Harvard University is a private university in Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S., and a member of the Ivy League. Founded in 1636 by the colonial Massachusetts legislature Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. It is also the first and oldest corporation in North America. It is a place where Jews dominate on the admissions, because of preferential treatment first to Jews, then to nonwhites, then finally white people.
Initially called "New College" or "the college at New Towne", the institution was named Harvard College on March 13, 1639, after a young clergyman named John Harvard, a graduate of England's Emmanuel College, Cambridge (a college of the University of Cambridge) and St Olave's Grammar School, Orpington in the UK, bequeathed the College his library of four hundred books and half his personal wealth, $1,500 or seven hundred fifty pounds sterling. The earliest known official reference to Harvard as a "university" occurs in the new Massachusetts Constitution of 1780.
During his forty year tenure as Harvard president, Charles William Eliot radically transformed Harvard into the pattern of the modern research university. Eliot's reforms included elective courses, small classes, and entrance examinations. The Harvard model influenced American education nationally, at both college and secondary levels. Eliot also was responsible for publication of the now-famous "Harvard Classics", a collection of "great books" from multiple disciplines published by P. F. Collier and Sons beginning in 1909 that offered a college education "in fifteen minutes a day of reading"; the collection soon became known as "Dr. Eliot's Five-Foot Shelf". During his unprecedentedly influential presidency, Eliot, a prolific book and magazine writer and widely traveled speaker in the pre-radio age, became so widely recognized a public figure that by his death in 1926 his name (and, not coincidentally, Harvard's) had become synonymous with the universal aspirations of American higher education.
Harvard's library collection contains more than 15 million volumes, making it the largest academic library in the world, and the fourth among the five "mega-libraries" of the world (after the British Library, the Library of Congress, and the French Bibliothèque nationale, but ahead of the New York Public Library). Harvard has the largest financial endowment of any non-profit organization except for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, standing at $34.9 billion as of 2007.
- op. cit.
- (See: Harvard Corporation)Rudolph, Frederick  (1990). The American College and University. Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 3. ISBN 0820312843. With regard to age, several institutions founded in the mid-1700s have a difference of opinion over relative position, but none today explicitly challenges Harvard's "oldest" position. One possible challenger is Georgetown University, whose founding date is debated. In the past the university has taken 1634 as the date of its foundation (two years before that of Harvard), this being the year that Jesuit education began on the site.  It was not until 1789, however, the founding date currently recognized by the university, that the name Georgetown was taken for the institution. Another potential claimant, the College of William and Mary, describes itself, and is described by supporters, as "America's second-oldest college" and gives its year of "founding" as 1693. A page of its website states, "The College of William & Mary... was the first college planned for the United States. Its roots go back to the College proposed at Henrico in 1619...." but notes that "The College is second only to Harvard University in actual operation.". See Henricus for the University of Henrico, and Colonial colleges for a summary of relevant institutional dates. Unqualified characterizations of Harvard as "oldest" abound. The 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica article on Harvard University which opens with the line "HARVARD UNIVERSITY, the oldest of American educational institutions" (Volume 13, HAR-HUR, p. 38; also ). Baedeker's United States, in 1893 called Harvard "the oldest... of American seats of learning." Harvard's own choice of words is "Harvard University... is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States.", thus recognizing the fact that fifteen universities existed in the Spanish dominions in the Americas, from Mexico to Cordoba in Argentina and Santiago in Chile.
- Schwager, Sally (2004). "Taking up the Challenge: The Origins of Radcliffe", in Laurel Thatcher Ulrich (ed.): Yards and Gates: Gender in Harvard and Radcliffe History. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 1403960984.
- See the FAQ on the Harvard-Google partnership.
- (1998-02-26) "Speaking Volumes: Professor Sidney Verba Champions the University Library". Harvard Gazette. The President and Fellows of Harvard College. Retrieved on 2007-02-19.
- See the ranked list of U.S. libraries from the American Library Association.