Who was Elihu Yale? British-American colonial administrator and philanthropist Elihu Yale biography, life story and works.
Elihu Yale; English philanthropist: b. Boston, Mass., April 5, 1649; d. London England, July 8, 1721. His father, David Yale, was an early settler in New Haven, Conn., but soon moved to Boston and then returned to England, where Elihu was educated. Entering the employ of the East India Company, Elihu went to Madras in 1672 and became governor of the company’s fort there in 1687.
In the meantime he had married a widow of means and, through lucrative investments and independent trading, amassed a considerable fortune. He was removed from office in 1692 and returned to England in 1699. He became famous as a collector of paintings and art objects and as a public benefactor. In 1717 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society.
Yale never revisited New England, but he was persuaded to contribute substantial support to the new Collegiate School which had been founded at Branford, Conn., and then moved to New Haven. His gifts of salable materials, books, and other items were estimated at some £-1,162. In his will he also left a legacy to the college, but it was held invalid in a series of court actions.
The largest gift, in 1718, followed a suggestion from Cotton Mather that “if what is forming at New Haven might wear the name of Yale College, it would be better than a name of sons and daughters.” After receiving this gift the trustees of the college wrote Yale of having “done our School the Honour of naming it with your Illustrious Name & have called it Yale-Colledge.” After his death his body was returned for burial in the parish churchyard at Wrexham, Denbighshire, in north Wales, near the family country estate where he had spent most of his time during his years of retirement.