Timeline & Milestones

1740 The followers of George Whitefield commision Edmund Wooley, the architect of Independence Hall, to build the church and school that will be acquired in 1750 for Benjamin Franklin's Academy.

"As to their studies, it would be well if they could be taught every Thing that is useful and every Thing that is ornamental. But Art is long and their Time is short. It is therefore propos'd that they learn those things that are likely to be most useful and most ornamental. Regard being had for the several Professions for which they are intended."

Benjamin Franklin
Proposal Relating to the Education of Youth in Pennsylvania, 1749

1749

A Revolutionary Institution Founded by Benjamin Franklin

1749Franklin organizes the Academy, to be followed by a college for advanced study, where practical and theoretical studies are combined to train leaders for the modern world.

1757The first graduating class includes Francis Hopkinson, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and Hugh Williamson, a member of the Constitutional Convention.


1755Franklin obtains a charter for the College of Philadelphia, the first secular institution of higher learning in British North America. Its curriculum is a revolutionary mix of modern and classical languages with geography, the natural sciences, and philosophy.


1765The trustees establish the first medical school in British North America. It combines medical theory and clinical training, attracting students from Europe and the Americas.

"There are particular branches of science which are not so advantageously taught anywhere else in the United States as in Philadelphia...your Medical School for anatomy and the able professors give advantages not to be found elsewhere."

Thomas Jefferson to Dr. Caspar Wistar, M.D., 1807

1779

The Nation's First University Innovations in the Curriculum

1779As the American Revolution rages, the College of Philadelphia is reborn as the University of the State of Pennsylvania with a diverse board representing the city's many peoples.

1802The College and Medical School move to their second campus at Ninth and Market Streets and occupy the mansion built in 1792 for the President of the United States.


1813 Undergraduates establish the Philomathean Society, the first student organization.


1822The first laboratory in America for the teaching of undergraduates is created to teach courses in mineralogy and chemistry.


1829The trustees commission separate purpose-built College and Medical School buildings on the Ninth Street campus that contain research laboratories and lecture halls.


1850Lectures in law are instituted that two years later will result in the first law degrees. In 1852, three faculty members constitute the Law School.


1852The University establishes the Bachelor of Science degree. For the first time a University student can graduate without taking examinations in the classical languages.


1865 The class of 1865 publish the first yearbook, the ancestor to The Record, and begin such traditions as Class Day and the senior honor award of the spoon.

"It is the modern spirit, developed in this country, which is now the open enemy of the old system of college education. We are told by Mr. Matthew Arnold there spreads a growing disbelief in Latin and Greek and a growing disposition to make modern languages and natural sciences take their place."

Charles Still, Provost, Penn Monthly, 1870

1872

Hands-on Education
The Improper Victorians

1872The University moves to West Philadelphia where College Hall, Medical Hall, and the Nation's first University-owned hospital form the third campus.

1873On the new campus, the first Ivy Day is commemorated by a plaque on College Hall. The University Magazine, forerunner of the Daily Pennsylvanian, first appears in 1875.


1875The growing science program is renamed to honor industrialist John Henry Towne. By the end of the century most Penn undergraduates are enrolled in the Towne School.


1876Women enroll in undergraduate classes and within a decade are followed by African Americans, Asians and Latin Americans.


1878Medical Science advances with the founding of the Dental School, followed shortly by the schools of Veterinary Medicine and Nursing.


1881William Pepper, M.D., first Provost from the sciences, returns to Franklin's practical and theoretical goals, establishing the Wharton School, the nation's first school of business, and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.


1886 The trustees commission Frank Furness to design the nation's most advanced library.


1895The Academic Gothic dormitory quadrangles by Cope and Stewardson enable the University to recruit students from across the nation.

"There is in the Hall life of English universities something which has been hitherto lacking in our University, and that is something, which has been needed to give full tone to the University career. It is not a question so much of lecture rooms and laboratories; it is his home while at the University. It is a vital part of the educational apparatus."

Charles Harrison, Provost, The Dormitory System, 1895

1896

The Nation's First Student Union
Undergraduate Life on Campus
1896Provost Harrison initiates a competition among Penn students to design Houston Hall, the nation's first student union, as a setting for student activities on campus.

1896The University opens Franklin Field with the first running of the Penn Relays.


1900Penn becomes a national football power led by John Heisman (1892) and John Outland.

"We live in a questioning time. The scope and complexity of the problems we face in modern society are growing with little promise of realistic answers in sight. Fortunately, we are also living in an inquiring, creative era. In fact the pursuit of science and technology since World War II has been so vigorous that it has grown to dominate much of our daily life."

J. Robert Schreiffer, Professor of Physics, 1962-1980, winner of Nobel Prize for Physics, 1972

1946

From ENIAC to the Present Franklin's Heirs

1946A Moore School defense contract for ENIAC, the first electronic numerical integrator and calculator, opens the computer age and Penn joins the ranks of national research centers.


1948With building projects for medicine and law and a laboratory for physics, the University enlarges its campus and recruits globally for faculty and students.


1954 Physicist Gaylord P Harnwell, the first president recruited from the faculty, leads Penn to join seven peer colleges and universities in forming the Ivy League.


1956Louis I. Kahn's Richards Memorial Research Laboratories turn Penn away from historic architectural forms, making the campus a showcase of modern design.


1980Basic research produces a third Nobel Prize in a decade of achievement.


2000 Perelman Quadrangle reunites campus activities in the heart of the campus. The University's Agenda for Excellence seeks to fulfill Franklin's vision.