Fantastic animation of the inside of a cell from Harvard Biovisions.Harvard University (incorporated as The President and Fellows of Harvard College) is a private university in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA and a member of the Ivy League. Founded in 1636 by the Massachusetts Legislature, Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States, as well as the first and oldest corporation in the Americas.
Initially referred to simply as "the new college", the institution was named Harvard College on March 13, 1639, after its first principal donor, a young clergyman named John Harvard. A graduate of Emmanuel College, Cambridge in England, John Harvard bequeathed about four hundred books in his will to form the basis of the college library collection, along with half his personal wealth worth several hundred pounds. The earliest known official reference to Harvard as a "university" rather than a "college" occurred in the new Massachusetts Constitution of 1780.
In his 1869-1909 tenure as Harvard president, Charles William Eliot radically transformed Harvard into the pattern of the modern research university. Eliot's reforms included elective courses, small classes, and entrance examinations. Eliot saw to it that Harvard would attract the best minds from around the world, thus securing its place among the great world universities. The Harvard model influenced American education nationally, at both college and secondary levels. Eliot, it should be noted, was responsible for the now famous "Harvard Classics" originally known as "Dr. Eliot's Five Foot Shelf." During his presidency at Harvard, Dr. Eliot was more well-known than then many of Presidents of the United States at the time.
In 1999, Radcliffe College, founded in 1894 as an outgrowth of the "Harvard Annex" for women, merged formally with Harvard University, becoming the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.
Harvard's library collection contains more than 15 million volumes, making it the largest academic library in the world, and the fourth among the five "mega-libraries" of the world (after the British Library, the Library of Congress, and the French Bibliothèque Nationale, but ahead of the New York Public Library). Harvard has the largest financial endowment of any non-profit organization, standing at $34.9 billion as of 2007.