Thomas Cooper Society

Thomas Knowledge is power   To a nation it is wealth   To individuals it is virtue  -  Thomas Cooper Cooper

Born in Westminster, England, and educated at Oxford University, Thomas Cooper (1759–1839) was a lawyer, scientist, and philosopher who identified himself with various radical causes. Emigrating to America in 1794 in hopes of finding political freedom, he settled in Northumberland, Pennsylvania, where he practiced law and medicine. By 1799 he had become well known through his pamphleteering as an opponent to the Sedition Act; in 1800, he was convicted under this legislation and served six months in prison.
A formally dressed Thomas Cooper in silhouette
Thomas Cooper

Upon his release, Cooper served as a county commissioner and a state judge in Pennsylvania but soon thereafter left politics and the judiciary to take up teaching. From 1811 to 1815, he was chair of chemistry at Carlisle (now Dickinson) College; from 1816 to 1819, he was a professor of applied chemistry and mineralogy at the University of Pennsylvania. Through the patronage of Thomas Jefferson, Cooper was elected to the faculty of the University of Virginia in 1819 but never assumed the position.

In 1820, Cooper became professor of chemistry at South Carolina College and was elected the institution's second president in the following year. As a member of the faculty, he taught not only in the sciences but also in the social sciences; his Lectures on the Elements of Political Economy (1826) was one of the pioneer university textbooks in the United States. Retiring from the presidency in 1834, he remained an active figure in state and federal political circles until his death on May 11, 1839. He was buried in Trinity Churchyard, Columbia.

The Thomas Cooper Society
The Thomas Cooper Society serves as a volunteer support organization for the University's Thomas Cooper Library, encouraging community interest in the Library and promoting a fuller understanding of its purpose, programs and potential. The Society fosters gifts, endowments, and memorials to the Thomas Cooper Library, enabling the library to acquire distinctive and valuable materials for students and scholars.
Opportunities for cultural enrichment are offered through a stimulating series of activities, including special dinner meetings, addresses by prominent individuals, exhibits of rare and important materials, and seminars and workshops on book-collecting and various aspects of the book arts. To encourage and reward the beginning collector, the Society sponsors an annual student book-collecting competition.

The Society publishes the Thomas Cooper Society Newsletter for members once each semester. Back issues are online on the Library Publications web site.

Membership in the Society
Member benefits include:

To help the Thomas Cooper Society fulfill its mission, please join the Society. Membership may be registered in one of two ways, either by joining the Ex Libris Society, where complementary membership in both the University South Caroliniana Society and the Thomas Cooper Society is a benefit, or by submitting the completed form below. For those joining the Thomas Cooper Society via the form, there are a number of membership levels for you to consider. After submitting the membership form, you will receive additional information and a bill for your desired membership category. Membership in the Society is valid for 12 months from the time of enrollment.

Funds not needed for the modest expenses of the Society are committed to the Thomas Cooper Library for the purchase of books, manuscripts, periodicals and other scholarly resources.


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Membership Levels
Individual, $35 Sustaining, $100 Collector, $300 Student, $20
Family, $55 Patron, $250 Life, $750    

More Information

To contact the Society: Thomas Cooper Society
Thomas Cooper Library
University of South Carolina
Columbia, SC 29208
Columbia Departments Campus Libraries
Columbia Libraries and Collections