Yale, Elihu, 1649–1721, English merchant, an early benefactor of Yale Univ., b. Boston. The family moved to England c.1652, and Yale was educated in London. He went to Madras (now Chennai) in the service of the British East India Company c.1670 and rose in the ranks of the company. He was appointed governor of Fort St. George at Madras in 1687. Because of scandals concerning his administration, he was removed in 1692 and returned to London in 1699. While in the East he had amassed a large fortune through private trade. In 1718, Cotton Mather wrote Yale suggesting that the Collegiate School at Saybrook, Conn., might be named for him in return for financial support. Yale donated a parcel of goods, which when sold brought £562—the largest single gift to the college before 1837. The college, which had moved to New Haven, took the name of Yale.
See F. B. Dexter, A Selection from the Miscellaneous Historical Papers of Fifty Years (1918); biography by H. Bingham (1939, repr. 1968).