Columbia University

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COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY is the oldest, richest, and most famous of all institutions of higher education in the New York metropolitan region and a member of the prestigious Ivy League. As King's College, it received a royal charter on 31 October 1754 from George II of England "to promote liberal education" and to "prevent the growth of republican principles which prevail already too much in the colonies." But the college would produce a crop of American rebels, including John Jay, Alexander Hamilton, Robert Livingston, and Gouverneur Morris. In 1760, it moved to a three-acre site near the Hudson River in lower Manhattan on land donated by Trinity Church. In 1770, its School of Medicine awarded the first M.D. degrees in what would become the United States.

Between 1776 and 1783, when New York City was the headquarters for British military operations in the American Revolution, King's College suspended all classes and its building became a military hospital. The college reopened in 1784 as Columbia, using a word that had recently been coined by patriotic poets. In 1813, the School of Medicine merged with the College of Physicians and Surgeons.

Having remained a small institution until the mid-nineteenth century, Columbia began a period of expansion during the administration of Charles King. In 1857, it moved to a site at Forty-seventh Street and Park Avenue; it established a School of Law in 1858 and a School of Mines (later the School of Engineering) in 1864. During the presidency of Frederick A. P. Barnard, the college became one of America's first major universities. The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences began operating in 1880, the School of Architecture in 1881, the School of Library Service in 1887, the School of Nursing in 1892, and the School of Social Work in 1898. And before the turn of the century, both Barnard College, one of the original Seven Sisters and the first private college in the city to award liberal arts degrees to women, and Teachers College, which was to become the preeminent training ground for educational professionals in the United States, became semi-independent affiliates of Columbia. In 1896, the institution declared itself a university, and in 1897, it formally moved to Morningside Heights on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. The centerpiece of the new rectangular campus became Low Memorial Library, a classical Roman building with Grecian detail. Other buildings were designed in the Italian Renaissance style by McKim, Mead and White.

During the first half of the twentieth century, and especially during the presidency of Nicholas Murray Butler, Columbia became one of the world's largest and most prominent universities. The Graduate School of Journalism began in 1912, the Graduate School of Business in 1916, the School of Dentistry in 1917, and the School of Public Health in 1921. Seven years later, the new Columbia-Pres by terian Medical Center in Manhattan's Washington Heights became the first institution in the world to unite physician training, medical research, and patient care in a single giant complex. Meanwhile, Columbia College launched its famous compulsory Contemporary Civilization survey for undergraduates in 1919. The influential course traced the development of Western thought and made the study of original masterworks the foundation of Columbia's core curriculum.

During the twentieth century, more than sixty persons affiliated with Columbia won the Nobel Prize, including Harold C. Urey in chemistry, I. I. Rabi and Polykarp Kusch in physics, André Cournand and Dickinson Richards in medicine, and William Vickrey in economics. The students were similarly distinguished and included such persons as Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Lou Gehrig, Paul Robeson, Lionel Trilling, Benjamin Spock, Jack Kerouac, Virginia Apgar, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

In the spring of 1968, the Columbia campus became a battleground when students occupied five buildings to protest the proposed construction of a university gymnasium in a near by park and to fight against institutional involvement in the military-industrial complex. After five days of relative stand off, President Grayson Kirk asked the New York Police Department to clear over a thousand protestors from university buildings. The ensuing chaos injured eighty-nine persons and led to 712 arrests. A positive consequence was the creation of the University Senate, a deliberative body with representation from the administration, faculty, alumni, staff, and student body. A negative consequence was the temporary shattering of a long tradition of peaceful debate.

After a difficult financial period during the 1970s, Columbia returned to strength under the administration of Michael Sovern. He instituted a renewal program that included the creation of 120 endowed professorships. In 1983, Columbia College admitted women for the first time (Barnard College continued to admit women only) and applications from both male and female students soon increased markedly. In 1993, George Rupp became Columbia's eighteenth chief executive officer. His administration was characterized by a doubling of Columbia's applicant pool and unprecedented success at fund-raising. By the early years of the twenty-first century, the university had enrolled more than twenty-thousand full-time students; with its affiliates Barnard College and Teachers College, the total stood at about twenty-seven thousand. It included sixteen schools, dozens of distinguished academic departments, and more than seventy venues for specialized research. Columbia College, however, continued to have the smallest undergraduate enrollment in the Ivy League at four thousand. Lee Bollinger became the nineteenth president of Columbia University on 1 July 2002.


A Brief History of Columbia. Available online at:

Kenneth T.Jackson

See alsoEducation, Higher: Colleges and Universities, Women's Colleges ; Ivy League ; Seven Sisters Colleges .

Columbia University

views updated May 21 2018


New York, New York
Columbia Video Network

Columbia University was founded in 1754. It is accredited by Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. It first offered distance learning courses in 1986. In fall 2005, there were 470 students enrolled in distance learning courses. Institutionally administered financial aid is available to distance learners.
Services Distance learners have accessibility to academic advising, campus computer network, career placement assistance, e-mail services, library services.
Contact Online Recruiter, Columbia University, 530 Mudd Building, MC 4719, 500 West 120th Street, New York, NY 10027. Telephone: 212-854-6447. Fax: 212-854-2325. E-mail: [email protected].


Certificate of Achievement Business and Technology; Civil Engineering; Financial Engineering; Industrial Engineering; Information Systems; Intelligent Systems; Manufacturing Engineering; Materials Science and Engineering; Mathematics–Applied Mathematics; Multimedia Networking; Nanotechnology; Networking and Systems; New Media Engineering; Operations Research; Telecommunications; Wireless and Mobile Communications
MS Biomedical Engineering; Chemical Engineering; Civil Engineering–Construction Engineering and Management; Civil Engineering; Computer Science; Earth and Environmental Engineering; Engineering and Management Systems; Finance–Methods in Finance; Materials Science and Engineering; Mathematics–Applied Mathematics
MSEE Electrical Engineering
MSME Mechanical Engineering
PMC Computer Science; Electrical Engineering; Industrial Engineering and Operations Research; Mechanical Engineering


Undergraduate —computer science; electrical and electronic engineering technologies; materials science.
Graduate —appliedmathematics; biomedical/medicalengineering; chemical engineering; civil engineering; computer science; electrical, electronics and communications engineering; engineering/industrial management; environmental/environmental health engineering; finance and financial management services; materials science; mechanical engineering.
Non-credit —applied mathematics; business/commerce; chemical engineering; civil engineering; computer science; engineering; engineering/industrial management; environmental/environmental health engineering; finance and financial management services; mechanical engineering.

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Columbia University