Biography (Dictionary of World Biography: The 17th and 18th Centuries)
Article abstract: Devoted to God and to learning, Mather provided a distinctively American perspective to European thought and sought to reconcile New England Puritanism with the intellectual trends of his day.
Cotton Mather was born February 12, 1663, in Boston, Massachusetts. He was the eldest son of Increase Mather, a rising Boston preacher, and the grandson of Richard Mather and John Cotton, generally regarded as the spiritual fathers of Massachusetts Bay Colony. Destined to follow his father and grandfathers into the ministry, Cotton was a child prodigy. He was patiently but rigorously tutored by his father, attended Boston Grammar School, and entered Harvard College at eleven (the youngest student ever to matriculate there). He received his bachelor’s degree in 1678 and master’s degree in 1681. After assisting his father for five years as a ministerial candidate, Cotton was ordained and became the second pastor at the Old North Church in 1685.
By both parentage and education, Cotton Mather was thoroughly prepared for the Puritan ministry. The precocious lad did, however, encounter special trials and tribulations. The Puritan tradition weighed heavily upon him, and the expectations of his overly protective father were at best a mixed blessing. In fact, Increase Mather, though a loving father in many ways, was a melancholy man whose aloof behavior may have increased the anxiety of his...
(The entire section is 2540 words.)
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Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Cotton Mather (MATH-ur), born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1663, was one of the outstanding leaders of the early New England Puritan theocracy; he was also one of the last. He came to power at a time when the control of the church was nearing its end—an end which he spent his adult life trying to prevent, yet which some historians believe he actually hastened.
Cotton was the son of Increase Mather and eventually succeeded him as minister of the Second, or Old North, Church in Boston. First, from 1680 until 1723 (the year of Increase Mather’s death), he served as his father’s assistant. During much of his tenure as assistant minister he was actually in full charge, however, his father being either absent on political missions (as in the Andros affair, which took him to England) or engaged in other activities, such as those connected with his duties as president of Harvard College.
The son of a prominent minister and a child destined to become one of the influential leaders of the colony, Cotton Mather attended Harvard. A nervous, oversensitive, and precocious child, he was a college student at the age of twelve. His first intentions were to study medicine because he had a nervous stutter that he believed would keep him from the ministry, but he mastered this defect, partly through sheer determination, and began his duties at Old North Church upon his graduation in 1680, becoming ordained in 1685, after receiving his master’s degree in...
(The entire section is 514 words.)