History of Harvard University
Harvard College—originally Harvard Colledge, and around which Harvard University eventually grew—was founded 1636 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, making it the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. For centuries its graduates dominated Massachusetts' clerical and civil ranks, and beginning in the 19th century its stature became national, then international, as a dozen graduate and professional schools were formed alongside the nucleus undergraduate College. Historically influential in national roles are the schools of medicine (1782), law (1817) and business (1908) as well as the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (1890). Since the late 19th century Harvard has been one of the most prestigious schools in the world, its library system and financial endowment larger than those of any other.
With some 17,000 Puritans migrating to New England by 1636, Harvard was founded in anticipation of the need for training clergy for the new commonwealth, a "church in the wilderness." Harvard was formed in 1636 by vote of the Great and General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. It was initially called "New College" or "the college at New Towne". In 1638 the school received a printing press—the only press in North America until Harvard acquired a second in 1659.
In 1639, the college was renamed Harvard College after clergyman John Harvard, a University of Cambridge alumnus who had willed the new school £779 pounds sterling and (perhaps more importantly) his library of some 400 books.
The colony charter creating the Harvard Corporation was granted in 1650 at the beginning of the English Interregnum. When the college's first president Henry Dunster abandoned Puritanism in favor of the English Baptist faith in 1654, he provoked a controversy that highlighted two distinct approaches to dealing with dissent in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The colony's Puritan leaders, whose own religion was born of dissent from mainstream Church of England, generally worked for reconciliation with members who questioned matters of Puritan theology but responded much more harshly to outright rejection of Puritanism. Dunster's conflict with the colony's magistrates began when he failed to have his infant son baptized, believing, as an adherent of the Believers baptism of English Baptists and/or Anabaptists, that only adults should be baptized. Efforts to restore Dunster to Puritan orthodoxy failed, and his apostasy proved untenable to colony leaders who had entrusted him, in his job as Harvard's president, to uphold the colony's religious mission. Thus, he represented a threat to the stability of society. Dunster exiled himself in 1654 and moved to nearby Plymouth Colony, where he died in 1658. Because it had been illegal for the colony to establish a college Charles II rescinded the Massachusetts Bay Colony charter in 1684 by writ of scire facias.
In 1692, the leading Puritan divine Increase Mather became president of Harvard. One of his acts was replacing pagan classics with books by Christian authors in ethics classes, and maintaining a high standard of discipline. The Harvard "Lawes" of 1642 and the "Harvard College Laws of 1700" testify to its original high level of discipline. Students were required to observe rules of pious decorum inconceivable in the 19th century, and ultimately to prove their fitness for the bachelor's degree by showing that they could 'read the original of the Old and New Testament into the Latin tongue, and resolve them logically.'
During Harvard's early years the town of Cambridge maintained order on campus and provided economic support; the local Puritan minister had direct oversight of Harvard and ensured the orthodoxy of its leadership. By 1700 Harvard was strong enough to regulate and discipline its own people, and to a large extent the direction in which support and assistance flowed was reversed, Harvard now providing financial support for local economic expansion, improvements to public health, and construction of local roads, meetinghouses and schools.
The early motto of Harvard was Veritas Christo et Ecclesiae, meaning "Truth for Christ and the Church." In the early classes half the graduates became ministers (though by the 1760s the proportion was down to 15%) and ten of Harvard's first twelve presidents were ministers. Systematic theological instruction was inaugurated in 1721 and by 1827 Harvard became a nucleus of theological teaching in New England.
The end of Mather's presidency in 1701 marked the start of a long struggle between orthodoxy and liberalism. Harvard's first secular president was John Leverett, who began his term in 1708. Leverett left the curriculum largely intact and sought to keep the College independent of the overwhelming influence of any single sect.
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Throughout the 18th century, Enlightenment ideas of the power of reason and free will became widespread among Congregationalist ministers, putting those ministers and their congregations in tension with more traditionalist, Calvinist parties.:1–4 When the Hollis Professor of Divinity David Tappan died in 1803 and the president of Harvard Joseph Willard died a year later, in 1804, a struggle broke out over their replacements. Henry Ware was elected to the chair in 1805, and the liberal Samuel Webber was appointed to the presidency of Harvard two years later, which signaled the changing of the tide from the dominance of traditional ideas at Harvard to the dominance of liberal, Arminian ideas (defined by traditionalists as Unitarian ideas).:4–5:24
In 1846, the natural history lectures of Louis Agassiz were acclaimed both in New York and on his campus at Harvard College. Agassiz's approach was distinctly idealist and posited Americans' 'participation in the Divine Nature' and the possibility of understanding 'intellectual existences.' Agassiz's perspective on science combined observation with intuition and the assumption that one can grasp the 'divine plan' in all phenomena. When it came to explaining life-forms, Agassiz resorted to matters of shape based on a presumed archetype for his evidence. This dual view of knowledge was in concert with the teachings of Common Sense Realism derived from Scottish philosophers Thomas Reid and Dugald Stewart, whose works were part of the Harvard curriculum at the time. The popularity of Agassiz's efforts to 'soar with Plato' probably also derived from other writings to which Harvard students were exposed, including Platonic treatises by Ralph Cudworth, John Norris, and, in a Romantic vein, Samuel Coleridge. The library records at Harvard reveal that the writings of Plato and his early modern and Romantic followers were almost as regularly read during the 19th century as those of the 'official philosophy' of the more empirical and more deistic Scottish school.
Between 1830 and 1870 Harvard became "privatized". While the Federalists controlled state government, Harvard had prospered, but the 1824 defeat of the Federalist Party in Massachusetts allowed the renascent Democratic-Republicans to block state funding of private universities. By 1870, the politicians and ministers that heretofore had made up the university's board of overseers had been replaced by Harvard alumni drawn from Boston's upper-class business and professional community and funded by private endowment.
During this period, Harvard experienced unparalleled growth that securely placed it financially in a league of its own among American colleges. Ronald Story notes that in 1850, Harvard's total assets were "five times that of Amherst and Williams combined, and three times that of Yale." Story also notes that "all the evidence… points to the four decades from 1815 to 1855 as the era when parents, in Henry Adams's words, began 'sending their children to Harvard College for the sake of its social advantages'". Under President Eliot's tenure, Harvard earned a reputation for being more liberal and democratic than either Princeton or Yale in regard to bigotry against Jews and other ethnic minorities. In 1870, one year into Eliot's term, Richard Theodore Greener became the first African-American to graduate from Harvard College. Seven years later, Louis Brandeis, the first Jewish justice on the Supreme Court, graduated from Harvard Law School.
The annual undergraduate tuition was $300 in the 1930s and $400 in the 1940s, doubling to $800 in 1953. It reached $2600 in 1970, and $22,700 in 2000.
Charles W. Eliot, president 1869–1909, eliminated the favored position of Christianity from the curriculum while opening it to student self-direction. While Eliot was the most crucial figure in the secularization of American higher education, he was motivated not by a desire to secularize education, but by Transcendentalist Unitarian convictions. Derived from William Ellery Channing and Ralph Waldo Emerson, these convictions were focused on the dignity and worth of human nature, the right and ability of each person to perceive truth, and the indwelling God in each person.
Football, originally organized by students as an extracurricular activity, was banned twice by the university for being a brutal and dangerous sport. However, by the 1880s, football became a dominant force at the college as the alumni became more involved in the sport. In 1882, the faculty formed a three-member athletic committee to oversee all intercollegiate athletics, but, due to increasing student and alumni pressure, the committee was expanded in 1885 to include three student and three alumni members. The alumni's role in the rise and commercialization of football, the leading moneymaker for athletics by the 1880s, was evident in the fundraising for the first steel-reinforced concrete stadium. The class of 1879 donated $100,000 – nearly one-third of the cost – to the construction of the 35,000-seat stadium, which was completed in 1903, with the remainder to be collected from future ticket sales.
The school, the third-oldest medical school in the United States, was founded in 1782 as Massachusetts Medical College by John Warren, Benjamin Waterhouse, and Aaron Dexter. It relocated from Cambridge across the river to Boston in 1810. The medical school was tied to the rest of the University "only by the tenuous thread of degrees," but its strong faculty gave it a national reputation by the early 19th century.
The reputation continued to grow into the 20th century, especially in terms of scientific research and support from regional and national elites. Fifteen scientists won the Nobel Prize for work done at the Medical School. Its four major flagship teaching hospitals are Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston Children's Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital.
The Harvard Law School was established in 1817, making it the oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. It was a small operation and grew slowly. By 1827, it was down to one faculty member. Nathan Dane, a prominent alumnus, endowed the Dane Professorship of Law and insisting that it be given to then Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story. For a while, the school was called "Dane Law School." Story's belief in the need for an elite law school based on merit and dedicated to public service helped build the school's reputation at the time. Enrollment remained low as academic legal education was considered to be of little added benefit to apprenticeships in legal practice.
Radical reform came in the 1870s, under Dean Christopher Columbus Langdell (1826–1906). Its new curriculum set the national standard and was copied widely in the United States. Langdell developed the case method of teaching law, based on his belief that law could be studied as a "science" gave university legal education a reason for being distinct from vocational preparation. The school introduced a first-year curriculum that was widely imitated, based on classes in contracts, property, torts, criminal law, and civil procedure.
Critics bemoaned abandonment of the more traditional lecture method, because of its efficiency and the lower workloads it placed on faculty and students. Advocates of the case method had a sounder theoretical basis in scientific research and the inductive method. Langdell's graduates became leading professors at other law schools where they introduced the case method. The method was facilitated by casebooks. From its founding in 1900, the Association of American Law Schools promoted the case method in law schools that sought accreditation.
As the College modernized in the late 19th century the faculty was organized into departments and began to add graduate programs, especially the PhD. Charles William Eliot, president from 1869 to 1909, was a chemist who had spent two years in Germany studying their universities. Thousands of Americans, mostly Harvard and Yale alumni, had attended German universities, especially Berlin and Göttingen. Eliot used the German model to set up graduate programs at Harvard. He formed a graduate Department in 1872. It granted its first Ph.D. degrees in 1873 to William Byerly in mathematics and Charles Whitney in history. Eliot set up the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences with its own dean and budget in 1890; it dealt with graduate students and funded research programs.
By 2004 there were 3,200 graduate students in 53 separate programs, and forty former or current professors had won a Nobel Prize, most of them scientists or economists based in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
From its beginning in 1908, the Harvard Business School had a close relationship with the corporate world. Within a few years of its founding many business leaders were its alumni and were hiring other alumni for starting positions in their firms. The School used Rockefeller funding in the 1920s to launch a major research program under Elton Mayo (1926–47) for his "Harvard human relations group." Its findings revolutionized human relations in business and raised the reputation of the Business School from its initial "low status as a trainer of money grabbers into a high prestige educator of socially-conscientious administrators." Starting in 1935 the school began weekend and short-term leadership training workshops for executives of major corporations that further expanded its national role.
By 1949 almost half of all the holders of the MBA degree in the U.S. were alumni of the Business School, and it was "the most influential graduate school of business."
During the 20th century, Harvard's international reputation for scholarship grew as a burgeoning endowment and prominent professors expanded the university's scope. Explosive growth in the student population continued with the addition of new graduate schools and the expansion of the undergraduate program. It built the largest and finest academic library in the world, and built up the labs and clinics needed to establish the reputation of its science departments and the Medical School. The Law School vied with Yale Law for preeminence, while the Business School combined a large-scale research program with a special appeal to entrepreneurs rather than accountants. The different schools maintain their separate endowments, which are very large in the case of the College/Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and the Business, Law and Medical Schools, but quite modest for the Divinity and Education schools.
Radcliffe College, established in 1879 as sister school of Harvard College, became one of the most prominent schools for women in the United States. In the 1920s Edward Harkness, (1874–1940), a Yale man with oil wealth, was ignored by his alma mater and so gave $12,000,000 to Harvard to establish a house system like that of Oxford University. Yale later took his money and set up a similar system.
In addition to the usual department, specialized research centers proliferated, especially to enable interdisciplinary research projects that could not be handled at the department level. The departments, however, kept jealous control of the awarding of tenure; typically tenured professorships went to outsiders, and not as promotions to assistant professors. Older research centers include the East Asian Research Center, the Center for International Affairs, the Center for Eastern Studies, the Russian Research Center, the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History, and the Joint Center for Urban Studies (with MIT). The Centers raised their own money, sometimes from endowments but most often from federal and foundation grants, making them increasingly independent entities.
The annual undergraduate tuition was $300 in the 1930s and $400 in the 1930s, doubling to $800 in 1953. It reached $2,600 in 1970, and $22,700 in 2000.
James Bryant Conant (president, 1933–1953) pledged to reinvigorate creative scholarship at Harvard and reestablish its preeminence among research institutions. Viewing higher education as a vehicle of opportunity for the talented rather than an entitlement for the wealthy, Conant devised programs to identify, recruit, and support talented youth. In 1943, Conant decided that Harvard's undergraduate curriculum needed to be revised so as to place more emphasis on general education. He called on the faculty make a definitive statement about what general education ought to be, at the secondary as well as the college level. The resulting Report, published in 1945, was one of the most influential manifestos in the history of American education in the 20th century.
In the decades immediately after 1945 Harvard reformed its admissions policies as it sought students from a more diverse applicant pool. Whereas Harvard undergraduates had almost exclusively been upper-class alumni of select New England "feeder schools" such as Exeter, Hotchkiss, Choate Rosemary Hall and Milton Academy, increasing numbers of international, minority, and working-class students had, by the late 1960s, altered the ethnic and socio-economic makeup of the college.
Not just undergraduates but the faculty became more diverse, especially in its willingness to hire Jews, Catholics and foreign scholars. The History Department was among the first to hire Jews and how it contributed to the university trend toward professionalism from 1920 to 1950. Oscar Handlin became one of the most influential professors, training hundreds of graduate schools and later serving as head of the University Library.
During the 20th century, Harvard's international reputation grew as a burgeoning endowment and prominent professors expanded the university's scope. Explosive growth in the student population continued with the addition of new graduate schools and the expansion of the undergraduate program.
Harvard's graduate schools began admitting women in small numbers in the late 19th century, and steadily increasing numbers during the first half of the 20th.[clarification needed]
For its first fifty years the undergraduate Radcliffe College, established in 1879 as the "Harvard Annex for Women", paid Harvard faculty to repeat their lectures for a female audience. During World War II male and female undergraduates attended classes together for the first time, though it was many decades[clarification needed] before the population of Radcliffe College reached parity with that of Harvard. Over the years a series of agreements brought Harvard and Radcliffe into successively closer integration,[clarification needed] and in 1999 Radcliffe College merged formally with Harvard University, becoming a research unit (the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study) within the latter.
Though Harvard ended required chapel in the mid-1880s, the school remained culturally Protestant, and fears of dilution grew as enrollment of immigrants, Catholics and Jews surged at the turn of the 20th century. By 1908, Catholics made up nine percent of the freshman class, and between 1906 and 1922, Jewish enrollment at Harvard increased from six to 25%. President A. Lawrence Lowell tried to impose a 12% quota on Jews; the faculty rejected it but he managed to cut the numbers in half anyway. By the end of World War II the quotas and most of the latent antisemitism had faded away.
Policies of exclusion were not limited to religious minorities. In 1920, "Harvard University maliciously persecuted and harassed" those it believed to be gay via a "Secret Court" led by President Lowell. Summoned at the behest of a wealthy alumnus, the inquisitions and expulsions carried out by this tribunal, in conjunction with the "vindictive tenacity of the university in ensuring that the stigmatization of the expelled students would persist throughout their productive lives" led to two suicides. Harvard President Lawrence Summers characterized the 1920 episode as "part of a past that we have rightly left behind", and "abhorrent and an affront to the values of our university". Yet as late as the 1950s, Wilbur Bender, then the dean of admissions for Harvard College, was seeking better ways to "detect homosexual tendencies and serious psychiatric problems" in prospective students.
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He bequeathed £780 (half his estate) and his library of 320 volumes to the new established college at Cambridge, Mass., which was named in his honor.
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