harvard chapel
Harvard University Memorial Church ©Author Adventures

The William James Hall at Harvard University was named for the scholar and author William James, best known for the classic non-fiction philosophical book entitled The Varieties of Religious Experience, which we found at archive.org. The high-rise building was designed in 1963 by the same architect who designed the World Trade Center, Minuoru Yamasaki.

James’s book astounded me when I read it in college, as it likely did with all sorts of academics and lay people when first published in 1902. When the field of psychology was still fairly embryonic, the excitement of this new means of analysis began to spread beyond the walls of academia. It became a new lens donned at the same time that new movements of religion were lighting the landscape, one tent meeting at a time through a steady stream of charismatic men and women. The daunting task of connecting thought, belief, and behavior compelled the gracious William James to write.

Even today, if you Google one of his quotations,  such as, “The great use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it,” you can see that his words remain popular and continue to resonate, proving his point.

A lesser known historical fact is that William James was the elder brother of novelist Henry James, but Henry was dissatisfied with the United States and moved to England, while William remained in Cambridge where he earned the highest respect from its academic community. Cambridge currently has a population of approximately 114,000.)

Other authors closely connected to Harvard on this website include: W.E.B. Dubois and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

This is the fourth stop on Massachusetts Author Adventures Trail Part 1!

Patricia Smart