Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Cotton Mather (February 12, 1663 – February 13, 1728). B.A. 1678 (Harvard College), M.A. 1681; honorary doctorate 1710 (University of Glasgow), was a socially and politically influential Puritan minister, prolific author, and pamphleteer. Cotton Mather was the son of influential minister Increase Mather.
Mather graduated from Harvard in 1678 at only 15 years of age. After completing his post-graduate work, he joined his father as assistant Pastor of Boston's Old North Church. It was not until his father's death in 1723 that Mather assumed full responsibilities as Pastor at the Church.
Author of more than 450 books and pamphlets, his ubiquitous literary works made him one of the most influential religious leaders in America. Mather set the nation's moral tone, and sounded the call for second and third generation Puritans whose parents had left England for the New England colonies of North America to return to the theological roots of Puritanism.
"If in the midst of the many Dissatisfactions among us, the publication of these Trials may promote such a pious Thankfulness unto God, for Justice being so far executed among us, I shall Re-joyce that God is Glorified..." (Wonders of the Invisible World).
Highly influential due to his prolific writing, Mather was a force to be reckoned with in secular as well as spiritual matters. After the fall of English King James II in 1688, Mather was among the leaders of a successful revolt against James' Governor of the consolidated Dominion of New England, Sir Edmund Andros.
Mather was influential in early American science as well. In 1716, as the result of observations of corn varieties, he conducted one of the first experiments with plant hybridization. This observation was memorialized in a letter to a friend:
"My friend planted a row of Indian corn that was colored red and blue; the rest of the field being planted with yellow which is the most usual color. To the windward side this red and blue so infected three or four rows as to communicate the same color unto them; and part of ye fifth and some of ye sixth. But to the leeward side, no less than seven or eight rows had ye same color communicated unto them; and some small impressions were made on those that were yet further off."
Of Mather's three wives and fifteen children, only one wife and two children survived him. Mather was buried on Copp's Hill.
Mather's Major Works By Date
- Wonders of the Invisible World (1693) ISBN 0766168670
- Magnalia Christi Americana (1702) ISBN 0674541553
- Bonifacius (1710) ISBN 0766169243
- The Christian Philosopher (1721) ISBN 0252068939
- Religious Improvements (1721)
- Manuductio ad Ministerium (1726)
- Cotton Mather appears as one of the characters in the second book A Calculus of Angels of Gregory Keyes' trilogy, The Age of Unreason.
- In the short story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," by Washington Irving, Ichabod Crane is depicted "a perfect master of Cotton Mather?s [fictitious] 'History of New England Witchcraft,' in which, by the way, he most firmly and potently believed."
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