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Lowell Lecture

John Lowell Jr. and The Lowell Institute

Date & Time

Nov. 30, 2021 at 7 p.m. - 8 p.m.


Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation
Located in the Historic Francis Cabot Lowell Mill
Park in the Embassy Theatre Lot — GPS "42 Cooper Street, Waltham"
154 Moody Street Waltham, MA 02453
Driving Directions


Practicing as a psychiatrist in and around Boston Chaim M. Rosenberg became interested in the abandoned nineteenth-century textile and shoe mills, the people who built them and the people who worked in them. He decided to switch from medicine to history. Among his books are “The Life and Times of Francis Cabot Lowell; 1775-1817,” “Goods for Sale: Products and Advertising in the Massachusetts Industrial Age,” “America at the Fair, Chicago's 1893 World's Columbian Exposition,” and “Yankee Colonies Across America.“

His latest book, “John Lowell Jr. and His Institute: The Power of Knowledge,” was published March 11, 2021

Presenting Organization

Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation




Bob Perry (, 781-893-5410)


Born in Boston in 1799, John Lowell Jr. was the first-born child of Francis Cabot Lowell and his wife Hannah. He received much of his early education in Edinburgh while his father was discovering the British secrets of spinning and weaving cotton using water-powered machinery. Returning home the highly-strung John Jr. dropped out of Harvard and instead became a sailor on merchant ships. By his 18th year, both his parents had died. In 1825, John Jr. found happiness in his marriage to his cousin Georgina Margaret Amory. His joy was complete with the birth of two daughters. John built a grand house in Lowell with the plan to join his best friend and brother-in-law John Amory Lowell in the business of manufacturing textiles. Tragedy soon came with the death of his wife and young daughters by scarlet fever. The bereft John Lowell Jr. sought solace in a trip to China, following the route of his hero Marco Polo.

Reaching Egypt, he purchased many antiquities (now in the Museum of Fine Arts). Becoming ill, he finalized his will, leaving half his great fortune to establish the Lowell Institute in Boston. The success of New England, he wrote, depends on “the intelligence and knowledge of its inhabitants…I wish for courses of lectures to be established in physics and chemistry…also on botany, zoology and mineralogy, connected with their particular utility to man.”

John Lowell Jr. died in Bombay, India, aged 36 years. For forty-five years the Lowell Institute was run single-handedly by his talented brother-in-law John Amory Lowell, who brought the leading scholars of the day to lecture in Boston. The Lowell Institute introduced adult education to America, it helped establish the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Harvard Extension School. The Lowell Institute continues in Boston to this day.