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Dwight, Timothy (14 May 1752–11 January 1817), theologian and president of Yale College, was born in Northampton, Massachusetts, the son of Timothy Dwight, a merchant and large landowner, and Mary Edwards, daughter of the theologian Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758). Dwight gave early signs of extraordinary intellectual promise, learning the alphabet at age two, reading the King James Bible at four, mastering basic Latin grammar at six, and all the while absorbing the standard works in geography and ancient history that later served him, as they did so many Americans of the revolutionary generation, as important sources of classical republican political thought. He entered Yale at thirteen, easily passing an entrance examination requiring sight translation of Virgil, Cicero, and New Testament Greek, and setting himself a private curriculum of studies considerably more ambitious than that of the college. Rising at half past three on winter mornings to construe Homer’s ...

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Hopkins, Samuel (17 September 1721–20 December 1803), theologian and reformer, was born in Waterbury, Connecticut, the son of Timothy Hopkins, a successful farmer and community leader in Waterbury, and Mary Judd. Timothy Hopkins served the town as a selectman, justice of the peace, and deputy to the Connecticut General Court. He also possessed the financial means to send Samuel to Yale College, from which he graduated in 1741....

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Park, Edwards Amasa (29 December 1808–04 June 1900), theologian, was born in Providence, Rhode Island, the son of Calvin Park and Abigail Ware. Park’s father, a professor of moral philosophy and metaphysics at Brown University, had studied theology with Nathanael Emmons, who frequently visited the Park home and was a leading disciple of ...

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Priestley, Joseph (13 March 1733–06 February 1804), theologian, scientist, and educator, was born in the parish of Birstal, West Riding, Yorkshire, England, the son of Jonas Priestley, a cloth-dresser, and Mary Swift. After his mother’s death in childbirth in 1739, Priestley was adopted in 1742 by his father’s eldest sister, Sarah Keighley. Early inclined to books, he mastered Latin and the elements of Greek, probably in Batley grammar school, and studied Hebrew with John Kirkby, a Congregationalist minister. Priestley acquiesced to Keighley’s wish that he prepare for the Presbyterian ministry, but poor health stood in the way of his education. An uncle offered him a mercantile career in Lisbon, which led Priestley to teach himself French, German, and Italian, and to take instruction in mathematics. In 1751 he returned to the original plan, enrolling in the new dissenters’ academy just opened in Daventry by Caleb Ashworth, who imposed no religious tests on the students. At Daventry, Priestley embraced the Arian view that Jesus was the highest of created beings rather than of the same substance as God and maintained a qualified belief in the doctrine of the Atonement, which he abandoned later as supported neither by scripture nor by reason. Priestley became assistant minister to a congregation in Needham Market, Suffolk, in 1755. When in a course of lectures it became clear that he was no Trinitarian, the congregation fell away. Priestley fared better in 1758, becoming minister at Nantwich in Cheshire to an Independent congregation that included many Scottish commercial travelers....

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Stone, Barton Warren (24 December 1772–09 November 1844), evangelist, educator, and speculative theologian, was born near Port Tobacco, Maryland, the son of John Stone and Mary Warren, farmers. Reared in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, he moved in 1790 to North Carolina to study law at Guilford Academy. His career plans changed when he was converted to an aggressive form of evangelical Protestantism under the influence of ...