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Woodrow, Henry (DNB00)


WOODROW, HENRY (1823–1876), promoter of education in India, born at Norwich on 31 July 1823, was the son of Henry Woodrow, a solicitor in that city. On his mother's side he was descended from the family of Temple of Stowe. After four years' education at Eaton, near Norwich, he entered Rugby in February 1839. He was in the schoolhouse, and was one of the six boys who took supper with Dr. Arnold on the evening before his death. Many of the incidents of Woodrow's school life are recounted in ‘Tom Brown's School Days,’ though Judge Hughes has divided them among different characters. Among his friends were Edward Henry Stanley, fifteenth earl of Derby [q. v.], Sir Richard Temple, and Thomas Hughes. He was admitted to Caius College, Cambridge, on 8 April 1842, and was elected a scholar on 21 March 1843, graduating B.A. in 1846 as fourteenth wrangler and M.A. by royal mandate in 1849. In Michaelmas 1846 he was elected to a junior fellowship which he retained until 1854. In November 1848 he accepted the post of principal of the Martinière College at Calcutta, and in 1854 he was appointed secretary to the council of education, receiving also the charge of the government school book agency. The arrangements in vogue when he accepted office had long been recognised as unsatisfactory. The council was composed of members all of whom had regular official duties of other kinds, and most of the labour of administration fell upon the secretary. Under this system education in Bengal had been declining. The only government vernacular schools were those founded by Lord Hardinge [see Hardinge, Sir Henry, first Viscount], and these had dwindled from 101 to twenty-six. In 1855 a new system was introduced. A separate department, called ‘The Bengal Educational Service,’ was instituted whose sole duty was the management of government education. William Gordon Young was appointed first director of public instruction in Bengal, and Woodrow became inspector of schools in eastern Bengal. At the time of Woodrow's nomination he had only sixteen schools to inspect from Calcutta to Chittagong, among fifteen millions of inhabitants. He threw himself ardently into the work, and, not confining himself to his official duties, stimulated the interest of the natives by frequent lectures on physical science. In 1861 the number of schools had increased to eight hundred, and in 1876 it had risen to more than five thousand. On his first appointment he introduced the system of ‘circle schools,’ under which one superior teacher visited a group of village schools in turn. This plan, though now obsolete owing to the increased number of teachers, was very successful at the time in raising the standard of the elementary schools. Woodrow also introduced practical studies, such as surveying, into the curriculum, in order to demonstrate more forcibly the advantages of government teaching to the people, and on his visits of inspection he erected numerous sundials to supply the lack of clocks. In 1859 Lord Stanley, his former schoolfellow, who was then secretary of state for India, gave Woodrow high praise in his memorable despatch on education, quoting from several of his reports and testifying to the good effects of his system.

Woodrow continued his labours until thirteen years later, when Sir George Campbell, the lieutenant-governor, considering that government education was sufficiently well organised to dispense with a special department, replaced the administration of the schools in the hands of the collectors of districts by a resolution dated 30 Sept. 1872, restricting the educational department to the duties of teaching and reporting.

Although Woodrow did not regard the new system with favour, he accepted quietly the change in his position. In the following year he visited Europe, inspected the schools and colleges at Vienna, studied the Swiss schools at Zurich, and while in England acted as examiner in the government competition examinations under the civil service commissioners.

On his return to Calcutta in 1875 he endeavoured to induce the university of Calcutta to extend its curriculum in physical sciences and to curtail the study of metaphysics. In the same year he acted for a month as principal of the presidency college at Calcutta, but in September he was appointed to officiate as director of public instruction in Bengal, and he succeeded definitely to the post on the death of William Stephen Atkinson in January 1876. His appointment occasioned great satisfaction to the natives of Bengal, but his tenure of office was short. He died without issue at Dárjéling on 11 Oct. 1876. He married at Calcutta, on 18 Oct. 1854, Elizabeth, daughter of C. Butler, a surgeon of Brentwood in Essex. The natives of India raised 700l. to found a scholarship in Calcutta University and to erect a memorial bust of Woodrow. The bust was executed in marble by Edwin Roscoe Mullins and placed in the university of Calcutta. Another bust of him is in the library of Caius College, and a tablet was placed in Rugby school chapel in 1879 by a few of his friends and schoolfellows. In 1862 Woodrow extricated from the mass of records the minutes of Lord Macaulay when president of the council of education, and published them separately. For this he received the thanks of the governor-general, Lord Canning. He was the author of a pamphlet ‘On the Expediency of the Introduction of Tests for Physical Training into the present System of Competitive Examination for the Army, Navy, and Indian Civil Service,’ London, 1875 (cf. Daily News, 23 Jan. 1875).

[An Indian Career: Memoir of Henry Woodrow, 1878; Laurie's Distinguished Anglo-Indians, 2nd ser. pp. 137–85, 313–37; Rugby School Register, 1881, i. 206; Venn's Biogr. Hist. of Gonville and Caius College, 1898, ii. 257; Journal of the National Indian Association, 1877, pp. 14–17; Record, 23 April 1879.]

E. I. C.