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Columbia University

Columbia University is a large private research university in New York City comprising, through its affiliates, five undergraduate colleges and sixteen graduate and professional schools. It was established in 1754 as King's College and is the sixth-oldest institution of higher education in the United States.

The school, now legally known as Columbia University in the City of New York, is incorporated under the name Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York. The undergraduate schools are Columbia College, a member of the Ivy League, The School of General Studies, and the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, known as SEAS. Columbia College has the third lowest undergraduate acceptance rate in the United States, placing just after Harvard and Princeton (the ranking is for doctoral universities, as categorized by the Carnegie Foundation and U.S. News & World Report). Columbia is recognized as one of the most prestigious universities in the world, as a leader in the sciences, the humanities, law, medicine, engineering and business. World Ranking World Business School Ranking


Student life

With subway and bus access to all of New York City's cultural and institutional offerings, students and faculty at Columbia are presented with many opportunities for extracurricular education.

Columbia University in the City of New York
Columbia University in the City of New York

Columbia has formal educational ties to the Juilliard School of Music, the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, and to Oxford and Cambridge universities in England. It operates Nevis Laboratories in Irvington, New York, the Arden House Conference Center in Harriman, New York, the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York, and Reid Hall , an academic facility in Paris. The university's library system is among the world's largest.

In addition to its academic ties, the school also maintains relationships with The Metropolitan Museum, The Museum of Modern Art, The Whitney Museum, The Museum of Natural History and other major museums throughout New York City, allowing students free or discounted access to these revered repositories of cultural significance.

As Morningside Heights is bordered by Harlem and the Upper West Side, students have access to a variety of historic institutions in the immediate area, including Grant's Tomb, The Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, and several famous jazz clubs and soul food restaurants in the area.


Butler Library (June 2003)
Butler Library (June 2003)

Due to former university president Seth Low's late-19th century vision of a university campus where all disciplines could be taught and free discourse enjoyed by all, most of Columbia's graduate and undergraduate studies are conducted in Morningside Heights--quite an achievement, given the difficulty of finding contiguous real estate in Manhattan, even during the 19th century. This campus was designed by acclaimed architects McKim, Mead, and White and is considered one of their greater successes.

Columbia's main campus occupies six blocks, 32 acres (132,000 m²), in the Morningside Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, and its largest satellite campus, Health Sciences, is situated some fifty blocks uptown in the island's Washington Heights. This makes Columbia not only New York City's only Ivy League school but also, by some accounts, the city's third largest landowner after the Catholic Church and the City itself, with holdings that include the fifty-story former General Electric building at 570 Lexington Avenue (not to be confused with the current GE Building in Rockefeller Center).

Organizations and athletics

Major publications include the Columbia Daily Spectator, the nation's second oldest student newspaper; The Fed, an alternative humor paper; the Jester, a now-dormant campus humor magazine established in 1899 and edited at one point by Allen Ginsberg; the Columbia Review, the nation's oldest college literary magazine; the Blue & White, a literary magazine established in 1892; the Collection, an undergraduate literary magazine; and the Journal of Politics & Society, the nation's leading journal of advanced undergraduate research in the social sciences. The annual Varsity Show, once led by Rodgers and Hammerstein, is a student produced musical that lampoons Columbia traditions and students, as well as rival colleges.
1899 Columbia Hockey Team
1899 Columbia Hockey Team

While Columbia is no longer an athletics powerhouse, sports at Columbia have a long tradition. Crew was Columbia's first sport. The Columbia football team is one of the nation's oldest and won the Rose Bowl in 1934. Its wrestling team is the nation's oldest.

Columbia has been home to some famous athletes - Lou Gehrig played baseball while he was a student at Columbia and Sid Luckman played football. Columbia's fencing team in the late 20th century was one of the nation's most successful, with NCAA team championships in 1987, 1988, 1989, 1992 and 1993.

The university's recent noteriety in sports, however, lies with its football team which set an NCAA record of most consecutive football games without a win. After a losing 44 games, it broke the streak by beating Princeton at Columbia's homecoming game in 1988.

Columbia is among the top 20 universities in terms of its number of NCAA Division I varsity sports offerings.

For a listing of organizations, see the article Clubs and Organizations of Columbia University.


Columbia is the oldest institution of higher education in the state of New York and the sixth-oldest in the United States. Founded as King's College in 1754 under a royal charter granted by England's King George II, Columbia has grown over time to comprise 20 schools and affiliated institutions.

Park Place and Rockefeller Center

In July 1754, Samuel Johnson (1696-1772; not to be confused with his near-contemporary Dr. Johnson, the British lexicographer, 1709-1784) held the first classes in a new school house adjoining Trinity Church, located on what is now lower Broadway in Manhattan. There were eight students in the class. In 1767 King's College established the first American medical school to grant the MD degree.

The American Revolutionary War brought the growth of the College to a halt, forcing a suspension of instruction in 1776 that lasted for eight years. 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 United States Constitution; and Robert R. Livingston, a member of the five-man committee that drafted the Declaration of Independence. In 1784, the college reopened as Columbia College, reflecting the patriotic fervor which had inspired the nation's quest for independence.
King's College Hall, 1770
King's College Hall, 1770

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. Columbia Law School was founded in 1858, and the country's first mining school, a precursor of today's Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, was established in 1864. Barnard College for women became affiliated with Columbia in 1889; the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons 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.

Morningside Heights

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." At the same time the campus was moved again from 49th Street to a more spacious campus in the Morningside Heights area of Manhattan. The campus, considered to be among the nation's most beautiful and architecturally significant, was designed by the famous architectural firm, McKim, Mead, and White.

View of Columbia University's Low Library Plaza, c1900
View of Columbia University's Low Library Plaza, c1900

During his tenure, President Butler once remarked that Columbia needed to attract more students from out of town because the school was being overrun by Jews. Of course, this is the man of whom it was written:

[A] special fury animated the trustees whenever Professor Beard published still another of his iconoclastic interpretations of American history. On one occasion, a trustee is said to have asked the president of the university, Nicholas Murray Butler, whether he had read Professor Beard's last book. And President Butler is said to have replied, "I hope so." [1]

It was Butler's predecessor as university president, Seth Low, who moved Columbia out of the area that was to become Rockefeller Center to its present location in Morningside Heights.

In 1902, New York newspaper magnate Joseph Pulitzer donated a substantial sum to the University for the founding of a school to teach journalism. The result was the 1912 opening of the Graduate School of Journalism-- the only journalism school in the Ivy League. The school remains the nation's most prestigious, and is the administrator of the coveted Pulitzer Prize and the duPont-Columbia Award in broadcast journalism.

Interior of St. Paul's Chapel at Columbia University
Interior of St. Paul's Chapel at Columbia University

Columbia Business School was added in the early 20th century. During the first half of the 20th Century Columbia and Harvard were considered the best research universities in the country and had the largest endowments.

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 Justices of the United States. In the '50s, Dwight Eisenhower served as Columbia's president before becoming the President of the United States.

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 after the first nuclear pile was built to start what would become the Manhattan Project. To this day, Columbia University maintains its reputation as a leading research institute in the areas of Physics and Engineering.

In 1893 the Columbia University Press was founded in order to "promote the study of economic, historical, literary, scientific and other subjects; and to promote and encourage the publication of literary works embodying original research in such subjects." Among its most distinguished publications are The Columbia Encyclopedia, first published in 1935, and The Columbia Lippincott Gazetteer of the World, first published in 1952.

Student riots

Students protested in 1968 over the issue of whether Columbia would build its gymnasium in neighboring Morningside Park; this was seen by the protestors to be an act of aggression aimed at the black residents of neighboring Harlem. For several days, students took over administration buildings, occupied classrooms, and attacked the Columbia ROTC detatchment. Order was eventually restored when, with the assistance of NYPD, the university president snuck back into his office through a secret tunnel. The episode is generally seen as marking the point where the student body's and administration's values appeared to diverge most sharply. Columbia ended up scrapping the plans for the controversial gym and built a subterranean "Physical Fitness Center" under the north end of campus instead; this is the facility in use today. The architectural plans drawn up for the abandoned Morningside Park gym project were eventually used at Princeton University to build Dillon Gym.

Employment and Land Ownership

Due to its connections with various state agencies and many affiliated institutions along with Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, it is by some estimates, the largest employer in New York City. Taken by itself, without its affiliated institutions, it is at most the third-largest employer (the University's own estimate) and at a minimum, the twelfth-largest. Its status as a large landowner and employer has been established since the late 1950s. Due to the large numbers of employees, along with its pervasive status as a landowner, the University has been viewed by some, particularly in the community that surrounds it, as a corporate entity rather than a not-for-profit educational institution. This in turn has caused a divide between the University and those in the surrounding area, resulting in continued resistance to the University's expansion.

Notable Columbians

Main article: List of Columbia University people

Among the Columbians to achieve a measure of fame (or notoriety) are such diverse talents as poets and physicists, artists and lawyers, Founding Fathers, baseball stars and inventors. See the main article for details.

See also: Notable Columbia Law Students

In film, television and the arts

Columbia University's New York location and classic architecture has made it a favorite for moviemakers. Particularly photogenic are the Columbia steps, the long series of steps in front of Low Library, as well as the lecture room 309 in Havemeyer Hall. Movies featuring scenes shot on Morningside campus include:

Movies or shows with significant portrayals of Columbia alumni or students:

Currently shooting on or around the University's campus:


Awards and honors

Since 1901, 72 Columbians have been honored with Nobel Prizes for their work in physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, peace and (since 1968) economics.

[2] [3]

As of 2004, the current list of Columbia Nobel laureates can be found at list of Columbia University people.

Other awards won by current and former faculty include:

Schools and enrollment

As of autumn of 2003, there were 23,650 persons enrolled at Columbia University, not including students at affiliates (e.g. Barnard). This total is broken down as follows.

7,114 students were enrolled in undergraduate programs:

(See also Barnard College, Jewish Theological Seminary)

5,964 were enrolled in graduate programs:

  • School of the Arts: 762
  • Graduate School of Arts & Sciences
    • Enrollment includes approximately 142 students studying in order to receive liberal studies M.A. degrees, and another 3,846 studients studying either to receive doctorate or masters degrees.
  • School of International and Public Affairs: 1,214

(See also Union Theological Seminary, Teachers College)

6,324 were in professional programs:

2,565 were enrolled in programs at Health Sciences:

  • College of Physicians and Surgeons
    • Medicine: 634
    • Institute of Human Nutrition: 32
    • Occupational Therapy: 122
    • Psych. Training & Research: 31
    • Physical Therapy: 75
  • School of Nursing: 357
  • Mailman School of Public Health: 738
  • School of Dental and Oral Surgery
    • Dental and Oral Surgery: 330
    • Graduate Dental: 84

1,845 were enrolled in the following special programs:

  • American Language Program: 448
  • Berlin Consortium: 4
  • Biosphere 2: 37
  • Reid Hall: 22
  • School of Continuing Education: 1,334


1754 Royal Charter establishes King's College under King George II of England.

1784 Renamed Columbia College by New York State Legislature.

1810 Final revisions are made to the Charter under which the University operates today.

1849 College moves from Park Place, near present City Hall, to 49th and Madison.

1889 Barnard College for women becomes an affiliate of Columbia.

1896 Trustees formally designate Columbia as a university.

1897 The University moves from 49th and Madison to its present site in Morningside Heights.

1928 Opening of the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, the first such center to combine teaching, research, and patient care.

1947 Nevis Laboratories was founded in Irvington, New York, offering facilities for experimental physics research.

1949 The Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, a world-renowned research center dedicated to understanding planet Earth, opened in Palisades, New York.

1954 Columbia's Bicentennial Celebration.

1983 The first Columbia College class to include women arrives on campus in September.

2002 Lee C. Bollinger begins term as Columbia's 19th president.

2004 Commemoration of Columbia's 250th Anniversary

from [2004 Facts]

See also

External links

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