the UC History Digital Archives

the UC History Digital Archives

Search the Berkeley collection
Home > General History > The Ten Campuses > Berkeley >

Historical Overview

About UC Berkeley
:: Historical Overview
:: Administrative Officers

Academic Units
:: Colleges and Schools
:: Academic Departments
:: Graduate Division
:: Institutes and Research Centers
:: Summer Sessions

Student Life
:: Student Housing
:: Student Government
:: Student Publications
:: Student Services
:: Traditions

Libraries and the Arts
:: Cultural Programs
:: Libraries

Additional Resources
:: Related Links
:: Bibliography

:: Sources

print-friendly format

Berkeley: Historical Overview

The Campus
The Berkeley campus of the University of California stretches from the center of the city eastward into a range of steep hills and commands a magnificent view of San Francisco and the Golden Gate. The overall area of the campus is 1,232 acres, though the main campus, with its park-like atmosphere and many academic buildings, is on the lower 178 acres. Overlooking the main campus are several research units, most notably the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory. Much of the rugged upper hill area is still undeveloped.

This campus, the oldest and largest of the University, began operations in 1869 in the buildings formerly owned by the College of California in Oakland. Classes began at Berkeley in 1873 upon completion of North and South Halls (North Hall is no longer extant). When the doors opened, 167 men and 222 women students enrolled.

From that beginning has evolved one of the world's major centers of learning and research. At the beginning of the 2001-2002 academic year, 32,128 students were registered. They came from throughout the state and from every state in the nation. Included were 6,783 foreign students representing over 120 countries.

The campus was under the direct supervision of the President and other University-wide officers until 1952. After that time, direction of the campus became the responsibility of its chancellor. The chancellors at Berkeley have been Clark Kerr, later President of the University; Glenn T. Seaborg, later chairman of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission; Edward W. Strong; Martin Meyerson, acting chancellor during the spring semester of 1965; Roger W. Heyns; Albert H. Bowker; Ira Michael Heyman; Chang-Lin Tien; and Robert M. Berdahl, the current chancellor.

to top

Academic Achievements
The faculty is one of the most distinguished in America. A total of eighteen Nobel laureates have been associated with the Berkeley campus, and the faculty currently includes eight Nobel Prize winners: George A. Akerlof (Economics), Daniel L. McFadden (Economics), Yuan T. Lee (Chemistry), Gerard Debreu (Economics), Czeslaw Milosz (Literature), Charles H. Townes (Physics), Donald A. Glaser (Physics), and Owen Chamberlain (Physics). The faculty includes 113 members of the National Academy of Sciences, 19 MacArthur Fellows, 77 Fulbright Scholars, and three Pulitzer Prize winners.

There are 14 colleges and schools, and over 130 academic departments offering nearly 300 degree programs. Berkeley also has 42 organized research units contributing new knowledge in most of these areas. The University Library contains more than nine million volumes, making it the fourth largest library in North America and one of the best in the breadth and depth of its collections.

It was on this campus in 1930 that the late Ernest O. Lawrence, then professor of physics and the University's first Nobel Prize recipient, invented the cyclotron, first of a succession of "atom-smashers." Since then, the laboratory that bears his name has maintained world leadership in fundamental nuclear physics research, while huge and complex instruments and associated buildings have blossomed on its hilltop site. Discoveries there have included hundreds of new isotopes, many with importance in biological, medical, and physical research; the man-made trans-uranium elements; and the anti-proton, anti-neutron, and other atomic particles, as well as the early work which played a key part in opening the atomic age.

Many other individuals and groups at Berkeley have distinguished themselves in research in various fields. Among these achievements were the first isolation of a virus, including the one causing human polio; discovery of a number of pituitary hormones, among them the human growth hormone and ACTH; the first "taking apart" and reconstruction of a virus, with the accompanying discovery that nucleic acid carries the viral infectious properties; and the first demonstration of permanent chemical changes in the brain as a result of learning.

Professional schools have made important contributions in legal research, optometry, criminology, and engineering, the latter field including such work as testing materials for structures such as the San Francisco-Oakland Bay and Golden Gate Bridges, Shasta Dam, and others.

In the social sciences and humanities, unique research was accomplished with languages. The world's first Mongolian-English and Thai-English dictionaries were compiled on the Berkeley campus. California Indian languages were reconstructed following recorded interviews with surviving Indians. Important work has also been done with translation of languages by computers.

to top

Important Research Centers
Case studies begun by the Institute of Human Development more than 60 years ago, relating to physical development, behavior, and aging of the subjects, as well as the physiological, psychological, and interpersonal consequences of changes in the social environment, continued for decades. The Institute of Personality and Social Research (formerly Institute of Personality Assessment and Research) is devoted to the study of adult human behavior and personality, and on the social context in which individual differences are expressed. Studies conducted by the Institute of Social Sciences, Institute of Industrial Relations, Institute of Governmental Studies, Institute of Business and Economic Research, and Institute of International Studies have led to a better understanding of humans and their complex relationships to society and their environment. The Berkeley campus has also been the base for considerable overseas research, especially in economics and political science. In addition to pioneering research and creative scholarship, faculty members have won acclaim for accomplishments in art, architecture, music, drama, and literature.

to top

Campus Architecture
The campus has had several plans to guide its physical development over its many years of existence. After two such plans, an international competition was underwritten by Mrs. Phoebe Apperson Hearst. It was won by Paris architect, Emile Bénard, who devised a monumental scheme reflecting the grand, formal scale and architectural classicism of the Beaux Arts School. This was adopted by the Regents in 1900.

John Galen Howard was chosen supervising architect to modify the Bénard plan to fit the precise needs of the campus. From 1903 to 1924, Howard designed 20 buildings that survived as the core of the campus. Among these are the Doe Library, California Hall, Durant Hall, and Wheeler Hall in the center of the campus, plus the Hearst Memorial Mining Building, Agriculture Hall, Gilman Hall, Hilgard Hall, Stephens Hall, Haviland Hall, Hesse Hall, and LeConte Hall.

The campus' two best-known landmarks, Sather Tower (popularly known as the Campanile) and Sather Gate, were designed by Howard. Modeled after the famous tower of Venice, the Campanile is 307 feet tall and visible over much of the Bay Area. It contains chimes on which regular concerts are played, an observation platform, and four large clock faces. Both monuments were gifts of Mrs. Jane K. Sather.

The architect also designed the Greek Theatre, built in 1903, with a seating capacity of 7,200, and the California Memorial Stadium, built in 1923, with a capacity of 76,780.

Since Howard's era, some of the most notable buildings to be constructed at Berkeley have been the Hearst Gymnasium for Women, designed by Maybeck and Julia Morgan; International House; the Life Sciences Building, constructed in 1930 and later reconstructed; Sproul Hall; Dwinelle Hall; Hertz Hall; University Hall; Student Union complex; Tolman Hall; Latimer Hall; Etcheverry Hall; Wurster Hall; Barrows Hall; and the Physical Sciences Lecture Hall.

Subsequent major building projects have included the Space Sciences Laboratory, the Lawrence Hall of Science, the University Art Museum, the Haas School of Business, Moffitt undergraduate library, and the Main Stacks of Doe Library.

to top

Campus Planning and Layout
One feature of the physical planning for the campus is the grouping of related teaching departments and research units in clusters of buildings, mainly for the convenience of academic personnel. Thus, at the center of the campus are the libraries, humanities, and the social sciences. From the Telegraph Avenue entrance down to Oxford Street are administration and student activities, including athletics. Following clockwise around the campus map are agriculture and the life sciences, engineering and earth sciences, mathematical and physical sciences, and design, music, and the arts.

University policy in 1968 specified that eventually 25 per cent of the students would live in University-owned and -operated facilities. Prior to the mid-1950s, these consisted of Bowles Hall, a men's residence; Stern Hall for women; and four Smyth-Fernwald Halls on a hill just southeast of the main campus. These could accommodate only a fraction of the determined percentage. During the following eight years, three blocks of high-rise dormitories, with four dormitories per block, were constructed just south of the campus. By 1968, total dormitory space could accommodate 3,333 students and more dormitories were planned. In addition, the University maintained a married student apartment complex in Albany which had 920 apartments.

Adjacent to the apartments was land which contained an agricultural research complex. Together, both of these areas comprised the Gill Tract, one of five outlying properties acquired by the campus. Others were the Richmond Field Station for engineering and forest products laboratories; the Richmond Services Center, a former Ford Motor Company plant used for research laboratories, supplementary library facilities, and a supply center; the Blake Estate, a residential property specified by the donor for use of its highly developed garden plantings by the Department of Landscape Architecture; and the Russell Tree Farm, a tract near Lafayette to be used for ecology studies and a small astronomical observatory.

to top

Research Stations
Several research stations have been maintained by the Berkeley campus in remote locations in northern California. These have included the Bodega Marine Laboratory for biological research, near Bodega Bay; Hastings Natural History Reservation, a preserve for study of wildlife and plants in the upper Carmel Valley; Hat Creek Radio Astronomy Observatory, north of Lassen National Park; Meadow Valley Summer Camp for forestry students in Plumas County; Sagehen Creek Wildlife and Fisheries Station, north of Truckee; and the White Mountain Research Station for high altitude research, near Bishop.


to top

the UC History Digital Archives

Copyright © 1999-2005
The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.
Last updated 06/18/04.