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John A. Widtsoe


Scientist, author, educator, and administrator John Andreas Widtsoe served as the fourth president of the University of Utah. Widtsoe guided the university through the tumultuous time of World War I, when the U served as a military training camp, and the influenza epidemic of 1918-1919, when the university closed classes for several weeks.

The U continued its growth during Widtsoe’s tenure. New buildings were constructed for mathematics and the School of Medicine, which expanded to include pharmacy and nursing. The School of Commerce and Finance, a predecessor of the School of Business, was created during this time. Widtsoe wrote the laws and by-laws of the first University Constitution, which codified university regulations and stipulated academic freedom.

A native of Norway, Widtsoe immigrated to the United States as a child. He attended the now-defunct Brigham Young College in Logan, Utah, and earned a chemistry degree from Harvard University. He served as a professor of chemistry and president of the Utah Agricultural College (now Utah State University), as well as principal of the school of agriculture at Brigham Young University. His books on agriculture earned him international recognition. Widtsoe left the U in 1921 to serve as an apostle for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.