Reshaped the study of gene function

James Dewey Watson, SB'47, the University of Chicago alumnus who shared the 1962 Nobel Prize for discovering the structure of DNA, launched the Human Genome Project in 1990. Today, UChicago scientists are building on Watson’s achievements and reshaping our understanding of gene function and the role genes play in disease causation.

The DNA double helix, the structure of which James Dewey Watson, SB’47, and Francis Crick discovered in 1953


Paul Sereno, Professor in Organismal Biology and Anatomy

Discovered previously unknown dinosaur species

Beginning in the 1990s, paleontologist Paul Sereno’s discoveries of previously unknown dinosaur species on several continents have contributed to the understanding of the dinosaur family tree and to the larger question of how evolution works over millions of years.


Opened the social sciences to economic analysis

Many current economists follow 1992 economics Nobelist Gary Becker, AM’53, PhD’55, in exploring aspects of modern life through the lens of markets and incentives. Becker expanded the scope of inquiry in economics to include human capital, the family, crime, discrimination, and other topics previously in the domain of sociology or psychology.

Gary Becker, University Professor in Economics and Sociology, speaks at the Becker Friedman Institute for Research in Economics.


Vivian Gussin Paley, MacArthur Fellow

Shaped our understanding of early childhood classrooms

Early childhood education pioneer Vivian Gussin Paley, PhB’47, recipient of the MacArthur “genius grant,” published her acclaimed book You Can’t Say You Can’t Play in 1992. Lessons from the book, which looks at the social and moral landscape of the classroom, have helped shape the educational approach at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools and many other schools. In 2010, Paley was honored for her nearly four decades of teaching and research by New York’s 92nd Street Y, which endowed and named an award for a living person for the first time.


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.

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


Robert Fogel, the Charles R. Walgreen Distinguished Service Professor of American Institutions

Changed the tools used to study historical economies

1993 Nobel laureate Robert Fogel shifted the course of how economic historians analyze past economies, using the theoretical tools and quantitative methods rigorously developed to answer modern economic questions as a lens through which to view the past. This radically changed the insights scholars could glean from historical data.


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.


Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890–1940

Tenured award-winning historian of gay history

In 1994, pioneering scholar of gay history George Chauncey published Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890–1940. The book dispelled notions about pre-1960s gay culture and won several prestigious prizes, including the Frederick Jackson Turner Prize for the best first book in any field of history, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and the Lambda Literary Award. UChicago hired Chauncey in 1991, becoming the second university in the country to offer a tenure-track position to someone with a gay history thesis.


Invented grid computing

Grid computing, co-invented by computer scientist Ian Foster in 1999, paved the way for modern cloud computing, allowing large-scale computing services to be delivered reliably and securely on demand, and enabling the formation and operation of virtual organizations that link people and resources worldwide.

Ian Foster, the Arthur Holly Compton Distinguished Service Professor in Computer Science and Director of the Computation Institute