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Charles William Eliot

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CHARLES WILLIAM ELIOT (1834-1926)

Charles Wm. Eliot, American educator, was President of Harvard University from 1869 to 1909. In these 40 years, Harvard developed from a small college with attached professional schools to a great modern university.

Charles was born in Boston, educated at Harvard and married the daughter of Rev. Ephriam Peabody, minister of King's Chapel in Boston. King's Chapel was the first church to adopt a Unitarian theology by eliminating references to the Trinity from their prayer books and hymns. In later years, he was a member of the First Church in Cambridge, Mass. (Unitarian) at Harvard Square.

Charles William Eliot

Van Wyck Brooks in his book: New England: Indian Slummer 1865 describes Charles Wm. Eliot as: "A Channing Unitarian of the Boston-Puritan-Roman type, serene as Cato, cheerful as a boy.---Eliot took for granted the Emersonian doctrine that the young should follow their stars without let or hindrance." The latter led Chas. Wm. Eliot to adopt the elective system at Harvard University.

Under Eliot, Harvard dropped the requirement that students must read the classics in the original Greek and Latin. He believed that the classics could be understood in their translations and set about to publish these in what was called the "five-foot shelf", the Harvard Classics.

An academic radical, he was probably 60 years ahead of his time. He even supported Elizabeth Cary Agassiz in her development of Radcliffe College (a women's college), affiliated with Harvard. Eliot's lead in these matters was adopted by other universities and high schools.

After his resignation from Harvard in 1909, he turned to public affairs and worked for Civil Service Reform and was a member of the Carnegie Foundation for Advancement of Teaching. He wrote several books, Including: The Religion of the Future and The Durable Satisfaction of Life, which present Eliot's religious and ethical views.

He died at the age of 90 in 1926. His funeral was held in Appleton Chapel at Harvard University.

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