled at Amherst College, where he began working in the college library in 1872. Perceiving a potential for libraries to educate the masses, he thereafter committed his life to improving librarianship. To that interest he added others like spelling and metric reform, all of which were aimed at saving time and eliminating waste. He once calculated that if children learned a simplified phonetic form of spelling and the metric system of weights and measures used by most of the rest of the world, educators could save students at least two years’ time that could be better spent reading good books....

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