John Harvard (clergyman)

John Harvard (clergyman)

John Harvard (November 26, 1607 – September 14, 1638) was an English clergyman after whom Harvard University is named.


Harvard was born and raised in London, in the borough of Southwark, the fourth of nine children, the son of Robert Harvard (1562-1625), a butcher and tavern owner, and his wife, Katherine Rogers (1584-1635), a native of Stratford-on-Avon whose father, Thomas Rogers (1540-1611), is sometimes thought to have been an associate of William Shakespeare (1564-1616). John Harvard was educated at St Saviour's Grammar School in Southwark, where his father Robert was a governor.

In 1625, his father, a stepsister, and two brothers died of the plague. Of his immediate family, only his mother and one brother, Thomas, remained. She remarried to John Elletson (1580-1626) who died within months of their marriage, and then to Richard Yearwood (1580-1632) in 1627. Harvard entered Emmanuel College, Cambridge, then a Puritan stronghold, in December 1627 and received his B.A. in 1632. Katherine died in 1635 and Thomas in the spring of 1637. John married Ann Sadler (1614-1655), of Ringmer, Sussex, in April, 1636, daughter of the Rev. John Sadler and sister of Harvard's contemporary, John Sadler, the lawyer and orientalist.

In May 1637 he emigrated with his wife to New England and settled in Charlestown, Massachusetts, where many of his classmates had arrived before him. Charlestown made him the minister of the Church, but within the following year he contracted tuberculosis and died on September 14, 1638. He is buried at the Phipps Street Cemetery in Charlestown.

Childless, Harvard bequeathed £779 (half of his estate) and his library of around 400 volumes to the New College at nearby Cambridge, which had been founded on September 8, 1636, and to his friend, the first schoolmaster of this college, Nathaniel Eaton. Eaton's Records indicate that the building of the new college began immediately in 1638 with the assistance of the carpenter Thomas Meakins and/or his son, Thomas Meakins, Jr. of Charlestown. It was completely constructed of wood, with a stone foundation and cellar, had its own apple orchard, and was apparently equipped with live-in accommodations for some 30 students, as there were at least that many attendant within the first year.

The school renamed itself "Harvard College" on March 13, 1639, and Harvard was first referred to as a "university" rather than a "college" by the new Massachusetts constitution of 1780.

No records or illustrations remain of the earliest college, which burnt to the ground in 1674 along with all but one of Harvard's original 400 volume donation.


A statue of John Harvard, sculpted by Daniel Chester French, sits in Harvard Yard at Harvard University. Despite its name, the statue does not depict the true likeness of John Harvard, as the sculptor had no accurate image to work from. [ Landmarks at Harvard] Access date March 2, 2008] The statue, known by Harvard tour guides as "the statue of three lies," claims that it depicts "John Harvard, Founder, 1638," but in reality Harvard was merely a contributor, not the founder; the institution was founded in 1636; and the statue is actually a likeness of someone else. French used a student as a model. [ [ John Harvard Statue] Access date March 2, 2008] [ [ Harvard's Statue of 3 Lies] Access date March 2, 2008]

The statue is depicted on a 1986 United States Postal Service 56 cent postage stamp, as part of the Great Americans series. [Scott catalog # 2191.]


External links

* [ Harvard as depicted on a cigar label from the early part of the 20th Century]
* [ House] The home of Katherine Rogers in Stratford-Upon-Avon
* [ St. Saviour's & St. Olave's School]

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