The University of Chicago, now known as the Old University of Chicago, was a school founded by Baptists in Chicago in 1857. It eventually failed in 1886, and was succeeded by the present University of Chicago.
Interesting Note: The Old University of Chicago established the Union College of Law, the city's first law school in 1859. In 1873, the Law School became jointly associated with Northwestern University. Today it is the Northwestern University School of Law, which is the only remaining legacy of the Old University of Chicago.
Like a phoenix rising from its ashes, The University of Chicago arose in the wake of the Old University of Chicago's fall and was founded on a solid foundation by the American Baptist Education Society with a donation from oil magnate and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller and incorporated in 1890.
The University's land was donated by Marshall Field, owner of the legendary Chicago department store that bore his name. Rockefeller described the donation as "the best investment I ever made."
William Rainey Harper became the University's first president, in 1891. He began his role by hiring the faculty and selecting its students. In so doing, Harper set the standards quite high. Harper raised the salaries of the faculty above those of ordinary schoolteachers, which attracted the best scholars.
He used his talents to form the University into one of America's great academic institutions. Harper also established the first departments of Egyptology and Sociology at the University. He served in president until his death in 1906. Note: Harper was also fundamental to the creation of creation of the system of community colleges in the United States.
Chicago Booth traces its roots back to 1898 when university faculty member James Laurence Laughlin chartered the College of Commerce and Politics, which was intended to be an extension of the school's founding principles of "scientific guidance and investigation of great economic and social matters of everyday importance." The program originally served as a solely undergraduate institution until 1916, when academically oriented research masters and later doctoral-level degrees were introduced.
Law School Founded
The University of Chicago Law School was founded in 1902 (by a coalition of donors led by John D. Rockefeller) as the graduate school of law at the University of Chicago and consistently ranks among the highest-rated law schools in the United States.
University president William Rainey Harper requested assistance from the faculty of Harvard Law School in establishing a law school at Chicago, and Joseph Henry Beale, then a professor at Harvard, was given a two-year leave of absence to serve as the first Dean of the law school. During that time Beale hired many of the first members of the law school faculty and left the fledgling school "one of the best in the country."
The Oriental Institute Founded
The Oriental Institute (OI), established in 1919, is the University of Chicago's archeology museum and research center for ancient Near Eastern studies.
James Henry Breasted built up the collection of the Haskell Oriental Museum. He dreamed of establishing a research institute, "a laboratory for the study of the rise and development of civilization", that would trace Western civilization to its roots in the ancient Middle East. As World War I wound down, he sensed an opportunity to use his influence in the new political climate. He wrote to John D. Rockefeller Jr. and proposed the foundation of what would become the Oriental Institute.
Pritzker School of Medicine Founded
The Pritzker School of Medicine is the M.D. granting unit of the Biological Sciences Division of the University of Chicago. It is located on the University's main campus in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago, and matriculated its first class in 1927. Its namesake stems from that of the Pritzker family of Chicago (founders of the Hyatt hotel group), whose philanthropy towards the University at large caused the School to be renamed in their honor in 1968.
Robert Maynard Hutchins was president (1929-1945) and chancellor (1945-1951) of the University of Chicago. Hutchins implemented wide-ranging and controversial reforms of the University, including the elimination of varsity football, which he saw as a campus distraction. The most far-reaching reforms involved the undergraduate College of the University of Chicago, which was retooled into a novel pedagogical system built on Great Books, Socratic dialogue, comprehensive examinations and early entrance to college.
While modified and reduced in form, the collegiate curriculum at the University of Chicago to this day reflects the Great Books and Socratic method championed by Hutchins' Secular Perennialism.
The Committee on Social Thought is one of several PhD-granting committees at the University of Chicago. It was started in 1941 by historian John Ulric Nef along with economist Frank Knight, anthropologist Robert Redfield, and University President Robert Maynard Hutchins.
The committee is interdisciplinary, but it is not centered on any specific topic; rather, the committee has, since its inception, drawn together noted academics and writers to "foster awareness of the permanent questions at the origin of all learned inquiry"
Notable past members of the committee have included
writers T. S. Eliot, Saul Bellow, and J. M. Coetzee, and
political theorists Hannah Arendt, James E. Block,and David Grene, and economist Friedrich Hayek.
During World War II, the University made important contributions to the Manhattan Project. The University was the site of the first isolation of plutonium and of the creation of the first artificial, self-sustained nuclear reaction by Enrico Fermi in 1942.
The Joseph Regenstein Library is the main library of the University of Chicago, named after industrialist and philanthropist Joseph Regenstein. Holding over 7.9 million volumes, it is one of the largest repositories of books in the world, and is noted for its brutalist architecture. It occupies the site of Old Stagg Field.
Hanna Holborn Gray was named Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern University in 1972, and became professor of history at, and Provost of, Yale University in 1974. She served as acting President of Yale University for fourteen months after President Kingman Brewster accepted an unanticipated appointment as United States Ambassador to the Court of St. James's.
Gray then returned to the University of Chicago, serving as president from 1978 to 1993, and, in that capacity, was the first female (full) president of a major university in the United States.
She retired in June 1993, but remains Harry Pratt Judson Distinguished Service Professor Emerita.