The charter creating the Harvard Corporation was granted in 1650.
A 1643 publication gave the school's purpose as "to advance learning and perpetuate it to posterity, dreading to leave an illiterate ministry to the churches when our present ministers shall lie in the dust"; It offered a classic curriculum on the English university model—many leaders in the colony had attended the University of Cambridge—but conformed to the tenets of Puritanism.
When the Hollis Professor of Divinity David Tappan died in 1803 and the president of Harvard Joseph Willard died a year later, in 1804, a struggle broke out over their replacements.
Henry Ware was elected to the chair in 1805, and the liberal Samuel Webber was appointed to the presidency of Harvard two years later, which signaled the changing of the tide from the dominance of traditional ideas at Harvard to the dominance of liberal, Arminian ideas (defined by traditionalists as Unitarian ideas).
Derived from William Ellery Channing and Ralph Waldo Emerson, these convictions were focused on the dignity and worth of human nature, the right and ability of each person to perceive truth, and the indwelling God in each person.
During the 20th century, Harvard's international reputation grew as a burgeoning endowment and prominent professors expanded the university's scope.
This dual view of knowledge was in concert with the teachings of Common Sense Realism derived from Scottish philosophers Thomas Reid and Dugald Stewart, whose works were part of the Harvard curriculum at the time.
The popularity of Agassiz's efforts to "soar with Plato" probably also derived from other writings to which Harvard students were exposed, including Platonic treatises by Ralph Cudworth, John Norris and, in a Romantic vein, Samuel Taylor Coleridge.In 1708, John Leverett became the first president who was not also a clergyman, marking a turning of the college from Puritanism and toward intellectual independence.Throughout the 18th century, Enlightenment ideas of the power of reason and free will became widespread among Congregational ministers, putting those ministers and their congregations in tension with more traditionalist, Calvinist parties.Rapid enrollment growth continued as new graduate schools were begun and the undergraduate College expanded.Radcliffe College, established in 1879 as sister school of Harvard College, became one of the most prominent schools for women in the United States.Following the American Civil War, President Charles W.