Charles W. Eliot: President of Harvard University, 1869-1909

Charles W. Eliot: President of Harvard University, 1869-1909

Charles W. Eliot: President of Harvard University, 1869-1909

Charles W. Eliot: President of Harvard University, 1869-1909

Excerpt

It is now nearly a century since the late Charles W. Eliot, President of Harvard College from 1869 to 1909, was born. George Washington, Adam Smith, or Lord Mansfield would have felt more at home in the Boston where his childhood was spent than Chief Justice Marshall, who died in 1835, would feel himself in any American city to-day. During the last marvelous eighty years the American educational system has been striving to keep up with the changing times and to readapt itself to their demands. Its efforts have sometimes been hurried, sometimes reluctant or reactionary, often perplexed. Its reformers have been numerous. But, in the field of higher education at any rate, Eliot stood head and shoulders above his contemporaries for forty years. Furthermore, there was no other among them whose contribution was more personal in the sense of being more expressive of his individual mind and temperament. He was one of the men with whom the student of American history in the nineteenth century will have to reckon.

The purpose of this book is to delineate his character, not to hallow his memory or to chronicle all his achievements. For I agree with those who hold that Biography's primary concern is with character and personality. When a man's achievements or failures have gone to the making of history as did Eliot's, he invites our scrutiny . . .

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