Encyclopedia  |   World Factbook  |   World Flags  |   Reference Tables  |   List of Lists     
   Academic Disciplines  |   Historical Timeline  |   Themed Timelines  |   Biographies  |   How-Tos     
Sponsor by The Tattoo Collection
Columbia University
Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Columbia University

University data

In lumine tuo videbimus lumen
(In thy light we shall see light)

Established 1754
School type Private
President Lee C. Bollinger
Location New York City, New York, United States
Enrollment 7,114 undergraduate, 16,536 graduate and professional
Faculty 3,224
Campus Urban, 32.6 acres (Morningside)
Sports teams 29
Mascot Royal Lion
Homepage www.columbia.edu

Shield image © Columbia University in the City of New York

Alternate uses: Columbia (disambiguation)

Columbia University, officially known as Columbia University in the City of New York, is a private institution of higher education. It is one of the world's foremost research universities, and a member of the Ivy League. Founded 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.

Columbia's main campus occupies six blocks 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 second largest landowner after the Catholic Church.

Table of contents
1 Student Life
2 History
3 Notable Columbians
4 In film, television and the arts
5 Statistics
6 External links

Student Life

Today, Columbia remains one of the world's most prestigious universities. Its undergraduate college, Columbia College, has the third lowest acceptance rate in the United States at 10.5%, placing just after Princeton (10.3%) and Harvard (9.9%).

While Columbia College has traditionally taken many of its students from private American prep schools like Exeter, Deerfield, and Choate and top New York City day schools like Horace Mann, Collegiate, and Dalton, most current undergraduates come from public schools across the United States and around the world. Today, Columbia is one of the more geographically and racially diverse of the Ivy League schools.

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 Irving, N.Y., the Arden House conference center at Harriman, N.Y., and Reid Hall, an academic facility in Paris. The university's library system, among the nationís largest, has many important manuscript and rare book collections.


Thanks 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--a remarkable achievement, given the difficulty of finding contiguous real estate in Manhattan nowadays. This campus was designed by acclaimed architects McKim, Mead, and White and is considered one of their greater successes.

Organizations and Athletics

There are a number of prominent student organizations at Columbia. Major publications include the Columbia Daily Spectator, the nation's second oldest student newspaper; the Jester (a 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 is a student produced musical that pokes fun at Columbia traditions and students, as well as rival colleges. Other performing arts groups include over a dozen a capella groups, the glee club, a symphony orchestra, an opera society, and the widely-acclaimed Bach Society. Columbia also has a large number of active cultural groups such as the Black Students Organization. Greek life at Columbia has been reinvigorated in recent years; Columbia boasts 24 fraternities, 4 sororities, and 4 co-ed literary societies.

The radio station WKCR (89.9FM New York), is one of the nation's oldest and is run exclusively by Columbia students out of its studios in Lerner Hall. It is known throughout the New York metropolitan area for its top-notch jazz and classical offerings.

While Columbia is no longer considered an athletics powerhouse, athletics at Columbia have a long and storied tradition. Crew was Columbia's first sport. The Columbia football team is one of the nation's oldest and played a major role in the development of the sport. It won the Rose Bowl in 1934. Its wrestling team is the nation's oldest. Columbia has also been home to some of the nation's finest athletes. For example, Lou Gehrig played baseball while he was a student at Columbia. Today, Columbia fields top teams in lightweight crew, fencing, golf, tennis, sailing, and its basketball and football programs are experiencing an upswing. Columbia is among the top 20 universities in terms of its number of NCAA Division I varsity sports offerings.


Columbia University traces its origins to 1754, when it was founded by royal charter of King George II as "King's College." It is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York and the fifth oldest in the United States. It remains one of the world's most prestigious centers of higher education.

Park Place and Rockefeller Center

In July 1754, Samuel Johnson (1696-1772; not to be confused with 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.

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. The 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 Medical School 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.

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.

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 Justice 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 rioted in the '60s 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 a week or two, students took over administration buildings, occupied classrooms, and attacked the Columbia NROTC detatchment. Order was eventually restored when, with the assistance of NYPD, the university president snuck back into his office through a secret tunnel.

Notable Columbians

Main article: People of Columbia University

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.

In film, television and the arts

Columbia University's New York location and classic architecture has made it a favorite for moviemakers, often being the centerpiece for their films. Among these include:


Awards and Honors

As of 2002, Columbia counted 64 Nobel laureates among its faculty and students since the prize was first awarded in 1901. Of these, 37 were won by alumni; among current and former faculty, 21 have won the prize for work done while at Columbia and 17 for work conducted elsewhere. Columbia's faculty includes eight Nobel laureates as of October 2001. [1] [1]

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:

(See also Union Theological Seminary, Teachers College)

6,324 were in professional programs:

2,565 were enrolled in programs at Health Sciences:

1,845 were enrolled in the following special programs:

External links

Ivy League: Brown University | Columbia University | Cornell University | Dartmouth College
Harvard University | Princeton University | University of Pennsylvania | Yale University