Penn People

William Thomas Martin

1738 - 1754

Penn Connection

  • Member of College Class of 1757 (non-graduate)

William Thomas Martin was the second son of Josiah Martin (1699-1778), appointed a member of Antigua’s royal council in 1735. After the elder Josiah Martin served as president of this council from 1748 to 1750, he moved his family to Rock Hall on Long Island, where he served on New York’s royal council and as a member of the first board of trustees of King’s College (now Columbia University) in 1754.

In Long Island, William Thomas Martin and other children in the family were educated by William Smith who had come to New York with the Martin family in 1751. William Thomas and his brother Josiah Martin were enrolled as students in the Academy of Philadelphia in 1753, shortly before Smith became a professor and then provost of the new College of Philadelphia (now the University of Pennsylvania).

William Thomas Martin was an anatomy scholar at the Academy in 1753, and entered the College on May 25, 1754, as a member of its first class, the Class of 1757. Provost Smith described him as a “truly promising youth.”

While a sixteen-year old student in the College, William Thomas Martin died on August 28, 1754, from a sudden severe illness. To commemorate his death, fellow students and friends — Hopkinson, Magaw, Duché, Barton, and Jackson — wrote emotional verses in his memory.

Provost Smith preached a sermon entitled “On the Death of a Pupil” in Christ Church, Philadelphia. When Smith spoke of the esteem of the young man’s instructors, he referred to himself in particular “in whose Bosom he had long grown up.” The provost described his departed student as a “truly promising youth” characterized by “glowing Health, Strength, Beauty and Gracefulness of Person…a Genius excellent by Nature, and carefully adorn’d by all the Aids of a liberal Education.”