Hyman A. Wilder obtrained the degrees Bachelor of Arts (BA, 1845) and Master of Arts (MA, 1848) at Williams College, Massachusetts, and completed his theological training at the East Windsor seminary in Connecticut, also in 1848. The next year he was ordained to the Congregational ministry and on 21 February 1849 married Abby T. Linsley, with whom he had a son and a daughter. He arrived in Natal as a missionary of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions in July 1849 and was soon appointed to the Mtwalume mission on the southern coast of the colony. He was a practical man and a good teacher, concentrating on industrial training. A textbook by him, Incwadi yezifundi (60p), was published in Durban in 1865. One of his interests was the mission's printing press, where some books in Zulu and the newspaper Inkanyezi Yokusa (The Morning Star) were printed.
Wilder was an excellent speaker and regularly lectured on various subjects, including astronomy. He also contributed articles to the local newspapers. One of these, "The natural geography of Natal", was published in the Supplement to the Natal Mercury in 1854 and also as a pamphlet (8p). Extracts from this paper were furthermore included in the Cape of Good Hope almanac... (e.g., 1857, pp. 265-267)). Also in 1854 he published "A description of Natal" in the Bulletin of the American Geographical and Statistical Society (Vol. 1(3), pp. 45-61). His interest in the practical application of scientific knowledge led him to import a portable sugar mill, which aroused commercial interest; sell rubber washers for use in machinery; become the first person to send seeds of Imphe sugar to the United States (in 1854); and export sorghum seeds to that country.
Wilder went on a visit to the United States in 1868, resuming his missionary work in September 1870. He became principal of the Adams Training School at Amanzimtoti in 1875, but that same year contracted dysentery while looking for a new mission site in the Umkomaas Valley. Unable to recover from his disease he retired in January 1877 and returned to the United States, where he died later that year.