Boylston Hall was being renovated. Entering undergraduates faced new requirements for proficiency in quantitative subjects. In the classroom, the "pure lecture" progressively gave way to more involving methods of instruction. With the engineering faculties bursting out of their facilities, a new building, funded by a wealthy donor, neared construction. The Medical School overhauled its first- and second-year curricula. "Retiring allowances" helped encourage the "life-tenure corps" of professors to relinquish their posts so their ranks could be replenished. The librarian lamented that books were dangerously exposed to fire and newspapers decayed in a damp basement "cave."
Though these familiar-sounding news items could well have come from recent issues of Harvard Magazine, they in fact appear in President Charles William Eliot's report for the 1898-1899 academic year. Lest this suggest that the University remains frozen in time, elsewhere his report and those of deans and others now seem strange and remote. The veterinary faculty, for example, advocated adding a course in "dog practice" to the curriculum. The Bussey Institution, Harvard's School of Agriculture and Horticulture, had "struck root," its dean thought, "and has acquired strength enough to maintain vigorous and continuous growth which shall ensure the production in due course of abundant harvests"--despite the inconvenience of lacking space to house a cow skeleton to be used for instructional purposes. The Medical School did not yet require applicants to hold a bachelor's degree. Its library augmented by the acquisition of 36 books that year--bringing the total to 2,240 volumes--the school's research focused on prevalent diseases such as tuberculosis, scarlet fever, and diphtheria.
Observing from the dean's report that "three quarters of the members" of the graduate school "devote themselves to languages and the moral sciences as against one quarter who pursue mathematics and the physical and natural sciences," Eliot found that proportion "entirely in accord with the experience of Harvard College for a generation." (See the College Pump for sample questions from examinations of the period.)
The Harvard University Catalogue for 1898-1899 reveals other curiosities about the state of contemporary knowledge and learning. The Arts and Sciences faculty offered four courses on Church history--and three on American history. Within the Lawrence Scientific School, Engineering 10a, "Chipping, Filing, and Fitting," instructed students on the use of hand tools; 10b, "Blacksmithing," moved to the realm of application. Pre-DNA and -relativity, there were as many undergraduate courses in geology, mineralogy, and mining as the total offerings in the life sciences, chemistry, and physics. One can only wonder about the possible audiences then and now for the series of "Lectures on the Soldier's and Sailor's Life." Academic departments being in their infancy, Harvard's "officers of instruction and government" were listed not by discipline or alphabetically but--apart from Eliot himself--"on the basis of collegiate seniority."
Summarizing the work of the College Observatory, Eliot noted in passing, "On November 28, 1898, Mrs. Williamina Paton Fleming was appointed Curator of Astronomical Photographs....It is believed that Mrs. Fleming is the first woman who has held an official position in Harvard University." Less celestially, he pointed to the Psychological Laboratory's "interesting" experiments on "the sensations, feelings, memories, instincts, and habits of well-cared-for, normal turtles, newts, frogs, and fishes."
Turning from matters academic, the president--no fan of sports--deplored the "more and more thousands of hideous wooden seats in high banks...built every year on Soldier's Field." The catalog counseled that tuition, room, board, furniture, fuel, and sundries would cost College students $358 for those at the "low" end of "annual expenditure"; high livers, with good private rooms and lots of fancy food and drink, could triple the tab to $1,035. Even allowing for a century's inflation, given today's College bill of $31,132 before considerable expenses--for course books, CDs, computer software, and intercontinental travel--those surely were the days.
In 1898, the graduate school enrolled 336 students (198 of them, or 59 percent, from Harvard College)--42.5 percent of whom had been born in New England, and 31.5 percent in "other Northern States east of the Mississippi River." The remaining quarter of the students came from the American West (9 percent), Canada (7.5 percent), foreign countries (5 percent), and the American South (4.5 percent).
In the fall of 1997, six schools (business, dental, design, government, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and public health) derived 25 percent or more of their degree students from other nations. Across the University, 2,782 international students were pursuing Harvard degrees.
University matriculants that year included 10,034 men (54 percent) and 8,563 women (45 percent). Women outnumbered men in the dental, divinity, education, public health, and extension schools. Forty-two percent of the students were classified ethnically as white/non-Hispanic, 12 percent as Asian/Pacific Islander, 7 percent as black/non-Hispanic, 5 percent Hispanic, 1 percent Native American, 18 percent unknown/other, and 15 percent international.
From shortly after the Civil War until 1916, Harvard College tuition was $150 per year. Except for medical and dental studies ($200), the graduate and the professional schools charged the same fee. If tuition rose at the same rate as the most widely known gauge of inflation, the Consumer Price Index--which it emphatically does not, because the CPI measures very different components--the $150 bill of 1898 would be only a few thousand dollars today.
In fact, for the 1997-1998 academic year, the College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences billed $20,600 for tuition (excluding all fees and room and board charges). For the record--take the figures as an indication of relative educational costs, a prediction of graduates' potential income, or a commentary on prevailing values--Harvard's other schools assessed the following tuition bills: business, $25,000; design, $21,252; divinity, $13,480; education, $19,476; government, $20,720; law, $22,800; medicine and dentistry, $25,200; and public health, $20,890.
COURSES OF STUDY
In 1898, Harvard enrolled 3,901 degree candidates, including 2,266 undergraduates (1,851 in the College, 415 in the Lawrence Scientific School), a third of a thousand arts and sciences graduate students, 551 would-be lawyers, 560 doctors-to-be, 139 aspiring dentists, and about two dozen earnest apprentices each in the divinity, agricultural, and veterinary programs. Separately, Radcliffe had another 411 students.
A century later, the relative growth of the graduate and professional schools was readily apparent. Adjusting for the zealous scholars who were pursuing joint degrees, 18,597 students were enrolled in the University's degree programs in the fall of 1997. Of these, 6,630--35 percent--were in the de facto coeducational College. Graduate arts and sciences students numbered nearly 3,000. In declining order, law, education, and business followed, with enrollments exceeding 1,000 apiece. The dental, design, divinity, government, medical, and public health schools each had fewer than 1,000 degree candidates. And in a sign of changing lifestyles, the extension school counted 944 students studying for degrees in pursuit of new careers or unfulfilled old dreams.
For all its expansive growth under Charles W. Eliot, Harvard remained set in its provincial ways as the nineteenth century ended. The President and Fellows, Harvard's senior governing board, consisted of Eliot and Bostonians Henry Pickering Walcott, Henry Lee Higginson, Francis Cabot Lowell, Arthur Tracy Cabot, and Charles Francis Adams 2nd, treasurer. The remaining Fellow, Samuel Hoar, represented the remoter precincts: he lived in Concord. Of the 30 elected members of the Board of Overseers, 21 gave Boston, Cambridge, or suburban addresses. One of them came from Worcester, four (including Teddy Roosevelt) from New York, and, on the far-flung fringe, two from Philadelphia, one from Baltimore, and one from Chicago.
The current Fellows, in addition to President Neil L. Rudenstine, include two women (Judith Richards Hope, a Washington lawyer, and Hanna H. Gray, historian and president emerita of the University of Chicago), and businessmen D. Ronald Daniel (treasurer), James R. Houghton, Richard A. Smith, and Robert G. Stone Jr.--three from New York and one from suburban Boston. The 30 current Overseers--who meet less frequently and are less travel-constrained--come from as far away as California (where fully one-fifth of them now reside) and Alaska.
So intimate was the university community of 1898, despite Eliot's three decades of relentless expansion, that the "Map of Cambridge in the Vicinity of Harvard College" printed in the official catalog indicated the president's house and those of most senior faculty members and indexed them by number. (Indeed, in providing home addresses the catalog noted, "The residence is in Cambridge, unless otherwise stated.")
The map, produced by the Scientific School's engineering department, seems oddly empty today. In the Yard, there is no Widener Library, no Memorial Church. Buildings then new have vanished without a trace--Hunt Hall, for example, which opened in 1895 to house the Fogg Art Museum and was razed in 1973 to make way for Canaday Hall (see "Freshman plus 10"). On the north bank of the Charles, the map shows only Weld Boat Club (see "The Welds of Harvard Yard") and a coal wharf--no River Houses. To the south, little appears beyond another wharf plus the "Locker Building" and Carey Athletic Building; the Stadium (1903) and the Business School campus (1926) are as yet unenvisioned. In Boston, however, one school was already thinking ahead: Eliot reports that, given the need for new physiology, histology, and pathology laboratories, "A portion of the Medical Faculty advocates the prompt sale of the land and building on Boylston Street and the transfer of the entire School to cheaper land farther from the centre of the city." That vision would eventually be realized as the Longwood campus, dedicated in 1906.
Today, the University uses 18.8 million square feet of buildings--dormitories, offices, classrooms, laboratories, libraries, museums and more--in Cambridge, Boston (where future growth may focus on acreage recently acquired in Allston, near the Business School), central Massachusetts (the Harvard Forest), and as far away as Villa I Tatti, near Florence, Italy.
The panorama below of the Yard and Square was taken in late September from the tenth floor of Holyoke Center. Much has changed--note Widener, the Memorial Church steeple, and William James Hall--but the yellow Wadsworth House is still in place, and Harvard is still, greenery and all, recognizably Harvard.