1832–1918, American educator and diplomat, b. Homer, N.Y., briefly attended Geneva (now Hobart) College, grad. Yale, 1853. He studied in France and Germany, served (1854–55) as attaché in St. Petersburg, and toured Europe. While teaching history (1857–63) at the Univ. of Michigan, he developed the idea of a university detached from all sects and parties and free to pursue truth without deference to dogma. After his father died (1860) he returned (1863) to New York a comparatively rich man. He sat (1864–67) in the New York state senate and was chairman of the education committee, which dealt with the founding of a land-grant college. With the financial aid of a fellow senator, Ezra Cornell, the land grant was made available for the institution that became Cornell Univ. White, as first president (1867–85), expanded the institution to teach not only agriculture and mechanical arts but also other fields of knowledge. He was one of the first educators to use the system of free elective studies. As Cornell was nonsectarian, the charge of "godlessness" was made against it. White, a practicing Episcopalian, maintained that freedom was beneficial to religion and wrote his History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (1896) and Seven Great Statesmen in the Warfare of Humanity with Unreason (1910) to develop his concept of free inquiry. Later White was minister to Germany (1879–81) and to Russia (1892–94). He was also ambassador to Germany (1897–1902) and was chairman of the American delegation to the First Hague Conference (1899). He persuaded Andrew Carnegie to build the Palace of Justice to house the Hague Tribunal.
- See his autobiography (1905);.
- study by W. P. Rogers (1942).