Charles William Eliot was born 20 March 1834 in Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts, United States to Samuel Atkins Eliot (1798-1862) and Mary Lyman (1800-) and died 22 August 1926 Massachusetts, United States of unspecified causes. He married Ellen Derby Peabody (1836-1869) 1858 in Massachusetts, United States.


Charles William Eliot (March 20, 1834 – August 22, 1926) was an American academic who was selected as Harvard's president in 1869. He transformed the provincial college into the preeminent American research university. Eliot served until 1909, having the longest term as president in the university's history. He was a cousin of the Nobel Prize-winning poet T.S. Eliot.

Early Life

Charles Eliot was a scion of the wealthy Eliot family of Boston, and was the grandson of banker Samuel Eliot. His mother Mary Lyman Eliot had ancestral roots in early Massachusetts Bay Colony as a descendant of Edmund Rice. Eliot graduated from Boston Latin School in 1849 and from Harvard University in 1853. He was later made an honorary member of the Hasty Pudding.

Later Years

Charles Eliot was a fearless crusader not only for educational reform, but for many of the goals of the progressive movement—whose most prominent figurehead was Theodore Roosevelt (Class of 1880) and most eloquent spokesman was Herbert Croly (Class of 1889). Eliot was also involved in philanthropy, serving as a trustee of the Rockefeller Foundation from 1914 to 1917.

Upon his death in 1926, the New York Times published a full-page interview that occurred as he neared the end of his life,[21] including excerpts from his writings on education, religion, democracy, labor, "woman", and Americanism.

Though he retired from Harvard's presidency in 1909, Eliot lived until 1926. He is interred in Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Monuments and memorials

Eliot House, one of the seven original residential houses for undergraduates at the college, was named in honor of Eliot and opened in 1931. Charles W. Eliot Middle School in Pasadena, California and Eliot Elementary School in Tulsa, Oklahoma were named in his honor. In 1940 the United States Postal Service issued a stamp in Eliot's honor as part of their Famous Americans Issue. Asteroid (5202) Charleseliot is named in his honor.

Marriage & Family

1st Marriage: Ellen Peabody

On October 27, 1858, Eliot married Ellen Derby Peabody (1836-1869) in Boston. She died of tuberculosis in the same year that he became president of Harvard.

They had four sons:

  1. Charles Eliot (1859-1897) - became an important landscape architect, responsible for Boston's public park system.
  2. Francis Eliot (1859-)
  3. Samuel Atkins Eliot (1862-1950) - became a Unitarian minister who was the longest-serving president of the American Unitarian Association (1900–1927) and was the first president granted executive authority of that organization.
  4. Robert Peabody Eliot (1866-)

2nd Marriage: Grace Hopkinson

After Ellen Derby Peabody died at the age of 33 of tuberculosis, Eliot married a second wife in 1877, Grace Mellen Hopkinson (1846–1924). This second marriage did not produce any children. Grace was a close relative of Frances Stone Hopkinson, wife of Samuel Atkins Eliot II, his son.

Other Family

The Nobel Prize-winning poet T.S. Eliot was a cousin and attended Harvard from 1906 through 1909, graduating in three instead of the normal four years, which were the last three years of Charles' presidency.


Offspring of Charles William Eliot and Ellen Derby Peabody (1836-1869)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Charles Eliot (1859-1897) 1 November 1859 Cambridge, Middlesex County, Massachusetts 24 March 1897 Massachusetts Mary Yale Pitkin (1865-)
Francis Eliot (1859-)
Samuel Atkins Eliot (1862-1950) 24 August 1862 Cambridge, Middlesex County, Massachusetts 15 October 1950 Massachusetts Frances S. Hopkinson
Robert Peabody Eliot (1866-)



  • Samuel Eliot 1798 Immigrant Ancestors
  • Charles W Eliot - Biography on Wikipedia
  • Eliot Family of Boston - Wikipedia
  • Charles Eliot - Appletons' Cyclopedia of American Biography
  • Hugh Hawkins. (1972). Between Harvard and America: The Educational Leadership of Charles W. Eliot. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
  • Henry James. (1930). Charles W. Eliot - President of Harvard, 1869-1926. Cambridge, MA: Houghton Mifflin.
  • Samuel Eliot Morison. (1936). Three Centuries of Harvard. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • Samuel Eliot Morison (ed.). (1930). The Development of Harvard University, 1869-1929. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • "Football is a fight, says President Eliot. Harvard's Head Vigorously Attacks the Game. Strong Prey on the Weak. Conditions Governing the Sport Dr. Eliot Describes as Hateful & Mean; Wants $2,500,000 Endowment." The New York Times, February 2, 1905, p. 6. Quoted material is verbatim from the Times, but reported by the Times as indirect quotations from Eliot.


Footnotes (including sources)


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