Nathaniel Fish Moore
Nathaniel Fish Moore (1782-1872)
Nathaniel Fish Moore was born in Newtown, Long Island, on December 25, 1782. The nephew of former Columbia president Benjamin Moore, he received an AB in 1802 and an MA in 1805 from Columbia College. He was admitted to the New York bar in 1805 and served as a lawyer. Moore returned to Columbia as an adjunct professor, teaching Greek and Latin to the freshman class in 1817. He was eventually named professor in 1820 and received an honorary doctorate (LLD) in 1825. Moore continued teaching until 1835, when he resigned in order to travel abroad. After two years in France, Italy, Switzerland and England, he sold to the Trustees a book collection focused on the Classics but which included works in philology, theology and Italian. He was appointed Librarian of the College, the first to hold that position on a full-time basis. Moore spent the next two years cataloguing and reorganizing the library, and creating a catalog that remained in use for the next 30 years.
After another three years abroad, this time reaching Greece, Egypt and the Middle East, Moore returned once again when he was elected Columbia's eighth President in 1842. He found administrative work uninteresting, and having private means, resigned in 1849. His administration was for the most part uneventful, marked only by the continuing struggle for money, the first endowed professorship, which was also the first appointment in German, and the establishment of the first Greek Letter fraternities. He continued to serve as a Trustee until 1851 when he retired, explaining to the Board that he would again be traveling abroad. It was during his visit to the 1851 Great Exhibition in London, that Moore is said to have become interested in the nascent art of photography.
Moore spent the remainder of his life pursuing his scholarly interests as well as becoming an enthusiastic amateur photographer. In 1924 Mrs. S.C. Jones donated Moore’s self-portrait seen here (made with the aid of string) and three other prints to the Columbiana collection. She recalled that Moore was so devoted to photography “that he frequently came to dinner wearing cotton gloves, because his hands were so stained with photographic chemicals.” Moore lived to be almost 90 years old and died at the family home in the Highlands of the Hudson in 1872.