Birthplace: Boston, MA
Location of death: London, UK
Cause of death: unspecified
Remains: Buried, St. Giles Church, Wrexham, Wales
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Philanthropist, Business, Government
Executive summary: Namesake of Yale University
Often but erroneously called the founder of Yale University, Elihu Yale was born in Boston in 1649. His father had come to America to escape persecution against Puritans in the time of King Charles I, but the Yale family returned to England while young Elihu was still a toddler, and he never returned to America. He was educated in England and spent much of his adult life in India, in the employ of the British East India Company. Twice appointed Governor of British-controlled Madras (now Chennai), Yale married the widow of his predecessor, kept at least two mistresses, and made most of his fortune in the illicit diamond trade while stationed there. After 27 years in India, Yale returned to England a very wealthy man, and divided his remaining years between his sprawling mansion in London and his ancestral estate of Plas-Grono in Wales, where he was named high sheriff of Wrexham.
Yale was 69 years old when he received a plea from Cotton Mather -- a Harvard man -- seeking funds for Connecticut's Collegiate School, in 1718. The seminary had been in operation since 1701, but would soon relocate from Wethersfield to New Haven, and construction of a new campus would be costly. Yale generously sent several crates of valuables, including a portrait of King George I, numerous bundles of exquisite fabrics, and more than 400 books. Selling the fabrics but keeping the books, the school raised £562, enough to fund the construction, and the school's new main building in New Haven was named in Yale's honor. Faculty and students soon began calling the school itself Yale in casual conversation, and in 1745, decades after his death, the entire college was renamed for its benefactor.
In 2007, after complaints from students, a portrait which showed Elihu Yale being attended to by a dark-skinned "servant" wearing a metal collar was removed from the Corporation Room in Woodbridge Hall. Yale University officials told reporters that Elihu Yale had never owned slaves, but conceded that the painting had been put into storage "to avoid any confusion".
Father: David Yale (b. 1613, d. 1690)
Mother: Ursula Knight Yale (b. 1624, d. 1698)
Sister: Elizabeth Yale (b. May-1644, d. infancy)
Brother: David Yale Jr. (b. 18-Sep-1645, d. 26-Jan-1690)
Sister: Elizabeth Yale (b. 1655)
Brother: Theophilus Yale (b. 14-Jan-1652)
Brother: Thomas Yale (b. circa 1660, d. 12-Oct-1697)
Brother: Valentine Yale (b. 1666, d. 8-Nov-1698)
Wife: Katherine Elford Hynmer Yale (m. 4-Nov-1680)
Mistress: Catherine Nicks (diamond smuggler, up to four children)
Mistress: Hieronima de Paivia (at least one son)
Son: David Yale (b. 1687)
Daughter: Katherine Yale North
Daughter: Ann Yale Cavendish (d. 27-Jun-1734)
Son: Charles Yale (d. 1717)
High School: Merchant Tailors' School, London, UK
Governor of Madras (1684-85, 1687-92)
British East India Company
Do you know something we don't?
Submit a correction or make a comment about this profile
Copyright ©2012 Soylent Communications