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Abbott Lawrence Lowell

Abbott Lawrence Lowell (January 1, 1856January 6, 1943), an educator, historian and Boston Brahmin, was the President of Harvard University from 1909 to 1933. He implemented the house system at the University and co-founded the Harvard Society of Fellows. He was born to Augustus Lowell and his wife Katherine Bigelow Lowell, and was brother to poet Amy Lowell, astronomer Percival Lowell and early activist for prenatal care Elizabeth Lowell Putnam , all part of the accomplished American Lowell family.

He was born in Boston, Massachusetts the great-grandson of John Lowell , and on his mother's side, a grandson of Abbott Lawrence. He graduated at Harvard College in 1877, with highest honors in mathematics; graduated at the Harvard Law School in 1880; and practised law from 1880 to 1897 in partnership with his cousin, Francis Cabot Lowell (b. 1855), with whom he wrote Transfer of Stock in Corporations (1884).

In 1897 he became lecturer and in 1898 professor of government at Harvard, and in 1909 succeeded Charles William Eliot as president of the university. In the same year he was president of the American Political Science Association. In 1900 he had succeeded his father, Augustus Lowell, as financial head of the Lowell Institute of Boston. He wrote Essays on Government (1889), Governments and Parties in Continental Europe (2 vols., 1896), Colonial Civil Service (1900; with an account by H. Morse Stephens of the East India College at Haileybury), and The Government of England (2 vols., 1908).

In addition to the house system, Lowell's main legacy to Harvard was the evolution of concentrations (Harvard's name for academic majors), which he began to develop even before becoming president, when he was still just a prominent professor. Lowell's predecessor, Charles W. Eliot, had replaced the single standardized undergraduate course with a smorgasbord of electives; Lowell began encouraging (and eventually requiring) students to concentrate the bulk of their studies in some academic field or other. In recent years, Lowell's prediency has come under much criticism for its unwelcoming attitude towards Jews.

This article incorporates text from the public domain 1911 Encyclopędia Britannica.

Preceded by:
Charles W. Eliot
President of Harvard University Succeeded by:
James B. Conant

Last updated: 02-10-2005 15:25:01
Last updated: 05-02-2005 20:09:20