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1600-1754: Education: Chronology

1600-1754: Education: Chronology




  • 28 Oct. Harvard College is founded in Boston by an act of the Massachusetts General Court. Officials allow £400 for the schools establishment and appoint the Reverend Henry Dunster as the first president.


  • 20 May The town of Dorchester, Massachusetts, establishes the first school supported by community taxes.


  • 11 Nov. The colony of Massachusetts Bay passes the first compulsory school law in America. The statute requires every community of at least fifty families to maintain free elementary schools; communities with more than one hundred households have to provide secondary education as well.


  • Illiteracy among women in Massachusetts Bay is about 50 percent; the rate in New Netherland is 60 percent and in Virginia is 75 percent.


  • Harvard College formally accepts the Copernican theory (the belief that the Sun and not the Earth is the center of the solar system).



  • Increase Mather is appointed a fellow at Harvard College. During his distinguished career Mather promotes the study of science while maintaining the colleges strong Congregationalist ties.



  • Thomas Brattle, a Boston mathematician, accomplishes a major scientific achievement by calculating the orbit of a comet.


  • Increase Mather becomes acting president of Harvard College. The next year he becomes rector, a position he will hold until 1701.


  • The William Penn Charter School is founded in Philadelphia. The first public school in America, it charges tuition, but only for those students who can afford it.


  • Increase Mather receives from Harvard College the first divinity degree conferred in the British North American colonies.


  • 8 Feb. A charter for the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, is signed. James Blair receives a grant to furnish Virginia with a seminary of ministers, to educate the youth in piety, letters and good manners and to propagate Christianity among the Indians. The school opens the next year.


  • 16 Oct. Congregationalists dissatisfied with the growing liberalism of Harvard College establish the Collegiate School in Killingworth, Connecticut. The school awards its first degrees fifteen years later.


  • The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel opens Trinity School in New York City.


  • A Jesuit College is founded at Kaskaskia, in present-day Illinois; its library contains many volumes by leading French philosophers.


  • The first permanent Native American school is established at the College of William and Mary. The school, housed in Bafferton Hall, is maintained by funds from the famous English scientist Robert Boyle.


  • Harvard College endows the first chair in mathematics and natural philosophy, and the first incumbent, Isaac Greenwood, lectures on calculus.


  • Benjamin Franklin founds the first circulating library in the Western Hemisphere, the Library Company of Philadelphia.


  • John Winthrop IV replaces Isaac Greenwood as professor of mathematics and natural philosophy at Harvard College.



  • The Collegiate School of Killingworth, Connecticut, moves to New Haven and changes its name to Yale College.


  • John Winthrop IV gives the first laboratory demonstration of magnetism and electricity at Harvard College.
  • 22 Oct. The College of New Jersey receives a charter, and the next year it opens in Elizabethtown. President Jonathan Dickinson teaches the first classes in his home. The school later moves to Princeton and changes its name to Princeton College.


  • Through the efforts of Benjamin Franklin, the Academy and Charitable School of Philadelphia is established; it later becomes the University of Pennsylvania.


  • King George II grants a charter for Kings College in New York City; it later becomes Columbia University.
  • Americans are the most literate people in the British Empire. Approximately 90 percent of adult white males and 40 percent of the females in New England can read and write. In the other British North American colonies the literacy rate among men varies from 35 percent to more than 50 percent.

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