Teaching, Learning, and Research

Pen and ink illustrated mathemtical thesis demonstrating the solutions to three mathematical problems.

Image:  Prentiss, Nathaniel S. Mathematical Problems and Their Solutions. Ink and watercolor on paper, ca. 1787. HUC 8782.514 (18),  olvwork371796. Harvard University Archives.

These activities are highlighted in the personal papers of early Harvard presidents, faculty, and students.

Intellectual debates and topics relating to religious instruction appear in the papers of presidents Henry Dunster, Increase Mather, John Leverett, and Joseph Willard. Professors' notebooks, including those kept by John Winthrop and Samuel Williams, document meteorological, climate, and astronomical observations and emerging areas of scientific research. Student notebooks and manuscript copies of textbooks reflect the College curriculum and teaching methods.

Of particular note is a collection of more than 400 mathematical theses, broadside drawings prepared by undergraduates to demonstrate their mastery of geometry and algebra, thought to be the earliest evidence of formal instruction in the use of perspective in North America.

See also the research guide: Early Curriculum at Harvard.


Finding collections:

Search HOLLIS, the Harvard Library catalog, to find descriptions and links to online content for 17th and 18th century collections in the Harvard University Archives.

  • Use the terms listed below as a subject in a HOLLIS advanced search.
  • Use "Harvard in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries" as a title in a HOLLIS advanced search.

Subjects include:
Books and reading
Harvard Library

Genre terms include:
Harvard students' essays
Harvard students' notes


Collection finding aids in HOLLIS for Archival Discovery:


See also Colonial North America at Harvard Library for online access to 17th and 18th century collections held by the Harvard University Archives and other special collections and archives at Harvard.