John Harvard, a British Protestant priest, lived between 1607 and 1638. The plague wiped out his family, and he became the sole heir to its property. He died at an early age.
He graduated from Emmanuel College at the University of Cambridge, then immigrated in 1637 to New England. He lived on American soil for only 13 months, and donated half of his wealth and 400 books from his library to found a college in 1636 that bore his name in 1639 and became Harvard University in 1780. It is the oldest and most prestigious university in the world. United State.
Birth and upbringing
John Harvard was born in London in 1607, and was baptized on November 29 in St. Savior's Cathedral (now Southwark Cathedral). He was the second son of his father, Robert, who practiced a butcher's career and was a religious activist, and his mother, Catherine Rogers, was the daughter of a livestock merchant and a local council member. He has 5 other brothers from his father.
He grew up in a middle-class English Puritan Christian family from Stratford-on-Avon, where his mother kept a house known today as Harvard House on the High Street.
In 1625, the plague swept through London and wiped out John's family, leaving only his brother Thomas and his mother who survived. By marrying twice, the family estate grew again.
In July 1635, the young man became wealthy from inherited properties after the death of his mother. A year later, he was the only surviving member of his family following the death of his brother, and inherited property estimated at more than 1,600 pounds sterling.
On April 19, 1636, he married a woman named Anne Sadler and sailed to New England in search of a new society and a freer climate for his Puritan views.
He settled in the American colonies in Charles Town in August 1637, and lived on American soil for only 13 months, as he died at the age of 31, and had no children.
Some of his contemporaries said he was a man who loved learning and was inclined to help his colleagues, and Edward Everett (politician and former governor of Massachusetts) described him as “America's most memorable benefactor of education and religion.”
The Reverend Thomas Shepherd said of him, in the famous pamphlet, “The First Fruits of New England,” that he “was learned and pious in his life.”
Study and scientific training
As a child, John attended school in his hometown. His formal education stopped at the end of the course, and it is likely that during that period he went to learn a practical profession, as one of his brothers was a worker in the cloth sector.
With the help of the rector of St Saviour's, who was a family friend, he was accepted at the age of 20 at Emmanuel College in Cambridge on 19 December 1627, then a conservative Calvinist area.
He studied at the college – which was established on the site of a Dominican monastery in the 13th century to train clergy – for more than 7 years, where he obtained a bachelor's degree in 1632, and a master's degree in 1635, which constituted a major achievement for the Harvard family.
Historians mentioned that many legal documents in England indicate that John was a writer, and when he immigrated to Charles Town, he and his wife became members of the church, and in November 1637, he served as assistant priest, and it is not known whether he was ordained a bishop or not. .
He also invested some of his wealth in livestock raising, allocating about 120 acres for this purpose. This business was essentially a partial continuation of his father's butcher work, notes Harvard historian Samuel Eliot Morrison.
John settled in Charles Town, 9 months after founding the first academic nucleus referred to as 'the College' or 'Old College' for the sum of £400. By vote of the Supreme Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony on September 8, 1636.
In 1638, John Harvard bequeathed half of his estate (£780), to the college that began as a religious college with the aim of preparing and training priests, for the colony where Protestant European immigrants took refuge in the northeastern United States.
The suburb in which the nucleus of the university was established (the college’s first piece of real estate was a house and an acre of land) in the city of “New Town” was named “Cambridge,” and then its area doubled and turned into a city with the same name, in honor of the British university from which John graduated in his native England. .
On March 13, 1639, the Grand General Court of Massachusetts decreed that the college's name be changed to “Harvard” in honor of its first major benefactor, whose donations were then equivalent to the colony's annual tax revenues, according to historical studies.
It is believed that the young priest was ill and on his deathbed, as he was unable to write a written will, so he verbally bequeathed his donations, which also included his library of 329 titles (a total of 400 volumes). The university archives keep a list of its first printed catalog completed since 1723.
The contents of John's library were the college's first collection, and represented dictionaries and books on grammar and the classics, some in their original languages, others in famous translations.
The college began with 12 students, to whom some philanthropists donated books, in addition to John's financial and library donations. From that humble beginning, Harvard University has developed for more than three centuries, and its endowment assets have accumulated until one of the criteria for evaluating candidates for its presidency is “his ability to collect new endowments for the benefit of the university.”
On the night of January 24, 1764, Harvard College Hall burned, destroying all the volumes in the library. Only one volume remained from John's collection, and it was said that it was spared from burning, because it was on loan and its borrower was late to deliver it.
In 1883, Boston philanthropist Samuel James Bridge – whose interest in American history demonstrated a desire to save neglected figures – wrote a letter to Harvard graduates, offering to pay for a bronze statue commemorating John Harvard, whose financial cost was estimated at more than $20,000.
During Harvard University's celebration of the Tercentenary, on October 15, 1884, a bronze monument to John Harvard designed by the French sculptor Daniel Chester French was unveiled.
The monument depicts a thin young man with long hair, sitting on a chair in his academic robe, with an open book on his right leg, and more books piled under his chair. On a granite base under the monument are written “John Harvard – Founder – 1638.”
The statue – which was first placed in front of Memorial Hall and 25 years later was moved to the square in 1924 – is seen as an “ideal embodiment” of Harvard University’s values, and is closely linked to them.
The statue has become “a symbol of Harvard and a focal point in the oldest part of its grounds,” even if it is not an actual replica of John Harvard, says Charles Eliot Norton, Harvard's first professor of art history.
John Harvard died on September 14, 1638, at the age of 31 from tuberculosis. This was two years after the founding of the university that bore his name.
He was buried in Phipps Street Cemetery in Charles Town, and when his original burial marker disappeared during the American Revolution, another monument was erected by Harvard graduates in 1828 in the cemetery.