Posited the existence of black holes
A University of Chicago faculty member for more than half a century, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar was the first to propose the existence of black holes and to discover the maximum mass of a white dwarf star. Chandrasekhar won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1983 for these and other contributions that are now central to the field of astrophysics.
Instituted breakthrough math curricula
With the goal of improving mathematics education in elementary and secondary schools throughout the United States, the University of Chicago School Mathematics Project (UCSMP) was founded in 1983. It is now the nation’s largest university-based curriculum project for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade mathematics. An estimated 3.5 to 4 million students—in every state and virtually every major urban area—now use UCSMP materials such as Everyday Mathematics.
Discovered the first known poisonous bird, revealing evolutionary insights
As a graduate student, John Dumbacher, SM’95, PhD’97, discovered that the Pitohui bird in Papua New Guinea carried batrachotoxin, a highly potent neurotoxin. When Dumbacher returned to the University of Chicago, he brought Pitohui feathers with him to an event. A sample was passed along to National Institutes of Health chemist John Daly, who identified the poison in the feathers as the same poison found in the Colombian poison dart frog in 1963. Together, Daly and Dumbacher unraveled a gap in evolutionary understanding. That two animals from different corners of the world would carry the same poison implied that the poison was coming from another creature altogether. And, as it turns out, it was: Both animals fed on a beetle from the genus Choresine and had evolved to carry batrachotoxin and use it in their own defense.
Performed the country’s first living-donor liver transplant
In 1989, UChicago physicians performed the country’s first successful living-donor liver transplant. Since the initial transplant, the University of Chicago Medicine has performed more than 150 successful living-donor liver surgeries, mostly to help young children in need of a liver.