Skip to main content

Isaac W. Jackson collection

 Collection — Box: 2, Folder: 7
Identifier: SCA-1121

Content Description

The collection consists of gardening notebooks, personal diaries, and an account ledger kept by Issac W. Jackson while working as Professor of Mathematics at Union College. Supplemental records include Jackson Family genealogical information, writings, published materials, letters from students, two photographs and an obituary.


  • 1832 - 1878


Biographical / Historical

Isaac Wilbur Jackson (1804-1877) was a Union College graduate and Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy from 1831-1877. A native of Cornwall, Orange County, New York, he was the second son of William and Phebe Townsend Jackson. The family were Quakers. Following his father's death, Isaac was sent to live with relatives in Albany, where he graduated with honors from the Albany Academy in 1824. Entering Union College as a junior, Jackson graduated in two years, with first honors in mathematics and chemistry. As soon as Jackson graduated, the College retained him as a tutor. In 1829 he married Elizabeth Pomeroy. In 1831, Jackson was appointed Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy, and it was probably in that year that his family moved into the north faculty apartment of North College, where they would live until his death. His gardening hobby, which later grew into a major avocation, was first undertaken at the suggestion of President Nott as therapy for bouts of anxiety and depression. It became "the delight and solace of his life" according to his diary. In addition to Mathematics, he also taught optics, mechanics, electricity and magnetism, acoustics and astronomy. He was the first generation of college professors to devote themselves entirely to the teaching of science and mathematics, without the demands of other responsibilities, such as medicine and ministry. Many years before there were graduate schools for advanced study in science, Jackson and his contemporaries read European texts and journals, mastered new material neglected in American colleges, and then passed it on to their students. Jackson began his garden in the triangular plot immediately north of his house, where the Yulman Theatre now stands, and where previous occupants of the house, beginning with Thomas McAuley, had raised vegetables. Relocating the vegetable plot to the rear, Jackson replaced it with flowers and shrubs, graveled paths, and oval, circular and triangular beds, including lilies, and roses. He also planted abundant lilacs and other shrubs. By 1832 he had begun to clear and cultivate the overgrown lower area where the garden now lies, and to plant it with vegetables, shrubs and flowers. There were few American landscape gardens in those days, and Jackson’s creation was soon drawing such visitors as John James Audubon. Jackson exchanged seeds with other botanists, including the English novelist Maria Edgeworth, and eventually, as some of his former pupils became missionaries in distant countries, he received and planted many gifts of seeds and specimens from around the world. It has remained one of Union College’s greatest attraction to visitors.


0.89 Cubic Feet

2 Boxes

1 Folder

Language of Materials



The Isaac W. Jackson Collection measures .89 cubic feet and span the years 1832-1878. The collection consists of diaries, notebooks, an account ledger, genealogical information, writings, newspaper clipping, and printed materials detailing the life and career of Issac W. Jackson at Union College.


The collection is arranged alphabetically and chronologically thereafter.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by the Jackson Estate.

Isaac W. Jackson collection
Matthew Golebiewski
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and Archives Repository

Union College
807 Union Street
Schenectady NY 12308 United States