Noah Webster, Jr. (October 16, 1758 – May 28, 1843) is widely known as the Father of America’s Scholarship and Education. He came of age during the time of the American Revolution. He was a strong supporter of the Constitutional Convention and dedicated his life to causes he believed would make a stronger nation.
Noah Webster believed in the developing cultural independence of the United States. He thought that a distinctive American language was important to the success of the union. His first effort to help with the unifying language was A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language, the first truly American dictionary, which he published in 1806. He then expanded that effort by learning 26 different languages, reflecting the languages of ethnic communities found in the United States, and in 1828 he published An American Dictionary of the English Language.
In addition to helping shape the language usage of early Americans, Noah Webster was an education reformer and the author of several textbooks. He believed in the importance that citizens in the various states would have the opportunity to learn and acquire a similar knowledge base, creating a competitive advantage for all.
While Webster published several successful textbooks, one of the most used was A Grammatical Institute of the English Language, otherwise known as the Blue Back Speller, in 1783. It became the staple for teaching children for well over a century and was central to the education of several generations of early Americans. Benjamin Franklin reportedly taught his granddaughter to read, spell, and pronounce words using "Old Blue Back”. This work by Webster is credited with helping to build “the most literate nation in the history of the West”.
Webster’s focus on education emphasized the fundamental pillars of learning and knowledge. In time, those pillars became widely known as the 3 Rs: reading, writing, and (a)rithmetic. The common understanding was that students who grasped these basic disciplines well would have the tools they needed to learn anything else required for their success in life.
Webster was also a pioneer in epidemiology, a newspaper editor, an early antislavery advocate, and a political activist.