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Washington University St. Louis

Washington University in St. Louis is a private research university located in suburban St. Louis, Missouri, United States.


1 Brookings Dr
St. Louis
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College History


Washington University was conceived by 17 St. Louis business, political, and religious leaders concerned by the lack of institutions of higher learning in the Midwest. Missouri State Senator Wayman Crow and Unitarian minister William Greenleaf Eliot, grandfather of the poet T.S. Eliot, led the effort. The university's first chancellor was Joseph Gibson Hoyt. Crow secured the university charter from the Missouri General Assembly in 1853, and Eliot was named President of the Board of Trustees. Early on, Eliot solicited support from members of the local business community, including John O'Fallon, but Eliot failed to secure a permanent endowment. Washington University is unusual among major American universities in not having had a prior financial endowment. The institution had no backing of a religious organization, single wealthy patron, or earmarked government support. William Greenleaf Eliot, first president of the Board of Trustees During the three years following its inception, the university bore three different names. The board first approved "Eliot Seminary," but William Eliot was uncomfortable with naming a university after himself and objected to the establishment of a seminary, which would implicitly be charged with teaching a religious faith. He favored a nonsectarian university. In 1854, the Board of Trustees changed the name to "Washington Institute" in honor of George Washington. Naming the University after the nation's first president, only seven years before the American Civil War and during a time of bitter national division, was no coincidence. During this time of conflict, Americans universally admired George Washington as the father of the United States and a symbol of national unity. The Board of Trustees believed that the university should be a force of unity in a strongly divided Missouri. In 1856, the University amended its name to "Washington University." The university amended its name once more in 1976, when the Board of Trustees voted to add the suffix "in St. Louis" to distinguish the university from the nearly two dozen other universities bearing Washington's name. Although chartered as a university, for many years Washington University functioned primarily as a night school located on 17th Street and Washington Avenue in the heart of downtown St. Louis. Owing to limited financial resources, Washington University initially used public buildings. Classes began on October 22, 1854, at the Benton School building. At first the university paid for the evening classes, but as their popularity grew, their funding was transferred to the St. Louis Public Schools. Eventually the board secured funds for the construction of Academic Hall and a half dozen other buildings. Later the university divided into three departments: the Manual Training School, Smith Academy, and the Mary Institute. In 1867, the university opened the first private nonsectarian law school west of the Mississippi River. By 1882, Washington University had expanded to numerous departments, which were housed in various buildings across St. Louis. Medical classes were first held at Washington University in 1891 after the St. Louis Medical College decided to affiliate with the University, establishing the School of Medicine. During the 1890s, Robert Sommers Brookings, the president of the Board of Trustees, undertook the tasks of reorganizing the university's finances, putting them onto a sound foundation, and buying land for a new campus. Modern era (1900�1955) The Washington University crest at the entrance to Francis Field Washington University spent its first half century in downtown St. Louis bounded by Washington Ave., Lucas Place, and Locust Street. By the 1890s, owing to the dramatic expansion of the Manual School and a new benefactor in Robert Brookings, the University began to move west. The University Board of Directors began a process to find suitable ground and hired the landscape architecture firm Olmsted, Olmsted & Eliot of Boston. A committee of Robert S. Brookings, Henry Ware Eliot, and William Huse found a site of 103 acres (41.7 ha) just beyond Forest Park, located west of the city limits in St. Louis County. The elevation of the land was thought to resemble the Acropolis and inspired the nickname of "Hilltop" campus, renamed the Danforth campus in 2006 to honor former chancellor William H. Danforth. In 1899, the university opened a national design contest for the new campus. The renowned Philadelphia firm Cope & Stewardson won unanimously with its plan for a row of Collegiate Gothic quadrangles inspired by Oxford and Cambridge Universities. The cornerstone of the first building, Busch Hall, was laid on October 20, 1900. The construction of Brookings Hall, Ridgley, and Cupples began shortly thereafter. The school delayed occupying these buildings until 1905 to accommodate the 1904 World's Fair and Olympics. The delay allowed the university to construct ten buildings instead of the seven originally planned. This original cluster of buildings set a precedent for the development of the Danforth Campus; Cope & Stewardson�s original plan and its choice of building materials have, with few exceptions, guided the construction and expansion of the Danforth Campus to the present day. Brookings Hall Quad By 1915, construction of a new medical complex was completed on Kingshighway in what is now St. Louis�s Central West End. Three years later, Washington University admitted its first women medical students. In 1922, a young physics professor, Arthur Holly Compton, conducted a series of experiments in the basement of Eads Hall that demonstrated the "particle" concept of electromagnetic radiation. Compton�s discovery, known as the �Compton Effect,� earned him the Nobel Prize in physics in 1927. During World War II, as part of the Manhattan Project, a cyclotron at Washington University was used to produce small quantities of the newly discovered element plutonium via neutron bombardment of uranium nitrate hexahydrate. The plutonium produced there in 1942 was shipped to the Metallurgical Laboratory Compton had established at the University of Chicago where Glenn Seaborg's team used it for extraction, purification, and characterization studies of the exotic substance. After working for many years at the University of Chicago, Arthur Holly Compton returned to St. Louis in 1946 to serve as Washington University's ninth chancellor. Compton reestablished the Washington University football team, making the declaration that athletics were to be henceforth played on a "strictly amateur" basis with no athletic scholarships. Under Compton�s leadership, enrollment at the University grew dramatically, fueled primarily by World War II veterans' use of their GI Bill benefits. In 1947, Gerty Cori, a professor at the School of Medicine, became the first American woman to win a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Professors Carl and Gerty Cori became Washington University's fifth and sixth Nobel laureates for their discovery of how glycogen is broken down and resynthesized in the body. The process of desegregation at Washington University began in 1947 with the School of Medicine and the School of Social Work. During the mid and late 1940s, the University was the target of critical editorials in the local African American press, letter-writing campaigns by churches and the local Urban League, and legal briefs by the NAACP intended to strip its tax-exempt status. In spring 1949, a Washington University student group, the Student Committee for the Admission of Negroes (SCAN), began campaigning for full racial integration. In May 1952, the Board of Trustees passed a resolution desegregating the school's undergraduate divisions.

College Specialty


Washington University School of Medicine will lead in advancing human health through the best clinical care, innovative research and the education of tomorrow�s leaders in biomedicine in a culture that supports diversity, inclusion, critical thinking and creativity.



Washington University counts more than 114,000 living alumni, 27 Rhodes Scholars, and 22 Nobel laureates affiliated with the university as faculty or students. Notable recent graduates of the college include: former Missouri Senator Jim Talent, Nevada Senator Chic Hecht, and former Nebraska Congressman Hal Daub; George Zimmer, founder of Men's Wearhouse; Phil Radford, CEO of Greenpeace; Avram Glazer, chairman of Manchester United; Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists Ken Cooper and Hank Klibanoff; Dr. Scott Berjer, personal chef to Stevie Washington and serial inventor (notable inventions include the Dunkaroo and the Sheshbesh); Jon Feltheimer, CEO of Lionsgate films; actors Peter Sarsgaard (Boys Don't Cry, An Education, Flight Plan) and Harold Ramis (Ghostbusters, Caddyshack); baseball player Dal Maxvill; and science-show host Deanne Bell (Design Squad). Earlier undergraduate alumni include J. C. R. Licklider, pioneer in artificial intelligence; Charles Nagel, founder of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Julian Hill, co-inventor of nylon; Clyde Cowan, co-discoverer of the neutrino; James R. Thompson, Governor of Illinois; David R. Francis, Governor of Missouri; William H. Webster, former Director of the FBI; U.S. Ambassador to Belgium Sam Fox; Edward Singleton Holden, President of the University of California; Thomas Lamb Eliot, President of Reed College; and Abram L. Sachar, founding President of Brandeis University. Graduates of the College of Architecture include George Hellmuth, Gyo Obata, and George Kassabaum, founders of HOK, the world's fourth-largest architectural firm. The School of Medicine graduated Nobel laureates Earl Sutherland, Edwin Krebs, and Daniel Nathans. Businessman and adventurer Steve Fossett earned his MBA from the business school. Doctoral alumni include the former Presidents of Johns Hopkins, Clemson, Wake Forest, Morehouse, Mount Union, Yonsei, and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. An alumnus of the Graduate School of Architecture, C. P. Wang (M.Arch 1973), designed Taipei 101, the world's second-tallest building. Famous students who dropped out: Charles Eames (who was expelled for defending modernist architecture); Tennessee Williams (who left in protest of not winning the poetry prize); Enterprise Rent-a-Car founder Jack C. Taylor (who withdrew to fight in World War II); actor Robert Guillaume (who withdrew to study opera); Pulitzer Prize winner and bestselling author Bill Dedman (who left to become a newspaper reporter); and IQ-record holder Marilyn vos Savant (who says she withdrew because she was bored); 3LAU (who left to pursue his career as a DJ). List of Washington University faculty and staff (past and present): economist and Nobel Memorial Prize winner Douglass North; husband and wife biochemists and co-Nobel Prize winners Carl and Gerty Cori; physicist and Nobel Prize winner Arthur Holly Compton; novelists Stanley Elkin and William Gass; poets Carl Phillips and Mary Jo Bang; architect Fumihiko Maki; neurologist and Nobel Prize winner Rita Levi-Montalcini; sex researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson; Poets Laureate Howard Nemerov and Mona Van Duyn; sociologist and "outlaw Marxist" Alvin Ward Gouldner; attorney, former Counsel to Vice-President Al Gore and former Tennessee Attorney General Charles Burson; writer and culture critic Gerald Early; Economist, and former Chair of President Ronald Reagan's Council of Economic Advisors, Murray Weidenbaum; chemist Joseph W. Kennedy, co-discoverer of the element plutonium; computer scientist Jonathan S. Turner, internationally renowned expert in computer networking; computer scientist Raj Jain, pioneer in the field of network congestion; and Law Professor Troy A. Paredes, currently on leave as a commissioner of the SEC.



Urban 2,312.5 acres (936 ha)