University of California at Berkeley


The roots of the University of California go back to the gold rush days of 1849, when the drafters of the State Constitution, a group of vigorous and farsighted people, required the legislature to "encourage by all suitable means the promotion of intellectual, scientific, moral and agricultural improvement" of the people of California. These early planners dreamed of a university which eventually, "if properly organized and conducted, would contribute even more than California's gold to the glory and happiness of advancing generations."

President Wheeler, a classical scholar and able administrator, attracted library and scholarship funds, research grants, and a distinguished faculty to the University, and its reputation grew, particularly in the fields of agriculture, the humanities, and engineering. Many new departments were added in the early years of his presidency, and existing departments expanded. Summer sessions were begun in 1899 to train physics and chemistry teachers and before long broadened their scope.

The University grew with the rapidly expanding population of California and responded to the educational needs of the developing state. In the early 1900s the University's new College of Commerce (now the Haas School of Business) trained students for export trade with the Orient and funneled graduates into industries and businesses throughout the state. During the same period a foreign service training program was developed in response to State Department concern about the poor quality of consular personnel.

In 1930 Robert Gordon Sproul began a presidency that lasted three decades. His principal concern was academic excellence, and he was committed to attracting brilliant faculty in all fields. His success was particularly evident in the physical and biological sciences.

In the 1930s research on campus burgeoned in nuclear physics, chemistry, and biology, leading to the development of the first cyclotron by Ernest O. Lawrence, the isolation of the human polio virus, and the discovery of a string of elements heavier than uranium. Eighteen members of the Berkeley faculty have been awarded Nobel Prizes for these and subsequent discoveries, as well as in literature and economics, for liberal arts kept pace with physical sciences. In 1966 Berkeley was recognized by the American Council on Education as "the best balanced distinguished university in the country."

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