The History of Cal Timeline: The First 150 Years of Cal

1849 New state Constitution, which articulated need for higher education
1853 Contra Costa Academy founded
1855 Charter granted for College of California, becoming the successor to the Contra Costa Academy.
1860 The College of California opens its doors in Oakland to 10 freshmen.
1862 Morrill Act paves way for state money for a state university
1866 California Legislature creates an Agricultural Mining and Mechanic Arts College
1867 Trustees of the College of California vote to give all their property to the state, hoping they create a state university
1868 Governor Henry Haight signs an act creating the University of California March 23--Charter Day.
1869 A "tiny band of scholars"--10 faculty members, 40 students--are on hand when the University opens in Oakland, with "Colleges" of Agriculture, Civil Engineering, Letters, Mechanics, and Mining.
1870 Henry Durant, Congregational minister and Yale alumnus, becomes the first president of the University.
The first women students (17) enroll.
1871 The first Greek letter society established at the University is the lota chapter of Zeta Psi.
1872 Daniel Coit Gilman becomes the second president, incorporating an influence of European universities.
Regent Edward Tompkins' gift established the first "chair of learning" in Oriental languages and literature.
Graduates, most from the College of California, form an alumni association.
First endowed chair, gift of Edward Tompkins.
1873 Twelve young men, thereafter known as the "12 Apostles," receive the first UC diplomas.
Classes begin at Berkeley for 199 students on completion of North and South Halls. (South Hall still stands.)
1882 Rugby is established as Cal's first sports team.
1887 Student self-government becomes organized as Associated Students of the University of California (ASUC).
1892 The first "Big Game" is played between Cal and Stanford; the Farm wins 14-10.
1893 UC Press publishes its first book.
1896 The Regents call for an international competition to provide an architectural plan for the University. Phoebe Apperson Hearst (later the first woman Regent) funds the competition.
1898 The College of Commerce, later the School of Business Administration, opens.
1899 Benjamin Ide Wheeler, from Cornell, becomes UC's eighth president, ushering in a golden age of growth and consoltion.
1903 John Galen Howard begins executing UC Berkeley's architectural plan and establishes the Department of Architecture. His legacy includes Sather Gate and Sather Tower (the Campanile), Hearst Greek Theatre, Hearst Memorial Mining Building, Wellman Hall, Doe Library, California Hall, Gilman Hall, LeConte Hall, Wheeler Hall, and California Memorial Stadium.
1905 The University purchases a collection of western Americana and Spanish-American historical materials from Hubert Howe Bancroft to be installed in the fledgling Bancroft Library, now one of the world's outstanding collections.
Serious injuries prompt presidents of Cal and Stanford to abolish football. From 1906 to 1914, the two universities play rugby instead.
1912 Doe Library is dedicated.
1914 The Jane K. Sather Tower, more popularly known as the Campanile for its resemblance to the campanile of St. Mark's Plaza in Venice, takes its place as Berkeley's chief landmark.
1919 The University establishes the "Southern Branch" in Los Angeles.
The faculty begins a "revolt" against the Regents' power, gaining over the next few years increased power for itself and UC's president in academic areas.
1928 Cal crew wins the first of three Olympic gold medals in Amsterdam.
1929 The first residence hall for students, Bowles Hall, opens, funded by private gifts.
1930 Robert Gordon Sproul '13 becomes the 11th president of the University.
International House opens. A gift from John D. Rockefeller, Jr., funds the the purchase of the land and construction. UC enrolls almost 10 percent of all international students in the U.S.
1931 Ernest O. Lawrence conducts the first successful operation of a cyclotron.
1933 In the midst of the Depression, UC cuts programs and reduces salaries in response to a one-third cut in the budget.
1939 Ernest O. Lawrence becomes Berkeley's first Nobel laureate, winning the prize in physics for inventing the atom-smashing cyclotron.
1941 Professors Glenn Seaborg and Edwin McMillan participate in the discovery of plutonium and in 1951 share the Nobel Prize for chemistry.
1942 The campus turns its energy to war work, and the curriculum is revised to include "national service courses." During the war, male enrollment drops more than 50 percent, and many males are Army and Navy members in officer training programs.
1943 UC officially takes over operation of the government laboratory at Los Alamos, N.M., that is continuing the work of Berkeley faculty and others in the development of the atomic bomb. Berkeley physics professor J. Robert Oppenheimer, who led earlier LeConte Hall discussions about the bomb, is the director.
1945 Berkeley completes $57 million worth of government-sponsored World War II research. Its partnership with the federal government sets the stage for continued high levels of research sponsored by the government and, later, industry, transforming Cal into a major research university.
The United Nations Charter was translated, designed, and printed in four days at Berkeley in time for signing by delegates to the historic session in San Francisco.
1946 Returning GIs double Berkeley enrollment to more than 25,000, severely straining facilities.
1952 Clark Kerr, professor of industrial relations, is named Berkeley's first chancellor.
1958 Kerr becomes UC's 12th president, and Nobel laureate Glenn Seaborg succeeds him as Berkeley chancellor.
1961 The UC Regents name a fountain on Sproul Plaza after a German short-haired pointer named Ludwig von Schwanenberg, who had played in it daily.
A new student union opens, now called the Martin Luther King, Jr., Student Union.
1962 President John F. Kennedy addresses 90,000 people in Memorial Stadium on Charter Day. This event represents the largest public event in UC history.
1964 Students demonstrate against rules that prohibit certain political activities on campus, leading to what later became the Free Speech Movement.
1966 In a comparative study of graduate departments, the American Council on Education named Berkeley the "best balanced distinguished university in the country." Harvard is second.
1969 Student protests take place over use of three-acre lot near People's Park, leading eventually to action by the National Guard.
1973 Enrollment in the fall quarter exceed 30,000 for the first time.
1980 Berkeley's first Nobelist outside of the sciences, poet Czeslaw Milosz
1982 Berkeley is rated the strongest graduate institution across the board in a national study by four academic organizations.
Cal beats Stanford with "The Play," a five-lateral kickoff return for a touchdown as time runs out.
1986 Clark Kerr Campus opens in honor of the UC president emeritus and first Berkeley chancellor.
1988 For the first time, no ethnic group forms a majority among undergraduates.
1989 The Berkeley faculty approves the American Cultures requirement: students must take a course that examines the experiences in, and contributions to, American culture of a mixture of ethnic groups.
1990 Chang-Lin Tien becomes chancellor.
Berkeley's "Keeping the Promise" capital campaign ends, having raised more money, $470 million, than that raised by any other public university.
1995 English Professor Robert Hass named poet laureate by the Library of Congress, first poet from the western U.S. to win the honor.
1996 The Rugby team wins its sixth consecutive national championship, 13th title for Cal since the tournament began in 1980.
1997 Robert M. Berdahl becomes Chancellor.
2000 Daniel L. McFadden wins the Nobel prize for Economics.


This list is an amalgam of various sources:
  • Johnson, Dean C. The University of California: History and Achievements. U.C. Press, 1996.
  • General Catalog of the University of California, Berkeley, '97 - '99
  • CalFacts 1997 pamphlet
  • Steven Morgan Friedman's own research.


| history | tour | hall | traditions | sources ||| home | search | question? | about |
a project of The Bancroft Library