Derby native Josiah Holbrook (1788-1854) was the founder of an educational reform movement that swept the country in the nineteenth century. That movement was known as the Lyceum Movement.
Holbrook was born in Derby, the son of Colonel Daniel Holbrook. Hew was educated in Derby and went on to Yale in 1806 and graduated from Yale in 1810. He returned to Derby and married Lucy Swift, a daughter of a local minister who died in 1819 and left him with two sons ( Alfred and Dwight) to raise.
He had inherited the family farm and shortly thereafter (1824) established a school (Agricultural Seminary) dedicated to natural science and manual labor. The students could pay a portion of the cost of their education through work on the farm. Though the school failed after two years, Holbrook had established his basic educational beliefs.
He lectured and published his ideas in the American Journal of Education and moved on to Massachusetts where he established his first Lyceum in Millbury. The term lyceum came from the place where Aristotle educated the youth of Greece. Holbrook moved on to Pennsylvania, New York and Washington D. C. spreading his ideas for educational reform. He manufactured scientific apparatus for schools and lyceums and edited Scientific Tracts (1830–32) and The Family Lyceum (1832–33). In 1837, at Berea, Ohio, he established the Lyceum Village, which failed after a few years.
While walking alone collecting minerals one morning in Lynchburg, Virginia in 1854, he fell into a creek from a cliff and was drowned.