Breakthroughs

At the University of Chicago we believe in the power of ideas. It is through the unfettered pursuit of knowledge that the University and its scholars, scientists, and educators make a profound and lasting impact upon the world. Here are just a few examples of the kinds of discoveries that are distinctive of the University of Chicago: the kinds of breakthroughs that alter the way we see and live in the world.

Bruce Lahn and Wen-Hsiung Li explore differences in DNA sequence and gene expression between organisms to identify genes or gene regulatory elements that distinguish humans from lower primates or that correlate with specific behaviors, traits, or biological mechanisms.

James Watson, the Chicago alumnus who shared the 1962 Nobel Prize for discovering the structure of DNA, launched the Human Genome Project in 1990. Today, University of Chicago scientists are building on Watson’s achievements, and reshaping our understanding of gene function and the role genes play in disease causation.

Paleontologist Paul Sereno has discovered many previously unknown species of dinosaurs.

Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, who first proposed the existence of “black holes” in the universe, won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1983 “for his theoretical studies of the physical processes of importance to the structure and evolution of the stars.”

Wei-Jen Tang discovered the structure of edema factor, one of the three toxins that make the anthrax bacterium deadly, and is investigating the drugs to treat it.

Nobel Laureate Robert Lucas developed and applied the hypothesis of rational expectations and transformed traditional macroeconomic analysis.

Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman was cited for his study of monetary policy.

National Medal of Science winner Dr. Janet Davison Rowley discovered the first consistent chromosomal abnormalities linked to cancer, demonstrating that cancer is a genetic disease.

John Carlstrom’s measurements of the cosmic microwave background radiation—the afterglow of the big bang—verified the framework that supports modern cosmological theory.

Meteorologist Tetsuya “Ted” Fujita devised the Fujita Tornado Scale, or F-scale, the internationally accepted standard for measuring tornado severity.

Meteorologist Carl-Gustaf Rossby conducted pioneering research on the atmosphere’s jet stream.

Willard Libby developed Carbon-14 dating and revolutionized archaeology.

Albert A. Michelson’s measurements of the speed of light made him in 1907 the first scientist from the United States to win the Nobel Prize.

Dr. Oswald Robertson discovered a way to preserve blood and established the first blood bank.

John Hope Franklin, the nation’s leading scholar of African-American history, changed the way American history is studied and taught.

Nobel Laureate Enrico Fermi and his colleagues conducted the first controlled, self-sustaining, nuclear chain reaction on Dec. 2, 1942, and initiated the modern nuclear age.

Nathaniel Kleitman identified REM sleep, the stage when most dreaming occurs.  This was the first clear indication that sleep was composed of many stages

John Dewey’s theories of education stressed the need to relate teaching methods to children’s experiences. Dewey established the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools in 1896.

Dr. Howard Ricketts showed that Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is caused by an unusual microbe spread by ticks.

Dr. Charles Huggins treated patients suffering from advanced prostate cancer by removing their testes, depriving these cancers of the hormone they needed to grow. The concept of hormonal treatment of cancer has since become a mainstay of care for several types of cancer, including breast and gynecological cancers. Huggins was awarded the Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine in 1966.