Stiles, Ezra

Stiles, Ezra,

1727–95, American theologian and educator, b. North Haven, Conn., grad. Yale, 1746. He studied theology, was ordained in 1749, and tutored (1749–55) at Yale. Resigning from the ministry, he studied law and practiced in New Haven from 1753 to 1755, when he returned to the ministry for 22 years. He was pastor at Newport, R.I. (1755–77), and Portsmouth, N.H. (1777–78), and from 1778 until his death was president of Yale. While holding his pastorates, he studied science and European and Oriental languages and literature and corresponded with many scholars. At Yale he also was professor of ecclesiastical history and divinity and lectured on philosophy and astronomy. Stiles encouraged the sciences at Yale. Using equipment donated to the college by Benjamin Franklin, he conducted the first electrical experiments in New England. His more important writings are History of Three of the Judges of King Charles I (1794), Literary Diary (ed. by F. B. Dexter, 1901), Extracts from the Itineraries and Other Miscellanies, 1755–1794 (ed. by F. B. Dexter, 1916), and his Letters and Papers (ed. by I. M. Calder, 1933).


See biographies by his son-in-law, Abiel Holmes (1798), and E. S. Morgan (1962); F. Parsons, Six Men of Yale (1939).

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Stiles, Ezra

(1727–95) scholar, clergyman; born in North Haven, Conn. Besides conducting his Newport, R.I., ministry (1755–86), he was a theologian and scientist reputed to be the most learned scholar in New England. He wrote the charter founding Rhode Island College (1764) (later Brown University) and taught ecclesiastical history during his tenure as a secularizing president of Yale (1778–95).
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.