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Special Report: Nicholas Murray Butler

Video: Real Video (3:31)
Nicholas Miraculous: The Amazing Career for the Redoubtable Dr. Nicholas Murray Butler.

Nicholas Murray Butler served as Columbia's president for more than four decades (1902–1945). A human dynamo, he not only made Columbia into the major research institution it is today but also won the Nobel Prize (for his promotion of the Briand Kellogg Pact renunciating war as a tool of foreign policy), ran for the Republican nomination for U.S . President, and served as president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (1925-1945). Referring to his vast accumulation of honorary degrees and medals, one newspaper described him as "the most lavishly decorated member of the human race."

Today, however, this force of human nature -- whom Teddy Roosevelt nicknamed "Nicholas Miraculous" -- has largely been forgotten. Even at Columbia, reminders of Butler are surprisingly few. There is of course the imposing Butler Library -- but how many students who study there every day know anything about its namesake? And the Butler Medals continue to be awarded for contributions to education and philosophy.

But now a new work by Columbia professor Michael Rosenthal looks set to change all that. Rosenthal, who is the Roberta and William Campbell Professor of the Humanities, spent 12 years wading through hundreds of boxes of Butler's personal papers and other materials to produce the first-ever biography of Columbia's 12 th president: Nicholas Miraculous: The Amazing Career for the Redoubtable Dr. Nicholas Murray Butler (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), which hit the shelves Jan. 10. Rosenthal will offer a discussion of the biography and book-signing on Thursday, Feb. 2, at 6 p.m. in the Faculty Room of Low Library. For more information on this event, visit http://www.columbia.edu/cu/lweb/news/exhibitions/2006/2006-01-18.butler.html.

In anticipation of a revival of interest in Butler in the wake of Rosenthal's book, we offer the following:

Published: Jan 30, 2006
Last modified: Jan 30, 2006