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Harvard University

Established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature and soon thereafter named for John Harvard (its first benefactor), Harvard is the United States' oldest institution of higher learning,11 and the Harvard Corporation (formally, the President and Fellows of Harvard College) is its first chartered corporation. Although never formally affiliated with any denomination, the early College primarily trained Congregation­alist and Unitarian clergy. Its curriculum and student body were gradually secularized during the 18th century, and by the 19th century Harvard had emerged as the central cultural establishment among Boston elites.1213 Following the American Civil War, President Charles W. Eliot's long tenure (1869®C1909) transformed the college and affiliated professional schools into a modern research university; Harvard was a founding member of the Association of American Universities in 1900.14 James Bryant Conant led the university through the Great Depression and World War II and began to reform the curriculum and liberalize admissions after the war. The undergraduate college became coeducational after its 1977 merger with Radcliffe College.
The University is organized into eleven separate academic units°™ten faculties and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study°™with campuses throughout the Boston metropolitan area:15 its 209-acre (85 ha) main campus is centered on Harvard Yard in Cambridge, approximately 3 miles (4.8 km) northwest of Boston; the business school and athletics facilities, including Harvard Stadium, are located across the Charles River in the Allston neighborhood of Boston and the medical, dental, and public health schools are in the Longwood Medical Area.5 Eight U.S. presidents have been graduates, and some 150 Nobel Laureates have been affiliated as students, faculty, or staff. Harvard is also the alma mater of 62 living billionaires and 335 Rhodes Scholars, the most in the country.1617 The Harvard University Library is also the largest academic library in the United States.
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.25:1®C4 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).25:4®C526:24
In 1846, the natural history lectures of Louis Agassiz were acclaimed both in New York and on the 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 a person 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 Norrisand, 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.