A Community of Students
From the very beginning, life at the university presented students with a rich variety of experiences. In addition to athletics, they could participate in theater and music groups, literary societies, social clubs, and numerous publications, including the Daily Californian, which was founded in 1897.
A Master Plan is Conceived
Phoebe Apperson was a 19-year-old Missouri schoolmarm when she met and married George Hearst, a wealthy miner more than twice her age. A Missouri native himself, Hearst had left to seek his fortune with a pick, pan, and shovel in the Gold Rush. By 1862, when he returned home to visit his mother and meet his future wife, he had become one of San Francisco’s leading citizens.
Advancing Education, Business, and Law
As the population of California exploded in the late 1800s, prominent citizens recognized the need for a more coherent social and economic order for what was still in many ways a frontier community. Three of the university’s distinguished schools were established during these years: education, business, and law.
Brilliant Discoveries Open New Frontiers
Developing a first-rank faculty has always been critical to establishing the university’s preeminence, and few deans had a more profound impact on Berkeley’s future than Gilbert N. Lewis. Lewis came from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to head the College of Chemistry in 1912, and he soon assembled the faculty who would create a revolution in scientific research.
Building a Golden Legacy for Athletics
When the California Golden Bears played the first Big Game against Stanford in 1892, it drew a record crowd of 15,000 fans to a field in San Francisco. In the excitement, both teams forgot to bring a football, and someone had to be sent downtown in a carriage to buy one. The final score: Stanford 14, Cal 10.
Building a New University and a New State
The College of Letters was established in 1869, but the practical arts still dominated the university curriculum until second president Daniel Coit Gilman (pictured at right) succeeded in persuading skeptical Californians that a great university had to be comprehensive in scope. The dynamic Gilman also actively cultivated donors. During his presidency, the 1,036-volume library collection increased twelvefold with the help of private gifts, including a bequest from San Francisco banker Michael Reese.
Emerging as a Major Force in Education
In the years surrounding World War II, two powerful and visionary men began a partnership to reinforce the perception and the reality of the University of California as an international university of first rank. They were Governor Earl Warren, Class of 1912, later Chief Justice of the United States, and University President Robert Gordon Sproul, Class of 1913 (pictured at right).
Engineering the Information Age
More than one kind of revolution was under way in the ’60s and ’70s at UC Berkeley that played a pivotal role in the computer age and the development of nearby Silicon Valley. In 1960, Professor Donald O. Pederson (pictured at right) ushered in a new era with the first university based integrated circuits lab. Striking gold, researchers created the legendary SPICE tool used in the design of nearly every integrated circuit over the next 25 years.
Faculty of Excellence
One reason for UC Berkeley’s preeminence can be traced back to the quality of the teachers that it attracted during its earliest days. Fittingly, the first major gift to the University of California was an endowed chair of learning established as the Agassiz Professorship of Oriental Languages and Literature in 1872. Regent Edward Tompkins deeded 47 acres of land that was sold to yield $50,000 in gold coin — a gift that has grown to support four endowed chairs and that is valued at many millions of dollars today.
Illuminating the Study of Life
UC Berkeley’s extensive biodiversity collections and facilities enable world-class research, teaching, and outreach in the biological and environmental sciences. And almost since the university’s founding, private support has helped foster Berkeley’s excellence in these critical areas of study.
Implementing a New Master Plan
The multicampus expansion of the University of California during the Sproul years created the need for a decentralized university administration. In the early 1950s, the campuses were granted more local autonomy, and UC Berkeley appointed its first chancellor, Clark Kerr Ph.D. ’39.
Innovation to Support Students
The University of California was established under the Morrill Land Grant Act, which sought to make higher education free and accessible. Students still had to pay fees, though, and even in the university’s earliest days this presented a challenge to many students. Recognizing this need, Levi Strauss in 1897 donated the money to help create 28 scholarships. Since then, tuition has increased as state support has waned, and the cost of education has risen steadily.
Innovations That Shaped the Landscape
From its earliest days, the university was a key partner in transforming California from a rugged frontier into the land of opportunity. Renowned for its fine faculty and unique facilities, the College of Mining offered state-of-the-art, hands-on training for engineers to advance the safety and success of mining in the West and elsewhere.
Laying the Foundation for Teaching and Research
Both early presidents and philanthropists recognized that an extensive library collection was critical to the success and stature of the new university. One such philanthropist was Henry Douglas Bacon, a successful banker and real estate investor from Oakland, California. Despite his lack of formal education, Bacon was an art lover who hoped the university would become the cultural center of the West Coast.
Planting a Seed in the Wild West
The idea of a state university began to incubate in the minds of Californians before California had even become a state. In 1849, when a group of farsighted community leaders met to draft a state constitution, they included a provision for a university.
Preserving the History of the West
Distinguished scholars could not be persuaded to leave their East Coast or European universities and move to distant California unless there was a first-rate library to support their research. Throughout its early years, the university’s holdings grew steadily, but the 1905 acquisition of Hubert Howe Bancroft’s extraordinary collection of manuscripts and books put the University of California’s library on the map.
The Age of Biomedical and Health Sciences
The changing needs of society can be traced in the history of the sciences at UC Berkeley: from agriculture, mining, and civil engineering to physics, chemistry, electrical engineering and computer sciences. Each discipline, in turn, has met a critical need and played a role in creating life as we know it. The discovery of DNA, the Human Genome Project, gene editing, and other advances that promise to revolutionize life have now put the biological sciences on center stage.
The Flowering of Arts and Humanities
The early years of the music department were shaped by Charles Seeger, one of American music’s most influential and innovative thinkers. Called the “father of ethnomusicology,” Seeger came to UC Berkeley in 1912 and developed a curriculum that included composition, orchestration, and musicology.
The New Era for Energy and the Environment
Research into clean energy and climate change shines light on some of the most defining challenges of the 21st century, with unprecedented implications for the future of Earth and its environment, along with our country’s national security and economic competitiveness.
The Sky is Not the Limit
The idea of building a university on the frontier captured the imagination of many Californians, and a variety of new, and sometimes eccentric, sponsors stepped forward to offer their support. One was James Lick, a Pennsylvania cabinetmaker, who made a fortune in San Francisco real estate. After first planning to construct a pyramid for himself in downtown San Francisco, Lick was persuaded that an observatory would be a more suitable memorial.
The University Matures and Grows
A president of enormous intellect and vision, Benjamin Ide Wheeler was a classical philologist who taught at Harvard and Cornell before he came west to lead the University of California. Describing his arrival in 1899, Wheeler remarked: “As it were in a night, a college has grown here into the dimensions of a university.”