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Dennis Mahan was a military officer and civil engineer who taught as a professor at West Point Military Academy for more than forty years and was renowned for his writing and research on matters related to engineering, geology, and military science.
Mahan was born in New York but spent his childhood in Virginia Beach. He entered West Point and rose to first in his class of thirty-one students. During his third year of study, Mahan was invited to teach mathematics at the academy.
He graduated in 1824 and joined the Corps of Engineers, continuing to teach at the academy for two years before moving to Europe to study at the Military School of Application for Engineers and Artillerists at Metz. He returned to the United States and rejoined the academic staff at West Point as a professor of civil and military engineering. He authored important textbooks on subjects that include civil engineering, field fortifications, engineering, mechanical drawing, and others.
Mahan received honorary degrees from Brown University, Dartmouth College, Princeton University, and William and Mary College. He was elected to the Geographical Society of France in 1828 and was an original member of the National Academy of Sciences, as well as a member of numerous other honorary scientific societies.
Photo courtesy West Point Museum, United States Military Academy, West Point, New York.