The maternal grandfather of Aaron Burr, this Puritan theologian and philosopher preached that people could gain redemption not by doing good works, but by pure faith in God alone.
Born in 1703, the son of a pastor in East Windsor, Connecticut, Edwards entered Yale College at the ripe old age of 13 and graduated four years later. By 1723, after a two-year stint as a preacher, he earned his masters degree. In 1727, after briefly tutoring at Yale, Edwards moved to Northampton, Massachusetts, to preach alongside his maternal grandfather, Solomon Stoddard. When Stoddard died, Edwards assumed sole command over the Northampton pulpit. Edwards was dismissed from his position in 1750, as a result of a controversy over the qualifications for receiving Communion.
Edwards' eloquent preaching and writing helped ignite the Great Awakening (circa 1740-42). Across New England, in highly emotional religious revivals, people were converted to a faith-based relationship with God.
Jonathan Edwards was named president of Princeton University in 1757. He died in 1758, after serving for less than a year.