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
After the passage by the US Congress of the Morrill Act in 1862, the California legislature procrastinated in establishing a land-grant university. Meanwhile, in 1866, the private College of California purchased the land comprising the current Berkeley campus to re-sell it in subdivided lots to raise funds. The effort failed to raise the necessary funds so the private college 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. This designation fulfilled the requirement for access to Morrill Act donated land.
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 new site for the college north of Oakland be named in honor of the Anglo-Irish philosopher George Berkeley. During the following year the college began admitting women. 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 where it 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.
First half of 20th century
In 1905, the University Farm was established near Sacramento, ultimately becoming the University of California, Davis. In 1919, Los Angeles State Normal School became the southern branch of the University, which ultimately became University of California, Los Angeles. By 1920s, the number of campus buildings had grown substantially, and included twenty structures designed by architect John Galen Howard.
Berkeley students participate in a one-day peace strike opposing U.S. involvement in World War II
on April 19, 1940
Robert Gordon Sproul served as president from 1930 to 1958. 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 was then a partner in managing two other labs, Los Alamos National Laboratory (1943) and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (1952).
By 1942, the American Council on Education ranked Berkeley second only to Harvard in the number of distinguished departments. During the McCarthy era in 1949, the Board of Regents adopted an anti-communist loyalty oath. A number of faculty members led by Edward C. Tolman objected and were dismissed; ten years passed before they were reinstated with back pay.
Second half of 20th century
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".
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.
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 the 21st century, Berkeley relies increasingly on private support: BP pledged $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,, Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan pledged $600 million (shared with UCSF and Stanford University) to establish the Biohub, and, in 2019, Sanford and Joan Weill pledged $106 million for neuroscience research (shared with UCSF and University of Washington). The 2008–13 Campaign for Berkeley raised $3.13 billion from 281,855 donors.