American money proved invaluable. The Rockefeller Foundation opened an office in Paris and helped design and fund France’s modern public health system, under the National Institute of Hygiene. It also set up schools to train physicians and nurses.
The first corporation founded in the 13 Colonies was Harvard College (1636), designed primarily to train young men for the clergy. A leading theorist was the Puritan theologian Cotton Mather (1662–1728), who in 1710 published a widely read essay, Bonifacius, or an Essay to Do Good. Mather worried that the original idealism had eroded, so he advocated philanthropic benefaction as a way of life. Though his context was Christian, his idea was also characteristically American and explicitly Classical, on the threshold of the Enlightenment.
By the 1820s, newly rich American businessmen were initiating philanthropic work, especially with respect to private colleges and hospitals. George Peabody (1795–1869) is the acknowledged father of modern philanthropy. A financier based in Baltimore and London, in the 1860s he began to endow libraries and museums in the United States, and also funded housing for poor people in London. His activities became the model for Andrew Carnegie and many others.
Andrew Carnegie (1835–1919) was the most influential leader of philanthropy on a national (rather than local) scale. After selling his steel corporation in the 1890s he devoted himself to establishing philanthropic organizations, and making direct contributions to many educational cultural and research institutions. His final and largest project was the Carnegie Corporation of New York, founded in 1911 with a $25 million endowment, later enlarged to $135 million. In all, Carnegie gave away 90% of his fortune.
The Ford Foundation in the 1950s wanted to modernize the legal systems in India and Africa, by promoting the American model. The plan failed, because of India’s unique legal history, traditions, and profession, as well as its economic and political conditions. Ford therefore turned to agricultural reform.