After graduating first in the West Point class of 1826, William H. C. Bartlett joined the Army Corps of engineers where he worked on the design of coastal fortifications, publishing a study with J. G. Totten on expansion in various building materials. In 1836 he was appointed professor of natural and experimental philosophy at West Point. During his over thirty years there he oversaw the installation of new telescopes, made detailed observations of stars and comets, took the first photograph made in the U.S. of a solar eclipse, and wrote textbooks on optics, acoustics, astronomy, and mechanics. Late in life he became interested in actuarial research and left West Point for emplyment at an insurance company. Bartlett was a charter member of the National Academy of Sciences.