Harvard University, the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Its main campus is in Cambridge, Massachusetts, across the Charles River from Boston. Harvard's Graduate School of Business Administration, Medical School, School of Dental Medicine, and School of Public Health are in Boston.

Harvard is nonsectarian and under private control. Radcliffe College, the women's undergraduate college founded in 1879 as Harvard's sister school, merged with Harvard in 1999. Thereafter, all undergraduates, male and female, matriculated at Harvard. Radcliffe College became the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, an interdisciplinary center offering nondegree programs.

Harvard Yard, adjoining Cambridge Common, has several buildings built before the Revolution. These include Massachusetts Hall (1720), Wadsworth Hall (1727), Holden Chapel (1744), Hollis Hall (1763), and Harvard Hall (1766). Another notable building is Widener Memorial Library. The Graduate School and several professional schools are north of Harvard Yard, and Radcliffe Yard is to the west.


The president is the chief executive official. The governing boards are: (1) a self-perpetuating corporation consisting of the president, treasurer, and five fellows; and (2) the Board of Overseers, whose 30 members are elected by alumni.

Harvard College is the university's oldest and largest unit. Freshmen live in dormitories in or near the Yard. Sophomores, juniors, and seniors live in residential houses near the river. Each house has its own dining hall, library, common rooms, and advisers.

Harvard has the following schools:

Harvard College

(founded 1636), the original school.

Medical School

(1782). It was moved from Cambridge to Boston in 1810.

Divinity School

(1816). It is nonsectarian and nondenominational.

Law School

(1817). It is the oldest law school now existing in the United States.

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
Graduate School of Business Administration
Graduate School of Education
School of Public Health
Graduate School of Design

(1935). It has courses in architecture, landscape architecture, city and regional planning, and urban design.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy School of Government

(founded in 1935 as the Graduate School of Public Administration and renamed in 1966).

School of Dental Medicine
Division of Continuing Education

(1975). Includes the Summer School of Arts and Sciences and of Education (1871) and University Extension (1910), which offers classes to persons not in residence.

Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences

(1997). It replaced various schools of engineering, applied sciences, and other subjects that were founded beginning in 1847.

Radcliffe Institute For Advanced Study

(1999; founded in 1879 as Radcliffe College).

Harvard has many special institutions, including Harvard College Observatory (1847) at Harvard, Massachusetts; Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology (1866); Fogg Art Museum (1895); Harvard University Press; Arnold Arboretum at Jamaica Plain in Boston; Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection in Washington, D.C.; Villa I Tatti Center for Italian Renaissance Culture at Florence, Italy; and Harvard Black Rock Forest (about 2,300 acres [930 hectares]) in Petersham, Massachusetts.

Harvard has the largest university library in the world, with more than 12,000,000 volumes.


Harvard College was founded by the General Court (legislature) of Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1636, and was opened in 1638. The legislature appropriated 400 for the purpose and provided that it should be located in New Towne, which was soon renamed Cambridge, for the English university town. The Reverend John Harvard, who died in 1638, left nearly 780 (half his estate) and about 400 books to the college, which was then named for him. In 1650 the General Court granted Harvard a charter under the name of “President and Fellows of Harvard College.” For many years Harvard received public support from Massachusetts; the last grant was made in 1823.

Under Charles W. Eliot, president from 1869 to 1909, Harvard became a great university. Progress continued under A. Lawrence Lowell, James Bryant Conant, Nathan M. Pusey, and Derek C. Bok. Presidents of the United States who were graduates of Harvard include John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Rutherford B. Hayes (Law School), Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy. Other distinguished alumni include Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Oliver Wendell Holmes (father and son), Henry David Thoreau, William and Henry James, and Henry Kissinger.