Kirkland, John Thornton, 1770 - 1840

Named after John Thornton, the English philanthropic benefactor to Indian missions, John Thornton Kirkland was born in Herkimer, New York, the son of the Indian missionary, Rev. Samuel Kirkland.  Shortly after John's birth, the family moved to the Indian community at Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

In 1786, after spending two years at Philips Academy, Kirkland gained admission to Harvard, graduating in 1789.  After a brief return to Andover, he began the study of theology with Rev. Stephen West of Stockbridge.  In 1792 he worked with his father among the Oneida but left at the end of the year to become a tutor at Harvard, a position he served until 1794.  He received a Doctor of Divinity from Princeton in 1802 and Doctor of Laws from Brown eight years later.

In 1810, Kirkland was elected President of Harvard College.  Under his guidance, two professional schools were established at Harvard, Divinity (1816) and Law (1817). Kirkland suffered a paralytic stroke in 1827 and resigned his position the following year.  John Kirkland died in 1840 at the age of sixty-nine.  John Thornton Kirkland, Harvard Square Library.  Gilbert Stuart's portrait of Kirkland (c. 1816), courtesy of Wikipedia.

August 7, 1770