The earliest record in the Harvard University Archives is a 1577 deed in which the name John Harvard—presumably an ancestor of the namesake of Harvard College—appears as the former owner of a London tenement.
John Harvard (1607–1638), the University benefactor, had only a brief interaction with the College. He arrived in Massachusetts from England in 1637 and was stricken by illness less than a year later. He died on September 14, 1638, bequeathing all of his books and half of his estate to the new college.
John Harvard’s bequest was the first substantial gift to the College. When the Massachusetts General Court met in the following year, they honored his generosity by naming the institution “Harvard College.”