Henry Carr

Henry Carr
Henry Carr. Photo: National Archives, U.I.

Henry Carr was an educator and administrator, described as one of the most erudite scholars produced by Africa, a mathematician who corrected the world-famous textbook of Locke the trigonometrician. He was born August 15, 1863 in Lagos to Sierra Leonean emigrant of Yoruba extraction. Carr was educated at St. Paul’s School, Breadfruit and Olowogbowo Wesleyan Elementary School in Lagos. His secondary education was in Wesleyan Boys’ High School, Freetown, from where he proceeded to the Durham University in England. He graduated B.A with Honors in Mathematics and physical sciences at the age of 19.

Carr’s first book, Key to Lock’s Trigonometry, published by MacMillian, was acclaimed among scholars in England. It was reviewed by John Lock as doing “what would have reflected credit on the graduate of any university who had taken Honours in mathematics. I was quite surprised to hear that Mr. Carr was a native of Lagos, and i suppose, received his education in the colony.” Carr also discovered some errors in Wornell’s Arithmetic around that time. He wrote the publishers pointing out the mistakes, which they acknowledged with gratitude and corrected in subsequent edition.

Henry Carr worked as a schoolmaster at C.M.S. Grammar School from 1885 under the headship of Isaac Oluwole. In 1889, Carr was personally invited by Sir Cornelius Alfred Moloney, Governor of Lagos, to join the civil service as chief clerk and sub-inspector of schools. His career in the education sector, produced successful experiments such as the Kings’ College established in 1909 but was generally uneventful, and was criticized by Macaulay as producing people whose “stock of positive knowledge was altogether inconsiderable in leaving school and were not fitted for positions requiring independent judgment”.

Henry Carr's Lagos home in the 1900s
Henry Carr’s home in the 1900s  Bimbola Babarinde. Source: NNP

Henry Carr’s appointment to the post of the second Assistant Colonial secretary in 1894 was soon discovered to be a mistake because he had little understanding of the natives, and he barely travelled to the interior. His unwillingness to travel was in fact the subject of a query when later he was Resident of the Colony. He was a member of the legislative council in Lagos from 1918 to 1924. His relationship with the Lagos monarch and his handling of the politics of his time hardly gave him away as skilled. Henry Carr died in 1945. He loved books dearly that he kept the biggest personal library in the West Africa of his day, forming the nucleus of the Ibadan University College Library. A public library in his honor was commissioned at Agege by Lagos State Governor, Lateef Jakande in 1983.

Tope Apoola
Profession: Writer