Harvard began offering higher degrees in "comparative philology," as historical linguistics was then called, as early as the 1930's. By 1941, Harvard had a full-fledged Department of Comparative Philology, and a decade later this became the Department of Linguistics.
The department experienced rapid growth in the sixties, with the advent of transformational-generative grammar. We became the first linguistics department in the Ivy League to organize its program along generative lines, while also maintaining our traditional strength in historical linguistics.
Now, as then, the department fosters a culture of unity in diversity. Our students and faculty come from many different backgrounds and represent a wide range of interests, from purely theoretical to typological, historical, and experimental. What we share is a commitment to empirically grounded research and a respect for the rich traditions of the field.