Led formational work in the study of ecology

Botanist Henry Chandler Cowles’s study of ecological succession in the Indiana Dunes along the southern shore of Lake Michigan in the late 1890s opened a new field of inquiry in the natural sciences: ecology. The investigation of a changing natural landscape carries increasing importance amid growing concerns about our environment.

Henry Chandler Cowles (second from the right), Professor in Botany


George Herbert Mead, Professor in Philosophy

Laid pivotal groundwork to create the field of social psychology

Philosopher, sociologist, and psychologist George Herbert Mead (1863–1931) is considered one of the founders of social psychology and the American sociological tradition. Pragmatic philosophers like Mead focused on the development of the self and the objectivity of the world, in publications that included "Suggestions Towards a Theory of the Philosophical Disciplines" (1900), “What Social Objects Must Psychology Presuppose” (1910), and “The Social Self” (1913).


Introduced extended university education in the United States

The University of Chicago Extension Division was organized in 1892. Known today as the Graham School of Continuing Liberal and Professional Studies, it was founded on the principles of engagement with the community and accessibility to as many students as possible. By 1895, students were attending courses at 54 extension centers (39 outside of Chicago). University Extension was the first US school to organize correspondence courses at the college level, offering full credit for successful completion and using the same rigorous standards as in UChicago classrooms.

Today’s Graham School students attend an Arabic class at Gleacher Center in downtown Chicago.


Educates largest number of theological faculty

First University of Chicago president William Rainey Harper, a distinguished scholar of Semitic languages, believed that one central occupation of the University should be the scholarly study of religion, preparing scholars for careers in teaching and research. The Morgan Park Seminary of the Baptist Theological Union became the Divinity School and first professional school of the University in 1892, the year it opened its doors. For decades, the Divinity School has been the largest institutional educator of faculty members for theology schools and programs in American higher education.


Established the first sociology department in the United States

Inaugurated in 1892, the University of Chicago’s Sociology Department was the first in the United States, establishing a model of creative and foundational work. Its graduates and faculty have shaped sociological subfields from stratification and demography to deviance and urban studies, and originated methodologies from path analysis and log-linear modeling to urban ethnography.

Current College students conduct urban research in the neighborhoods near the University.


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

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.


Introduced innovative ideas in education reform

Philosopher and educator John Dewey opened an elementary school in 1896, embarking on one of the most important educational experiments of the century. That small school became the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, one of the pre-eminent pre-collegiate academic institutions in the world and one that still bases its educational experience on Dewey’s ideas. The Lab Schools now offer a quality education to more than 1,700 students from nursery through high school.

Early childhood education in Earl Shapiro Hall at today’s Laboratory Schools.