Elihu Yale

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Elihu Yale (April 5, 1649 – July 8, 1721) was a British merchant, philanthropist, governor of the British East India Company, and a benefactor of Collegiate School of Connecticut, which in 1718 was named Yale College in his honor.[1]



Born in Boston, Colony of Massachusetts to David Yale (1613–1690) and Ursula Knight (1624–1698), Yale was the grandson of Ann Lloyd (1591–1659), who after the death of her first husband, Thomas Yale (1590–1619) in Chester, Cheshire, England, married Governor Theophilus Eaton (1590–1657) of New Haven Colony. In 1652, when Elihu was three years old, the Yale family moved back to England and never returned to North America.[1][2]

Yale's ancestry can be traced back to the family estate at Plas yn Iâl near the village of Llandegla, Denbighshire, Wales.[2] The name Yale is the English spelling of the Welsh place name, Iâl.

For 20 years, Yale was part of the British East India Company, and he became the second governor of a settlement at Madras (now Chennai), India, in 1687, after Streynsham Master. He was instrumental in the development of the Government General Hospital, housed at Fort St. George.[3] Yale amassed a fortune in his lifetime, largely through secret contracts with Madras merchants, against the East India Company's directive. By 1692, Elihu Yale's repeated flouting of East India Company regulations and growing embarrassment at his illegal profiteering resulted in his being relieved of the post of governor.[4]

Yale returned to London in 1699, and resided at Plas Grono, near Wrexham, a mansion bought by his father. Having amassed considerable wealth, Yale spent it liberally in England.[2]

In 1718, Cotton Mather contacted Yale and asked for his help. Mather represented a small institution of learning that had been founded as the Collegiate School of Connecticut in 1701, and it needed money for a new building in New Haven, Connecticut. Yale sent Mather a carton of goods that the school subsequently sold, earning them £800 pounds sterling, a substantial sum in the early 18th century. In gratitude, officials named the new building Yale; eventually the entire institution became Yale College.[1]

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