Identified the cause of Rocky Mountain spotted fever

Pathologist Howard Ricketts discovered the organism that causes Rocky Mountain spotted fever before his death in 1910, providing the basis for treating the disease. Today the Howard T. Ricketts Laboratory at Argonne National Laboratory is a regional biocontainment laboratory that supports research for the detection, prevention, and elimination of anthrax, hemorrhagic fever, influenza, plague, and emerging infectious diseases.

Today’s Howard T. Ricketts Laboratory conducts research on emerging infectious diseases.


Demonstrated the atomic structure of electricity

Physicist Robert A. Millikan received the 1923 Nobel Prize in Physics for two research experiments conducted in the Ryerson Physical Laboratory on the UChicago campus—one on the elementary charge of electricity and the other on the photoelectric effect. In his 1910 “oil drop experiment,” Millikan measured the charge of the electron and showed that electrical charge came in small units called quanta. The American Physical Society named the Ryerson Physical Laboratory a historic physics site in 2006 in Millikan’s honor.


Founded avant-garde arts museum, the Renaissance Society

The Renaissance Society, an independent, non-collecting museum of contemporary art, was founded in April 1915 by a group of University faculty members. The founding faculty sought to “stimulate the love of the beautiful and to enrich the life of the community through the cultivation of the arts.” Over the museum’s 100-year history, it has consistently featured artists who later became household names—including Picasso, Miro, O'Keeffe, Chagall, and Warhol.


Zoologist Ernest Everett Just

Discovered significant aspect of cell cleavage

Ernest Everett Just, PhD 1916, worked with University of Chicago zoologist Frank Lillie at what is now the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. During dissertation research for his PhD in zoology, he made an important discovery about cell cleavage, showing that the sperm entry point determines the first cleavage plane in the egg of the marine annelid Nereis limbata.


Introduced blood preservation and blood banks

Medical scientist Oswald Robertson discovered a way to preserve blood. He pioneered the idea of blood banks in the “blood depots” he established in 1917 during service in France with the US Army Medical Corps. Robertson later became chair of the University of Chicago Department of Medicine.

Oswald Robertson, Chair of the Department of Medicine