James Naismith and Adoption



1861 - 1939

Canadian-American educator

Naismith was born to John and Margaret Naismith, farmers in Ontario, Canada. He and his brother and sister were orphaned in 1873 when both their parents died within three weeks during a typhoid epidemic. The children were then raised by a maternal uncle.

He was not a good student but he was an excellent athlete. He dropped out of high school and became a lumberjack for several years before deciding to make something of his life. He went back to finish school and then went to McGill University and graduated with a degree in PE. He then taught PE at McGill before joining the staff of the YMCA in Springfield, Massachusetts. In 1895 he moved to the YMCA in Denver, Colorado and in 1898 to the University of Kansas.

While at Springfield he invented the sport of basketball (1891).

He married one of the first women players of the game and they had five children. After she died in 1937 he married again but died very soon afterwards. [Last updated: 2 JUL 2004]


Naismith Museum & Hall of Fame. “Dr. James Naismith.” [Includes portraits]. Available at: [Last visited: 2 July 2004] Adam Y. “James Naismith.” [Includes portrait]. Available at: [Last visited: 1 July 2004] “Dr. James Naismith.” [Includes portraits]. Available at: [Last visited: 2 July 2004] © Roger Ridley Fenton