John Harvard 'Statue of Three Lies' in Cambridge, Massachusetts

The campus of Harvard University projects a sense of order and continuity, from the brick wall enclosing the historic Yard to the imposing pillars of Widener Library. Yet despite the feeling of solid tradition and genteel propriety which pervades the campus, a storm of myth, controversy, and outright lies has swirled around its "founder's" monument for more than 100 years.

Things started innocently enough when, in 1883, a supporter of the university offered to commission and donate a...

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