At the annual opening meeting of the Graduate School last night, Dean Wright presided, introducing Professor William W. Goodwin, who gave the address of the evening. Professor Goodwin began by describing briefly the condition of Harvard College in 1872, when the first plans for a graduate school were considered.
Before 1872, no adequate means for the study of the higher branches of arts and sciences existed. Strangely enough, this was not because of any lack of money for promoting a school of higher study. The true reason lay in the fact that at that time no one on this side of the Atlantic felt the need of such an institution. A college course was considered amply sufficient to supply the wants of students, and no attempt was made to rival or even imitate the universities of Germany in their provision for post-graduate study.
Harvard had not stood still, however, in the period between its founding in 1636 and the year 1872. Started as an English college, with all or many of the English traditions, there had been from time to time considerable innovations. In 1820 the first degree of Bachelor of Law was conferred by Harvard, but as yet there was nothing at all parallel to the German "Faculty of Philosophy." In 1872 the Harvard Graduate School was created to fill this need.
All things considered, it has gone far to accomplish its purpose. The difficulties which met the new plan were great, for in the first year seventy-four courses were offered, although the corps of instructors was not increased to meet the extra demand. This naturally led to some confusion at first, but fortunately the elective system of courses had been introduced in a modified form in 1867, and this afforded an outlet to many who wished to take advantage of the new courses. It also enabled professors to offer advanced courses to graduate students at the same time freeing them from the drudgery of giving large courses to undergraduates.
What the object of the Graduate School is, may best be stated by calling it a professional school of arts and sciences. Modern requirements for teachers are high, and scientific methods of investigation are daily in greater demand. This is what most graduate students are seeking for; but at the same time the School will always welcome those who come merely for the broader culture which it offers.