Harvard has long been a citadel of affluence and prestige, but its frontier beginnings should not go overlooked.
HARVARD UNIVERSITY, the oldest institution of learning in the United States, was founded in Cambridge, Mass., in 1636. At a meeting of the General Court of the colony of Massachusetts Bay, convened on 8 September, six years after its first settlement, it was voted to give £400 toward a “schoale or colledge,” for the purpose of educating the “English and Indian youth in knowledge and Godliness.” The ensuing year 12 of the eminent men of the colony, including John Winthrop and John Cotton, were authorized “to take order for a college at New Towne.” The name Cambridge was adopted soon afterward in recognition of the English university where many of the colonists had been educated. In 1638 John Harvard, a young Non-Conformist minister, died in Charlestown, leaving to the college £750 and his entire library of 300 volumes. The institution was opened soon after and was named Harvard in honor of its first benefactor.
In 1637 the first building was erected. The first president was Rev. Henry Dunster, who was elected in 1640. The first graduating class was in 1642, and consisted of nine members. This same year a change was made in the government of the college; a board of trustees was created, the members of which were the governor, the deputy governor, the teaching elders of the "5 next adjoining towns" — Boston, Cambridge, Charlestown, Dorchester and Roxbury — the magistrates and the president of the college. The college was established as a corporation in 1650, with power of control over the educational and financial concerns of the institution. The members of the corporation were the president, the treasurer and five fellows. In 1657 the corporation charter was changed so that the overseers had practically no control over the internal management of the college, although a final appeal might be made to them if necessary. Now there were two governing bodies; the overseers and the corporation, at times working in harmony and again antagonistic to each other.
In 1780 the board of overseers consisted of the governor, lieutenant-governor, senate and council of the Commonwealth, the president of the college and the ministers of the Congregationalist churches of the “six adjoining towns” already mentioned. In 1810 a further change was made in the board of overseers, and instead of the senate and the ministers of certain churches, there were substituted 15 Congregationalist ministers, 15 laymen, the president of the senate and the speaker of the house, all to be inhabitants of the State. The members constituting the senate were restored as overseers in 1814. A still further broadening of the spirit of the board was shown by the act of 1834, but not ratified until 1843, when clergymen of all denominations were made eligible for membership to the board, and in 1851 an act was passed in which no mention was made of clergymen, but the clause that made only inhabitants of the State eligible was retained. It was not until 1880 that Harvard was freed from all sectional lines, and non-residents of the State of Massachusetts became eligible for membership to the board of overseers.
During the 17th century Harvard had to contend with serious obstacles, many of which had their origin in religious differences or shades of differences; but the desire to give the youth of Massachusetts an opportunity to learn the things taught to their fathers in the schools of Europe never faltered. It required heroic courage then to persevere in such a work, which at present seems a comparatively easy task. The religious controversies continued even after donations and endowments had come to the aid of the institution and had made its success seem almost certain. Under the presidency of Rev. Increase Mather, the college was placed under the control of the Calvinists (1692), but in 1707 the liberals gained the ascendency. An English merchant, Thomas Hollis, in 1721, founded a chair of divinity, and directed that no religious test should be given to the candidate for the professorship.
The gift was refused by the overseers, but the corporation urged its acceptance, and the latter finally prevailed. However, the first candidate for a professorship was really subjected to a religious test, for a confession of faith on various disputed points was exacted of him. The religious controversies were carried so far that at one time there was a strong effort made by the orthodox friends of learning to found another college in the colony; but Governor Bernard refused them a charter.In 1764 the college met with a serious loss by fire; the first Harvard Hall, containing the library and apparatus, was entirely destroyed, but the loss was repaired to some extent by the generous aid of the Colonies. Harvard was loyal to the American cause during the Revolutionary period; even going so far in the readjustment of its financial affairs as to suffer considerable loss. The alumni and students have ever been patriotic, ready to contribute their best to the needs of their country. The fine building, Memorial Hall, was erected by the alumni in memory of their dead who fell in the Civil War. Harvard has always followed a conservative course when parties were agitating questions of government.Between 1636 and 1782 Harvard College conferred only the degrees of bachelor and master of arts, but in 1780 the term university was applied to it in the constitution of the State of Massachusetts. The class of 1768 evidently gave some attention to dress, as they voted to wear homespun at their graduating exercises, although their action on the matter is often quoted to prove their democratic simplicity. In 1782 and 1783 three professorships of medicine were established, and the first degree of bachelor of medicine was conferred in 1788. In 1810 the lectures in medicine were transferred to Boston, and there the first medical college was built. The law school was established in 1817, and it has the distinction of being the earliest school of law in the country connected with a university and authorized to confer degrees in law.
The divinity school was a gradual outgrowth of the college; the Hollis professorship of divinity, which has been mentioned, was established in 1721, but the divinity faculty was not formally organized until 1819. It is now undenominational, no assent to the special doctrines of any sect or denomination of Christianity being required of any instructor or student. The schools of medicine, law and divinity are the three oldest additions to the college proper, and it was decided that such an institution, having four schools and several departments, justified the title university.In about 1822, a number of the friends of education and of the institution thought the time had come when further changes should be made in the work required of the students, George Ticknor (q.v.), professor in the department of modern languages, urged that some division of studies should be made where students might be permitted to pursue special courses or specialize on certain subjects. A committee, with Joseph Story as chairman, was appointed to investigate the wisdom of such a change, and how best to meet the needs of the students. The committee reported (1824) the advisability of instituting two lines of study — the one a course necessary for a degree, the other a scientific and mechanical course for those not intending to take degrees, but who desired to fit themselves for certain departments of work. The departure from old customs as recommended by the committee was opposed by many, but in 1825 changes were made and the special students were admitted. Professor Ticknor and later his successor, Henry W. Longfellow, introduced to some extent elective courses in the department of modern languages, but not until a number of years later did these courses become popular in other departments.Charles William Eliot (q.v.) was elected president in 1869. At this time the departments were almost independent schools, to which no entrance examinations were required, but the students were largely from classical preparatory schools, the majority of which were located in New England. The college required certain courses, and all demanded good work and a high degree of scholarship before graduation. In four years practically a reorganization had been made, the departments had been correlated and individual work had been given recognition. In 1909, Dr. Eliot retired and was succeeded by Dr. Abbott Lawrence Lowell, formerly professor of the science of government at the university.To Harvard much credit is due for the conservative manner in which it has dealt with the question of higher education of women. The Society for the Collegiate Instruction of Women was the name of an organization which began the work (1869) of providing ways and means for giving young women an opportunity to obtain a collegiate education. The name of the organization was changed, in 1894, by the General Court of Massachusetts to that of Radcliffe College (q.v.). Systematic collegiate instruction is now given in this college, under the professors and teachers of Harvard University. The requirements are the same as for admission to the university.The various schools and departments of Harvard University now comprise: (1) Harvard College and the Graduate School, established in 1872 for students making original research. In 1916 there were in attendance 3,017 students under the faculty of arts and science. Of this number 598 were in the graduate school and were engaged in original research. Par the students of this school who are engaged in original investigations there is available a number of fellowships, at present 41, which are from $400 to $1,200, The Edward Austin Fellowship and the Austin Teaching Fellowship are given only to resident graduate students. Some of the fellowships may be given to persons pursuing their studies in other parts of the country or abroad: but non-resident appointments are given only to persons who have been resident students in some department of the university. (2) The law school has been mentioned. The attendance in 1916 was 788. (3) The divinity school, already noticed, has an attendance of 64.
(4) The medical school, founded in 1782, and the dental school, established in 1867, were united in 1899 and are in charge of the faculty of medicine. The school is located in Boston. The attendance in 1918 was, in the medical school, 387; in the dental school, 271. The new buildings erected since 1903 for the accommodation of the medical departments are second to none other in the world. There are seven separate buildings; the central structure and two of the side pavilions are provided for by the gift of $1,000,000 from J. Pierpont Morgan and $1,000,000 from other friends. The site comprises 26 acres, in Brookline, about three miles from the main buildings of the university in Cambridge. (5) The Graduate School of Business Administration, founded in 1908, had an enrolment of 190 in 1916. (6) The Bussey Institute, a school of agriculture and horticulture, was established in 1870 in accordance with the will of Benjamin Bussey. It is at Jamaica Plain, in the southwestern part of Boston. (7) The Arnold Arboretum, established in 1872, is devoted to scientific research in forestry, dendrology and arboriculture, ll was founded under the will of James Arnold. It is practically a large park containing about 220 acres, and is located in West Roxbury.
(8) The astronomical observatory was established in 1843 by means of a public subscription. The Sears Tier was built in 1846 and two years later Edward Bromfield Phillips bequeathed to the university the sum of $100,000 for the observatory; this early bequest has since been supplemented by many others, so that the observatory now has an endowment of about $900,000. It has a director and four other professors and 40 assistants. A branch station is established on a mountain 8,000 feet high, near Arequipa, Peru. The annals of the observatory fill about 50 volumes. Among the more important instruments are the 15-inch and 6-inch equatorial telescopes, the 8-inch transit-circle, the 11-inch Draper photographic telescope, the 8-inch photographic telescope and the meridian photometer. A special grant has recently been made by the Carnegie Institution for the study of the collection of photographs at the Harvard Observatory. The amount of material, including photographs and photographic charts of the sky that has been collected in this department, requires a special building for its accommodation.
(9) The university library, including the libraries of the schools and departments, contains about 1,181,635 volumes and 701,358 pamphlets. (10) The Gray Herbarium, so named because it contains the herbarium of Asa Gray (q.v.), presented to the university in 1864. (11) The university museum is made up of the following collections: the Peabody Museum of American Archæology and Ethnology; the Museum of Comparative Zoology, established in 1859 by private subscription, State aid and the collection of Louis Agassiz, and valuable gifts from his son; the Mineralogical Museum, established in 1890-91; the Semitic Museum, completed in 1902; the William Hayes Fogg Art Museum, completed in 1895; and the Germanic Museum, established in 1902. (12) The botanical garden, established in 1809, covers about seven acres and contains thousands of plants for scientific study.
Great credit is due Harvard for its leadership in the movement to better the teaching of the English language and literature in the schools of the country. Harvard mentioned the subject in its catalogue of 1865-66; an announcement was made in the catalogue of 1869-70 that “Students would be examined, as early as possible after their admission, in English.” In 1874, for the first time, every applicant for admission to Harvard was required to present English composition. The report of the committee who visited the preparatory schools to ascertain what they were doing with the subject of English, the discussions by educators on the “new demand of Harvard,” the progress of the movement, the grand results, all now are parts of the “History of Education” of America.The university summer school gives short courses of study under the charge of a committee of the faculty of arts and sciences, and is held in the college building during the summer vacation. The school is popular and has had a large attendance each year. In 1910 the students numbered about 700. Athletics are provided for — two fields of 24 acres each and the Hemenway gymnasium furnish opportunities for physical training. The stadium erected on Soldiers' Field has a seating capacity of about 30,000. It is shaped like the letter “U,” with the open space toward the Charles River. It is of steel and concrete construction.
The mezzanine floor under the seats, the promenade above the seats, the stairs, the perfect arrangement of all the parts make this stadium a model of construction. It was built under the auspices of the class of '79. A club house, called the Harvard Union, was donated by Henry Lee Higginson in 1901. The Phillips Brooks house is used for religious meetings. In 1903 Harvard received a valuable collection of plaster replicas of Germanic art; a number of them were given by Emperor William II of Germany. Among them is a replica of the equestrian statue of the Great Elector by Schülter, one of Frederick the Great, by Schadow, a cast of the golden gate of the cathedral of Freiburg, the bronze door of Hildesheim Cathedral, on which is the Biblical story of Creation, the wood screen of Naumburg Cathedral and several other reproductions of great value.In 1915 the Widener Memorial Library was completed. This building was erected by Mrs. George D. Widener of Philadelphia in memory of her son, Harry Elkins Widener, a graduate of Harvard in the class of 1907, who lost his life with the sinking of the Titanic.In 1918, the number of members of the corporation was 7; of overseers, 30; of professors and instructors, tutors and assistants, 831; of students in all the schools and departments, 5,731. In 1915 the invested funds of the university amounted to $28,177,578; the annual income was $3,032,999, and bequests and gifts amounted to $1,220,021. Harvard has had 23 presidents, including the present incumbent, Abbott Lawrence Lowell. There are 13 periodicals which represents the interests of the university as a whole, and of special schools and departments.
Encyclopedia Americana, 1920