Mather, Increase and Cotton

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Father and son, Puritan clergymen.

Increase, b. Dorchester, Mass., June 21, 1639; d. Boston, Mass., Aug. 23, 1723. He was the youngest son of Richard Mather, a prominent Puritan clergyman and Katherine (Holt) Mather. He attended Harvard (B.A.1656), but spent most of his time in Ipswich and Boston studying under Rev. John Norton. Later he entered Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland (M.A. 1658). In 1661, after serving as chaplain to the soldiers on Guernsey, he returned to Boston and married Maria Cotton, daughter of John. Mather was a leader in Puritan circles, becoming pastor (1664) of the Second Church in Boston, a post he retained throughout his life. From 1685 to 1701 he was president of Harvard, but spent little time in Cambridge, preferring to devote his time to church affairs. In 1688 the colony sent him to England, where, after three years, he finally obtained a new charter. After 1692 his influence declined. His numerous writings include theological, historical, and biographical works. Cases of Conscience Concerning Evil Spirits (1693) appeared during the witchcraft hysteria and cautioned against the abuses of the witch trials.

Cotton, b. Boston, Feb. 12, 1663; d. there, Feb. 13, 1728. He graduated from Harvard (B.A. 1678, M.A.1681) and was ordained (1685), serving at the Second Church during his father's absences and after his father's death. In 1718, with his father, he assisted at the ordination of a Baptist minister, and three years later he championed the unpopular cause of innoculation against smallpox. He was one of the founders of Yale and was the first native American to be a fellow of the Royal Society. His publications include Magnalia Christi Americana (1702), a collection of materials on the ecclesiastical history of New England; Wonders of The Invisible World (1693); and Essays to Do Good (1710).

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Mather, Increase and Cotton

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