Lowell, Abbott Lawrence

Lowell, Abbott Lawrence, 1856–1943, American educator, president of Harvard (1909–33), b. Boston, grad. Harvard (B.A., 1877; LL.B., 1880); brother of Percival Lowell and Amy Lowell. He practiced law in Boston for 17 years and joined the Harvard faculty in 1897 as a lecturer in political science, becoming a professor in 1900. In 1909 he succeeded Charles W. Eliot as president. As Eliot had developed the graduate schools of Harvard, Lowell turned his attention to the undergraduate college. To combat specialization, he introduced (1914) a modification of the elective system, established (1917) the requirement of a general examination in their major subject for candidates for the bachelor's degree, and instituted (1917) the tutorial system for upper classmen. He also put into operation (1931), in seven new residence halls along the Charles River, his “house plan,” whereby, through residential units like those in English universities, he hoped to secure the advantages of intellectual and social cohesion. Lowell is remembered for his spirited defense of academic freedom and for his advocacy of American participation in the League of Nations. His presidency saw a period of tremendous physical growth at Harvard and the reorganization of the finances of the university. His writings include Essays on Government (new ed. 1969), Public Opinion and Popular Government (1913, repr. 1969), Conflicts of Principle (1932), Biography of Percival Lowell (1935), and What a University President Has Learned (1938, repr. 1969).

See biography by H. A. Yeomans (1948).

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