New England clergyman and scholar.
Worked as a sailor, schoolteacher, and waiter before and during his college years. Tutor at Harvard (1766-72). Associate minister of the First Church of Beverly, Massachusetts (1772). Whig; published sermons in support of the patriot cause. Corresponding secretary (later vice-president) of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Contributed papers on astronomy and mathematics, corresponded with eminent scientists, and was elected to the Royal Societies of London and Göttingen, the Medical Society of London, and the American Philosophical Society. President of Harvard College (1781-99); presided over reform of the curriculum and admission requirements, the construction of a new library, and the opening of Harvard Medical School.
Son of Rev. Samuel and Abigail (Wright) Willard of Biddeford, Maine. Educated at Harvard (B.A. 1765). Married Mary Sheaf (1774); thirteen children.