Colorful personalities loom large in Harvard's early history. These people shaped College life and governance through their interest in the intellectual life of the colonies, their administrative service, and their financial support, both real and anticipated. Notable among these individuals are:

John Harvard
In 1638, John Harvard's bequest of 400 books and half of his estate prompted the Massachusetts General Court to name the nascent college in his honor.

Ann Radcliffe
In 1643, Ann Radcliffe, Lady Mowlson, after whom Radcliffe College is named, gave Harvard its first endowed scholarship fund.

John Hancock
Appointed Harvard's treasurer in 1773 with the hope that the title would encourage a future legacy, John Hancock left the College finances in severe disarray after he left Boston to join the effort for American independence and became president of the Continental Congress.

Thomas Hollis
In addition to giving money and supplies, Thomas Hollis, whose name now graces Harvard's online library catalog, took an active interest in buying books for the library, thereby shaping early intellectual pursuits at the College.

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:
Funds and scholarships
Women philanthropists

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.