Henry Barnard (1811-1900), American educationalist, was born in Hartford, Connecticut, on the 24th of January 1811. He graduated at Yale in 1830, and in 1835 was admitted to the Connecticut bar. In 1837—1839 he was a member of the Connecticut legislature, effecting in 1838 the passage of a bill, framed and introduced by himself, which provided for “the better supervision of the common schools“ and established a board of “commissioners of common schools” in the state. Of this board he was the secretary from 1838 till its abolition in 1842, and during this time worked indefatigably to reorganize and reform the common school system of the state, thus earning a national reputation as an educational reformer.
In 1843 he was appointed by the governor of Rhode Island agent to examine the public schools of the state, and recommended improvements; and his work resulted in the reorganization of the school system two years later. From 1845 to 1849 he was the first commissioner of public schools in the state, and his administration was marked by a decided step in educational progress. Returning to Connecticut, he was, from 1851 to 1855, “superintendent of common schools,” and principal of the State Normal School at New Britain, Connecticut.
From 1859 to 1860 he was chancellor of the University of Wisconsin and agent of the board of regents of the normal school fund; in 1866 he was president of St. John's College, Annapolis, Maryland; and from 1867 to 1870 he was the first United States commissioner of education, and in this position he laid the foundation for the subsequent work of the Bureau of Education. His chief service to the cause of education, however, was rendered as the editor, from 1855 to 1881, of the American Journal of Education, the thirty-one volumes of which are a veritable encyclopaedia of education, one of the most valuable compendiums of information on the subject ever brought together through the agency of any one man. He also edited from 1838 to 1842, and again from 1851 to 1854, the Connecticut Common School Journal, and from 1846 to 1849 the Journal of the Rhode Island Institute of Instruction. He died at Hartford, Connecticut, on the 5th of July 1900. Among American educational reformers, Barnard is entitled to rank next to Horace Mann of Massachusetts.