Harvard's foundation in 1636 came in the form of an act of the colony's Great and General Court. By all accounts the chief impetus was to allow the training of
home-grown clergy so the Puritan colony would not need to rely on immigrating
graduates of England's Oxford and Cambridge Universities for well-educated pastors, "dreading," as a 1643 brochure put it,
"to leave an illiterate Ministry to the Churches." In its first year, seven of the original nine students left to fight in the
English Civil War.The connection to the Puritans can be seen in the fact that, for its first few centuries of existence, the Harvard Board of Overseers included, along with certain
commonwealth officials, the ministers of six local congregations (Boston, Cambridge, Charlestown, Dorchester, Roxbury and
Watertown), who today, although no longer so empowered, are still by custom allowed seats on the dais at commencement exercises.However, despite the Puritan atmosphere, from the beginning the intent was to provide a full liberal education such as that
studied at European universities, including the rudiments of mathematics and science ('natural philosophy') as well as classical literature and philosophy.