1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Yale University

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YALE UNIVERSITY, the third oldest university in the United States, at New Haven, Connecticut.

The founders of the New Haven colony, like those of Massachusetts Bay, cherished the establishment of a college as an essential part of their ideal of a Christian state, of which education and religion should be the basis and the chief fruits. New Haven since 1644 had contributed annually to the support of Harvard College, but the distance of the Cambridge school from southern New England seemed in those days considerable; and a separate educational establishment was also called for by a divergent development in politics and theology. Yale was founded by ministers selected by the churches of the colony, as President Thomas Clap said, to the end that they might “educate ministers in our own way.” Though “College land” was set apart in 1647,[1] Yale College had its actual beginning in 1700 when a few clergymen met in the New Haven with the purpose “to stand as trustees or undertakers to found, erect and govern the College” for which at various times donations of books and money had teen made. The formal establishment was in 1701. The Connecticut legislature in October granted a charter which seems to have been partly drafted by Judge Samuel Sewall of Boston; the Mather family also were among those in Boston who welcomed and laboured for the establishment of a seminary of a stricter theology than Harvard, and the ten[2] clergymen who were the founders and first trustees of the College were graduates of Harvard.

The legislature, fearful of provoking in England attention either to the new school or to the powers used in chartering it, assumed merely to license a “collegiate school,” and made its powers of conferring degrees as unobtrusive as possible. In 1702 the teaching of Yale began. In the early years the upper students studied where the rector lived, and considerable groups of the lower students were drawn off by their tutors to different towns. In 1716 the trustees purchased a lot in New Haven, and in the next year the College was established there by the legislature. Commencement was held at New Haven in the same year, but the last of the several student bodies did not disband until 1719. The school did not gain a name until the completion of the first building in 1718. This had been made possible by a gift from Elihu Yale (1649-1721), a native of Boston and son of one of the original settlers of New Haven; he had amassed great wealth in India, where he was governor of the East India Company's settlement at Madras. The trustees accordingly named it Yale College in his honour.

The charter of 1701 stated that the end of the school was the instruction of youth “in the arts and sciences,” that they might be fitted “for public employment, both in church and civil state.” To the clergy, however, who controlled the College, theology was the basis, security and test of “arts and sciences.” In 1722 the rector, Timothy Cutler, was dismissed because of a leaning toward Episcopacy. Various special tests were employed to preserve the doctrinal purity of Calvinism among the instructors; that of the students was carefully looked after. In 1753 a stringent test was fixed by the Corporation to ensure the orthodoxy of the teachers. This was abolished in 1778. From 1808 to 1818 the President and tutors were obliged to signify assent to a general formulation of orthodox belief. When George Whitefield, in 1740, initiated by his preaching the “Great Awakening,” a local schism resulted in Connecticut between “Old Lights” and “New Lights.” When the College set up an independent church the Old Lights made the contention that the College did not owe its foundation to the original trustees, but to the first charter granted by the legislature, which might therefore control the College. This claim President Clap triumphantly controverted (1763), but Yale fell in consequence under popular distrust, and her growth was delayed by the shutting off of financial aid from the legislature.

By the first charter (1701) the trustees of the College were required to be ministers (for a long time, practically, Congregationalists) residing in the colony. By a supplementary act of 1723 the rector was made ex-officio a trustee. By a second charter (1745) ample powers were conferred upon the president (rector) and fellows, constituting together a governing board or Corporation. This charter is still in force. In 1792 the governor and lieutenant-governor of the state, and six state senators, were made ex-officio members of the Corporation. In 1872 the six senators were replaced by six graduates, chosen by the alumni body. The clerical element still constitutes one half of the Corporation. In the first half of the 19th century, under the lead of Nathaniel W. Taylor (q.v.), the Divinity School of Yale became nationally prominent for “Taylorism” or “New Haven Theology.” Daily attendance at prayers is still required of all college students.

The first college professorship established was that of divinity (1755), which, in a sense, was the beginning of extra-college or university work. The theological department was not organized as a distinct school until 1822. In 1770 a second professorship was established, of mathematics and natural philosophy. Timothy Dwight (president, 1795-1817) planned the establishment of professional schools; his term saw the foundation of the Medical School (1813) besides the Divinity School. In 1803 a chair was created for Benjamin Silliman, Sr. (1770-1864) in chemistry and natural history; English grammar and geography did not disappear from the curriculum until 1826, nor arithmetic until 1830; political economy was introduced in 1825, and modern languages (French) in the same year. Not until 1847 did modern history receive separate recognition. The Library had been given the status of an independent department in 1843. Compulsory commons were abolished in 1842, thus removing one feature of a private boarding school. Corporal punishment (“cuffing” of the offender's ears by the President) had disappeared before the War of Independence; and so also had the custom of printing the students' names according to their social rank, and using a “degradation” in precedence as punishment; while Dwight abolished the ancient custom of fagging, and the undemocratic system of fines that enabled a rich student to live as he pleased at the expense only of his pocket. The School of Law was established in 1843. Instruction to graduates in non-professional courses seems to have been begun in 1826. The appointment of Edward E. Salisbury to the chair of Arabic and Sanskrit (1841) was the first provision at Yale for the instruction of graduates by professors independent of the College. About the same time graduate instruction in chemistry became important. (In 1846 also a chair of agricultural chemistry was established — the first in the country.) In 1846 an extra-College department of Philosophy and Arts was created, conferring degrees since 1852; and from this were separated in 1854 the sciences, which were entrusted to a separate Scientific School, the original promoter of agricultural experiment stations in the United States. Since that time this school and the College have developed much as complementary and co-ordinate schools of undergraduates, Yale affording in this respect a very marked contrast with Harvard. Graduate instruction was concentrated in 1871 into a distinct Graduate School. This with the three traditional professional schools — the Art School, established in 1866 (instruction since 1869), and the first university art school of the country, the Music School, established in 1894 (instruction since 1890), and the Forest School, established in 1900 — make up the University, around the College. For the founding of the Peabody Museum of Natural History, George Peabody, of London, contributed $150,000 in 1866. The Observatory, devoted exclusively to research, was established in 1871. In 1887 the name Yale “University” was adopted. The organic unity of the whole was then recognized by throwing open to students ot any department the advantages of all. In 1886, for the first time, a president was chosen who was not of the College faculty, but from the University faculty.

Great as were the changes in the metamorphosis of old Yale, none had more influence upon its real and inner life than the gradual extension of the freedom accorded the students in the selection of their studies. In 1854 there was no election permissible until late in the Junior year. In 1876, 1884 and 1893 such freedom was greatly extended. In 1892 the work of the Graduate School was formally opened to women (some professors having admitted them for years past by special consent). Yale was the first college in New England to take this step.

The buildings number sixty-four in all. Connecticut Hall (1750-52), long known as South Middle College, a plain brick building, is the only remainder of the colonial style (restored, 1905). Around it are fourteen buildings forming a quadrangle on the College campus on the W. side of the New Haven Green, between Elm and Chapel Streets. The oldest are the Old Library (1842) and Alumni Hall (1853). Others are the Art School (1864), Farnam Hall (1869), Durfee Hall (1870), Lawrance Hall (1886), Battell Chapel (1876), Osborn Hall (1889), Vanderbilt Hall (1894), Chittenden Hall (1888) and Linsly Hall (1908). Dwight Hall, erected in 1886 for the Yale University Christian Association, Welch Hall (1892) and Phelps Hall complete the quadrangle. Across from the W. side of the quadrangle is the Peabody Museum (1876). On the N. side of Elm Street is a row of buildings, including the Gymnasium (1892), the Divinity School (1870) and the Law School (1897). University Avenue leads N. from the College campus to the University court or campus, on which are the Bicentennial Buildings (1901-2). E. and N.E. of the University court are the buildings of the Sheffield Scientific School. Farther N.E. are the Observatory, Hammond Metallurgical Laboratory, Forestry Building and Infirmary, and to the S.W. of the College campus are the Medical School and University Clinic.

The University is organized in four departments — Philosophy and the Arts, Theology, Medicine, and Law each with a distinct faculty. The first embraces the Academical Department (College), the Sheffield Scientific School, — named in honour of Joseph Earle Sheffield (1793-1882), a generous benefactor, — the School of the Fine Arts, the Department of Music, the Graduate School and the Forest School, founded in 1900 by a gift of $150,000 from J. W. Pinchot and his wife. Other institutions organized independently of any one department are: the Library, the Peabody Museum of Natural History, the Astronomical Observatory and the Botanical Garden, established in 1900 on the estate of Professor O. C. Marsh. The special treasures of the Library include the classical library of Ernst Curtius; the collection of Oriental books and manuscripts made by Edward E. Salisbury (1814-1901); the Chinese library of Samuel Wells Williams (1812-1884); a Japanese collection of above 3000 volumes; the Scandinavian library of Count Riant; the collection of Arabic manuscripts made by Count Landberg; the political science collection of Robert von Mohl; a copy of Newton's Principia presented to the College by the author; manuscripts of Jonathan Edwards; and large parts of a gift of nearly a thousand volumes given to Yale in 1733 by Bishop George Berkeley, who also gave to the College his American farm, as a basis of a scholarship, the first established in America. The Library is especially strong in the departments of American history, medieval history and English dramatic literature. Its total number of volumes in 1910 was nearly 600,000, exclusive of many thousand pamphlets. The Peabody Museum contains an unrivalled collection of Silurian trilobites; a fine collection of pseudomorphs; a beautiful collection of Chinese artistic work in stone made by Samuel Wells Williams; a notable mineralogical collection; a fine collection of meteorites made by Professor Hubert Anson Newton (1830-1896); and the magnificent palaeontological collection of Professor O. C. Marsh. The School of the Fine Arts possesses the Jarves gallery of Italian art, a remarkable collection of Italian “primitives” dating from the 11th to the 17th century; the Alden collection of Belgian wood-carvings, of the 17th century; and a large collection of modern paintings among which are fifty-four pictures by John Trumbull. The organization of the Trumbull collection in 1831 was the first step taken in the United States toward the introduction of the fine arts into a university. The equipment of the Observatory consists principally of a six-inch heliometer by Repsold, an eight-inch equatorial by Grubb, and two sets of equatorially mounted cameras for photographing meteors.

In the College and the Medical School four years are required to complete the course of instruction; in the Divinity School and the Law School, three years; in the Forest School, two years; and in the Scientific School there are both three-year and five-year courses, five years being required for all engineering degrees. Admission to the College is gained only by passing an examination in Latin, Greek or substitutes for Greek, French or German, English, mathematics and ancient history. Admission to the Scientific School is also only by examination. Substantially the equivalent of a college degree is required for admission to the Divinity School, but the Medical School and the Law School require only two years of college work, and a student may obtain a degree from Yale College and a degree in divinity, medicine or law in six years. The Forest School, with an extensive equipment at New Haven and a Forest Experiment Station comprising about 200 acres of forest and open land at Milford, Pike county, Pennsylvania — the estate of J. W. Pinchot — is open only to such graduates of colleges and scientific schools as have had a suitable scientific training, especially in advanced botany. It confers the degree of Master of Forestry.

In the College the individual courses are arranged in twenty-six groups within three divisions, and each student must complete before graduation both a major and a minor in some one of the three divisions and one minor in each of the other two divisions. In the Freshman and Sophomore years the student's freedom ol election is further restricted. In the Scientific School there is a somewhat different system of groups. The College confers only the degree of Bachelor of Arts, but the Scientific School confers the degrees of Bachelor of Philosophy, Master of Science (requiring at least one year of resident graduate study), and the engineering degrees. In the Divinity School the student has the choice of three courses — the historical, the philosophical and the practical — or, by the use of electives, he may combine the three; the study of Hebrew is required only in the historical course. In the Law School there is one course for candidates for the degree of Bachelor of Laws and another for candidates for the degree of Bachelor of Civil Law, the latter requiring the study of Roman law and allowing the substitution of certain studies in political science for some of the law subjects. The Graduate School confers the degrees of Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy; the School of Music, the degree of Bachelor of Music; and the School of Fine Arts, which is open to both sexes, the degree of Bachelor of the Fine Arts.

In 1910 the body of officers and instructors in all departments numbered 496, and the students 3312.

In addition to the regular work of the departments there are several lecture courses open to all students of the University. Among them are: the Dodge Lectures on the Responsibilities of Citizenship (1900); the Bromley Lectures on Journalism, Literature and Public Affairs (1900); the Lyman Beecher Lectures on Preaching (1871); the Silliman Memorial Lectures (1884) on subjects connected with “the natural and moral world”; the Stanley Woodward Lectures (1907) by distinguished foreigners; the Harvard Lectures (1905) by members of the faculty of Harvard University; the Sheffield Lectures on scientific subjects; and the Medical Alumni Lectures.

The principal publications with which the University is more or less closely associated are: The Yale Review, a Quarterly Journal for the Scientific Discussion of Economic, Political and Social Questions, edited by Professors in Political Science and History; the Yale Law Journal, edited by a board of students; the Yale Medical Journal, edited by members of the Medical Faculty with the assistance of a board of students; the Yale Alumni Weekly; and the Yale News, a daily paper managed by the students. The Yale Bicentennial Publications contain reprints of Research Papers from the Kent Chemical Laboratory, Studies in Physiological Chemistry and Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrography. Numerous other publications of the Yale University Press are issued only with the approval of the University.

In addition to several million dollars invested in lands and buildings the University possessed at the end of 1909 productive funds amounting to $10,561,830 (in 1886, $2,111,000). The income from all sources for the year 1908-9, exclusive of benefactions ($1,469,515), was $1,240,208. Up to 1908 more than three-fourths of all the University buildings had been erected as private gifts; the rest were built with College funds, or from legislative grants.

Yale shares with its fellow colleges founded in colonial days the advantages of old traditions and social prestige. In particular it shared these with Harvard so long as New England retained its literary and intellectual dominance over the rest of the country. But the spirit of the two institutions has always been very different. Harvard has on the whole been radical and progressive; Yale conservative. Yale could not draw, like Harvard, on the leaders of the New England schools of letters and philosophy to fill her professorial chairs. Her “comparative poverty, the strength of college feelings and traditions” (President Hadley) united with the lesser stimulus of her intellectual environment to delay her development. Harvard's transformation into a modern university was more spontaneous and rapid; Yale remained much longer under the dominance of collegiate traditions. But, according to Dr Charles F. Thwing (The American College in American Life, New York, 1897), of the men filling “the highest political and judicial offices,” and coming from American colleges founded before 1770, Yale had helped (up to 1897) to train the largest number. On the roll of her alumni are such names as Philip Livingston, Eli Whitney, John C. Calhoun, James Kent, Samuel F. B. Morse, Chief-Justice Morrison R. Waite and President Taft.

The Presidents have been as follows: in 1701-1707, Abraham Pierson (1645-1707); pro tem. 1707-1719, Samuel Andrew (1656-1737); in 1719-1722, Timothy Cutler (1684-1765); in 1722-1726, office filled by the College trustees in rotation; in 1726-1739, Elisha Williams (1694-1755); in 1739-1766, Thomas Clap (1703-1767); pro tem. 1766-1777, Naphtali Daggett (1727-1780); in 1777-1795, Ezra Stiles (1727-1795); in 1795-1817, Timothy Dwight (1752-1817); in 1817-1846, Jeremiah Day (1773-1867); in 1846-1871, Theodore Dwight Woolsey (1801-1889); in 1871-1886, Noah Porter (1811-1892); in 1886-1899, Timothy Dwight (b. 1828); and Arthur Twining Hadley (b. 1856).

See Universities and their Sons (Boston, 5 vols., 1898-1900); Charles E. Norton, Arthur T. Hadley et al., Four American Universities (New York, 1895); Timothy Dwight, Memories of Yale Life and Men, 1845-1899 (New York, 1903); Franklin Bowditch Dexter, Sketch of the History of Yale University (New York, 1887), and Biographical Sketches of Yale College with Annals of the College History, 1701-1792 (New York, 4 vols., 1885-1907); B. C. Steiner, The History of Education in Connecticut, Circular of Information No. 2 of the United States Bureau of Education (Washington, 1893); L. S. Welch and Walter Camp, Yale, Her Campus, Class Room and Athletics (Boston, 1899); Charles Franklin Thwing, A History of Higher Education in America, (New York, 1906).


  1. In 1668 the Hopkins Grammar School, next after the Boston Latin School the oldest educational institution of this grade in the United States, was established in New Haven.
  2. This number was increased to eleven, the full number allowed by the charter, within a month after it was granted.