A Brief History of Columbia University
Columbia University was founded in 1754 as King's College by royal charter of King George II of England. It is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York and the fifth oldest in the United States.

In July 1754, Samuel Johnson held the first classes in a new schoolhouse adjoining Trinity Church, located on what is now lower Broadway in Manhattan. There were eight students in the class. At King's College, the future leaders of colonial society could receive an education designed to "enlarge the Mind, improve the Understanding, polish the whole Man, and qualify them to support the brightest Characters in all the elevated stations in life." One early manifestation of the institution's lofty goals was the establishment in 1767 of the first American medical school to grant the MD degree.

The American Revolution brought the growth of the College to a halt, forcing a suspension of instruction in 1776 that lasted for eight years. However, the institution continued to exert a significant influence on American life through the people associated with it. Among the earliest students and Trustees of King's College were John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the United States; Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury; Gouverneur Morris, the author of the final draft of the U.S. Constitution; and Robert R. Livingston, a member of the five-man committee that drafted the Declaration of Independence.

The College reopened in 1784 with a new name-Columbia-that embodied the patriotic fervor which had inspired the nation's quest for independence. The revitalized institution was recognizable as the descendant of its colonial ancestor, thanks to its inclination toward Anglicanism and the needs of an urban population, but there were important differences: Columbia College reflected the legacy of the Revolution in the greater economic, denominational, and geographic diversity of its new students and leaders. Cloistered campus life gave way to the more common phenomenon of day students who lived at home or lodged in the city.

In 1849, the College moved from Park Place, near the present site of City Hall, to 49th Street and Madison Avenue, where it remained for the next fifty years. During the last half of the nineteenth century, Columbia rapidly assumed the shape of a modern university. The Law School was founded in 1858, and the country's first mining school, a precursor of today's School of Engineering and Applied Science, was established in 1864.

When Seth Low became Columbia's president in 1890, he vigorously promoted the university ideal for the College, placing the fragmented federation of autonomous and competing schools under a central administration that stressed cooperation and shared resources. Barnard College for women had become affiliated with Columbia in 1889; the medical school came under the aegis of the University in 1891, followed by Teachers College in 1893. The development of graduate faculties in political science, philosophy, and pure science established Columbia as one of the nation's earliest centers for graduate education. In 1896, the Trustees officially authorized the use of yet another new name, Columbia University, and today the institution is officially known as Columbia University in the City of New York.

Low's greatest accomplishment, however, was moving the University from 49th Street to Morningside Heights and a more spacious campus designed as an urban academic village by McKim, Mead & White, the renowned turn-of-the-century architectural firm. Architect Charles Follen McKim provided Columbia with stately buildings patterned after those of the Italian Renaissance. The University continued to prosper after its move uptown.

During the presidency of Nicholas Murray Butler (1902-1945), Columbia emerged as a preeminent national center for educational innovation and scholarly achievement. John Erskine taught the first Great Books Honors Seminar at Columbia College in 1919, making the study of original masterworks the foundation of undergraduate education. Columbia became, in the words of College alumnus Herman Wouk, a place of "doubled magic," where "the best things of the moment were outside the rectangle of Columbia; the best things of all human history and thought were inside the rectangle." The study of the sciences flourished along with the liberal arts, and in 1928, Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, the first such center to combine teaching, research, and patient care, was officially opened as a joint project between the medical school and The Presbyterian Hospital.

By the late 1930s, a Columbia student could study with the likes of Jacques Barzun, Paul Lazarsfeld, Mark Van Doren, Lionel Trilling, and I.I. Rabi, to name just a few of the great minds of the Morningside campus. The University's graduates during this time were equally accomplished-for example, two alumni of Columbia's Law School, Charles Evans Hughes and Harlan Fiske Stone (who also held the position of Law School dean), served successively as Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

In the first three decades of the 20th century, Thomas Hunt Morgan and his students were among the founders of modern genetics. Research into the atom by faculty members I.I. Rabi, Enrico Fermi, and Polykarp Kusch placed Columbia's Physics Department in the international spotlight in the 1940s, and the founding of the School of International Affairs (now the School of International and Public Affairs) in 1946 marked the beginning of intensive growth in international relations as a major scholarly focus of the University. The Oral History movement in the United States was launched at Columbia in 1948.

The revival of spirit and energy on Columbia's campus in recent years has been even more sweeping. The 1980s saw the completion of over $145 million worth of new construction, including two residence halls, a computer science center, the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, a chemistry building, the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery, Lawrence A. Wien Stadium, and much more. The quality of student life on campus has been a primary concern, and the opening of Morris A. Schapiro Hall in 1988 enabled Columbia College to achieve its long-held goal of offering four years of housing to all undergraduate students. A second gift from this farsighted benefactor led to the opening in 1992 of the Morris A. Schapiro Center for Engineering and Physical Science Research, which is helping to secure Columbia's leadership in telecommunications and high-tech research.

On the Medical Center campus, a generous commitment from the Sherman Fairchild Foundation has lent impetus to the development of the Audubon Biomedical Science and Technology Park by providing funds for construction of the Center for Disease Prevention. In addition to securing Columbia's place at the forefront of medical research, this project will help spur the growth of the biotechnology industry in New York City, forge vital new links between Columbia and the local community, and help to revitalize the area around the medical center.

The Medical Center campus is one of the most energetic research centers in the world with hundreds of laboratories pursuing fundamental questions in the basic and clinical sciences. With over 300 graduate students and nearly 600 post-docs, work never ceases. The University is proud that one of its own, University Professor Eric Kandel, won the Nobel Prize in 2000 for fundamental work in neurobiology.

Thanks to concerted efforts to place the University on the strongest possible foundations, Columbia is approaching the twenty-first century with a firm sense of the importance of what has been accomplished in the past and confidence in what it can achieve in the years to come.
The Columbia University Campus
In 1897, the University moved from 49th Street and Madison Avenue, where it had stood for fifty years, to its present location on Morningside Heights at 116th Street and Broadway. Seth Low, the President of the University at the time of the move, sought to create an academic village in a more spacious setting. Charles Follen McKim of the architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White modeled the new campus after the Athenian agora. The Columbia campus comprises the largest single collection of McKim, Mead & White buildings in existence.

The architectural centerpiece of the campus is Low Memorial Library, named in honor of Seth Low's father. Built in the Roman classical style, it appears in the New York City Register of Historic Places. The building today houses the University's central administration offices and the Visitors Center.

A broad flight of steps descends from Low Library to an expansive plaza, a popular place for students to gather, and from there to College Walk, a promenade that bisects the central campus. Beyond College Walk is the South Campus, where Butler Library, the University's main library, stands. South Campus is also the site of many of Columbia College's facilities, including student residences, the Ferris Booth Hall activities center, and the College's administrative offices and classroom buildings, along with the building housing the Journalism School.

To the north of Low Library stands Pupin Hall, which in 1966 was designated a national historic landmark in recognition of the atomic research undertaken there by Columbia's scientists beginning in 1925. To the east is St. Paul's Chapel, which is listed with the New York City Register of Historic Places.

Many newer buildings surround the original campus. Among the most impressive are the Sherman Fairchild Center for the Life Sciences, the Computer Science building, Morris A. Schapiro Hall, and the Morris A. Schapiro Center for Engineering and Physical Science Research.

Two miles to the north of Morningside Heights is the twenty-acre campus of the Columbia University Medical Center, overlooking the Hudson River in Manhattan's Washington Heights. Among the most prominent buildings on the site are the twenty-story Julius and Armand Hammer Health Sciences Center, the William Black Medical Research building, and the seventeen-story tower of the College of Physicians and Surgeons. In 1989, The Presbyterian Hospital opened the Milstein Hospital Building, a 745-bed facility that incorporates the very latest advances in medical technology and patient care. To the west is the New York State Psychiatric Institute; east of Broadway will be the Audubon Biomedical Science and Technology Park, which will include the new Center for Disease Prevention. The Park is being developed as a major urban research complex to house activities on the cutting edge of scientific and medical research.