View from Memorial Glade of Sather Tower
(The Campanile), the center of Berkeley—the ring of its bells and clock can be heard from all over campus
In 1866, the private College of California purchased the land comprising the current Berkeley campus. Because it lacked sufficient funds to operate, it eventually merged with the state-run Agricultural, Mining, and Mechanical Arts College to form the University of California, the first full-curriculum public university in the state.
Upon its founding, The Dwinelle Bill (California Assembly Bill No. 583) stated that the "University shall have for its design, to provide instruction and thorough and complete education in all departments of science, literature and art, industrial and professional pursuits, and general education, and also special courses of instruction in preparation for the professions".
Ten faculty members and almost 40 students made up the new University of California when it opened in Oakland in 1869. Frederick H. Billings was a trustee of the College of California and suggested that the college be named in honor of the Anglo-Irish philosopher George Berkeley. In 1870, Henry Durant, the founder of the College of California, became the first president. With the completion of North and South Halls in 1873, the university relocated to its Berkeley location with 167 male and 22 female students and held its first classes.
Beginning in 1891, Phoebe Apperson Hearst made several large gifts to Berkeley, funding a number of programs and new buildings and sponsoring, in 1898, an international competition in Antwerp, Belgium, where French architect Émile Bénard submitted the winning design for a campus master plan. In 1905, the University Farm was established near Sacramento, ultimately becoming the University of California, Davis. By the 1920s, the number of campus buildings had grown substantially, and included twenty structures designed by architect John Galen Howard.
Robert Gordon Sproul served as president from 1930 to 1958. By 1942, the American Council on Education ranked Berkeley second only to Harvard in the number of distinguished departments.
Berkeley students participate in a one-day peace strike opposing U.S. involvement in World War II
on April 19, 1940
In the 1930s, Ernest Lawrence helped establish the Radiation Laboratory (now Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory) and invented the cyclotron, which won him the Nobel physics prize in 1939. Based on the cyclotron, UC Berkeley scientists and researchers, along with Berkeley Lab, went on to discover 16 chemical elements of the periodic table – more than any other university in the world. In particular, during World War II and following Glenn Seaborg's then-secret discovery of plutonium, Ernest Orlando Lawrence's Radiation Laboratory began to contract with the U.S. Army to develop the atomic bomb. UC Berkeley physics professor J. Robert Oppenheimer was named scientific head of the Manhattan Project in 1942. Along with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley is now a partner in managing two other labs, Los Alamos National Laboratory (1943) and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (1952).
During the McCarthy era in 1949, the Board of Regents adopted an anti-communist loyalty oath. A number of faculty members objected and were dismissed; ten years passed before they were reinstated with back pay. In 1952, the University of California became an entity separate from the Berkeley campus. Each campus was given relative autonomy and its own Chancellor. Then-president Sproul assumed presidency of the entire University of California system, and Clark Kerr became the first Chancellor of UC Berkeley.
Sather Tower (the Campanile) looking out over the San Francisco Bay and Mount Tamalpais
Berkeley gained worldwide reputation for student activism in the 1960s with the Free Speech Movement of 1964 and opposition to the Vietnam War. In the highly publicized People's Park protest in 1969, students and the school conflicted over use of a plot of land; the National Guard was called in and violence erupted. Then governor of California Ronald Reagan called the Berkeley campus "...a haven for communist sympathizers, protesters, and sex deviants". Modern students at Berkeley are less politically radical, with a greater percentage of moderates and conservatives than in the 20th century. Democrats outnumber Republicans on the faculty by a ratio of 9:1. On the whole, Democrats outnumber Republicans on American University campuses by a ratio of 10:1.
In 1982, the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) was founded on the Berkeley campus at the request of three Berkeley mathematicians – Shiing-Shen Chern, Calvin Moore and Isadore M. Singer—and with the support of the National Science Foundation. The institute was later moved to the Berkeley Hills. The institute is now widely regarded as a leading center for collaborative mathematical research, drawing thousands of visiting researchers from around the world each year.
Entering the 21st century, as state funding declined, Berkeley turned to private sources: BP donated $400 million over 10 years to develop biofuels, the Hewlett Foundation gave $113 million to endow 100 faculty chairs, the Simons Foundation gave $60 million to establish the Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing, and, in 2016, Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan pledged $600 million (shared with UCSF and Stanford University) to establish the BioHub. The 2008–13 Campaign for Berkeley raised $3.13 billion from 281,855 donors.
View of campus from Evans Hall, as San Francisco and Oakland are seen in the background
The original name, University of California, was frequently shortened to California or Cal. UC Berkeley's athletic teams date to this time and so are referred to as the California Golden Bears, Cal Bears, or just Cal. Today, the term "University of California" refers to the statewide school system of which UC Berkeley is a part. The university discourages referring to the University of California, Berkeley as UCB, University of California at Berkeley, Cal Berkeley, U.C. Berkeley, and UC-Berkeley. Berkeley is unaffiliated with the Berklee College of Music or Berkeley College.
Originally, military training was compulsory for male undergraduates and Berkeley housed an armory for that purpose. In 1917, Berkeley's ROTC program was established and its School of Military Aeronautics trained future pilots, including Jimmy Doolittle, who graduated with a B.A. in 1922. Both Robert McNamara and Frederick C. Weyand graduated from Berkeley's ROTC program, earning B.A. degrees in 1937 and 1938, respectively. In 1926, future fleet admiral Chester W. Nimitz established the first Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps unit at Berkeley. During World War II, the military increased its presence on campus to recruit more officers, and by 1944, more than 1,000 Berkeley students were enrolled in the V-12 Navy College Training Program and naval training school for diesel engineering. The Board of Regents ended compulsory military training at Berkeley in 1962.
Various human and animal rights groups have conflicted with Berkeley. Native Americans conflicted with the school over repatriation of remains from the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology. Animal-rights activists have threatened faculty members using animals for research. The school's response to tree sitters protesting construction caused controversy in the local community.
On May 1, 2014, Berkeley was named one of fifty-five higher education institutions under investigation by the Office of Civil Rights "for possible violations of federal law over the handling of sexual violence and harassment complaints" by the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault. Investigations have continued into 2016, with hundreds of pages of records released in April 2016, showing a pattern of documented sexual harassment and firings of non-tenured staff.