1893

Authored seminal English-language textbook for Japanese audiences

Eiji Asada, a Japanese student in Semitic Languages and Literatures, received the University’s first PhD in 1893. Asada was the author of the first English textbook and reader for a Japanese audience. It was used widely in Japan at the start of the 20th century.

Eiji Asada, PhD 1893, scholar of Semitic languages and Old Testament biblical studies

1905

Colossal Statue of King Tutankhamun excavated by the Oriental Institute and on display in its Egyptian Gallery

Established first US chair in Egyptology, Oriental history

Scholarship on the ancient Near East was primarily centered in Europe until 1905, when archaeologist and historian James Henry Breasted assumed the first chair in Egyptology and Oriental history in the United States, at the University of Chicago. In 1919, he founded the Oriental Institute as a laboratory for the study of the rise and development of civilization.

1975

Discovered cancer can be genetic

Presidential Medal of Freedom winner and geneticist Janet Davison Rowley, LAB’42, PhB’45, SB’46, MD’48, discovered the first consistent chromosomal abnormalities associated with cancer in the 1970s, demonstrating a link between cancer and genetics. She later was a key player in the development of the first precisely targeted anti-cancer drug.

Janet Davison Rowley, the Blum-Riese Distinguished Service Professor in Medicine, Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology, and Human Genetics, in her laboratory

1992

Members of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance demonstrate for the right to receive domestic partnership benefits during Weddstock 1992.

Among the first universities to offer domestic partnership benefits to LGBT couples

In 1992, the University of Chicago moved to offer domestic partnership benefits to gay and lesbian couples, becoming one of the first universities to adopt such a policy.

1994

Promoted the study of contemporary Chinese art in the West

Art historian Wu Hung, who came to the University of Chicago in 1994, is widely considered the first person to introduce contemporary Chinese art to the West and open it as field of critical study. Wu’s work has shaped a generation of curators and scholars, both here and in China, and exposed Western audiences to a deeper understanding of Chinese art at a time of great economic and social change.

This Smart Museum of Art exhibit of contemporary Chinese photo-based art was curated by Wu Hung, the Harrie A. Vanderstappen Professor in Art History, and Christopher Phillips, Curator at New York’s International Center of Photography.

2004

Ancient clay balls containing tokens were used to record commercial transactions before writing was developed.

Used noninvasive modern technology to study ancient artifacts

In 2004, Sumerologist Christopher Woods and colleagues at the Oriental Institute used industrial CT scanners to image the interior of 5,000-year-old clay balls from Iran that contain tokens that may be the earliest accounting system. The nondestructive research method has allowed examination of many more such artifacts and will advance a clearer understanding of their relationship to the emergence of accounting and writing.

2010

Used imaging technology to reconstruct ancient monuments

Art historian Katherine Tsiang digitally reconstructed the sixth-century Buddhist cave temples of Xiangtangshan by combining art historical research with archeological knowledge and emerging imaging technologies. This technique provided a new model for reassembling and restoring context to cultural monuments that have been scattered across the globe or destroyed. The related exhibit appeared at the Smart Museum of Art and four other museums in 2010–13.

The Xiangtangshan Caves in China

2016

Naomy Grand'Pierre at the 2016 Summer Olympics

Enrolled Haiti’s first female Olympic swimmer

Naomy Grand’Pierre, College Class of 2019, became Haiti’s first female Olympic swimmer when she competed in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, finishing second in her heat in the women’s 50-meter freestyle event.