Thomas Hollis (1659–1731)

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Thomas Hollis, portrait by Giovanni Battista Cipriani

Thomas Hollis (1659 – January 21, 1731)[1][note 1] was a wealthy English merchant and a benefactor of Harvard University.


As a Baptist and a Calvinist, Hollis required his donations to be used for directed purposes. For example, in 1721, he established the Hollis Chair of Divinity at Harvard, with a salary of £80 per year, with the stipulation that Baptists be included for consideration. This broadening constituted a form of dissent from strict adherence to the orthodoxy of the day, where New England's reform Protestantism was being buffeted by ripples and uncertainties generated by the Glorious Revolution of 1688/9. In 1726, he also endowed the Hollis Chair of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy with the same amount. Hollis also convinced his younger brothers, John and Nathaniel, to contribute substantially to Harvard and thus helped establish a legacy of civil and religious liberty across the Massachusetts Bay Colony decades before the American Revolution.


The town of Holliston, Massachusetts, is named for him;[2] as is HOLLIS, the Harvard On-Line Library Information System.[3]


  1. ^ Hollis died in January 1730 by the Old Style calendar in use at the time, but in 1731 by New Style (modern) dating.


  1. ^ Davis, Andrew McFarland (March 1895). "Thomas Hollis". The Harvard Graduates' Magazine. Cambridge, Mass. 3 (11): 342–347. Retrieved July 28, 2015. 
  2. ^ Wood, Nathan Eusebius (1899). The history of the First Baptist Church of Boston (1665-1899). American Baptist Publication Society. p. 173. 
  3. ^ John T. Bethell; Richard M. Hunt; Robert Shenton (2009). Harvard A to Z. Harvard University Press. p. 246. ISBN 978-0-674-02089-4. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Gomes, Peter J. (2002). "Thomas Hollis of London and His Gifts: Two Hundred Seventy Five Years of Piety and Philanthropy at Harvard". Harvard Library Bulletin. 13 (2): 9–42. 

External links[edit]