Ewing, John

Other names: Reverend Doctor
Birth: June 22, 1732 in Nottingham, Cecil County, Maryland
Death: September 9, 1802 in Philadelphia

First Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia


Francis Alison's Academy, New London, PA; College of New Jersey (now Princeton), Newark, NJ, 1754






pastor; university professor

  • Philadelphia (from 1758 to 1802)
Marital status

Married Hannah Sergeant in 1758; they had 12 children.


John Ewing was an influential Presbyterian minister in Philadelphia, a professor, and a noted mathematician. He and a twin brother, James, were born on June 22, 1732 in Nottingham, Maryland to Nathaniel and Rachel (Porter), who had emigrated from Ireland. He received his early education with Francis Alison, a noted Presbyterian clergyman, and remained at Alison's academy for three years as a tutor in Latin, Greek and mathematics, in which he excelled; he graduated the year he matriculated at the College of New Jersey (now Princeton) in 1754. He served as tutor at the College for two years and was licensed to preach. In 1759, he was called to pastor at the First Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, where he served as a popular and eloquent preacher until his death in 1802. He also joined the faculty of the College of Philadelphia as Professor of Ethics from 1758 to 1762 and Professor of Natural Philosophy from 1762 to 1778. Joining the American Philosophical Society in 1768, he contributed to several noted scientific experiments (charting the transit of Venus) and public works (surveying the boundary with Delaware). In 1773, he was commissioned to travel to Great Britain to solicit funds for the Academy of Newark, in Delaware, where he received an honorary Doctorate of Divinity from University of Edinburgh and met with promiment figures (including Lord North, the prime minister, and Samuel Johnson) to advance the cause of American independence. When the College of Philadelphia was reorganized as the University of Pennsylvania, Ewing became its first provost in 1780. Occom preached and collected funds in Ewing's Church on his tour of Philadelphia in 1771. While in London, Ewing likely met members of the Trust for Wheelock's Indian School, because Occom reports to John Thornton in 1777 that he learned about the exhaustion of the Trust from Ewing (manuscript 761290), one of the influential ministers who collected money for Occom and Brothertown in 1771.


"Penn Biographies: John Ewing." University Archives & Records Center. www.archives.upenn.edu/people/1700s/ewing_john.html. Sprague, William Buell. Annals of the American Presbyterian Pulpit. vol. 1. Birmingham: Solid Ground Christian Books, 2005.

Further reading

Sermons, by the Rev. John Ewing, D.D., late pastor of the First Presbyterian Congregation in the City of Philadelphia. Thomas J. Rogers, 1812; Ulan Press, 2012; ebook by Barnes and Noble.