George Arthur Plimpton

Deceased Person

1855 – 1936

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Who was George Arthur Plimpton?

George Arthur Plimpton was an American publisher and philanthropist.

Plimpton was born in Walpole, Massachusetts, the son and grandson of iron manufacturers. He graduated from the Phillips Exeter Academy in 1873 and Amherst College in 1876. He attended Harvard Law School for a year before joining the publishing firm of Ginn, Heath & Co., a publisher of educational textbooks later known as Ginn & Co., which he would eventually head.

Plimpton was an avid collector of historical books and manuscripts, focusing on the history of education. Shortly before his death in 1936, Plimpton donated numerous items to Columbia University's Butler Library, including 317 medieval and Renaissance manuscripts that made Columbia's collection in that area one of the most significant in the country. One of his donations, Plimpton 322, is a Babylonian clay tablet from around 1800 BCE purchased from antiquarian Edgar James Banks. It consists of a table of cuneiform numbers, specifically Pythagorean triples. Described as "one of the world's most famous mathematical artifacts", it may have been a set of solutions for mathematics students. Other donated items included:

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Jul 13, 1855
  • Harvard Law School
  • Amherst College
  • Phillips Exeter Academy
Jul 1, 1936

on July 23, 2013


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