Yale University Celebrates

Rosalind D’Eugenio reviews 300 years of academic history.

The history of Yale University holds that, in 1701, a handful of Congregational ministers from Connecticut brought together forty books from their own libraries, placed them on a table, and pronounced, ‘I give these books for the founding of a College in this Colony’. While that tale has been alternately accepted and disputed, it is certain that in October 1701, the Connecticut Colony General Assembly met in New Haven and granted a charter for The Collegiate School, which was housed in the shoreline town of Old Saybrook before finding permanent residence in New Haven.

It was in 1718, with the donations of Elihu Yale, a British East India merchant of Wrexham, Wales, that the college completed its first building. Honouring Yale’s generous gift of nine bales of goods (worth 562 pounds and 12 shillings), 417 books, and a portrait and arms of George I, the school was renamed Yale College.

Yale College began a succession of alumni who would go on to make significant contributions to the worlds of law, politics, science, medicine and the arts. Some early graduates include the American revolutionary, Nathan Hale, (1773); David Bushnell, (1775), the inventor of the ‘Turtle’, the precursor to the submarine; and Eli Whitney, (1792), who established a gun factory which was the first in the world to utilise a system of interchangeable parts. Also among these graduates were four signers of the Declaration of Independence – Lyman Hall, Philip Livingston, Lewis Morris, and Oliver Wolcott.

By the 1800s the University had added a medical school and The Trumbull Gallery, the first art museum in Connecticut and the first university museum in America. In 1869, Yale also established the first fine arts school in America and opened its doors to female students. Yale’s now famous student-run newspaper, The Yale Daily News, was also founded. And, in 1887, the college was renamed Yale University.

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