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Honored Founder

James E. Talmage

Every year during homecoming we honor a founder of BYU. This year we are honoring James E. Talmage, a Brigham Young Academy alumnus and professor, past member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and a powerful influence for good in the BYU community and around the world.

As part of this honor, James E. Talmage is the focus of this year's Brimhall Essay Contest. Students submit essays that incorporate the connection between James E. Talmage, the Homecoming theme "Unique in all the World," and their personal experiences. These essays and the founder will be honored at Homecoming Opening Ceremony on October 11th.

James E. Talmage Biography

The ever-curious and intelligent James Edward Talmage (1862–1933), was born in Hungerford, Berkshire, England to parents who had joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He emigrated to Utah Territory with his family and 10 siblings at age 13 and settled in Provo. He excelled in his studies and graduated at 17 from Karl G. Maeser's Brigham Young Academy, where he had also begun teaching. At 19 he completed his college degree in the sciences at BYA and headed east, studying geology and chemistry at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania and then doing advanced studies at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland. He later completed a PhD at Illinois Wesleyan University.

In 1884 Talmage returned to Brigham Young Academy as a professor of chemistry and geology and became Karl Maeser's counselor, a stand-in while Maeser was away, and a member of the Academy's board of trustees. He served the community as a youth speaker, Provo City Council member, justice of the peace, and alderman. In 1888 the First Presidency of the Church called him to lead the Salt Lake Stake Academy (renamed LDS College). That same year he married Merry May Booth, a teacher and daughter of English immigrants; together they had eight children.

In 1894 Talmage became president of the University of Utah. He continued to teach geology, pursue scientific research and science text publishing, be involved in British and American academic organizations, and do curatorial work for the Deseret Museum. In 1907 he left university teaching and began a mining consulting practice. He also began writing now-classic texts like Jesus the Christ and The Articles of Faith. He was called to be an apostle in 1911, served as president of the European Mission from 1924 to 1928, and died in 1933.