Naismith, James, 1861-1939

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James Naismith was born on November 6, 1861 in Almonte, Ontario, Canada to John Naismith and Margaret Young (b. 1833). He was orphaned in 1873 and raised by family members. Naismith began high school at Almonte High School in 1875, but left less than two years into his studies for four years. He returned to complete his high school equivalency in 1.5 years, graduating in 1883.

Naismith received his B.A. in Physical Education from McGill in 1883, where he was active in football, rugby, lacrosse and ground gymnastics. In 1887, he entered the Presbyterian College of Theology in Montreal, earning his religion degree in 1890. That same year he moved to attend Springfield College in Massachusetts. After completing his studies, Naismith accepted a position as professor at Springfield and remained at the college until 1895.

On June 2, 1894, James Naismith married Maude E. Sherman (d. 1937) from Springfield, Massachusetts. The couple would have five children: Margaret Mason (1895), Helen Carolyn (1897), John Edwin (1900), Maude Ann (1904) and James Sherman (1913).

In 1895, Naismith moved to Denver, Colorado to attend University of Colorado Medical School (Gross Medical College). He graduated with his M.D. in 1898.

Naismith joined the faculty of KU in 1898 as an associate professor, chapel director, and eventually became the University physician. He also coached the first KU basketball team. He retired in 1937 and died in 1939.

Naismith is famous for inventing the game of basketball in 1891 while he worked at the YMCA in Springfield, MA. He was a guest of honor at the first Olympics that basketball was played at in Berlin in 1936. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1959, which is named the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame in his honor.

From the guide to the Personal Papers of James Naismith, 1898-1979, (University of Kansas Kenneth Spencer Research Library University Archives)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Naismith, James, 1861-1939. [Personal papers of James Naismith] University of Kansas Archives / MSS / Rare Books, Kenneth Spencer Research Library
referencedIn James Naismith collection 1893-1962 1917-1961 Naismith, James collection William L. Clements Library
referencedIn Young Men's Christian Association of Greater New York. Photograph collection, [ca. 1870-1968] Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
referencedIn Autobiography: John M. Cooper, 1978 Indiana University, Bloomington. Center for the Study of History and Memory
referencedIn Photograph of Dr. James Naismith with His First Basketball Team National Archives at College Park
creatorOf Personal Papers of James Naismith, 1898-1979 University of Kansas Kenneth Spencer Research Library University Archives
creatorOf Ruby, J. Craig (James Craig), 1896-1980. Papers, 1926-1952. University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign
Role Title Holding Repository
Place Name Admin Code Country
Springfield (Mass.)


Birth 1861-11-06

Death 1939-11-28



Ark ID: w6zt3kng

SNAC ID: 84102229