Wigmore, John Henry (1863–1943)

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John Henry Wigmore was perhaps the foremost American legal scholar and educator of the twentieth century. A professor of law at Northwestern University Law School for fifty years (1893–1943), nearly thirty of them as its dean (1901–1929), Wigmore played the leading role in developing it into one of the nation's leading law schools. Wigmore also helped to found numerous professional and academic organizations, among them the American Institute of Law and Criminology (1909) and the American Bar Association's Sections on Criminal Law (1920) and on International and Comparative Law (1934).

Wigmore wrote an extraordinary number of books and articles on almost every field of the law, but his most significant works focused on evidence, criminal law and criminology, and international and comparative law. His great Treatise on Evidence (1904; third ed., 1940; subsequently revised by others) established itself as the dominant work in its field and was acclaimed as the greatest treatise on any single subject of the law. Although some critics objected to the Treatise 's introduction of new terms, its length and elaborate organization, and its occasional divergence from the current state of the law, most scholars welcomed it as the most systematic overview of its subject, and it had great influence on many states' revisions of their rules of evidence and on the Federal Rules of Evidence (1969–1975). Wigmore's other major works on evidence were his Pocket Code of Evidence (1910; third ed., 1942) and his Principles of Judicial Proof (1913, third ed., 1937). His other books include A Panorama of the World's Legal Systems (1928; second ed., 1936), A Kaleidoscope of Justice (1941), Problems of Law: Its Past, Present and Future (1920), and casebooks on evidence (1906; third ed., 1932) and on torts (1910–1912).

Richard B. Bernstein


Roalfe, William R. 1977 John Henry Wigmore: Scholar and Reformer. Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press.