Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Eliot, Samuel Atkins
ELIOT, Samuel Atkins, mayor of Boston, b. in Boston, Mass., 5 March, 1798; d. in Cambridge, Mass., 29 Jan., 1862. He was graduated at Harvard in 1817, became a merchant in Boston, served several terms in the state legislature, and was mayor of the city in 1837-'9. During his administration a riot took place, caused by a collision between a volunteer fire company and an Irish funeral procession. The disturbance was suppressed by the promptness of Mayor Eliot, who was on the ground at the first alarm, and immediately took measures for calling out the militia. The result of this affair was the establishment of a paid fire department and a day police. Mayor Eliot was elected to congress as a whig, to fill the vacancy caused by the appointment of Robert C. Winthrop to the U. S. senate, and served from 22 Aug., 1850, till 3 March, 1851. He was treasurer of Harvard college in 1842-'53. He published a “Sketch of the History of Harvard College and of its Present State” (Boston, 1848), and edited selections from the sermons of Dr. Francis W. P. Greenwood, with a memoir (2 vols., Boston, 1844). —
His son, Charles William, educator, b. in Boston, Mass., 20 March, 1834, was fitted for college at the Boston Latin-school, and was graduated at Harvard in 1853. In the following year he was appointed tutor in mathematics, and studied chemistry with Prof. Josiah P. Cooke. In 1858 he was made assistant professor of mathematics and chemistry, but in 1861 was relieved of his work in the mathematical department, and taught chemistry in Lawrence scientific school. In 1863 he went to Europe and spent two years in the study of chemistry and in the examination of the systems of public instruction in France, Germany, and England; and on his return in 1865 was appointed professor of analytical chemistry in the Massachusetts institute of technology. In that year an important revolution occurred in the government of Harvard university. The board of overseers had hitherto consisted of the governor, lieutenant-governor, president of the state senate, speaker of the house, secretary of the board of education, and president and treasurer of the university, together with thirty other persons, and these other persons were elected by joint ballot of the two houses of the state legislature. An opinion had long been gaining ground that it would be better for the community and the interests of learning, as well as for the university, if the power to elect the overseers were transferred from the legislature to the graduates of the college. This change was made in 1865, and at the same time the governor and other state officers ceased to form part of the board. The effect of this change was greatly to strengthen the interest of the alumni in the management of the university, and thus to prepare the way for extensive and thorough reforms. Shortly afterward Dr. Thomas Hill resigned the presidency, and after a considerable interregnum Mr. Eliot succeeded to that office in 1869. During his administration the elective system has completely supplanted the old-fashioned prescribed curriculum, and Harvard has come to resemble in its methods the great European universities, while it has doubled in number of students and professors, and more than trebled in wealth. President Eliot received the degree of LL. D. from Williams and from Princeton in 1869, and from Yale in 1870. He is a fellow of the American academy of arts and sciences, and of the American philosophical society, and a member of other literary and scientific, bodies. On many occasions he has been called upon to deliver addresses, notably at the inauguration of Daniel C. Gilman as president of Johns Hopkins university, at the opening of the American museum of natural history in New York, and before various educational bodies. His brief remarks at the museum were described by Prof. Edward L. Youmans as having “summed up in a few words the grandest characteristics of modern science.” President Eliot is a frequent speaker at the meetings of the Harvard club in New York, and at public dinners in Boston. Besides chemical memoirs, written with Prof. Frank H. Storer, essays on educational topics, and his annual reports as president of Harvard, he has published, in connection with Prof. Storer, a “Manual of Inorganic Chemistry” (New York, 1868), and a “Manual of Qualitative Chemical Analysis” (1869).